ABOUT: The purpose of this site is to act as a repository and sounding board for discussions around the theme of Constructivism in Education

Friday, June 23, 2006

BLOG CRISIS !!! Ever had one?


The wonders of post-modern technology.......

Blog on......

Postmodernity and digital communications
Technological utopianism is a common trait in Western history — from the 1700s when Adam Smith essentially labelled technological progress as the source of the Wealth of Nations, through the novels of Jules Verne in the late 1800s (with the notable exception of his then-unpublished Paris in the 20th Century), through Winston Churchill's belief that there was little an inventor could not achieve. Its manifestation in post-modernity was first through the explosion of analog mass broadcasting of television. Strongly associated with the work of Marshall McLuhan who argued that "the medium is the message", the ability of mass broadcasting to create visual symbols and mass action was seen as a liberating force in human affairs, even though at the same time Newton N. Minow was calling television "a vast wasteland".
The second wave of technological utopianism associated with postmodern thought came with the introduction of digital internetworking, and became identified with Esther Dyson and such popular outlets as Wired Magazine. According to this view digital communications makes the fragmentation of modern society a positive feature, since individuals can seek out those artistic, cultural and community experiences which they regard as being correct for themselves.
The common thread is that the fragmentation of society and communication gives the individual more autonomy to create their own environment and narrative. This links into the postmodern novel, which deals with the experience of structuring "truth" from fragments.
At present a debate is raging about postmodernity in relation to the N.S.W Board of Studies English Syllabus. Some politicians, including Prime Minister John Howard, argue that the postmodern syllabus is a load of 'gobbledegook' and is seen as 'trendy' and left of centre. One could argue that they don't understand what is required, or, more likely, they havn't taken the time to actually look at a syllabus that they are ridiculing.
Melina Marchetta is teacher and author of 'Looking for Alibarandi'. She says that
outcomes-based education has not been adopted based on it being "trendy" or "left-wing" or to cater to the needs of young people uninterested in traditional teaching and learning. Rather, she postulates it creates a learning environment that allows students to use their minds well - rationally and creatively.
This is a view with which I very much agree. Melina Marchetta's article 'HSC English is tough and smarter, not dumb and dumber', is well worth the read .
In another related article; 'English teachers shy away from novel approches' , Eva Gold , executive officer from the English Teachers Association, says "Computer texts should be a very popular choice, but haven't been [and] websites are not used as broadly as we would hope."
Brad Spillane urges teachers to respond to the review of the HSC English Prescriptions. He argues that English syllabuses around the country have been the target of right wing commentators from Howard's "gobbledegook" pronouncement to the incessant campaign in the Murdoch press, led by Kevin Donnelly, Imre Saluszinsky and others, attacking the balanced approach to the teaching of reading, critical literacy, literacy tests and senior syllabuses.

Postmodernism.....find out more



Wiki is in Ward's original description:
The simplest online database that could possibly work.

Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly.

Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself.

Like many simple concepts, "open editing" has some profound and subtle effects on Wiki usage. Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a Web site is exciting in that it encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users.

Historical Note. The first ever wiki site was created for the Portland Pattern Repository in 1995. That site now hosts tens of thousands of pages.




Virtual Communities

A virtual community is a group of people communicating or interacting with each other by means of information technologies, typically the Internet, rather than in person. Virtual communities are also known as online communities or computer-mediated communities (CMC).

Today, virtual community or online community can be used loosely for a variety of social groups interacting via the Internet. Different virtual communities have different levels of interaction and participation among their members. This ranges from adding comments or tags to a blog or message board post to competing against other people in online video games. The ability to interact with likeminded individuals instantaneously from anywhere on the globe has considerable benefits, but virtual communities have bred some fear and criticism. Virtual communities can serve as dangerous hunting grounds for online criminals, such as thieves or stalkers.

So what makes an effective community online?



