Tech experts say no to classroom computers

If anyone were to advocate the use of computers in the classroom, it’d be a Google employee, right? Well, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald recently, employees of some of the world’s biggest technology giants are opting for low-tech learning environments for their children.

In the article, ‘Computers ok? Not in Silicon Valley’, Alan Eagle, executive communications employee at Google, declares, “I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school.”

Eagle’s two children attend Waldorf schools, which subscribe to a teaching philosophy centred on physical activity and learning through creative, practical tasks; the US equivalent of Australia’s Steiner schools. Similarly, the chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom Waldorf school in Los Altos, California.

So what’s behind this resistance to technology in modern-day learning environments? Commonly, those who support the Waldorf approach believe computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans. Real engagement, they argue, comes from great teachers with interesting lesson plans, not machines.

Paul Thomas, a former teacher and current associate professor of education at Furman University, sides with the Waldorf approach, suggesting, “Teaching is a human experience … Technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.”

Of course, there are many experts who, in contrast, strongly endorse the use of computers in schools. Ann Flynn, director of education technology for the National School Boards Association in the US, is one.

Flynn states, “If schools have access to the tools and can afford them, but are not using the tools, they are cheating our children.”

As a psychologist and educator of more than 30 years, I believe the fact that we have schools offering distinctly different educational approaches is ideal. What works for some students, won’t necessarily work for others.

In saying that, however, when starting Edworks 20 years ago, I implemented a no-computer policy. Studies then, and since, have indicated they offer no educational advantage for students.

On the contrary, computerised learning tends to promote ‘answer driven’ learning, which simplifies learning to the point where students only see the answer, rather than the learning process, as the objective. Conversely, Edworks’ personal programs, delivered by a tutor at the student’s desk, promote divergent thinking (more than one possible answer), which fosters abstract thinking and creative problem solving.

Additionally, computer-based programs tend to ignore the importance of concrete thinking, deductive reasoning and understanding concepts, and do little to promote the idea of independent learning.

So, while at Edworks we don’t quite allow kids to learn fractions by cutting up quesadillas and cake, we do recognise the distractions and limitations computers can have in a learning environment and opt for the tried and trusted alternative.


The Chest of Heaven by Sarah Perillo

The Chest of Heaven
By Sarah Perillo

I remember people crying. I remember their faces. Their tears falling on my skin and their hearts pounding like a drum … I remember that memory, although I try to let it fade.

I‘m just a girl. Short with long brown hair and a touch of gold that shimmers in the sunshine. I like school. Hate spiders. Afraid of falling. I’m lost, have been for a while, I guess I have to let go of the past, go forward. Well that’s what my horoscope tells me to do.

Before my mum passed she gave me a chest. The colour is a rich burnish gold. I always talk to the chest. When I’m sad, lost, unhappy or just confused about anything really. I know it’s not a person but it reminds me of Mum. It’s all I really have left of her other than her old raggy clothes which I never take off.

She was a dancer. An amazing dancer, it was her life. She said she would never stop dancing – she was right, she didn’t. I have dreams of her in heaven dancing with the angels. I imagine her in her favourite snowflake dress. I miss her. No, more than miss, much more. I just can’t express it.

Then there is my dad. He has had half a heart ever since Mum passed. He’s the best dad you could ask for. Raised me, cared for me and was there for me. He knew how I felt. We live together in a little cottage at the end of the street. My dad and mum were in love since high school. So later on they bought this cottage. My dad works hard to support me. He is my inspiration – always has been. My maternal grandma looks after me a lot but I mostly think the reason she does is because it reminds her of mum.

There was this day when, well I thought life was perfect, but it’s not. I just got back from dancing and skipped home – the usual. I kind of got my mum’s obsession with dancing but I’m glad I did.  When I opened the door I saw this lady. Tall, skinny, blonde hair with bright blue eyes. I started to panic.

I remember dad sitting me down telling me the heart wants what the heart wants and him finding new love is not his fault. My eyes stung with tears while I tried to hold them back. I couldn’t. I ran up to my room crying. Then I pulled out the chest.

A tear is all it took. One perfect tear. It slithered down my cheek and fell into the chest … of heaven. My whole world went blurry for a second or two. As I slowly opened my eyes I saw my mum. She was in her snowflake dress. Dancing. She started dancing a waltz and I joined her with elegance and precision.

I felt like the whole world and its problems got away from me. I felt found.

Thailand by Sarah Perillo

Thailand is a great cultural experience for a family holiday. In Bangkok you definitely need to go to the temple where the royal family visit. When we went inside the temple there were monks meditating. Some rules to be careful about with monks are:

  •  No pointing your feet at them
  •  No touching the monks
  •  No photos

My family made sure we didn’t break any of those rules.

Inside the royal temple everything is gold, ruby, sapphire or emerald. In Thailand everyone respects the royal family. There are posters of them everywhere and paintings.

In Phuket when we went out for dinner we passed an elephant! Her name was Narnia. Narnia was a little baby elephant. She loved to eat bananas! We fed Narnia bananas which cost 20 Bart. That’s about 35 cents in Australian money. My mum, dad, brother and I had a picture taken with the elephant. I’d never met an elephant before so it was really exciting!

Thailand is famous for their tuk-tuks but watch out because not every driver is trustworthy. Also beware in Bangkok for ‘pickpocketers’.

