Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bad News: Governor Brown Signs AB 57

Sacramento, California - Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that he has signed the following bills:

  • AB 57 by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) – Telecommunications: wireless telecommunication facilities.

The world learns a lesson that technology in schools doesn’t improve education

The world learns a lesson that technology in schools doesn’t improve education

Digital natives. flickr/Lucelia RibeiroCC BY-SA

The OECD has just given the world an F when it comes to using computers to improve educational outcomes in schools and to give teenagers the digital skills they will increasingly need in life. In a reportreleased this week entitled “Students, Computers and Learning”, Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills said that the report showed:
“no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT for education”
In fact, for countries like Australia that invested heavily in ensuring that every child had access to laptops in schools, digital reading performance actually got worse between 2009 and 2012. In fact, as Schleicher goes on to say
“students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics”
The general conclusion of the report is that if child is smart and good at reading, they will be good at reading on a computer. Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise us, but it does because we have imbued technology with almost magical powers.
The technical ability of having a world of information that is instantly searchable, was somehow confused with meaning that the child would automatically know how to formulate the right questions and understand, filter and assemble the appropriate answer from the results. It also assumed that “digital natives” would be more motivated to do this because it would be “natural” to them. We somehow forgot that in the days of the “paper natives” children were not necessarily inspired to study or explore just because they could.
The more deeply worrying aspect of the OECD report is that it is based on a relatively superficial view of digital skills. It doesn’t assess the ability to do more complex tasks online nor to use software like spreadsheets for example to actually record, organise and analyse data. The assessment used as the basis for the OECD report is the Programme for International Assessment (PISA). In a typical PISA question designed to assesses digital reading skills, the student is asked to navigate a website and find the times of an event. This requires being able to read a web page and understand what links to click on to navigate to other pages to get to the information.
Whilst these types of tasks may highlight the very rudimentary digital skills someone would need in order to use the Internet, it doesn’t really say very much about how someone would cope using a corporate system that they are given very specific training to use.
The availability of computers by themselves doesn’t alter the need for teachers to teach students basic skills and content, nor does it change the need for students to study, practice and learn those skills and content. In fact, having computers in schools serves as a distraction rather than an aid according to the OECD report:
“students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics”
Supporters for the idea of use of computers in school may argue that the study simply highlights the fact that the technology was not used “correctly”, or that teachers were not adequately trained in how to use the technology in their teaching, or that educational software and resources are typically not very good.
There may be some truth in all of these points but it is hard to believe that this would actually make a substantial difference to the outcomes.
Much is made about the lack of digital skills of both the young and the elderly. If predictions of robots replacing jobs become true, it is believed that the only jobs left for humans will require high levels of digital skills. This argument is being used to justify teaching computer programmingin schools on the basis that somehow this will give students a greater understanding of how to use software generally. As with computers, knowing some basic coding is very much like knowing basic sentences of French or how to play simple songs on the recorder. A broadening experience perhaps but of no use to a world needing a software engineer, translator or concert musician.

Massachusetts Parent Speaks on Wi-Fi Health Risks to State Lawmakers

Massachusetts Parent Speaks on Wi-Fi Health Risks to State Lawmakers

No Tech Zone

No Tech Zone
NO TECH-ZONE from Ivan Cash on Vimeo.

Digital detox with Design Hotels™

Digital detox with Design Hotels™

Wiesergut, Hinterglemm, Austria
In an age defined by information overload, the pinnacle of luxury travel lies in the ability to mentally and physically switch off and reconnect with your surroundings. Design Hotels™ presents six hotels from all four corners of the globe that are hitting pause on the technological treadmill of modern life. 

Insólito Boutique Hotel, Búzios, Brazil
Located just two hours away from the bright lights of Rio de Janeiro, the 24-room Insólito Boutique Hotel couldn’t be further from the urban metropolis in spirit. Perched on a rocky hillside overlooking the stunning Ferradura Beach, the hotel embodies the tranquility and relaxed atmosphere of a private home, while promoting a meaningful connection with the environment. The solar-powered guestrooms have been individually designed by owner Emmanuelle de Clermont Tonnerre with arts and crafts by local artisans alongside sustainable furniture crafted by Brazilian carpenters from reclaimed timber. 

