Comments on: Who ever would have predicted this? History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sun, 21 Sep 2014 12:24:08 +0000 hourly 1 By: Western Dave Wed, 26 Oct 2011 01:33:21 +0000 OK. I work at a ritzy private that competes with teh Quakers (3 K-12s in our immediate area plus a couple of K-6s). We have a both/and approach to technology, the environment and play. We have a lower school physics lab that’s completely play based and that’s almost totally computer free (it’s got a smart board for doing some cool motion things that you reprogram a wii for). We also have 2 new media studios. The lower school one allows kids to act out and record plays and stories while introducing them to storyboarding and editing basics. They have recess outside twice a day in lower school and environmental ed in the woods rain, snow, or shine as long as the trails aren’t washed out once a cycle (7 days). My daughter is learning Scratch programing and Chinese too. Spelling and handwriting get the shaft. I’m ok with that. My daughter will never learn script. Oh well.

Full time laptop possession start in 7th grade. Again, film-making/editing get’s a half-year updated from what used to by a required drama class. Upper school is pretty techno-ritzy (Voice thread in language classes, lots of wiki development, blog writing, etc. alternative to essays) but here’s the thing: when we give “new technology” assignments the rubrics are pretty similar to the essays: what’s the thesis, what are the controlling ideas, what’s the evidence, how do you explain it. Sometimes they have to do an essay and an alternative, sometimes just one or the other but both start with the same type of brainstorm. I’ve become a fan of taking pictures of diagrams on the board with my cellphone camera for future reference when I get something really right. When we’ve done a lot of group work and kids are sharing it, google docs work quite nicely thank you. Of course, nothing beats getting into the primary documents, and thank god for the web because it gives me superb collections to choose from. I can’t imagine teaching my ancient world class without access to the Metropolitan Museum of Art site (I use it to a lesser degree in US too) and yes I am aware that there are these things called slide projectors, I used them too, but it would take years and more money and organizational talent than I’ve got to amass the slide collection equivalent of what I use now.

It would be interesting to stack up our kids against the Waldorf kids (since both come from similar economic strata I’m guessing although 30% of our families get financial aid) and see who has better results. I’m guessing it’s a push.

The K-12 Quaker schools we compete with have all got Smartboards and one to one laptop and Chinese instruction too. The K-6s not as much (they are also not as wealthy). We also compete with the Philly Waldorf although there it’s less direct since they are pretty self-selecting.

Incidentally, we use a leasing model for our technology spending with tech built into the budget rather than as a capital expense and all tech replaced every three years. The tech department partially self-funds by buying the tech at the end of the lease and then refurbishing in-house and selling it. I don’t know how much of this is transferable to public schools, much of it depends on motivated teachers designing their own lesson plans with little administrative oversight and almost no testing. (The powers that be did ask me to add more SAT style multiple choice questions to my tests because our kids did not do well on SAT compared to ACT and actual college performance. I complied because it adds little time to my grading and they bought me some multiple choice questions of the type they wanted but most of my in-class assessments involve short answer questions such as cause and effect with explanation, document analysis, and essay or parts thereof. Take home assessments are essays or essay equivalents (things with a thesis, controlling ideas, and evidence). Sometimes there’s a mix (like a role-play that involves research for a brainstorm that I grade, plus a self-assessment by the student based on how they played).

By: Spanish Prof Tue, 25 Oct 2011 21:08:26 +0000 Yep, my Jewish left-wing liberal self finds herself more and more sympathetic to the traditional Catholic education tradition . . . There is a whole rant that I will write when I get tenure, regarding the connection between the contents of the Master in Education in my institution and the demands and trends of the expensive Catholic Schools in the region.

By: Historiann Tue, 25 Oct 2011 20:06:55 +0000 **HEADDESSSSk.**

My informant in Catholic K-8 reports that computers are lighter on the ground than statues of the BVM, smart boards are non-existant, and cell phones are confiscated (as they should be.)

(No doy! Seems like that’s a pretty good proxy for an intelligence test: is it a really good idea to take your new Smart Phone to Catholic School? Give me the right answer in 3, 2, 1. . . )

By: Spanish Prof Tue, 25 Oct 2011 20:02:01 +0000 @ Indyanna:

“it would be interesting to see how a spectrum-segment like Catholic schools, or Quaker schools, or others, line up on the millenialist “technology-as-godhead” angle.”

I work at a Catholic University that receives a lot of students from Catholic high schools and also works with local Catholic schools. My anecdotal, uneducated guess is that it is directly correlated to socio-economic class. Those Catholic high schools where tuition is $20 K go crazy about technology, and they market themselves with things like “every student receives an Ipad and blah, blah, blah…and every classroom has a Smartboard, etc, etc…”. More modest Catholic high schools (those for lower-middle class families) can’t afford such spending, so they place the emphasis on rigor and discipline as a marketing strategy, not on technology.

By: Notorious Ph.D. Tue, 25 Oct 2011 19:34:58 +0000 I just got an e-mail about a “webinar” (ugh, ugh, ugh) on the iClicker, the gist of which e-mail was: “Hey! Your students are part of a participatory culture! So this webinar will show you how iClicker can help you use that in your classroom! Just like they do on Facebook, American Idol, and World of Warcraft!”*

Or we could, you know, actually have them participate in things like discussions, and intersperse back-and-forth in lectures.

*for serious, these were the actual examples employed.

