Teaching Online During the Coronavirus

|   Distance Learning

by Paul Levy, parent at a Waldorf School/ part-time senior lecturer at universities in the United Kingdom

Outbreak using the Steiner-Method. Guidance and Suggestions for Teachers
Teaching using digital technology is appropriate when used consciously and selectively for upper school students. With schools closing around the world and studying from home becoming the new norm, at least for the coming weeks, and possibly months, offering education online is becoming a default position for state schools, and now also many Waldorf Schools. Current events also will put pressure on Waldorf Schools to make use of digital technology to teach children of much younger ages.

This short document is not an attempt to tell experienced Waldorf Teachers how to carry out their calling. Nevertheless, teaching “online” as a replacement for physical classroom education is not natural, even alien to the Waldorf pedagogy, and for good reason. Rudolf Steiner, a long time before computers appeared in our lives, pointed to the danger to us all of becoming too immersed in the binary (on-off, 1-zero, either-or) nature of mechanistic technology. Our world is qualitative. Digital technology is binary and our screens flash on and off at a speed beyond our normal perception.

It is appropriate for older children to get to know this technology, to learn how it works and to learn how and when to use it. But don’t want our children to become addicted to computer technology. Yet it is also a gift of our age. It is digital technology that will be the main tool is finding a vaccine for this manifestation of Coronavirus; it is digital technology that connects even when we are physically isolated from each other.

The contents below are relevant primarily for 9s and over. It is for teachers decide what to make use of and for what age group.

There are so many research studies and books about the dangers of digital technology for our children. Yet this is the generation that knows how to use it often far more than we, the older ones do. They take to it quickly and many children show a resilience to its effect.

We are born into the age in which we live and digital technology presents itself to all teachers a means of continuing to teach, when we cannot be in the same physical space as our pupils.

I invite you to make use of any of these tips, suggestions and guidelines, offered as they are in a spirit of urgency but also humbleness. You are the teachers, holding the uniqueness and freedom of each child with a sacred commitment and responsibility. This technology is hugely powerful and its forces are a mixed blessing. Only with a strong effort to be self-aware, caring and kind, can we use it during these difficult times to the benefit of the children in our care.

The urgent need to share the content in this article has meant it is presented in a short, readable form with little time to thoroughly work out a structure and to work through the material. It is essentially a list of suggestions, tips and guidelines for Waldorf teachers attempting to teach online. In this document you’ll find practical advice for minimising the harm a digital approach can do, as well as infusing the coldness of a digital medium with human warmth.

About the Author
I am a parent at a Waldorf School and have been a trustee on and off for over twenty years. I also work with adults in learning and development and work as a part-time senior lecturer and associates at three universities in the United Kingdom. I am the author of several books, including “Digital Inferno” which is published by Clairview Books. My forthcoming book “Breathing Nature in a Digital World” looks at how we can balance technology and nature in our personal and working lives.

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