Published on May 22nd, 2018 | by ECSWE0
Conference: “Humanity in the media world”
On Thursday the 10th of May 2018, ECSWE representatives were invited to the conference “Humanity in the media world, challenges of education in the digital age” at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. It was organised by the Association of Waldorf Schools in the Czech Republic and the Association of Waldorf kindergartens in cooperation with: the International Forum for Steiner Waldorf Education, IASWECE (International Association for Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education) and ECSWE.
Five lectures were held by specialists on the topic prior to a panel discussion engaging with the audience. The lecturers were: Clara Aerts, Douglas Gerwin, Richard Landl, Václav Mertin and Tomáš Zdražil.
1. Clara Aerts: “Early Childhood as a Human Compass to navigate the Digital Age”
Clara Aerts contrasted the endless possibilities and augmented capacities resulting from the digital age with resulting challenges such as increasing depression rates and “loneliness epidemic” and how human identity is challenged by rapidly evolving technology. In this context, societies need to find the right balance between social responsibility and individual needs whereas the individual may achieve freedom by overcoming one’s ego and own reality.
Education towards freedom as envisioned by Waldorf education therefore seeks to develop the human beings’ higher self. This is best achieved by giving priority to human capacities developed in early childhood such as empathy, tolerance and creativity.
There are two main principles about early childhood in the Digital Age: analogue before digital and creativity before passivity and receptivity. Only after experiencing the steps of sense-motor experiences, relating to others and to the surrounding world, being creative and productive, then comes the stage of receptivity and later of critical reflection. Following these steps is necessary to reach media maturity both for children and adults.
2. Douglas Gerwin: “Anxiety as a Tsunami of Soul: To save Yourself from Drowning, Seek Higher Ground”
The thin border between humans and non-humans is shown within many systems drawing a line between inner and outer life. Some examples are: our nervous system, our respiratory system and our system of metabolism. Today, those are facing immense stimulation that may overwhelm us. Digital media contribute to this by making us taking in countless information and by being stimulated unceasingly without taking time to process and release all these. Children are even more prone to this tension created by media sometimes even making them forget about eating or going to the toilets. In this sense, education has two main tasks: to help children to breathe and to sleep.
There are three remedies to the aforementioned overstimulated systems: having time to play as a child, develop the capacity to create our own mental pictures, and develop a thinking based on whole pictures as opposed to digitalisation separating elements. These can help to strengthen the “guardians” of our organic systems to better prepare children to media and to enable them to engage in the world without falling and drowning into it.
3. Richard Landl: “Evolving Individual and New Qualities by Education for an Unknown Future”
We need a good use of technologies. During the Learning for Wellbeing Community Day, some students growing up in our increasingly digital world and using media in an extensive way were asked what tools they need to master all the challenges of the future. Three key words came out: wisdom, compassion and courage. These may be taught by previous generations. What helps students to learn now is being trusted, heard, valued and encouraged individually to concretise ideas. Teachers’ role, personality and passion are required to achieve this result. Students expressed the need to learn to know and to use the power within oneself to do something meaningful for the world.
4. Václav Mertin: “Educational Approaches in the 21st Century”
Education is being more and more liberalised. Today, two aspects must be taken into consideration: the need to put the accent on positive feedback and the need to build solid relationships which are essential to education.
Regarding digitalisation, there is no strict rule or schedule about children’s age. Denying media to children is not a solution. However, they should learn the basis and challenges beforehand. Parents are the steering wheels setting the rules for their children. They have the full responsibility and power even though children tend to control devices better than adults do. More attention should be paid to media by the schools to avoid issues such as addiction.
5. Tomáš Zdražil: “Education in the Digital World from the Point of Waldorf Education”
How to deal with the Digital World? In Waldorf Schools, quite like anywhere else, there is no clear recipe, but schools focus on preserving individual freedom and independence to cope with the ongoing digitalisation. Following Edwin Hübner’s idea that all education is media education and that we can only distinguish its indirect and direct forms, Waldorf education emphasises indirect media education in the early years, thus laying the foundations for conscious and responsible use by means of building motor skills, handicrafts, art works and on social relationships and the capacity to connect to others, while later the emphasis is more and more on direct media education building the skills and capacities to work with both analogue and digital media. The key point to face contemporary challenges is accountability. We need to be responsible of the development of the humankind in our digitalised world.
6. Panel discussion
The panel discussion focused on aspects such as: How to strengthen the individual capacity to moderate between the inner and outer world and thus allow for a more conscious use of technology?; how to distinguish the ego from the higher self?; how to find the right moment to introduce digital technology in schools by means of extending the waiting period; the importance of a developmental approach that emphasises transformative development of children instead of a linear view of child development treating children as young adults; the difference between real world experience and a simulated virtual experience; the successful lobby efforts of ECSWE to bring references to age-appropriate media education into a Parliament report on a New skills agenda for Europe; whether to protect children from media or prepare children for media; how to introduce media in Waldorf schools, and whether the actual introduction as a teaching tool should be preceded by measures to prepare young people to get a critical relation to these tools before we actively use them as part of curriculum; how to better build on neurological research.
Picture: ebook , by Sik-life. License: CCO