By: Indyanna Tue, 25 Oct 2011 19:34:38 +0000 Indeed (per Historiann, at 11:50 a.m.) although the _Times_ may well have missed a significant sidebar story angle on the school itself (maybe Timesmen and women join a certain stratum of the technorati in a cult-like attachment to educational primitivism?) I think the takeaway part of the story is getting a senior Googler to use phrases like “learning to use toothpaste” and “brain-dead easy to use,” that would have gotten an equivalent IBM suit sacked back in the days of Mad Men. It’s not about the efficacy or orientation of this particular school brand, which I wouldn’t be likely to send kids to either. Per Dr. Crazy’s observation, it would be interesting to see how a spectrum-segment like Catholic schools, or Quaker schools, or others, line up on the millenialist “technology-as-godhead” angle. It does seem as though a lot of public school districts in places that don’t have any spare resources to gamble–like that one in rural Indiana the other week–are currently being sold on the view of the race to the top as a screenface-only enterprise.

By: Historiann Tue, 25 Oct 2011 18:50:14 +0000 Nicoleandmaggie and LouMac: THANK YOU for these thoughtful & informative comments. I assumed that Waldorf was some elite Montessori-like culty ed philosophy, but I had no idea. . . this all resonates so much with Tenured Radical’s posts the past few days about Occupy Education and her analysis of the 99%/1% model as applied to education.

Nevertheless–I still applaud their conservative approach to technology. After all: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak didn’t use computers in their elementary school classrooms, and yet somehow they managed to get by. The truth is that we don’t know the perfect way to educate students who will invent a whole new industry or paradigm for understanding all creation–so why not stick with what works and permit children the time they need to learn, grow, and play? (Engagement, low teacher:student ratios, and a rich environment full of books, art, and the natural world.)

I maintain yet again that education is full of more crackpot so-called innovations and fads, and yet we already know what works. I guess that’s the problem: there are so few real innovations in the history of education that each little tweak gets lauded as the Solution to All of Our Problems. I’m just blown away by the money that’s spent on educational research, 95% of which amounts to reinventing a perfectly good wheel but claiming to be able to make it bettercheaperandfaster by 2%.

By: Western Dave Tue, 25 Oct 2011 18:25:00 +0000 Like I said earlier, there are wide varieties of Waldorf schools. The Philadelphia Waldorf school is explicitly anti-racist and rejects the hero-worship nonsense (and isn’t completely anti-tchnology, and in it’s blog links to this awesome blog post on the article

OTOH suburban Philly Kimberton Waldorf school, based on a presentation they gave to my school 10 years ago, is a hotbed of little fascist supermen in the making.

By: LouMac Tue, 25 Oct 2011 16:02:41 +0000 This is sort of side-tracking the discussion, but I taught at a Waldorf school for a year part-time, that is, I wasn’t a trained Waldorf teacher. But I was around them and the kids 2 days a week. I found it deeply creepy on the macro-level (Steiner’s philosophy, aka anthroposophy), but on the micro-level of people just trying to get through the day and do right by the kids, it was mostly well-meaning. Anthroposophy is not directly taught to the kids, but some of it manifests in practices that are unrealistic at best (no TV or movies at home, no discussion thereof), racist at worst (teachers earnestly explaining to black potential parents that kids weren’t allowed to use the black crayons). And the teachers study it in some depth, learning lovely notions like how all souls cycle through many lifetimes and whiteness is a sign of being at the top of the spiritual class (since we’re globally more privileged – Steiner said civilised, but whatev, a nudge is as good as a wink to an Aryan).

I agree with Nicoleandmaggie’s assessment of it. Yes, it’s for rich folks who think of themselves as alternative – but they are often very good people. It does work very well for some kids who would probably flounder at public school or more academically traditional privates. It works well if the kid connects with their individual teacher, who they will have all the way through (!) The learning gap decreases with age (it’s really cruel to take a 7-year-old out of Waldorf, not so much at 13). Waldorf communities are often very intentional and thoughtful, if lacking in deep diversity. But the system needs to do a much better job of stating which parts of anthroposophy it owns or disowns. It must face up to the offensive parts and disassociate, rather than trying to tell the rest of us that we don’t understand.

So, the anti-technology thing is part of a wider vision that, as Western Dave says, has troubling associations historically. Also, Waldorf are very influenced by Rousseau, in particular the idea of learning from the book of nature rather than books – this explains why kids learn to read very late, why they are only allowed “natural” materials in the classroom, etc. Lovely, until you read Rousseau’s “Emile”, which promotes back-to-the-land-and-manual-labour ideals to young noblemen, anticipating various fascist idealisations of peasants by the privileged. And what do women do while young Emile is being privately tutored to encourage his specialness? They learn to be good wives, run a household, and that they mustmustmust breastfeed all the time.

By: Nicoleandmaggie Tue, 25 Oct 2011 12:06:43 +0000 Waldorf is very popular in California with parents who wish they could be “unschoolers” but for whatever reason still need schooling. Very popular on the mommy blogs with parents who think teaching a child to read is a horrible thing that should be delayed as long as possible. Why rush? they ask. Let kids be kids and sense their environment before having to sit down with books.

Depending on when their kids switch over to public school, Waldorf kids are often far behind. Apparently they do catch up after they’re taught reading in, IIRC, third grade. But switching before then shows the big difference in academics in the early grades.

Given how much evidence there is that early learning interventions have such positive outcomes on low SES kids, Waldorf is not the intervention that one would recommend for these groups. It seems to work well, at least in terms of parent satisfaction, with upper middle class kids of average intelligence whose parents ascribe to its philosophies.

Additionally, parents who care primarily about academics or whose children are of above average intelligence are not good fits for Waldorf. Especially if their kids read “early.”