ED 4134 is a community of adult learners who are currently working toward obtaining specific qualifications required to teach in N.S.W. Most of the participants are already teaching in schools and have been given 7 years since November 2003 to comply to N.S.W teachings standards.
The first component of the course has involved an introduction to the contemporary IT scene especially in relation to teaching/education. This unit culminated in an assessment task which was was to create a blog to act as a repository and sounding board for discussion around significant educational theorists and their contribution to constuctivism in education. Digital media and its use in education was a dominant theme in many blogs, as was Rudolf Steiner's education philosophy, as most of us teach in schools that espouse this philosophy as our feature tennant.
In time we have been able to view and contribute to each others sites, and I am sure given more time these transactions have the potential to become richer and more integrated. The fact that we all feel connected through our philisophical and vocation orientation, and the nature of this task, has created a significant bonding. Overall the experience has been timely, fun and has definitely engendered a sense a discovery.
I encourage you to to check out these blogs sites and make your own discoveries!




It has been said that the strongest and quickest way to build a community of any kind is to apply the following model:

Applied to education, virtual communities have the potential to establish professional groups online, fostering creative distributed learning environments. Effective online communities virtually leap off the screen to invite you in, using text, graphics, links and ease of flow/access.
MySpace is a social networking website based in California offering an interactive network of blogs, user profiles, groups, photos, and an internal e-mail system. MySpace has gradually gained more popularity than similar sites such as Bebo, Friendster, MyYearbook, Classmates.com and LiveJournal to get the highest hit count of all English-language social networking websites. It has become an increasingly influential part of contemporary teenage culture. MySpace has 250 employees and projects a 2006 revenue of $US200m


More on ‘hanging out’ on MySpace

Published by Seb Chan


"Education is always self -education, and as teachers and educators we are merely the environment in which the child is educating himself. We have to provide the most favorable environment so that the child will be able to educate himself according to his inner destiny"

"The need for imagination, a sense of truth and a feeling of responsibility – these are the three forces which are the very nerve of education."

"Our highest endeavour must be to develop individuals who are able out of their own initiative to impart purpose and direction to their lives".

Rudolf Steiner.

What is Steiner Education?
Shearwater-The Mullumbimby Steiner School

Shearwater's growth reflects a real need in the community for a genuine educational alternative for its children. Since the inception of the Waldorf School in Stuttgart in 1919, Steiner Schools have earned an enviable reputation throughout the world as successful educators of creative, socially aware and clear minded individuals keen to take their place in, and contribute to, their community. Consequently, the Steiner School movement has become the fastest growing independent school initiative in the world, with some 900 schools and 1600 kindergartens in 50 countries, found throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Steiner inspired education seeks to develop an inner mobility and subtlety in children to help them deal with the challenges of rapidly changing social structures and technology. It strives to recognise the individuality of the child and aims to create a physical, social and spiritual environment in which that individuality can unfold with confidence. To meet these aims, Steiner education offers a broadly based learning program balancing artistic, practical and academic activities. Teachers are dedicated to generating a genuine inner enthusiasm for learning in every child through powerful, imaginative and dynamic presentation, designed to make even apparently dry and prosaic subjects interesting and relevant. This method removes the pressure for competitive testing, placing and rewards. Motivation is encouraged to come from within in a similar way to Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory, which was developed to allow all people to contribute to society through their own strengths.
Throughout Steiner education the perceived changes in the child's development and the crucial changes in student-teacher relationships determine the lesson content and teaching process. Rudolf Steiner repeatedly stressed that educational perpectives must 'arise from the nature of the growing child himself '
Here we see some similarities to Piaget's stages of development . Piaget realised that children were not miniature adults and that they go through four major developmental stages. The Rudolf Steiner curriculum is also based on four stages of development.
Both Piaget and Steiner emphasise the importance of play in children’s early learning (0-7). Both maintain that play enables children to develop their perceptual ability and intelligence and provides them with opportunity for socialization and experimentation with everyday reality.
Vygotsky was a contemporary of Piaget. Guided by Marxist principles, Vygostsky sociocultural theory of cognitive development focuses on how the culture of a social group, its shared beliefs, values, knowledge, skills and customs is transmitted to the next generation because children actively construct their knowledge through social interaction. Children “grow into the intellectual life of those around them”. Steiner also espoused that the range of skills that can be developed with adult guidance or peer collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Recently I attended a professional development seminar aimed at extending teaching practices in the area of visual arts.
Afternoon workshop choices were fierce and splendid. Dynamic Drawing saw the crowded room full to capacity. Curatorship courted the refined and regal. Digital Art Making was interestingly approached by a diverse demographic, from the cynics to the critics, the convertees and the devotees. There I was - the novice participant. The facilitator, Vince Papa , is both a generous and intelligent man. He wanted his audience to walk away with enough confidence in the material he shared to be able to implement the lesson the following day. Meanwhile, back at classroom city, I was mid-way through a unit on Renaissance portraiture with year nine. Upon my return I was able to complete the lesson with a renewed focus on what I would do differently next time.I will definitely implement a unit on digital portriature. I found Vince's lesson plan enabled me to quickly master the new technologies I would be working with throughout this lesson. I have had to change a few details to suit our school's curriculum, but otherwise found his programme excellent. I would like to share with you a sample lesson programme, below, which gives you an idea of how students knowledge ( and teachers!) could grow and be applied in this area of study.