My family and I just caught the boat from our hotel to the main streets, when a guy came up to us and explained how he was a ‘police’, that he spoke English and that he knew the fastest way to get to MBK. MBK is a massive shopping centre with markets inside. The so called ‘police’ told us that the fastest way was to go on a tuk-tuk. We followed his instruction and told the driver where we wanted to go.

The driver took us to a suit shop that we had never seen before. My mum knew this wasn’t safe so we caught a taxi to MBK. Before the taxi took off the tuk-tuk driver was talking to the taxi driver. On our way to the MBK centre my dad asked the taxi ‘how long?’ He turned around stared at me and gave me this creepy laugh that sent a shiver running down my spine. We jumped out of the taxi! The engine was still running, but we didn’t care! We just wanted to get out!

After all that drama we just took another taxi back to our hotel, we had enough!

So the lesson is to have a great time, but just beware!

NAPLAN fails students

As recently reported in the Herald Sun article, ‘Victoria failing in NAPLAN test turnout’, there has been a dramatic drop in NAPLAN testing participation rates in the state over the past three years. Furthermore, the situation has prompted claims that absentees have been students with records of poor academic performance.

It seems, unfortunately, NAPLAN testing has been politicised to the point that schools are manipulating results to protect their own interests. While struggling students are tucked away at test time, their better performing peers are out achieving the results schools are proud to promote.

This practise flies in the face of everything NAPLAN testing originally set out to achieve. And, of course, it’s the children who suffer most.

While schools insist on presenting false facades, poorly performing pupils will continue to languish. Why? Because funding will not be granted to schools that, on the surface, don’t require it. The consequence –  those kids who need additional resources are neglected.

It’s an alarming state of affairs, not only for students currently in the system, but for those entering it, too. Parents seeking out the best institutions available to their children rely on NAPLAN scores for guidance. How can judgements be made with confidence, knowing results are skewed?

My advice for parents here is simple: NAPLAN testing is a single measure of progress and should not be used in isolation. Consider it in conjunction with a range of formal and informal measures. (For further tips on such measures to consider, check out the Edworks article, ‘Choosing the right school for your child’.)

Undoubtedly, the current NAPLAN testing arrangement needs rethinking; the potential for manipulation compromises the whole system. While it’s certainly not all schools that are at fault, unfortunately, a few bad apples spoil the bunch.


The 2011 Grand Final by Dean Moraitis

Sports Reporter, Dean Moraitis, gives us a comprehensive and objective report of the 2011 Grand Final. I think you’ll agree, Dean writes with real personality and is passionate about the game!  

The 2011 Grand Final

Before the game, everyone started to arrive at the MCG for the AFL Grand Final for 2011. It was a sell-out, which means the MCG was full of people and there were NO SEATS LEFT!!! The two teams playing were Collingwood and Geelong. The coaches were Chris Scott (Geelong) and Mick Malthouse (Collingwood).

The Match

The game got under way and Geelong kicked the first goal in the AFL Grand Final for 2011. In the second quarter, Collingwood kicked a couple of goals to get back the lead but Geelong hit back with a couple of goals to lead at the half-time break. Geelong was winning by two points. This was a great first two quarters in the Grand Final for 2011.

The third quarter got under way and Collingwood kicked the first two goals to get back the lead but Geelong kicked a couple of goals to peg back the lead at three-quarter- time. The fourth quarter got under way; Geelong kicked eight goals in the quarter. Collingwood didn’t score a goal; they only kicked three or four points. And that was it! Geelong won the Grand Final for 2011, a great Grand Final to watch.

After the Game

After the Grand Final, the crowd stayed to watch the presentation. The two coaches made a speech about the Grand Final and they thanked both teams on a good match. The Auskick players presented the medals to the winning team, Geelong. After that, Chris Scott and Cameron Ling got the cup presented by an old Geelong player.

Then the Geelong supporters went crazy when they got the cup and all the players were partying and going around to the supporters to give autographs, pictures with people, showing the crowd the cup etc.

That’s the end of a magnificent AFL season, all the teams did their best and all the players should be happy about how they have played the season. I hope they do well next year.


Exercise unlocks academic improvement

‘Healthy body, healthy mind.’ We’ve all heard the old cliché, but just how true is it? A recent study has identified some compelling evidence in its favour. As reported in The Age article, ‘Exercise linked to higher test scores’, a strong relationship has been found between primary school students who exercise regularly, and improved academic performance.

The study, conducted by Professor Richard Telford of the Australian National University’s medical school, has found that those schools with the top NAPLAN scores also boast the highest level of physical activity amongst students.

Furthermore, a second Telford study has found students taught physical education by specialist PE teachers scored higher NAPLAN results than those supervised by generalist classroom teachers.

These studies have been supported by a decade of neurological research in Germany and the US, which has found exercise, especially fitness activities that involve hand-eye co-ordination, can improve brain function.

Professor Telford claims his findings are “strong evidence for policymakers that specialist physical education in schools is not just important from the perspective of preventative medicine, but it is also associated with improving the academic development of children.”

As a psychologist and educator, I have long advocated the importance of children partaking in regular physical activity, not only within school hours, but also at home.

Parents should aim to establish healthy habits with their children from an early age. These need not be competitive, but inclusive. Some suggestions include:

  • bush walking
  • surfing
  • swimming
  • rowing
  • tennis (doubles)
  • jogging

Such activities are fantastic for fitness, and will allow your children to enjoy the far-reaching benefits exercise provides. What’s more, they offer an opportunity for you to get out and have fun as a family!