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A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Use Computers 333

Posted by timothy
from the back-to-nature dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Matt Richtel writes that many employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard send their children to the Waldorf School in Los Altos where the school's chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. Computers are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home. 'I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,' says Alan Eagle whose daughter, Andie, attends a Waldorf school, an independent school movement that boasts an 86 year history in North America. 'The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that's ridiculous.' Advocates for equipping schools with technology say computers can hold students' attention and, in fact, that young people who have been weaned on electronic devices will not tune in without them."
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A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Use Computers

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  • by penguinbroker (1000903) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:36AM (#37809790)
    A computer/tablet can't teach as well as a good or great teacher (as the students at Waldorf likely have access to), but in a large percentage of cases around the country, where the teachers are in fact poor, computers and tablets can make a tremendous difference.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A computer/tablet can't teach as well as a good or great teacher (as the students at Waldorf likely have access to), but in a large percentage of cases around the country, where the teachers are in fact poor, computers and tablets can make a tremendous difference.

      [citation needed]

    • by kervin (64171) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:59AM (#37809906) Homepage

      I was just about to make this exact point.

      Access to money or resources in general changes the problem. Poorer schools often have terrible teacher to student ratios, constant budget cuts ( everyone hates taxes right? ), and lots of social and environmental ( not talking about the weather here ) problems to deal with. Teachers become a lot more things than just 'educators'. In fact, having a computer assist in the education while the teacher plays counselor/discipline enforcer/confidant/role mole/etc, etc. is a lucky break for these poor overworked saps.

      What we need is smarter Education software. Software that knows the material needed for ever level. Software that adapts to the students special needs. Software that alerts the teacher when the student seems to have a problem ( eg. dyslexia, attention span issues ). Software that may help keep inexperienced Educators themselves at a particular teaching pace or to a particular teaching standard.

      • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@b ... h u d s o n .com> on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:20AM (#37810022) Journal

        We don't need "smarter education software." We need to remove computers from the classrooms. It's been going onto 30 years now and there hasn't been a SINGLE study showing computers help, and plenty showing they don't.

        And to fire teachers who cannot teach.

        • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:39AM (#37810138) Homepage Journal

          And to fire teachers who cannot teach.

          As a gifted troublemaker born into a family of educators, I find that the problem is not bad teachers. The problem is parents who never said no to their little Johnny when he screamed and cried for his fifth Twinkie of the day. The problem is parents too caught up in their own careers or reliving their youth to actually do any damn parenting. You parents insist that your rotten spawn be allowed to use cell phones in class for "safety" reasons, you insist on suing the schools whenever a teacher tries to discipline your shithead kid and then bitch and moan all day that teachers aren't doing their jobs ( "my little Johnny is an angel, he would never do a thing like that!"). Of course the rich Right is all over it, saying that the teachers are bad and that the only solution is more budget cuts for public schools. What?!

          Hey, bub, news flash - Teachers can't do their jobs because of assholes like you!

          Your shithead kids are unmotivated and undisciplined because you have failed in your responsibility as parents, spoiling rotten your fat little narcissistic shitheads who grow up with gadgetry and unrealistic expectations and ADD medication as their only parents. You, are out at the bar looking for a new wife, or out driving your ridiculously expensive sports car, or working unnecessary 16-hour days collecting pig disgusting amounts of money and power to stroke your own ego.

          It is you, the parents, who have failed in your responsibility, not the teachers. Back the fuck off. Goddamn yuppies.

        • It's been going onto 30 years now and there hasn't been a SINGLE study showing computers help

          I'd like to see how you successfully teach pupils to use and program computers without using any. I agree that there is a lot of ill-conceived use of technology in education at the moment - using a computer does not magically make things better. However to completely ban them from a school is an equal and opposite over-reaction. We all have to learn to deal with computers because on a day-to-day basis we all use them so it is just a irresponsible to exclude computers from a school education as it is to att

          • by fikx (704101)
            "I'd like to see how you successfully teach pupils to use and program computers without using any."

            If you can't think of how to do this, then you don't have much imagination. Most of the better programmers and users I know are ones that learned before computers were so common, and learned a lot "on paper" before getting to actually practice on the real computer.