"THE DIGITAL ME" - YEAR 7 DURATION: 8-10 WKS UNIT DESCRIPTION: Digitally enhanced and manipulated media saturates the visual environment of contemporary society. As consumers of contemporary culture, reading and understanding computer generated imagery becomes a necessity. In this unit of work, students are introduced to the computer as a creative tool. Students will utilise software packages including Adobe Photoshop and Morph in the production of a series digital self portraits and a morphing animation. Students will also be introduced to the concept of the Frames and the Conceptual Framework in their critical and historical studies. Artist such as Yasumasa Morimura and Rea will be investigated. Examples of critical and historical writings on these artists will also be looked at. CO-CURRICULAR CONTENT KEY COMPETENCIES COLLECT ANALYSE AND ORGANISE INFORMATION INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES (I.C.T): Students will learn how to use computers, image acquisition equipment (such as digital cameras and scanners) and digital imaging software (Adobe Photoshop) to manipulate imagery. WORK, EMPLOYMENT AND ENTERPRISE (W.E): USING TECHNOLOGY ABORIGINAL AND INDIGENOUS (AI): Examples of contemporary Aboriginal artworks together with the opinions and views voiced by the artists will be will be explored. CIVICS AND CITIZENSHIP: WORKING IN GROUPS DIFFERENCE AND DIVERSITY (DD): ENVIRONMENT: PLANNING AND ORGANISING ACTIVITIES USING MATHEMATICAL IDEAS GENDER (G): NUMERACY: Students will develop numeracy skills through the calculation of image sizes, dimensions and resolutions. PROBLEM SOLVING MULTICULTURAL (M): LITERACY: COMMUNICATING IDEAS

[The digital me]
Name: _____________________________
Class: ________________________________________________
Teacher: _______________________

1. Course Structure and Assessments
2. Introduction
3. Remembered Self Portrait
4. Vocabulary
5. The Frames
6. Yasumasa Morimura
6. The Conceptual Framework
7. Art Making Task
8. The Photoshop Interface
9. Guides to Scanning. Photoshop Step-by-Step
10. The Internet Research

View Year 7 Programme

Originally compiled by Vince Papa

Wednesday, June 21, 2006



I came across this essay whilst trowelling the internet for articles of interest in relation to the subject of Constructivism. In the process of reading this article I was able to reflect on the processes of applying constructivism in my own teaching practice, and was surprised that so many questions came to mind. In that way I think this article has been very useful and has inspired me to construct yet another perspective on constructivism. As we all know, formalization of the theory of constructivism is generally attributed to Jean Piaget, who articulated mechanisms by which knowledge is internalized by learners. He suggested that through processes of accommodation and assimilation, individuals construct new knowledge from their experiences. Assimilation occurs when individuals' experiences are aligned with their internal representation of the world. They assimilate the new experience into an already existing framework. Accommodation is the process of reframing one's mental representation of the external world to fit new experiences. Accommodation can be understood as the mechanism by which failure leads to learning. When we act on the expectation that the world operates in one way and it violates our expectations, we often fail. By accommodating this new experience and reframing our model of the way the world works, we learn from the experience of failure. So I guess you could say I've just had an accommodative learning experience by reading this essay....
It is important to note that constructivism itself does not suggest one particular pedagogy. In fact, constructivism describes how learning happens, regardless of whether the learner is leveraging their experiences to understand a lecture or attempting to design a fashion garment. In both cases, the theory of constructivism suggests that learners construct knowledge. Constructivism as a description of human cognition is often confused with pedagogic approaches that promote learning by doing.

