3ª Série Médio
2º Trimestre 2015
Computers OK? Not in Silicon Valley.
A school plugs into low-tech learning.
The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school in Los Altos, California. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.
But the school's chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.
Schools across the US have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policymakers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicentre of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don't mix.
This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of about 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. They are the equivalent of the Steiner schools in Australia. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.
The Waldorf method is nearly a century old, but its foothold here among the digerati puts into sharp relief an intensifying debate about the role of computers in education.
''I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,'' said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf primary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby high school. ''The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic - that's ridiculous.''
Eagle knows a bit about technology. He holds a computer science degree and works in executive communications at Google. But he says his daughter, a fifth grader, ''doesn't know how to use Google'' and his son is just learning. (Starting in eighth grade, the school endorses the limited use of gadgets.)
Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place. ''If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated-R movies, I wouldn't want my kids to see them until they were 17.''
While other schools in the region brag about their wired classrooms, the Waldorf school embraces a simple, retro look: blackboards with colourful chalk, bookshelves with encyclopaedias, wooden desks filled with workbooks and pencils.
On a recent Tuesday, Andie Eagle and her fifth-grade classmates refreshed their knitting skills, making fabric swatches. It's an activity the school says helps develop problem-solving, patterning, math skills and coordination. The long-term goal: making socks.
Some education experts say the push to equip classrooms with computers is unwarranted because studies do not clearly show that this leads to better test scores or other measurable gains.
Is learning through cake fractions and knitting any better? The Waldorf advocates make it tough to compare, partly because as private schools, they administer no standardized tests in elementary grades.
And where advocates for stocking classrooms with technology say children need computer time to compete in the modern world, Waldorf parents counter: what's the rush, given how easy it is to pick up those skills?
''At Google and all these places, we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible. There's no reason why kids can't figure it out when they get older.''
Ciggies in display ban plan
SHOPKEEPERS could be banned from displaying cigarettes under plans being considered by the Government.
The Department of Health said it is launching a consultation later this spring to look at ways to stop kids smoking.
In a bid to cut the number of smokers and prevent children from taking up the habit, ministers have drawn up proposals including a bar on displaying tobacco products and the removal of vending machines from pubs.
Measures that make it easier to sell nicotine replacement gums and patches are also on the table.
The proposals follow on from the introduction of the ban on smoking in public places last July.
According to the Department of Health, the strategy - coupled with the wider smoke free legislation - will save hundreds of lives.
Someone who starts smoking aged 15 is three times more likely to die of cancer due to smoking than someone who starts in their late twenties, the department said.
Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "Children who smoke are putting their lives at risk and are more likely to die of cancer than people who start smoking later.
"It's vital we get across the message to children that smoking is bad. If that means stripping out vending machines or removing cigarettes from behind the counter, I'm willing to do that."
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of adults who now smoke has dropped by 2 per cent from 24 per cent to 22 per cent.