            And I'm curious if the school on the article is talking about putting computers in front of students, the teachers using computers or both...
          • by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @12:51PM (#37810656) Homepage Journal

            I'd like to see how you successfully teach pupils to use and program computers without using any.

            As others have pointed out, the fundamental principles of logic can be taught with paper. But in any case, that's one specific subject.

            Bats, balls and mitts are good for playing baseball. Does that mean they should be an integral part of Spanish? Test tubes are darn useful in chemistry, but would you try to build an economics curriculum around them?

          • by kenh (9056)

            The article if for a Waldorf School, which is, I believe either K-6 or K-8 - how much C++ programming are kids in 5th grade doing? How much Pascal? Smalltalk? BASIC? When kids in these grades are taught programming it is typically in a fantasy play environment designed to teach children abstract programming concepts.

            There is plenty for a child to learn without cluttering up their day with 'programming classes' at the elementary level - very, very few elementary schools have wood, metal, or auto shops, are w

        • by jaweekes (938376) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:57AM (#37810250)

          My wife is an English teacher for High School, and I'm an IT Manager, so we have debated this a lot.

          I think you are almost right. My wife and I do not see where computers would help in, say, an English Lit classroom. This might be different with Math and Sciences but we can't speak for that. We both think that it removes hands-on learning and frees the teacher from actually teaching anything (not a good thing). If this improves teaching, then yes, just as in business these teachers should be replaced by robots.

          But I think that all the money that is being spent on computers and tests would be better spent on helping teachers to improve. A group of experienced teachers going around and sitting in on classes for a week or so and providing positive feedback would work wonders on some of the "bad" teachers, who might just be new and overwhelmed, or lacking in support or something else.

          I've also noticed that computers in classrooms are implemented in a crap way. My wife's last school just gave every single teacher and student IPad's without increasing the amount of IT support in the school, or even increasing the amount of power outlets in the classroom. I think this set up will cause more problems, more wasted time in classes, and a downturn in education. There is also a severe lack of training and a lack of time to create lessons that will use the technology well, so it really makes it useless to give them these tools.

        • I don't have a study, but I found my essay marks went from a C to B average to A to A* average when I was allowed to type essays instead of writing them by hand. I was able to think about the content and the structure of the language, rather than about the mechanics of moving a pen across paper. I'm now about to have my fourth book published. I learned to program when I was seven by having a teacher show us how to write some simple programs on a computer in the classroom. I now do a fair amount of contr

        • by sizzzzlerz (714878) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @02:38PM (#37811484)

          And to fire teachers who cannot teach.

          And provide a decent, living wage to those who can teach and provide the resources and books to support them in their effort.

        • by thehodapp (1931332) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @03:51PM (#37811926)

          I am a current Computer Science student and even with my major, I must agree that most classes tended to waste time when we would use computers in high school. Most of the softer science teachers have kids use computers to make "Powerpoints" and "Videos" and waste a great deal of time doing fun, but generally useless stuff when we could have been learning actual history or English in a class discussion or lecture. I found the teachers that mostly avoided computers (besides the computer science teachers) were the teachers I tended to learn the most from.

          However, I still think computers are needed in schools especially in a society where nearly every white collar job requires the ability to use a computer. Also, computer classes, and similar computer-centric classes obviously are going to require a computer lab (at least). I also cannot even imagine how horrific it would be to have to use a typewriter to write all my papers...it's a shuddering thought. Perhaps an emphasis on learning the necessary skills for using a computer in a real life job, rather than an emphasis on integrating computers with existing teaching techniques would create a much more efficient system, while still preparing students for the job world.

          • by tomhudson (43916)

            Most real-life "computer jobs" don't need "computer learning". The workflow is predetermined, the range of inputs limited, etc.

            Most kids learn more than enough at home - they don't need labs at school, and whatever they learn will be obsolete multiple times before they graduate.

      • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @12:55PM (#37810684) Homepage

        Poorer schools often have terrible teacher to student ratios[...]

        The school they're describing is in California. My kids go to public schools in California, and I don't think what you're saying is accurate. In the late 90's/early 2000's, California went through a period where the economy was good, and we got class size reduction. It was state-mandated, e.g., they decided that in K-2 or whatever they would have a maximum student-to-teacher ratio of x. Then the economy turned sour, and they started laying off teachers and increasing class sizes again. Our school district is affluent, and it has some very highly ranked schools. However, my kids are experiencing the same extremely large class sizes as everyone else in California.

