The panel discussion will address the following key questions.
- How can digital spaces cultivate our humanity rather than limit it?
- Specifically: A culture of citizenship is vital to Europe as well as to the rest of the world. Children and adults require support in order to cultivate the related human values. How relevant is the age appropriate access for children to the digital world in this process?
Our five panelists share with us below their initial thoughts on this theme.
Do join us on Tuesday when the discussion will continue, including with contributions from the audience!
Joan Almon, dedicated activist in the area of early childhood education:
As the digital world becomes an ever more intimate part of our lives, it is especially important that children first learn what it means to be a human being with their own thoughts, feelings, and direct relationships with other human beings and the natural world. Throughout childhood a little bit of digital technology goes a very long way, while current high levels interfere with children's healthy development and sense of self.
Edwin Huebner, specialist in media and pedagogy from an anthropological and anthroposophical perspective:
Digital media have the potential to divide society. Those with good education can use the educational potential of the media to expand their existing education. They are also immune to the potential for temptation and distraction of virtual spaces. Therefore, the acquisition of comprehensive general education as well as training in self-discipline and will power is a prerequisite in order to be able to meaningfully integrate the possibilities of information technologies into one's life.
Dealing with digital spaces presupposes media awareness. In contrast to the real world, the difference in the virtual world is known very precisely and can therefore be precisely assessed in terms of its benefits and dangers. Those who have media consciousness can go through life confidently, make meaningful use of information technologies - and renounce their use if it is not effective.
Children must first learn to master their own bodies. Digital spaces are body-free spaces where you cannot develop your body. Therefore, dealing with digital devices is counterproductive, especially in early childhood. For this reason, age-appropriate access for children to digital devices is highly relevant. Too early unimpeded access brings with it the danger that children insufficiently develop their human capabilities - and thus do not become media literate.
Georg Soldner, expert in anthroposophical paediatrics:
The question ‘What is an age appropriate access to the digital world?’ is crucial from my point of view.
The answer may depend not only on a child’s age but also on the reality the child has to cope with. In our globalized world, the digital world can offer possibilities, e.g. to maintain connections to people that the child is in a relationship with.
But it cannot create bonds or replace experiences with all senses that the child is dependent on for healthy development.
Franz Glaw, exemplifying an integrative and production-oriented approach to media pedagogy:
An approach to media pedagogy that would lead to a self-determined life ought to meet the following 5 criteria
1. It should be based on an age-appropriate curriculum
2. It should be integrated into academic subjects
3. It should support child development
4. It should be creative and not passive
5. It should have a connection to the world at large
Konstantin Scheller, passionate about open educational resources and online learning:
The Digital has become integral to our way of life. Some like it, some dislike it, but the reality is that even the youngest children interact with tablets, phones, laptops and other more or less 'smart' screens on a regular basis. Schools need to respond to this reality and help young Europeans understand how they can live and thrive in an increasingly digital world.
Shanti George, Learning for Well Being
Shanti George is an independent researcher currently based in The Hague and is an Associate of the Learning for Well-being Community www.l4wb.org. She has taught at universities on three continents and is now an honorary professor at Aberystwyth University in Wales. Her most recent book is Re-imagined Universities and Global Citizen Professionals: International education, cosmopolitan pedagogies and global friendships (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
Edwin Hübner, Free University Stuttgart
Prof. Dr. habil. Edwin Huebner, born 1955, studied math and physics in Frankfurt/Main and Stuttgart. Since 1985 teacher at Freie Waldorfschule Frankfurt/Main. Scientific research and publishing activities about media and pedagogy. Since 2015 professor at Freie Hochschule Stuttgart - Seminar for Waldorfpedagogy. Many publications, one of the more recent ones: Media and Pedagogy. Aspects for a better understanding of the media. Basics for a anthroposophical - anthropological media-pedagogy (edition waldorf 2015).
Joan Almon, Alliance for Childhood
Joan Almon was born in the United States and studied sociology and psychology at the University of Michigan. She then worked for leaders in the civil rights and anti-poverty movements. She later became interested in early childhood education and was deeply engaged as a Waldorf educator for over thirty years.
She co-chaired the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America and represented it in international meetings. In the 1990s she became very concerned about the decline in children's health and well-being in the USA and Europe, and worked with physicians and educators to found the Alliance for Childhood in 1999. The Alliance addresses a number of childhood issues including the overuse of digital technologies and the need for restoring play.
Georg Soldner, Deputy Head of the Medical Section at the Goetheanum
Physician, specialising in paediatrics. Cofounding member of an anthroposophic medical group practice in Munich, Germany, since 1994, with an emphasis on treating children with chronic diseases. Member of the Board of the Physicians' Association for Anthroposophic Medicine in Germany 1993-2011 and head of Academy of Anthroposophic Medicine (GAÄD) since 2013. Many years of experience in lecturing and publishing, including his main work “Individual Paediatrics” together with H.M. Stellmann, and serving as editor-in-chief of the Vademecum of Anthroposophic Medicines. Deputy head of the Medical Section of the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum since 2016..
Franz Glaw, Free Waldorf Schools Germany
Franz Glaw has been a teacher for German and mathematics at the Rudolf Steiner School in Düsseldorf since 1987 and has also been active in the field of media pedagogy for several decades. For more than 20 years he took care of a students magazine, gave computer courses and realized film and radio projects with pupils. Since 2006 he supervises the YouTube channel of the "Waldorfschule Düsseldorf". Within the scope of his activities as a member of the board of directors of the Federation of the Free Waldorf Schools, he established the Department of Media Education together with Paula Bleckmann and Edwin Hübner. His approach is integrative and production-oriented.
More information can be found in the following two brochures: "Struwwelpeter 2.0 - Media competency and Waldorf education" and “Struwwelpeter 2.1 – A Field Guide for Parents through the Media-Jungle” (only available in German)
Konstantin D. A. Scheller, Directorate General for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (DG EAC)
Konstantin D. A. Scheller works for the European Commission's Directorate General for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (DG EAC) to define and implement policy on Innovation in Education. His work is particularly focused on digitalisation and the need for education to (a) equip Europeans with strong digital competences that allow them to thrive in today's world and (b) make use of opportunities to improve teaching, learning and administrative processes. He is passionate about Open Education and OER (Open Educational Resources) and an avid consumer of online learning and learning apps but is also convinced that the most interesting – and most disruptive – changes are still to come.