St Mary's Abbotsford Convent 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford Victoria | +61 3 9419 9229

Parents College – Week 9


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Matt returned as a host and welcomed everyone into the circle with a round of introducing ourselves again and inviting us to speak about hopes for the Parent College. Matt introduced Jennifer to present on the topic today of technology and the senses.

Jennifer asked us first to think about the Senses. She discussed how Steiner education looks beyond the 5 basic senses. And works with 12 senses across the Willing, Feeling and Thinking parts

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Jennifer also summarised Steiner’s view of the different ‘bodies’ of an individual:

  • Physical (a stone has this but nothing else)
  • Etheric (a lifeforce – a plant has this as it grows but cannot move itself)
  • Astral (animals have this and can experience pain, fear etc)
  • Ego (the human ‘I’ and awareness)

She invited us to join in a exercise where we each closed our eyes and received a small gift in our cupped hands. We were encourage to use all our senses on the object. And when we were ready to open and look at it. There was a collection of petals, copper balls, metal tubes and other small pieces. We were aware of other things like anticipation!

Jennifer then moved a chair into the middle of the circle and asked us what we saw. Adults see the 4 legs, back and a seat. But for children it has not acquired such a fixed state, it can be many things in play and imagination. As adults we struggle to have pure sense or experience, we filter through thinking.

Jennifer returned to the senses in the categories of Will, Feeling and Thinking and linked this to the stages of childhood development in Steiner education. Whilst, of course, the senses are all developing through the years:

  • the Willing senses are most important in the early years (0-7 years)
  • the Feeling senses are most developing in primary school (8-14 years)
  • the Thinking senses are strongly activating in high school years up to 21 years.

Jennifer commented that Teachers are modelling and showing all the Thinking senses to the class.

Jennifer then discussed how electronic technology plays into the world for children. She noted that we can’t avoid technology or seek to be hidden away from it. It is everywhere in our world now and it offers amazing potential. But there are damaging effects particularly on young children that we should be aware of and try to heal.

Jennifer said education generally should be healing and maybe that is what we now need to bring – the healing aspects of Steiner curriculum to the technology in education. This might be what we are being called in to do.

She also reflected on how fast the world is moving all the time for children and that the rhythm of Steiner balances that out for them

Jennifer said that the technology is not the problem but that the fear of it and what it could do to us is the problem.

There was a discussion about the need to bring humanity to the technology – this is the great challenge.

Matt spoke from his experience as an ICT professional in education. He said technology was more than just web pages and internet – that we were in an age when machines where increasingly a fused and essential part of skilled activities in our lives (e.g. self driving cars and the internet of things) and that children will just accept these as normal and come with the same openness of senses we discussed above. He also said that there was a great deal of value in data and information about students and their learning that could be made available to help teachers and these do not harm children’s developing senses.

Others then shared many perspectives on this issue ranging from the excitement of potential of what new technologies will bring the emerging creativity of the next generation of children through to a strong warning of the need to ensure we don’t lose our humanity and give over our power. There were also some personal stories of the practical reconcillation of these challenges – a great example being YouTube videos on crocheting and finger knitting opening up new opportunities for children’s development.

We experienced some stronger emotions and disagreements than has been present before. We agreed this topic deserved more discussion and sharing together and Jennifer and Matt agreed to return for a Part 2 next week.

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