        IIRC, research also shows that class size does not have any empirically measurable effect on learning until you get it down to about 10 -- which isn't going to happen in any public school.

        It's true that in the US, when schools draw from a population with low socioeconomic status, those schools are almost always horrible by all the available objective measures. However, I'm really not convinced that that has all that much to do with funding and class size. I think it's overwhelmingly a "network effect," similar to the network effect that makes Windows so popular. The parents have low levels of education, don't have books in the house, don't subscribe to a newspaper, and don't have high educational expectations for their kids. Many of them may be immigrants, and their kids may come into school with low English skills. The teachers are there because they couldn't get a job in a better school district. Incompetent teachers probably won't be fired (because of teachers' unions), and even if they were, there is no particular reason to believe that the school would be able to attract a replacement candidate who was any better. Families that have enough money to have a choice will choose to live in a better school district. Kids model their behavior on their peers'. They see that 60% of their peers don't do their homework. There isn't enough critical mass of kids to do geekly things like a chess club or a model rocket club. None of this changes if you just put more money, computers, etc., into the school.

      • by StarChamber (800981) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @01:34PM (#37810994)

        Access to money or resources in general changes the problem.

        Apparently you are not familiar with the definitive research in this area. The Coleman Report (Equality of Educational Opportunity, 1966) contradicts your assertions and found:

        "Using data from over 600,000 students and teachers across the country, the researchers found that academic achievement was less related to the quality of a student's school, and more related to the social composition of the school, the student's sense of control of his environment and future, the verbal skills of teachers, and the student's family background."

        If you want to fix the slide in educational outcomes in the US, you need to stop spending on all the frills (no more monuments to technology and sports) and signifacntly raise the bar on educational expectations. Then we need to engage the parents and begin to educate them on their role in their child's education. Finally, we need to get rid of half of the administration staff in school districts. The upside to this approach is that we will free up a siginificant amount of money that can be used to hire more teachers and shrink classroom size.

        Our problem is not the quality of our teachers, it is the low level of expectations that we have placed upon our students, their peer groups, and their parents.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "...in a large percentage of cases around the country, where the teachers are in fact poor.." - *citation needed*

      Certainly there exist poor teachers, but a "large percentage?" I doubt it. I have had one or two teachers in my day that I didn't care for, but I wouldn't rate even them as "poor." I have used computer tutorials also, in have more often than not found them bad to awful in quality.

      Assuming for the sake of argument that there are a large number of poor teachers in "poor schools," these are also th

    • "where the teachers are in fact poor, computers and tablets can make a tremendous difference."

      I think computers can make a difference in study, when they're used at home. However using it in the classroom makes creating lesson plans much more complicated, and usually children find a way to get through the walled garden (when there's one) and just browse the web or play games, so maintaining discipline gets harder as well.
      I've never seen a teacher that taught more effectively with a computer.

    • by bunratty (545641)

      Yes, a teacher is best. There are ways computer can help, by giving individualized instruction that a teacher may not have time to give, or may not have the training to give. I once worked for a literacy company that sold software that gave students personalized help to assist them in learning to read and write. From the results I saw, using the computer program for fifteen minutes a day really helped. In the writing samples I saw, the students often went from making unintelligible scribbles to writing cohe

    • The kids in Silicon Valley are going to have plenty of tech exposure at home, they'll get engaged by it and pick it up for themselves without being taught how to do it. Learning without it in grammar school is going to broaden their skillset and their ability to pay attention to things that don't flash and beep.

  • by morari (1080535) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:41AM (#37809812) Journal

    Good. Computers aren't needed outside of performing some research, actually typing out that essay, or putting together that presentation. You don't need fancy buildings and whizzbang gadgets to teach, you simply need inspiring people. Sadly, those type of people are at a premium nowadays. Even when you do find and employ them, the system generally does everything it can to get in their way and make their presence all but useless. This is a private school. so perhaps the rules are different. Maybe they can teach students how to do something other than fill in test bubbles.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      They're not lacking, it's just that they aren't being paid well, so rather than going into education, they go into other fields where they probably aren't known much outside the field. You do still have individuals who go into teaching anyways, where many of them burn out before making it even 5 years and go back and contribute where they're appreciated.

