CEO Blog: Growing up Digital research

Steiner Education Australia (SEA) Response to the findings from Growing Up Digital study

SEA congratulates the UNSW Gonski Institute research team on the ground-breaking research on how screen-based technologies are impacting school students. As highlighted in their study, 84%of educators believedigital technologies are a growing distraction in the learning environment.

The report’s co-author Professor Pasi Sahlberg states ‘Nine out of 10 teachers and principals in Australia have observed an increase in students with emotional, social and behavioural challenges in school today compared to just five years ago. Three out of five Australian educators have seen a decline in students’ readiness to learn and two-thirds have observed more children arriving at school tired’.[1]

Steiner educators would also agree with Professor Sahlberg’s statement “What is happening with our kids now is the biggest educational experiment in history.”

Instead of this unprecedented ‘educational experiment’ of digital technology use, there needs to be more focus on the purposes of education and the well-considered place of digital technology within this.

Today’s students will, into the future, need to craft solutions to complex ethical, environmental and social problems that currently seem unsolvable or are yet to be identified. They will need to work technologically and be erudite communicators and advocates for those solutions. For this they will need a strong sense of direction, will and moral purpose.

Steiner education supports students towards this future world through its curriculum and the value it places on a developmental approach to digital technology use. The ACARA recognised Australian Steiner Digital Technologies Curriculum focuses on enabling imagination and creative working in early years. There is a focus on what theyounger child can achieve without digital screens in order to apply themselves to the challenges of being truly efficacious as a human being. Children develop original creative thought first, seeing themselves as active, imaginative human beings connected to the real world around them. Digital skills, such as systems thinking, algorithmic thinking, collaboration, managing complex technological tasks, exploring and creating complex patterns are carefully scaffolded ‘non-digitally’ through the rich, integrated primary curriculum.

Digital technologies are well-mastered by students who are multiskilled in world crafts and contemporary non-digital technologies. With this strong, scaffolded foundation, in lateryears students embrace digital technologies effectively, creatively and ethically.

In this COVID-19 era of remote learning, Steiner schools remain focussed on the core foundations and purpose underpinning the curriculum. Professor Sahlberg notes: ‘Now, with more than 85% of children across Australia being taught remotely at home, with a heavy emphasis on learning using media and digital technology, this [Growing Up Digital] research takes on an extra dimension’.

Steiner schools, ever conscious of the effects of screens especially in the young child, have creatively and successfully adopted a variety of online and offline approaches in their remote learning programs, always with the core purpose of maintaining connection, maintaining the human centred approach to the education and focussing on the balance of academic, artistic and social-emotional wellbeing.Teachers have used digital technology carefully and wisely to achieve that healthy balance.

Steiner educators look forward to participation in the Growing Up Digital longitudinal study and hope the results have an impact on broader educational policy to support the optimal development of our children.

[1]For detail of the study findings :