Wiesergut, Hinterglemm, Austria
When Originals Josef Sepp and Martina Kroll transformed a 13th century family estate into the 24-room retreat, Wiesergut, organic warmth and comfort were at the forefront of the design and concept. Located in the valley of Hinterglemm, just a couple of hours outside of Salzburg, the contemporary refuge offers the slowed rhythms of mountain life. The Alpine hideaway’s homespun luxury comes in the form of locally produced furniture and textiles, and the sublime locale – steps away from top-notch hiking and skiing. The hotel’s garden suites have spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows which flood the interiors with sunlight, as well as cultivating the slippage between inside and out, old and new. 

Hotel La Semilla, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Carefree simplicity reigns at the 9-room Hotel la Semilla, located a stone’s throw from the shores of Playa del Carmen. The building, which dates back to 1990, has been minimally refurbished by architect Jaime Inglemo to retain its local authenticity. Natural materials such as stone, polished concrete, and bricks were used to create the hotel’s earthy vibe. A soothing neutral color palette pervades all spaces, and plenty of lounging nooks afford ample idle moments. Suites, such as the Terraza, even have outdoor baths for the ultimate laidback lifestyle.

Laluna, St George, Grenada
Surrounded by emerald hills, crystal waters, and leafy bougainvillea-filled grounds, Laluna is Grenada's hidden secret. Sixteen traditional thatched-roof cottages designed by Gabriella Guintoli and Carmelina Santoro feature open-air bathrooms and bedrooms that open onto bamboo-framed verandas with plunge pools. To aid in the unwinding, daily beachfront yoga classes of Hatha, Kundalini and Vinyasa are on offer while the Asian Spa program focuses on traditional Balinese massage techniques. 

Vigilius Mountain Resort, Lana, Italy
With a location in South Tyrol 1,500 meters above sea level and only accessible by cable car, unplugging is practically mandatory at the 41-room Vigilius Mountain Resort. Here, Milan-based architect Matteo Thun used wood and glass to blur the lines between architecture and nature. Surrounded by the ever-changing colors of the Dolomites, sample tried-and-tested Tyrolian skin treatments using ground apple and corn peels, take up aqua pilates, or feast in one of the world-class restaurants. Any remaining stress or worries will soon be eased away by the pure and crisp Alpine air.

The Surin Phuket, Thailand
Nestled into a beachfront coconut grove on Pansea Bay’s shores, The Surin Phuket’s 103 cottages and suites were created by architect and designer Ed Tuttle with the guiding philosophy that wherever one looks, an interesting perspective can be seen. An easy blend of purity, serenity and an attention to nature is achieved with panels of woven palm fronds, granite floors, and natural materials. Relaxation takes many forms in paradise, from seaside dining at The Beach restaurant, swimming in the onyx-tiled pool, to the three nearby golf courses.

Unplugged Weekends And Device-Free Bedrooms: This Is What Digital Detox Means In 2015

Unplugged Weekends And Device-Free Bedrooms: This Is What Digital Detox Means In 2015

Posted: Updated: 
There's no denying that many of us are overwhelmingly obsessed with technology. Nearly half of adults are "completely hooked" to their smartphones, a recent report from Ofcom revealed. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds (61%) of under 24s are addicted to their devices and almost half (49%) check their phone within five minutes of waking up.
"For the first time, smartphones are the UK’s most popular internet device and are now the hub of our daily lives," said Ofcom's director of research James Thickett. He's right - the average person checks their phone every six-and-a-half minutes.
With over 200 million new mobile users expected in the next 12 months globally, this situation isn't going to go away.
But what's the solution? 
In 2015, the concept of digital detox has evolved to the point where it's no longer about switching off devices and sending out smoke signals. 
Instead, it's for people who want to become more mindful of how much time they spend glued to their screens. It's about taking time out from devices every now and then to engage and reconnect with real people and the real world.
And if you don't think it's needed, then do a quick headcount of the number of people you see walking on the street with their heads buried in their smartphones. Or people filming a gig rather than immersing themselves in the music.

