A hidden danger in too much technology in a classroom.
Many of us want our kids to be fully engaged in learning, to
keep up with the latest trends, and to be prepared for the jobs
of the future.
So what are we to think when we hear that Silicon Valley
titans—those who are thriving in this new economy by inventing
even let their kids have iPads and send them to unplugged retro
schools? What do they know that we don’t? Do they see
danger in too much technology?
Futurist and founder of Wired Magazine, Kevin Kelly,
is a Silicon Valley parent of three adult children. When I
spoke with him on the topic of education, he
underscored the advantage of being different. In
the field of creativity, we also value difference. Creativity
allows us to think different thoughts to come up with new ideas
to solve problems. People’s individual combinations of creative
strengths inform the unique contributions they can make to the
In his book
The Inevitable, Kelly wrote about the shift from
television culture to internet culture. Back in the 1990s,
television executives and others were incredulous that their
audiences might actually become participatory contributors,
rather than the passive consumers they were with T.V. Yet, the
data show that about two-thirds of the internet has been
created by the ‘audience,’ not by a handful of corporations
running the show.
I asked Kelly what implications he thinks this shift from
passive T.V.-watchers to active internet builders has had on
learning. Kids can now use technology to create content from a
young age. Do they need to have these tools at school to be
My own work has shown that students don’t necessarily need
tech, but they need to be active participants rather than the
equivalent of T.V. consumers in their classrooms. They need
opportunities to use their original thinking to process the
Kevin Kelly is a rare expert who truly understands where tech
is headed and he told me, “I’m not sure we want the
environment of school to reflect only the current media
landscape. There is value in quiet
contemplation, going deep as you might do into a book, being
involved in nature.”
He continued, “We have to be careful about having a school that
reflects only one part of what a full life might be; school
should institute something bigger than just work. As we
remodel education the target is not to produce better workers
but wider thinkers. There is an advantage to being
different and being able to challenge the current zeitgeist. .
. but if you have education that mirrors society too
much it won’t be effective in improving it.”
That’s what’s good about our entrepreneurial culture and many
of the educational experiments going on throughout the country.
We have a diversity of parents, educators, and entrepreneurs
and school leaders coming up with new ways to effectively
educate the next generations of students. Some of these are
high-tech experiments. Others are taking a completely different
approach and looking outside of the current zeitgeist, to put
it in Kelly’s terms.
Waldorf schools, such as those favored by tech titans, were
founded in the early 1900s in Germany by Rudolf Steiner. They
are based on a philosophy that imagination is essential in
learning and they take a holistic approach to teaching and
learning. Traditional Waldorf schools include handwork
activities like knitting and they have little to no technology
in the classroom.
Another approach that is gaining in popularity is the classical
model of education. Founder Katy McKinney of the new Classical Academy de Lafayette
(CAL) near St. Louis wrote, “We are in the business of forming
minds, not programming machines. We are breaking rank with
modern education and instead drawing on the 2500-year track
record of classical education.” At CAL, there’s only one
computer in the classroom, used to show videos about history or
play classical music. Students hand write their papers in
cursive and are not allowed to have personal technology
devices. Yet, they are fully engaged in thinking and
Classical education, Waldorf education, forest schools,
homeschooling, and other models represent a deliberate step
outside the typical norms and trends. If Kevin Kelly and many
other techies in Silicon Valley are right, I suspect that we
will be looking to the variety of micro and macro educational
movements to inform new directions for the most effective
learning practices of the future.
Kathryn Haydon teaches leaders and teachers how to spot and
develop 21st century innovator strengths. You are welcome to
her free Creative Strengths Spotter tool here and join
thousands of others who receive the twice-monthly Strengths
Report. Start supporting true innovation now!
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