Pedagogies based on constructivism

There are many pedagogies that leverage constructivist theory. Most approaches that have grown from constructivism suggest that learning is accomplished best using a hands-on approach. Learners learn by experimentation, and not by being told what will happen. They are left to make their own inferences, discoveries and conclusions.This process already implies a certain level matuity, focus, and responsibility on the part of the learner. It also emphasizes that learning is not an "all or nothing" process but that students learn the new information that is presented to them by building upon knowledge that they already possess. It is therefore important that teachers constantly assess the knowledge their students have gained to make sure that the students perceptions of the new knowledge are what the teacher had intended. This may be both time consuming and demanding in human resources.Teachers will find that since the students build upon already existing knowledge, when they are called upon to retrieve the new information, they may make errors. It may simply be that information overload may intimidate and disorientate novice learners. It is known as reconstruction error when we fill in the gaps of our understanding with logical, though incorrect, thoughts. Teachers need to catch and try to correct these errors, though it is inevitable that some reconstruction error will continue to occur because of our innate retrieval limitations. There is again the problem of the limitation of human resources to monitor all learners at all times.
In most pedagogies based on constructivism, the teacher's role is not only to observe and assess but to also engage with the students while they are completing activities, wondering aloud and posing questions to the students for promotion of reasoning (DeVries et al., 2002). (eg: I wonder how the fabric you are printing on will take up the ink?) Teachers also intervene when there are conflicts that arise; however, they simply facilitate the students' resolutions and self-regulation, with an emphasis on the conflict being the students' and that they must figure things out for themselves. For example, promotion of literacy is accomplished by integrating the need to read and write throughout individual activities within print-rich classrooms. The teacher, after reading a story, encourages the students to write or draw stories of their own, or by having the students reenact a story that they may know well, both activities encourage the students to conceive themselves as reader and writers. It could be difficult to motivate all learners to participate in learning process. Learners may experience difficulties in assessing what is both relevant and important. To this end the teacher is still a paramount principle. So as you can see for every point that is put forward another question arises. Do all students enjoy constructivist learning experiences all the time?
In any case I think the article below is worth reading. I've been pondering Constructivism for about 3 weeks now and feel I'm slowly coming out of the thick of the forest into a less dense place. I enjoyed the temporal nature of this essay and look forward to my own knowledge continuing to expand and understand what constructivism is really all about.




During the past three months, I've been learning about constructivism by reading scholarly texts, discussing them with my class and my friends, journal keeping and personal reflection. Through this interesting time, I feel my understanding has grown considerably and have already proved useful. I've constructed this text in an attempt to demonstrate my current understandings of constructivism, as well as the process by which my knowledge developed.
I had some trouble with the self-referential nature of the material. Since the subject is the "meaning of meaning" at various levels, it's easy to become confused and fall into a "black hole" where text seems meaningless. How can I know from reading texts what authors think, and what works? How can I realise my own understanding? How can I communicate my understandings to you?


......I threw my suitcase on the bed and looked around my Bangkok hotel room. The single room was worn and clean, with a good view of endless dusty buildings. After a few minutes listening to the ancient ceiling fan and honking traffic, I changed my shirt and headed outside to explore.....

...... I wandered almost randomly along the cracked pavements, keeping one eye on the hotel and the other on the throngs of people all around me........

Trivial constructivism

.........So much life! So many people scurrying about their daily business! I've never seen so many sick, scabby dogs. Is that motorbike-thing a taxi? Is that old lady actually cooking in that tiny cart?.........

Radical constructivism

..........I approached the old lady, smiled and looked at the foods keeping warm on her tiny gas burner. The chicken pieces looked tasty but no, probably not safe. I decided on a couple of what looked like tiny deep-fried meatballs. Somehow, with a combination of very bad Thai and waving hands I managed to pay for them. She laughed and said something to another woman huddled on the ground beside her, as I retreated to the safe anonymity of the crowded footpath. To my surprise the balls were very sweet and multilayered, not at all what I was expecting. Was that coconut?.........

Social constructivism

........My feet were getting tired. I sat on a bench next to a couple of other travellers, and together we watched the motorbikes swarm like bees at the traffic lights. It turned out the dark guy was Canadian, and the girl Welsh. "Do you know where the main palace is?", I asked them, not knowing the name of it. "Sorry, no", said the guy, "we were going there ourselves. We know it's near the Democracy Monument." "The big pointy one?", I said, shaping it with my hands. "Yep, near the river.", the girl said. I knew where that was - I'd passed it leaving my hotel. "Let's go!", I said.............