The idea of the digital detox has been harnessed by some of the brightest minds in the media and technology, who understand there's a need to become aware of device usage so wellbeing doesn't suffer. 
Arianna Huffington has spoken extensively about the importance of having a device-free bedroom. Similarly, Randi Zuckerberg (her brother is Mark Zuckerberg who founded Facebook, you might've heard of him) has a digital-free day each week.
They are proof that digital detox isn't about banning technology altogether but rather improving and evolving the balance between using it to better our lives and simply allowing it to take over. 
James Eades, 34, runs an IT business and, as a result, is immersed in tech 24/7. After the birth of his child, Eades became increasingly aware of the amount of time he spent on his devices. So he decided to reassess how much time he spent plugged in so he could spend more "uninterrupted time" with his child.
After (somewhat ironically) hearing about the concept of digital detox on social media, he decided to unplug from all of his devices, except the television, for 24 hours. 
"I was expecting to find it very difficult, but actually enjoyed the first time and felt extremely relaxed," he tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. "It was a breath of fresh air to not have constant information attacking me from social media, emails and the news."
Since his detoxification, Eades regularly has an "unplug day" and is far more conscious of spending less time on his devices. He also strongly believes that being connected all the time could play havoc on mental health.
"It's normal for us to constantly receive information all day long, whether that’s through email, social media, general internet use or push notifications, and it’s only when we totally detox that we realise how much time we spend consuming digital media instead of enjoying time with each other or our surroundings," he reflects. 
"I’m convinced that too much information is causing a lot of mental health problems, whether that’s anxiety, stress or more serious issues."
The concept of digital detox isn't just something that can be applied to the lives of individuals. It can benefit businesses too.
Martin Talks is the chief non-digital officer from a company called Digital Detoxing, which runs unplugging programmes for companies. "We look at ways to ensure people are healthier, happier and more productive at work through a positive relationship with technology," he explains. 
Talks believes that people are left feeling constantly stressed, anxious, distracted and lacking in creativity because of the "bombardment of emails, calls and social media". It can also affect team spirit, as workers are more likely to "socially snub colleagues" by looking at their phones mid-conversation, and sometimes workers' attendance levels drop because of stress. 
When this happens, the team from Digital Detoxing step in to put together a series of activities and measures to help businesses and staff get the best out of each other. But minus the tech. 
The company runs 'Digital Detoxing Adventures' which aims to get people out of auto-pilot and gives them a chance to reassess what they are doing. "We take groups away to beautiful locations, remove their technology and get them to reconnect with the world around, each other and themselves," says Talks.
They also hold workplace audits to see how effective the workplace is both physically and virtually. The company will then make suggestions as to how to make their work space better. Finally, they conduct mindfulness courses where they teach mindfulness techniques including meditation, effective breathing and ways to make people feel in the moment rather than worrying about things outside their control.
The goal is "happier, healthier and more productive workforces".
The idea of getting away on a digital detox holiday isn't new, but there are now retreats which teach people how to step away from devices.
Lucy Pearson co-founded Unplugged Weekend, which hosts device-free weekends for groups at a cost of roughly £500 per person. Instead of scrolling through Instagram for hours on end, they practise mindfulness and meditation.
Pearson says their typical clientele is young professionals, but they also entertain families and middle-aged people. People attend for a wide variety of reasons including to switch off from never-ending work emails, meet and connect with new people or because they’ve realised they spend far too much time on their devices and not enough time with their families.
It sounds intense, but does it actually stick?
Natalie Kent, 28, is a health coach who booked herself on to Unplugged Weekend after feeling like her life was being ruled by her devices. "I wanted a complete switch off," she says. "I was looking forward to a break from the city, I wanted quiet and no glaring lights."
After her weekend away with Unplugged, her head felt clearer and she was more "refreshed". But it didn't take long for her to switch back to old habits once she got home. "At the start I was very good and removed Facebook from my phone as an app and tried to not use my phone when on public transport or walking," she reveals. "But I'm afraid to say those bad habits have slipped back." 
Despite this, she says the retreat has made her much more aware of how much time she spends on her devices.

