It’s becoming more and more common to see education delivered through a screen of some kind, but it’s not the only way, or even the best way.
The Waldorf Academy is a Toronto elementary grade one private school that upholds the assertion that hands-on, experiential learning is a far preferable and effective learning method.
Screen-based learning has several issues that come along with it.
Read on to find out what they are.
How Children Learn
Both children and adults learn through the medium of our bodies; how we move them, use them, and how they carry us through this world full of experiences.
Young kids are not programmed to learn in classrooms in their early years, but rather to learn about physiology through playing tag, gravity through picking things up and/or throwing them, language and communication through playing with others, and geography through exploring their environment.
There are other benefits to outdoor learning, and these include better stress management, longer attention spans and even improved immunity.
Why Screen-Based Learning Is Growing
Screen-based learning has gathered momentum, because the internet is indeed a wonderful resource for all kinds of learning.
As well, the internet and use of computers can be leveraged in order to customize to your child’s learning style and abilities.
As schools close or struggle due to funding gaps, the concept of remote schooling has been considered as a low-cost alternative for servicing children.
The Problems With Screen-Based Learning
However, this cost-efficiency comes at a steep cost, as it removes the face-to-face element that is crucial in order for there to be trust and caring in the classroom.
It takes a million small, everyday interactions to provide enough learning experiences for kids to develop communication skills, compassion and empathy – things they can’t be exposed to if they’re in front of a screen.
Trust and security are important factors for children in excelling in their studies, and removing that could have dire consequences to their ability to retain information and apply it appropriately in the world.
The alternate – the digital school – isolates children, forces anonymity, and gives them no context for what they see, read and hear online.
The Drawbacks Of Digital Media
The result of so much screen time – including learning, socializing and movie/TV watching – is that they have less opportunity to really understand the person at the other end of the fiber optic cable, making them more likely to engage in arguments and aggressive vocabulary.
A recent article in the New York Times discussed a number of Silicon Valley professionals and their behaviour toward their kids and screen time. Perhaps surprisingly, many of them either severely curtail or outright ban their children from having access to any digital information.
Included in the ranks of “low-tech parents” are high-ranking executives of Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Mozilla, Wired, and many more.
In fact, another Waldorf school, this one in Silicon Valley, where many tech magnates send their children, is completely screen-free.
But just as it can lead to issues, it’s not all bad; digital media can be leveraged to assist in putting learning into practice.
After all, if they can learn to interact with other kids on the playground, it opens up the world to them when they are able to get along nicely with an Instagram friend on the other side of the world.
Digital media can be a fantastic expression of communication for a child who is grounded solidly in reality – for instance, reading this article with them is a digital medium that can be used to educate and make sound choices.
Let’s have a look at the top 5 issues inherent in digital learning:
1. Exposure To Disturbing Images
It only takes a millisecond for an image to leave an impression – the internet is rife with disturbing images, and you don’t always know where you’re going to come across them.
Children associate pictures with reality, and may not be able to distinguish fact and fiction when it comes to extreme images such as pornography and violence.
Removing their access to screens, at least at school, helps to reduce the chances of these instances occurring; instead, we put them outside, where they can experience the world as it really is.
2. Privacy Risks
Children are pre-disposed to trusting others that they meet, but the internet can be an unforgiving place for the young and naïve.
Unintentionally, children often give away personal information, details about where they live, and information that’s inappropriate to share with strangers.
It is better to let children develop relationships from face-to-face interactions, where they can learn to register facial expressions in order to determine how to relate appropriately with others.
While it’s possible to strike up friendships through online social channels, children never achieve the same depth of understanding of others’ situations, challenges and experiences unless done in person.
3. It’s Addictive
Screen time begets more screen time – and before you disagree, think about how many of your friends ONLY ‘binge-watch’ TV now through their home streaming channel.
Digital game companies, social networks, and forums have very cleverly worked both competition and reward into their platforms, and this hooks children and adults alike.
The problem with this is that children do not spend as much time developing healthy habits and skills, because their time is taken up online.
Instead, set clear limits with your children, so that they know their screen hours are numbered, and they must then apply what they’ve learned online to the real world – it’s the best way to reinforce that the internet is a tool, and not an end unto itself.
4. It Encourages Obesity
A nasty side-effect of a lot of screen time is that it usually means more time spent sedentary, which in turn results in weight gain.
Young children’s bodies need to be moving in order to learn and be healthy, and denying them that opportunity sets them up for a lifetime of struggling to understand the great potential of their own corporeal self.
Rather than let them play hockey on the screen, take them down to the local rink; instead of watching a documentary about nature, take them for a walk in your local conservation area and observe the birds and trees for yourselves.
Helping them experience the subject of video games in the physical world will help them relate to, understand and play their video sports games better when they are online – and they’ll have you to thank for it.
Technology Can Wait
At Waldorf, we are proponents of letting children play as much as possible until the age of 7; this is so while their brains, bodies and emotions are changing the most, they are given an open forum to express and learn from experience.
Nature is the best schoolroom, and so we see to it that lessons are brought to them through all their senses, not just visually, employing a screen or textbook.
Math, science and art can all be taught through interacting with the world around us, and language, geography and history are natural by-products of interacting with community instead of passively watching TV.
So while it may surprise you that we delay the pedagogic learning, the similar Swedish education system shows that this method graduates adults who generally score higher on tests than North Americans.
Contact Waldorf Academy
At Waldorf, we’re committed to turning out adults who function well in their neighbourhoods, their communities, and their societies, because they have had the benefit of exposure to more than what they’re fed by the internet.
If you’re interested in whether Waldorf Academy is right for your child, call us and book an appointment to chat about their talents and challenges, and we’ll be happy to help you with more information.