The most important thing for which we can prepare a child is the experience of freedom, at the right moment in life, through the understanding of one's own being.

 

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)

Teaching Practice > Media
Digital devices, fragmentation, physical body, emotion, cognitive skills, technology, volition
By: Henning Kullak-Ublick, June 2015, First published in: Struwwelpeter 2.0: Medienmündigkeit und Waldorfpädagogik, Journal, 2014

Media and Waldorf Education


When my daughter was five, she explained to my wife how our fax machine works. She had never sent a fax, she had only sometimes watched her dad sending one. This anecdote seems rather nostalgic by now but its inner truth is omnipresent: Parents, early childhood educators and teachers are faced with the fact that the children and adolescents they work with handle modern media with nonchalance. Young people move in virtual worlds of which the older generations don't even know that they exist and so the grown-ups are left in fear, insecurity and helplessness.

This is also true for Waldorf teachers because one of their most important pedagogical ideals is to prepare the children for contemporary challenges in a practical way. Rudolf Steiner emphasised as early as 1919 that no student should graduate from a Waldorf school without some knowledge of the basic technology of the electric street car. He said that one cannot be a conscientious contemporary citizen without an understanding of the technology which is used daily. Today, the electric street car and the telegraph have been replaced by the personal computer, the smartphone, the internet and the robot.

 

From an educational point of view, our concern is not to condemn technology. We are not talking about giving any moral rules of correct behaviour, but about enabling our pupils to handle technology in a responsible manner. In order to do so, one has to first understand the individual, social and constitutional effects of any technology.

 

Studying technology closely and without any prejudice enables us to discover the exact parallel physical, psychological, social and mental activities in human beings. Vice-versa, technology frees human beings from certain tasks and leads to completely new social structures in society.

 

Taking an educational stance we have to ask: Which skills must an adolescent develop so that she can handle technology freely and meaningfully without blindly succumbing to its fascination?

 

This question applies particularly to electronic media which imitate a number of social and emotional activities and are therefore especially tempting: Why should I make an effort when I can trigger an emotion at the touch of a button?

 

Waldorf education approaches the potential of the various ages and stages of a young person's development very carefully. The curriculum is therefore a gesamtkunstwerk, or a total work of art; it is in constant development but also tries to notice any new skills which pupils may master in various ways in the course of time. This paper wants to show that Waldorf education takes a decisive stance and can provide crucial information for media education oriented to developmental aspects.

 

What are the consequences of the above for daily teaching practice? What are the relationships between the new challenges and established Waldorf traditions? From which age onward should the pupils consciously interact with electronic media? How can electronic media be used meaningfully and creatively in the classroom? Which skills are crucial when dealing with media and by when do they have to be mastered?

 

 

 

Henning Kullak-Ublick was a class teacher from 1984 to 2010 at the Waldorf School in Flensburg, Germany. He is a board member of the German Association of Waldorf Schools, the Friends of Waldorf Education and the International Forum of Steiner Waldorf Schools.

 

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This article has been published in the reader “Struwwelpeter 2.0” by the German Association of Waldorf Schools (Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen) in cooperation with “Aktion mündige Schule” (AmS). AmS is committed to freedom in education and initiated the first people's initiative “Freedom in Schooling” in 1995  (www.freie-schule.de). In subsequent years, it supported similar initiatives in Berlin and Brandenburg, Germany. Freedom has an external and an internal aspect. The first creates the conditions, the latter creates the substance. Both of them have one thing in common: they do not just happen by magic, they have to be created anew, again and again.

A conscientious approach to modern media is one of the contemporary questions of freedom.

 

The English and Spanish translations of articles selected from the original German edition of Struwwelpeter 2.0 were commissioned by the International Forum for Steiner Waldorf Education in cooperation with the Pedagogical Section at the Goetheanum.

 

This paper addresses teaching professionals in particular, but it may also be of interest to parents and students because it uses almost no specialised jargon. It is clear that this is work-in-progress which will need to be continuously developed further. Above all, the authors want to encourage teaching professionals to tackle the enormous educational challenges of our time.

 

The authors – Franz Glaw, Dr. Edwin Hübner, Celia Schönsted and Henning Kullak-Ublick – are part of the team “Media and Waldorf Education” which started its work in 2012. Further members of the team are Christian Boettger, Klaus-Peter Freitag, Andreas Neider, Florian Osswald-Müller, Dr. Martin Schlüter and – for selected issues – Dr. Paula Bleckmann.

 

With kind permission by the German Association of Waldorf Schools

 

Translated by Karin Smith

 

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