Deborah Newlen '87: Computers No Substitute for Teaching

Deborah Newlen '87 and her son Caspar
Deborah Newlen '87 and her son Caspar

Waldorf School of the Peninsula in Mountainview, CA, where Deborah Newlen '87 serves as high school co-chair and a teacher of English and drama, was recently featured in the news for its unique stance on technology—excluding computers from the classroom until high school.  There are not even whiteboards in the building, only chalkboards, and cell phones have to be kept in lockers. Newlen, who was interviewed for CBS, explained the policy: "A computer is a good tool. It’s a fun toy. It can even be a tutor, but it’s not a teacher."

Even though the school is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, parents are supportive of the measure, explaining that there is still plenty of time for their children to learn to use technology responsibly.  The students are also on board, nothing that they still have access to computers and cell phones at home and that being unplugged gives them a greater opportunity to think creatively.

The high school does allow access to some computers, but only when teachers deem them truly “enhancing” to their lessons.  Education experts agree that the school’s philosophy, instead of being old-fashioned, might be right.  As Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of the Stanford University School of Education observes, "Just introducing technology has not been shown to have magical effects on student learning."

At Hamilton, Newlen majored in English and theatre and was a member of the Emerson Literary Society.

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