      Computers may not be necessary outside of performing research and typing out an essay, but you'd be surprised how many occupations require computer literacy

    • by nido (102070)

      You don't need fancy buildings and whizzbang gadgets to teach, you simply need inspiring people.

      You're referring to "parents", right?

      I know the standardized system devalues the contributions parents make to their children's education, but for the first several years parents make an enormous contribution to the molding of their offspring.

      The real success of the public system is in the systematic removal of parents from the process. Makes it much easier to mold people's thinking patterns...

      John Taylor Gatto [johntaylorgatto.com] says to keep your kids out of school for as long as possible. Skipping Kindgergarten, first, and

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You don't need fancy buildings and whizzbang gadgets to teach, you simply need inspiring people..

      True. But fancy buildings do help. Growing up, it was easy to see what society valued when we were being taught in crappy old, not well built new schools or portables. It definitely demotivates when everything that you look and smell at school screams at you that the adults don't care. Yea, I still learned one hell of a lot from my inspiring teaches, but even just the good ones tended to have less impact while in a portable or a room with leaks everywhere. You can't totally tune out the environment.

  • by Manip (656104) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:42AM (#37809818)
    While I agree that Computers are a distraction and do not aid learning in many subjects, I think this takes a good idea too far. Kids today do need to understand how to use computers - it is a needed skill for almost any and all jobs, from a Lawyer, to a Doctor, to an Engineer. While I agree that computers should be kept in the computer lab, let's not keep them out of schools entirely.
    • by jschen (1249578) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:52AM (#37809868)
      I think people who are sending their children to this school will be able to teach their children the necessary computer skills just fine without the help of the school.
    • by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:14AM (#37809986) Homepage Journal
      It's grammar school, aka elementary.
    • While I agree that Computers are a distraction and do not aid learning in many subjects, I think this takes a good idea too far. Kids today do need to understand how to use computers - it is a needed skill for almost any and all jobs, from a Lawyer, to a Doctor, to an Engineer. While I agree that computers should be kept in the computer lab, let's not keep them out of schools entirely.

      While computers are important, and used in many jobs, I don't agree necessarily that the earlier the better. For one thing in lower grade levels, rote training of applications will be obsolete by the time students enter the workforce. My elementary school had Apple II's. Lot of good that did. The only thing the same is the qwerty keyboard, which people successfully learn at any stage of life. A lot of people here would argue that if they didn’t play with Apple BASIC in grade 3 they’d never have

    • With the proper foundational knowledge, computers are incredibly easy to learn. If you have an excellent grasp of mathematics, language skills, reading comprehension and critical thinking skills you can learn how to use MS Word or hexadecimal math in an hour.
    • by kenh (9056)

      Children won't be entering the workforce in any meaningful way before their 16th birthday, by which time the child will likely be 'exposed' to computers- this compulsion to inflict a child with an 'exposure' to computers is a bit silly, IMHO.

      A senior in high school would have been exposed to Windows 95 or 98, 2000, XP, Vista, and now Windows 7 - why did they have to learn to superficially use each OS while in school? How did that better prepare them for going to college, where they will use Windows 8?

  • Computers tend to get in the way. Children should have the minimum amount of things between them and the idea they are attempting to learn. Computers also make procrastination and time-wasting one click away.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Yes, but part of growing up to be a responsible and productive adult is knowing how to manage distractions. Which isn't something they're likely to teach in college, assuming that you go, it's something that has to be instilled by somebody up until that point typically.

      • This is elementary school. That's like saying that every soldier needs to learn combat medicine and then shooting them each in the gut. Sink or swim, right?
  • by Aladrin (926209) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:44AM (#37809826)

    I have yet to meet the piece of paper that gives immediate feedback, so it's not possible for pen and paper to teach as well as a computer... If the computer if programmed properly.

    • Re:Feedback (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jschen (1249578) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:51AM (#37809858)
      I also have yet to meet a piece of paper that gives immediate feedback. However, I have met teachers who can give better targeted and more useful feedback than any computer program. Learning tools are great, but perhaps a bit more emphasis should be given to inspiring and training more good teachers.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Have you met the teacher who can give instant feedback to an entire class at the same time?