Cultural constructivism

.........We wandered among the walls of the ancient palace buildings, admiring intricate Buddhist murals and statues next to signs in English telling us not to touch things, not to graffiti, not take photos, not to eat food, not to sit etc. It was hard to tell if they wanted tourists here or not. Did they think we wanted to destroy the place? Perhaps they did. Perhaps we already had. I thought about the amount of signs advertising western products I'd seen, I thought about those herds of motorcycles eroding the quiet temples with their exhaust. .......

Critical constructivism
........Later, walking back to the hotel, I thought about the conference starting the next day. My paper about new technologies was starting to feel wrong, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. What right did I have coming to Thailand and telling them what they should do to be like us?........


......I got back to my room and read my paper again. No, it was all wrong. I spent an hour or so working on it, but still couldn't get it right. By the bed was a postcard I'd bought at the palace. I stared at the picture for a while, then turned it over and started writing to Sarah, telling her about my walk there that afternoon. Suddenly, I knew what I should do at the conference. I reached for my laptop and started jotting ideas.........


.......Constructivism has been said to be post-epistemological, meaning that it is not another epistemology, or a way of knowing. It can not replace objectivism. Rather, constructivism is a way of thinking about knowing, a referent for building models of teaching, learning and curriculum (Tobin and Tippin, 1993). In this sense it is a philosophy.
Constructivism also can be used to indicate a theory of communication. When you send a message by saying something or providing information, and you have no knowledge of the receiver, then you have no idea as to what message was received, and you can not unambiguously interpret the response.

Some of the tenets of constructivism in pedagogical terms:

Students come to class with an established world-view, formed by years of prior experience and learning.
Even as it evolves, a student's world-view filters all experiences and affects their interpretation of observations.
For students to change their world-view requires work.
Students learn from each other as well as the teacher.
Students learn better by doing.
Allowing and creating opportunities for all to have a voice promotes the construction of new ideas.
A constructivist perspective views learners as actively engaged in making meaning, and teaching with that approach looks for what students can analyse, investigate, collaborate, share, build and generate based on what they already know, rather than what facts, skills, and processes they can parrot. To do this effectively, a teacher needs to be a learner and a researcher, to strive for greater awareness of the environments and the participants in a given teaching situation in order to continually adjust their actions to engage students in learning, using constructivism as a reference.


.....I wrote about my experiences in Bangkok.


by Martin Dougiamas

Tuesday, June 20, 2006



I recently went on a class trip with 35 Year 11 students to the Dreaming, Australia's International Indigenous Feastval, June 9th-12th 2006.

The Dreaming Festival showcased local, national and international Indigenous artists in a contemporary celebration of culture. Held over 3 days and four nights, the festival was supported by the Queensland Folk Federation with artistic direction by Rhoda Roberts. It's jam packed program featured film & literature components, performing arts, new media and digital technologies, food & wine fare, comedy, ceremony, exhibitions, performance artists, physical theatre, visual arts, craft workshops, music program, street performers, musicals and a youth program.

One booth set up to interface with the public and showcase their product was a company called Australasian CRC for Interactive Design (acid).They were exhibiting an amazing product called digital songlines.

Digital Songlines is an authentic Indigenous 3D simulation where you explore Australian Aboriginal culture and heritage based on the knowledge of the traditional people. By completing quests that take you on an adventure you gain knowledge of Aboriginal arts , culture and heritage in close association with the landscape.

I was both visually impressed and excited about the possibilities of such a project and its application in a learning environment. The students who happened to be at the stall at the same time as me gave the demonstration programme a thorough half hour investigation. They found it enjoyable, interesting, engaging and informative. I highly recommend you check out their website.

The Australasian CRC for Interaction Design (ACID) is host to an innovative and exciting project aimed at conserving Indigenous heritage using virtual reality technologies. Digital Songlines is an ACID project that is developing protocols, methodologies and toolkits to facilitate the collection, education and sharing of indigenous cultural heritage knowledge. The project explores the effective recording, content management and virtual reality delivery of indigenous cultural knowledge in way that are culturally sensitive and involve the indigenous custodians, leaders and communities.

