Published on November 17th, 2015 | by ECSWE0
Struwwelpeter 2.0: Media competency and Waldorf education
When my daughter was five years old, she explained to my wife how our fax machine works. She had never sent a fax herself but had occasionally watched her father doing so. Such an experience, nostalgic as this one might be, is something which we nevertheless encounter everywhere: parents, pre-school teachers and teachers keep being confronted with the fact that the children and young people with whom they work and who have been entrusted to their care use the latest electronic media without a second thought and move in virtual worlds of which adults are not even aware that they exist. What remains is often a feeling of insecurity, fear or helplessness.
That is no different for Waldorf teachers, one of whose most important educational ideals is to prepare the children in a wholly practical way for the challenges of their time. As long ago as 1919 Rudolf Steiner emphasised that no pupil should be allowed to leave the Waldorf school without at least knowing the basics of how an electric tram works. We could not be alert to what is happening in our time if we did not understand how the technology functions which we use in everyday life. In Rudolf Steiner’s time it was trams and the telegraph, today it is computers, smartphones, the Internet and robots.
From an educational perspective it can never be a matter of condemning technology. It is not about moral rules of behaviour but about enabling pupils to make meaningful use of technology. In order to be able to do that, we first ourselves have to understand the individual, social or constitutional effects a piece of technology might have—both for the person who uses it and the person who uses its products.
An unprejudiced and precise observation of technology always allows us to find exact correspondences with physical, psychological, social and intellectual activities of human beings. Equally technology relieves people of work and leads to completely new structures in society.
Educationally the question therefore immediately arises as to the abilities which a growing person must develop in order to be able to handle technology with the freedom to allow them to use it meaningfully and not succumb blindly to its fascination.
This applies in particular measure to the electronic media which imitate a lot of psychological activity and thus have a particularly seductive effect: why should we make an effort when on an emotional level of experience very similar effects can be downloaded through the minimal movement of a finger?
Waldorf education very deliberately makes use of the opportunities offered by the different periods of life and developmental phases which young people pass through in the course of growing up. Accordingly the curriculum is an artistic synthesis which is constantly developing; but at the same time it also watches out to discover new skills and strengths which each pupil can acquire in the course of their schooling by various means.
It is the purpose of this publication to show that Waldorf education can contribute crucial perspectives for the development of a development-oriented media education.
What does that mean for daily teaching practice? What is the relationship between the new challenges and proven Waldorf traditions? From what age should we deal specifically and consciously with electronic media? How can they be used meaningfully and creatively in lessons? What skills are important in the use of media and when is the basis for them laid?
The present brochure is intended particularly for pre-school teachers and teachers, but it can also be understood by interested parents and pupils because it largely avoids the use of specialist terminology. It goes without saying that this outline is a work in progress which has to keep developing. Above all, it wishes to give encouragement to the pre-school teachers and teachers who are actively seeking to grapple with one of the great educational challenges of our time.
Hamburg, August 2015