        If you can afford a personal teacher that's obviously the best solution. If you can't afford a teacher at all, you have to make do with a computer. If you're in the middle somewhere, you'll probably find the best approach is a BALANCED one with both.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Perhaps, but if the entire class needs instant feed back on every step in the process the teacher is doing something wrong.

          The other day I spent some time helping a student trying to enter an answer into a computer program. She knew the correct answer, but neither her nor I could figure out how to input the answer in a way that the computer program would accept. A teacher, or even a tutor, would be able to instantly recognize that the answer was correct without having to do any real thinking.

    • Re:Feedback (Score:5, Interesting)

      by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:56AM (#37809894)

      Oh pooh. Real life problems don't come with pre-programmed immediate answers. Immediate feedback encourages trail and error problem solving rather than thinking through the answers, and is very harmful.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        I've tried that and it only works if you're in a position to identify the correct answer. I've seen students who were basically there spend a lot of time trying to get there and ultimately have no clue as to what the correct answer looks like.

        Thomas Edison was renowned for trying thousands of different ways of creating a light bulb before succeeding, had he not had a way of identifying a functioning lightbulb he would likely have continued it until his death.

        • Re:Feedback (Score:4, Insightful)

          by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:54AM (#37810238)

          Your Edison example is complete hogwash. His success with the light bulb included careful engineering of a complete system to enable production, delivery and the components to supply electrical illumination. Many other people where try all sorts of random components to build light bulbs. Edison was successful because of his systematic approach to the total problem.

    • Maybe you have heard of this new invention called "textbooks" with these things called "sample problems" and "answer keys" included therein...
      • by Tacvek (948259)

        Considering that we are talking about primary school students, I'm not sure the concept of a textbook is particularly applicable.

        Even when talking about post-primary education though, textbooks have a limited set of problems, while a computer program can have a set of parametrized problems supporting step by step solutions. thus if you are having difficulty figuring an answer out, you can request the steps and solution, and do not lose out on being able to try a similar problem now that this original one ha

    • Re:Feedback (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TWX (665546) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:52AM (#37810228)

      If the computer if programmed properly.

      You haven't seen the state of computer software for elementary school, have you?

      I've worked in IT for education for ten years. The wrong people are writing computer software for students. The wrong people are buying educational software. The wrong people are buying security software. The wrong people are implementing images and choices for things in the OS and for user-level security. And, a lot of the wrong people are maintaining the equipment.

      I believe that computers for students as a concept is a total failure. Kids don't use computers for education, they use them to play. They stimulate the dopamine centers of the brain with them, and when they don't get their fix they get whiny and crabby and they act out in class. Take away the computers from the room except for a teacher's workstation that's unobtrusive and I think that many of the problems in the modern classroom will go away.

  • 'The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that's ridiculous.'

    What?

    I think you meant "Can teach my kids better than a human teacher", or something along these lines, but clearly all those digital aids mean you can't have sentences with more than 160 letters anymore ;)

    • It's a perfectly grammatical sentence, akin to "I can better serve the cause by doing X rather than Y."
  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:52AM (#37809862) Journal

    So an app on the iPad can't present any number of arithmetic problems and give a child feedback on right and wrong answers right away?

    You obviously don't need computers to teach, but to claim that can't be helpful is just Luddism.

    • So an app on the iPad can't present any number of arithmetic problems and give a child feedback on right and wrong answers right away?

      Can't better. Now better than what (or more likely, who) is left open. Presumably better than a teacher. And I'm pretty sure that's right. The problem is that we cannot give every child his own teacher, and therefore the teacher will need to share his attention to many children. And with this situation, I'm not convinced that the combination of teacher and computer (it doesn'

    • by Javagator (679604)
      You obviously don't need computers to teach, but to claim that can't be helpful is just Luddism.

      I agree. It's obviously a question that could be decided by a few carefully designed experiments. To make a blanket assertion without any evidence is not what you would expect from an educator. Given the importance of the question, I'm surprise that someone hasn't done the research.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      So an app on the iPad can't present any number of arithmetic problems and give a child feedback on right and wrong answers right away?

      You obviously don't need computers to teach, but to claim that can't be helpful is just Luddism.