The title of Digital Songlines represents the blend of new media technology, simulation technology and high end computer visualisation systems to depict Aboriginal culture and heritage in such a way as to do justice to the traditions and practice of Indigenous culture as well as describe the Dreaming, Songlines and significant sites travelled by Aboriginal people throughout Australia.

Traditionally this rich Aboriginal heritage was transferred from generation to generation over millennia by rituals and storytellers through dance, stories and artworks. This interactive immersive simulation experience will communicate this ancient heritage in an entertaining, exciting and creative way using computer simulation technology.

Key features will be developed within the toolkit to include opportunities to:

1. Explore a virtual environment composed of Australian flora and fauna, topographical features faithfully restored in high resolution 3D;

2. Experience spatial audio to reflect the ambient sounds and audio of the landscape, see and hear virtual 3D avatars telling immersive Indigenous stories that reflect an experience and sense of actually being there.;

3. Record in a relational database the "Dreaming" stories, myths and legends that set the user upon an exploration quest involving tasks fulfilment, knowledge gathering, skills development and character advancement based upon Aboriginal culture and heritage;

4. Witness virtual representation of Aboriginal art, stories and artefacts as well as the high definition 3D design and spatial representation of these within a 3D landscape based upon actual satellite topographical imagery;

5. Appreciate cultural protocol and gender based issues relating to Aboriginal heritage.;

6. Explore the virtual landscape with hundreds of users and experience the myth legends, culture and heritage simultaneously with others;

7. Represent the aspirations of Indigenous artists, storytellers, custodians, historians, anthropologists and traditional owners document, describe and model cultural heritage sites and the interaction of communities within these sites from a past, present and future perspective;

8. Hear Indigenous language through the quests, stories, myths and legends; and

9. Empathise and respect the knowledge of Indigenous people as you move across the various tribal landscapes establishing travel routes for trade, knowledge sharing or exploration.

Oral histories, herbarium data, dreamtime myths, legends and stories are just some of the rich array of cultural information that will help create an application that will protect, preserve and promote Indigenous cultural practices and their celebrated survival techniques in unique and interesting ways.
Digital Songlines is a project of the Australian CRC for Interaction Design.
Site designed by Niche Studio - www.nichestudio.net

Digital Songlines - Irene's World launched at Mitchell

We launched Digital Songlines - Irene's World at Mitchell State School on the 5th April 2006, with tremendous support from the Indigenous community, the Mitchell State School, Mitchell Council and our ACID team members.

Over 2 days children from pre-school to year 10 were able to immerse themselves in Irene's World 3D environment and experience the Aboriginal culture and language of the Gunggari people, set on the site of the Yumba on teh outskirts of Mitchell. Irene Ryder was there with bush tucker foods and her knowledge, and it was a fantastic 2 days with with great feedback and enjoyable experiences for the children.

Click on the heading link to read the press release.
We win an AIIA Merit award at the iAwards!!
The Digital Songlines product received an Award of Merit in the prestigous national AIIA iAwards in the Education & Training category on the 7th April 2006.

The Merit Awards are only made when there is less than 5% separating the leaders in the category, so we're very proud of our win, given we've just launched our first iteration of the Digital Songlines software (Irene's World).

Monday, June 19, 2006


Steven Hodas
University of Washington

Technology refusal and the organizational culture of schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives.

Analyses of the deployment of technology in schools usually note its lack of impact on the day-to-day values and practices of teachers, administrators, and students. This is generally construed as an implementation failure, or as resulting from a temperamental shortcoming on the part of teachers or technologists. It is predicated on the tacit assumption that the technology itself is value-free. This paper proposes that technology is never neutral: that its values and practices must always either support or subvert those of the organization into which it is placed; and that the failures of technology to alter the look-and-feel of schools more generally results from a mismatch between the values of school organization and those embedded within the contested technology.

“Still nothing Try the spellcheck”

What about computers and Steiner Education?

Steiner teachers feel the appropriate age for computer use in the classroom and by students is in high school. We feel it is more important for students to have the opportunity to interact with one another and with teachers in exploring the world of ideas, participating in the creative process, and developing their knowledge, skills, abilities, and inner qualities. Steiner students have a love of learning, an ongoing curiosity, and interest in life. As older students, they quickly master computer technology, and graduates have successful careers in the computer industry. For additional reading, please see Fools Gold on the Alliance For Childhood’s web site, www.allianceforchildhood.org and The Future Does Not Compute by Steven Talbot.

