We are enamoured of technology in schools. SmartBoards, iPads, laptop programs, we love it all and we tend to latch on to it without much critical thinking about what we may be giving up in order to make time and space for all those screens. There is much to be gained, I’ll admit – heavens, I’m here writing a blog, on a laptop screen, something that didn’t exist when I started teaching. Pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.
But… there’s also a lot that we loose. I have a SmartBoard for the first time this year and I can’t help but notice the way it magnetically attracts kids to it, like moths to a flame. Some children will quite happily stand staring at the big screen, even when they’re not involved in the activity we’re doing. They have to be encouraged to go and play, something that usually isn’t required. Screens are very engaging. They also have a certain anesthetic quality; I’ve noticed that children are sedated by them.
Over the years I’ve become interested in some of the practices of Waldorf Schools, particularly in their focus on handicrafts. I went to university with several Waldorf School graduates and they could knit from a ball of wool in their pockets while walking across the campus and carrying on a conversation. For Kindergarten students, I’m interested in how knitting, crocheting, and, this year, needlepoint, can help to develop fine motor skills while engaging them creatively. I’ve found that it’s a great outlet for their creativity and that we often also end up discussing math concepts of measurement, number sense, and shape.
Last year we had a year-long inquiry into textiles which included crocheting, knitting, and string games (which we learned by watching YouTube videos, ironically). This year we’ve started with needlepoint. It’s all abstract experimentation right now but perhaps soon children will start to use it more as a drawing medium.