      I think people are more upset about the idea that computers will replace the teachers. Your example is all good and stuff, until the kid has a question, the iPad won't answer. That's when he/she needs a human, at least, for now.

      but then, what exactly are you being taught in grammer school? Except English, most everything else is must memorizing crap. History is mostly memorizing dates, Math is all memorization. Same as Spelling. In fact, there is really very little a human needs to do in grammer

  • Schools should realize that with the changing of times they should update their methods and also their subjects.
    There are many advantages of computers in teaching:

    • A single ebook or netbook can replace all the books needed. Many children develop scoliosis because they have to haul tons of books every day.
    • Children are taught to write in cursive, wich is a torture to most, for years. Handwriting is an obsolete skill they will never use in their lives. This time would be much better spent by teaching them typin
    • by Strider- (39683) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:20AM (#37810024)

      Children are taught to write in cursive, wich is a torture to most, for years. Handwriting is an obsolete skill they will never use in their lives. This time would be much better spent by teaching them typing that they will need every day.

      I don't know what planet you live on, but neat, legible handwriting is still absolutely required in nearly any industry. Case in point, a friend of mine ordered some copper walled cavity filters for VHF radio repeater. He specified that the cavities were to be made from 1.0mm wall thickness tubing. Unfortunately the guy who took the order couldn't write worth crap, and the machinist who built the unit read that as 10mm wall thickness.

      As an Engineer myself, most of my work is done on computers, but my note taking and what not is still done in long-hand. Under our corporate rules, we have to do this, and sign/date the pages as we go. The whole point is that these notebooks can then be legally used as evidence should there be any patent dispute or the like. A signed, and dated page from an Engineer's notebook is much better evidence of prior art than some computer file you dug up.

      • by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @12:04PM (#37810314)

        I don't know what planet you live on, but neat, legible handwriting is still absolutely required in nearly any industry. Case in point, a friend of mine ordered some copper walled cavity filters for VHF radio repeater. He specified that the cavities were to be made from 1.0mm wall thickness tubing. Unfortunately the guy who took the order couldn't write worth crap, and the machinist who built the unit read that as 10mm wall thickness.

        This just shows one of the disadvantages of using cursive.

        As an Engineer myself, most of my work is done on computers, but my note taking and what not is still done in long-hand. Under our corporate rules, we have to do this, and sign/date the pages as we go. The whole point is that these notebooks can then be legally used as evidence should there be any patent dispute or the like. A signed, and dated page from an Engineer's notebook is much better evidence of prior art than some computer file you dug up.

        You can write whatever you want in a notebook with your handwriting, sign it and date it back, it will be impossible to tell. This is just an example of a bad law that will hopefully get fixed by the time the kids of today finish school.

      • by westlake (615356)

        I don't know what planet you live on, but neat, legible handwriting is still absolutely required in nearly any industry.

        Elisha Gray's Telautograph [wikipedia.org] [1888] was an early analog facsimile system that allowed handwritten messages and signatures to be exchanged in real time over a wire.

        One of the great virtues of the system was its implied authenticity. It was as if you were looking over the shoulders of the writers.

        Not many forgers would be up to that challenge.

      • by romiz (757548)

        Cursive is not easily legible, and clearly the wrong choice in a world where you are not going to write long texts with a quill. Like other antiquated handwriting scripts, it is obsolete and should be reserved to specific cases.

        Just teach the kids to spell correctly, and write legibly with block letters. If they want to learn calligraphy, let them learn it during art lessons, instead of basic school training.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Cursive is still useful, I find that it's a lot easier to use cursive to take notes than with block printing as it takes longer for my hand to cramp up with cursive. OTOH, it's not very useful for interpersonal communication, which is why it's been downgraded in importance. When all is said and done it would probably be more useful to teach short hand than it would be to teach cursive.

    • Scoliosis isn't caused by hauling around a ton of heavy books.

      http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/arthritis-scoliosis [webmd.com]

      There are many types and causes of scoliosis, including:

      Congenital scoliosis. Due to a bone abnormality present at birth. Neuromuscular scoliosis. A result of abnormal muscles or nerves. Frequently seen in people with spina bifida or cerebral palsy or in those with various conditions that are accompanied by, or result in, paralysis.
      Degenerative scoliosis. This may result from tra

  • by szyzyg (7313) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:04AM (#37809924)

    They're pretty tech Savvy (Skye is even e-famous for playing Eve Online [youtube.com]) but we felt that the school environment worked well for them. They're learning knitting as part of the hand skills but it's not just picking up some needles and yarn, they started out making their own yarn and needles - it's like those crazy hacker types who want to build their own computer and operating system :)

    • by szyzyg (7313)

      Also, I feel the need to point out that this is a public charter school in Oakland, I don't pay any fees to send them there, but positions are limited. Most Waldorf schools are private. Truthfully I wasn't looking for specifically for a Waldorf school, we were just looking around for schools that were most likely to provide a good education.