There is no doubt that the computer is a very useful tool in today’s world. However, the fact that the computer can be indispensible in the adult economic world, does not necessarily equate it to being beneficial to the child’s world.

Steiner schools do not introduce the use of computers until secondary school. This is not because they are old-fashioned, but due to careful consideration of the computer’s benefits and disadvantages.

Education in the Steiner primary school is based on the knowledge that during the years from 7 – 14, the child is primarily developing his/her ‘feeling’ or emotional life; and is still naturally active. Therefore during this time, the utmost importance is placed on human wisdom and interactions; learning through direct experiences; and learning opportunities that use as many of the senses as possible.

All learning experiences are seen as opportunities to learn academic skills as well as social and moral values. While computers can ‘teach’ the academic aspects of a subject, whilst doing so, they isolate the child from classmates and the teacher. For example, during a Maths lesson, a child may have shell counters, and be asked by the teacher to share them amongst a number of friends. The child may protest, as he/she may not yet be able to freely share, thus a Maths lesson about division, becomes an opportunity to practise sharing. If the child experiences the same lesson through the use of a computer, he/she may learn division, but even if given the scenario of sharing, will not have the direct experience in life of having to share, and all the emotional impact and social learning that that imparts. Computers can teach facts but can not impart wisdom.

Children learn and remember best from direct experience. For example, if a teacher brought a large cake to class to explain the relative size of fractions (ie, slices of cake), many of the senses of the child are awakened. Their learning is sparked by such senses as sight, sound, touch, taste and smell as they are actively engaged in a Maths lesson (and cutting and eating cake!). The same lesson given on a computer gives only ‘second-hand’ images and sound, thus only a few senses are being used to stimulate learning. Which lesson has given ‘direct experience’, which lesson/learning is likely to be remembered?

Children are naturally active and learn best through ‘doing’. Thus lessons are planned with activities that will utilise this ‘love to move’ bringing in the senses of balance, rhythm and spatial awareness. A computer activity provides none of these.

By the time a child reaches secondary school, in a Steiner school, he/she has been given the opportunity to develop his/her ‘feeling life’, whilst keeping abreast of academia and worldly knowledge. At around 14 years, the intellectual and logical capacities of the child are really ready to be worked with, this is the right time to introduce the computer to the child. In this way, rather than primarily educating the thinking qualities only, the child’s education has provided him/her with ample time to develop physically, emotionally and intellectually.