  • Luddite High. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki&cox,net> on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:11AM (#37809970)

    The problem isn't computers, the problem that other school districts face isn't the lack of great teachers.

    The problem is socioeconomic. These kids are fucking upper crust yuppies. No shit they're going to turn out good results. It's easy to say that hitting a triple is easy when you were born on third base.

    I wonder how their Computer Science curriculum is. I hope they don't have them break out pencil and paper and make them write down opcodes like Woz did in the fuckin' 70's optimizing disk drive routines.

    • by glodime (1015179)

      I agree that socioeconomic effects are a real issue in education. However, I doubt that the "no computers" elementary school has a Computer Science curriculum.

  • If all students have full access to computers with parents knowledgable in the technology, then they are not really needed in school. Parents will teach the kids to use the computers and there is no issue with homework requiring computers getting completed. Reading can be online. School can focus on content exploration

    The same is true if all parents are college educated. The parents likely have a knowledge of study skills and the basic taught at school. Therefore if the teachers are lacking, the pare

  • by erac3rx (832099) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:19AM (#37810018)
    Just a little background here. My wife, two boys and I recently relocated back to the bay area. My son (and wife and I) interviewed at the Waldorf school, and my son was admitted. We decided not to have him attend because 1) the cost was high (roughly $15K a year for 3 half-days a week for a pre-schooler) and 2) the people making decisions there are little bit... eccentric. They made it very clear that they are anti-computers and anti-video (TV or videos of any sort). That's fine, if a bit unrealistic. Next they let us know that the teachers provided deep-tissue massage to the kids during each day's nap time. And explained how cell phones and electromagnetic radiation are giving people cancer. And talked about how a montessori education (aka actual learning in the classroom versus solely focusing on play as they do for preschoolers at Waldorf) isn't effective at an early age. I'm fine with these folks taking whatever positions they like, but I don't need my son to go to a school that believes technology is evil and learning is inappropriate in a preschool classroom. We're paying roughly the same money for my son to attend a montessori school nearby (5 half-days a week) and are pretty happy with it. To each their own, but honestly the attitudes present there really didn't work for my family.
    • by glodime (1015179)

      Thanks for your perspective. I would have literally walked out when they said, "the teachers provided deep-tissue massage to the kids during each day's nap time".

    • My 11 year old daughter has attended a Waldorf school practically since birth and, while there are definitely uber-hippies and a few anti-vaxxers, her school is nothing like you describe. Waldorf schools reflect their leadership, and if nuts are in charge the school is nutty (like every organization, really). There is none of this deep tissue crap, none of this anti-wifi hysteria - please don't paint all Waldorf schools with the same brush because they aren't all the same. It's been a great education and my daughter does just fine with computers - and has even programmed a little python on an OLPC. For some reason - probably because they end up loving to learn and haven't had creativity beaten out of them - many Waldorf kids end up going into the sciences. They end up fine, because appropriate things are taught at appropriate times.

      The play focus in preschool is totally appropriate - and IS learning. At that age, kids need to learn how to interact with each other and solve their own problems as peers, and play (and storytelling, another huge part of early Waldorf education) is one of the best ways of "teaching" that. It lays a foundation for kids that're able to interact in healthy ways and solve problems on their own. How many smart people have you met that're unable to deal with interpersonal problems or even minor conflicts?

      Anyway - I am not a blinder wearing Waldorf fanboy. There are some wacky things (Eurythmy? hokay. . .), but the end results of a good Waldorf school are hard to argue with. They end up being well rounded, centered kids who by and large kick ass in high school and end up happy.

  • by Bazman (4849) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:20AM (#37810026) Journal

    Described as "Mystical Barmpottery" (a lovely english expression we should all use more):

    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528

    and some wonderful racism in there too:

    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853

      The only Waldorf I'd want my kids taught by is the one who sits next to Statdler on The Muppet Show.