Bairnsdale Steiner School



a publication independent of affiliation with any Rudolf Steiner School


Steiner education differs from the mainstream in a number of ways not easy to briefly explain. But one thing is clear: it inspires passionate commitment because of the perceived benefits to children. Most people haven’t heard of Rudolf Steiner, an extraordinary Austrian philosopher who developed innovative theories of education, medicine and agriculture early last century. But that’s changing. Steiner education is the fastestgrowing educational movement in the western world. Its principles, focusing on the emotional, social and spiritual aspects of children, are being applied in private and government schools, and schools for children with special needs and suffering social disadvantage. Steiner’s agricultural theory, known as biodynamics, has also come in from the margins. In Australia, Steiner education is now offered
alongside mainstream education in several government schools.
Steiner educators believe its artistic, reflective approach nurtures children in a way that equips them for today’s changeable, unpredictable world. Children in a Steiner setting do not start reading until the change of teeth—usually around age seven—which, according to Steiner, shows the child’s readiness to start formal education. Delayed reading is one of the most controversial issues surrounding Steiner education, and there is concern from some educators that children may miss out on their literacy and reading “windows”.
But the Steiner community is unrepentant. “In the beginning, there were stories of older-age Steiner kids being unable to read,” says Jacinta Walker, class 6 teacher in the Steiner stream at East Bentleigh Primary School, “but you don’t hear this any more.” Walker’s interest in Steiner education came early in her teaching, working with prep and year 1 children. “Kids were being labelled slow learners, and they were fantastic kids—they just weren’t ready to start reading.” For Footscray City’s Laurie Krepp, delayed reading also made sense—for some children. “I thought of the high number of boys we had on reading recovery, and wondered if they were being thrust into literacy before they were ready.”
28 Australian Educator No 41 Standardised testing is also proving controversial at Steiner schools. For some teachers, it seems nonsense to test Steiner children for standardised behaviour and learning. “The whole point of this education,” says Walker, “is that it’s not about standardising children.”
But test the students they must, and the results inevitably reflect the go-gently-slowly approach of Steiner education. “We tend to find that our kids in year 3 don’t do as well as the state average, then by the time they get to year 5, they do as well as, or better,” says Laurino.
The main features of Steiner education in the primary classroom are:
The same teacher from class 1 to 7
A “main lesson” each morning for two hours; the topic changes after several weeks and may be returned to in a different form later.
The main lesson curriculum allows any new topic to be studied in depth for a concentrated period of time.
Teachers use a “multisensory” approach to learning and work rhythmically and imaginatively with students.
All students play recorder together each day and a stringed instrument from class 3, forming class orchestras.
Reading is delayed until the adult teeth emerge, usually around age seven.
Strong emphasis on the practical arts to encourage development of the “will”.
Specialist teachers instruct in eurythmy (a form of movement which arose out of the work of Steiner), art, music and foreign language.
Computers are not used until year 7.
Respect for nature—and natural materials are used whenever possible.
Television and computers are discouraged, with the emphasis on developing the imagination and sense perception.
Laurie Krepp wrote this fable to illustrate to staff and parents some of the challenges and benefits of introducing a Steiner stream into a public school.
There was once a gardener who was very proud of the Granny Smith apple tree she had grown. It was a strong and beautiful tree and the local children enjoyed climbing its branches. The few people who had tasted its fruit knew they were the sweetest, crispest and juiciest green apples. But the gardener wanted to make an even better apple tree. She believed her apple tree could grow red apples too, and patiently and carefully selected a branch to graft from a Jonathan apple tree. Joining the branch was a challenge. The gardener knew she had to line up the bark of the branch and tree perfectly so the sap would flow. She wrapped the join carefully and gently tied the new branch to nearby ones for support. She knew that too much protection would damage the new branch just as much as too little. Some people asked why anyone needed red apples when the green ones were so delicious. Other people warned that the red apples would take over the tree and that it needed expensive fertiliser. But the gardener looked after the tree, ensuring it had healthy soil, a sunny position and water when the rain didn’t fall. Life wasn’t easy for the new apple tree. At first, the new bark didn’t grow over the whole join, and sap trickled out. The tree had put its energy into healing and the gardener wondered if the next crop of apples would be as bountiful or as sweet. But gradually the graft healed. The gardener was relieved to see a healthy crop of Granny Smith apples developing. She was just as pleased to see the red apples on the Jonathan branch. Soon, people came from near and far to see this wonderful tree. Some came to taste the sweet red apples and were surprised how delicious the green apples also were. The gardener was curious when she saw the insects buzzing between the branches of her tree, carrying pollen on their feet. It seemed that both the red apples and the green apples were tastier now that they grew on the same tree.
Steiner teaching is not a job, or even a career, says Walker. “It’s a whole lifestyle. And if you believe in it, then you bring it to your own home and you live that life.” For prep teacher Rae McNamara, in her first year at Briar Hill Primary School, the physical setting of a Steiner classroom is inspiring. “I am still feeling my way, but it’s a pleasure to come to work. You walk into the room every morning and it’s such a beautiful space. The children are so happy and friendly, just great. I think I work in a palace.”


SHEARWATER SITE DAY- A Site Specific Public Ephemeral Installation

Students were asked to make an artistic response to a specific site on the Sherawater campus.

Students are given preperation work to consider how to place their artwork in a specific environment.

Students are encouraged to experiment with a range of material practices and develop their conceptual ideas including documentation in a Visual Arts Process Diary.

Practicing installation artists from the local community are bought in to showcase their practices.

Students worked on individual and collaborative projects.

In this photostory the students are working together with a practicing artist to highlight a specific tree on the Shearwater site.
The tree highlighted is a strangler fig. It is being hosted by a native tree and will eventually strangle and overcome the host tree. The conceptual strength of this work is based on a wider understanding of colonization. Student working on this piece considered the traditional custodial owners of the site and the last 100 years of land use in this area.
Problems to be overcome included what materials to be used, how to apply the material and what colours should be worked with.

All works were viewed by a large public audience. Students were gived feedback and asked questions in relation to their specific work.

Sunday, June 18, 2006