    • by JLavezzo (161308)

      How come more people don't know this school has a methodology based on, "yeah that feels right" and was founded by a guy who decided he was the Messiah? If you got a good education from a Steiner school it was an accident.

    • by JLavezzo (161308)

      Can we tag this article with "pseudoscience"?

    • by sharph (171971)

      I went to a Waldorf preschool as a kid. They are nutty. I was an early reader which was something the school wasn't too happy with. I also really liked technology at a young age, which was also discouraged. I remember going to friends houses and having computer games, electric guitar, etc, be a taboo, even though all the kids were doing those things.

      And yeah, besides educational practices, there's a certain amount of psuedoscience and woo, for example the belief that the phase of the moon determines a good

  • It's really not that hard to imagine how game-inspired software could tremendously help learning in every field.

    The only problem is very few people are actually sitting down and doing it properly. There are precious little good exemples for the time being but it will come, eventually. One such good exemple is Chaim Gingold's upcoming interactive primer on geology [vimeo.com]. I also read that Khan's academy is developing a sort of leveling structure [wired.com] on top of its courses and I would not be surprised if that turned out

  • It isn't computers that are the problem in the classroom. It's how computers are used in the classroom. Computers should not be used to give students the answers; rather computers should be used to ask the questions and provide examples to help students find the answers. Textbooks are pathetically weak in this regard and teachers are constrained by time. A typical algebra textbook has few examples (I suspect the authors include more examples and the publishers delete them to cut printing costs.)
  • I am always surprised to see the heavy usage of blackboard at places like Stanford, MIT (check http://www.academicearth.org./ [www.academicearth.org] Even some of the later successes, like the Khan Academy or Paddy Hirsch's financial market mini-lectures, are primarily relying on blackboard centered teaching methods. One may disagree, but I still think analog-alike blackboard based teaching is still the best, compared to power-point based lectures.

    Overall, I consider technology is merely "a tool" to get information faster and crun

  • Using computers in school as a tool is great. Using computers to hold a child's attention, is STUPID. The problem has been that software companies make software to do the later. What is needed is for applications to be ran by an adaptive AI. Children learn in different fashion. With the AI, it would automatically adjust to the child while moving things forward. Right now, I use gcompris at home for my 2 kids (5 and 7). They also go to cool-math, but I has issues with that. Otherwise, I spend loads more tim
  • The first is assuming something must be better because it's newer.
    The second is assuming something must be better because it's older.

  • I completely agree with the notion, and have been saying so for years. As someone who is a huge technology nerd, having had my hands in everything from programming to electronics and hardware design since the time I was in high school, I still say computers should not be introduced as a tool until the student has long since been taught how to do everything without one. Only then can a computer become a useful tool, speeding up calculations or making papers easier to write, as opposed to them being a crutc

  • That's the place where kids learn to Eurythmically dance their names.
  • This is quite on par with what Clifford Stoll noticed: We don't need computers in the classroom. We need good teachers.
    Although I do agree that access to knowledge in the hand of a smart kid can mean a difference if there are no good teachers available.

    Real Waldorf education isn't opposed to technology. On the contrary. Their scientific curriculum is among the best - although it of course, always stands and falls with the individual teachers in the end. I visited quite a few schools whilst moving around in

  • It's unfortunate that the merit of computer and television use by 5-12 yr olds is wrapped up with the Waldorf schools. A broken clock is right twice a day and limiting kids' exposure to computers and TV (screens in our household) is the two times Waldorf gets it right. If you want to raise your kids to be intellectuals relative to their peers, all you have to do is ban screen time in your household and provide plenty of engaging books and spend time reading to your kids. As for schools and quality, all I really see are generally high quality schools in Minnesota. Both public and private. The difference is almost 100% in the home, but criticising parenting is not in vogue, so we do not discuss this publicly.
  • by utkonos (2104836) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @07:17PM (#37813076)
    Do you think that crack dealers smoke their own crack? Do heroin dealers shoot heroin? The answer is the successful ones never do. Computers are a distraction. If you have a good teacher who can engage you and get you to learn, why distract from that? To quote The Notorious B.I.G.: "Number four: know you heard this before Never get high on your own supply Number five: never sell no crack where you rest at I don't care if they want a ounce, tell em bounce"

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