"The idea of living without them is unrealistic, it's crucial for my job. However the one thing I have implemented is not checking my phone in the morning until I've finished my morning hot water and lemon. It's now not the first thing I look at."
So that's digital detox for adults. But what about the entire generation who live and breathe tech by the time they hit 11?
One school that has actively tried to encourage pupils to unplug is The Old Hall school in Shropshire. Earlier this year, the school held a digital detoxing week where students were asked to find ways to amuse themselves which didn't involve digital devices.
Martin Stott, headteacher of the school, has openly aired his concerns that children are interacting with real people less which results in them struggling in social situations later on in life, because they are less able to read body language and facial expressions properly.
"You often see children in restaurants with iPads to entertain them while mum and dad chat over dinner," Stott previously told The Times. "It erodes family time and they’re missing out on messages from body language and facial expressions from those around them. People watching is a great pastime for many but I think it’s been lost to a degree."
Stott believes that parents are hugely influential in helping youngsters switch off. "I think parents would find it more difficult than their children, especially as a lot of business is done via mobile phones," he said. "I’m not saying people shouldn’t phone each other, but don’t go on the screen for games and leisure. Spend more time talking to each other instead."
James Eades says that as a parent, he is still trying to get to grips with how he's going to bring up his daughter in the digital age.
"I want her to have access to technology and to be skilled at using it ready for school and the workplace, but I’m equally determined to make sure that she experiences life away from it," says Eades. 
"We hope to have tech-free evenings at home, tech-free holidays and to make sure she is exposed to experiences that we both had as children like time in the outdoors doing activities like cycling, fishing and exploring."
It's something adults can benefit from too - we'd be much better off being outdoors or spending time with our loved ones than flipping between two (or three) devices in front of the TV. 
Technology has given us plenty of things to be grateful for. But there's no getting away from the fact that as it evolves - whether it's the advance of wearable tech or the increase in mobile phone users - our world will become more digitally saturated. 
But that's not to say we have to suffer because of it, and ultimately the responsibility to use or not use it, rests in our hands.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Esther J. Cepeda: Unplugging my way to recovery

Esther J. Cepeda: Unplugging my way to recovery

POSTED:   09/09/2015 05:00:00 PM PDT

CHICAGO -- For 12 weeks, I've been on a miracle diet that has improved my mood, cleared my mind, given me more energy, made my eyesight better, cured my insomnia and, most importantly, pretty much eliminated the daily headaches that had been dogging me. 
Best of all: I still eat gluten and haven't had to ingest kale once. All I did was cut back my consumption of electronic content by about 75 percent. 
Yes, seriously. 
This 21st-century, always-on, social-media connected e-reader took things down several notches by returning to reading print newspapers, paper books and magazines, and massively cutting back time spent in the warm glow of electronic devices. 
The road to recovery started about two years ago when my formerly episodic, but by then nightly insomnia and near-constant headaches jump-started the search for a cure. 
I tried more exercise, less sugar, reducing work and home stress, vitamins, several varieties of doctor-prescribed drugs and specially timed daytime naps. As a lifetime avoider of coffee and alcohol, I couldn't rely on the quick fixes of eliminating them from my diet. 
Why did it take me so long to realize that the onset of my symptoms roughly coincided with a resolution to save money on the many publications I read by going digital? 

It's not because I didn't know about eyestrain, or the cognitive benefits of reading on paper versus reading electronically -- according to a variety of research, reading electronically prevents us from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way.
It's because I just got so used to being on my computer, laptop, iPad or iPhone all day long, taking in content from all corners of the Web whenever the whim arose, that the amount of time my eyeballs were frying on a screen just crept up on me. 
In May, on the WNYC podcast "Note to Self," I heard the story of Cynan Clucas, a digital-media professional and father of four in England who found himself at the doctor, worrying about early onset dementia. 
Clucas was shocked to learn he had adult-onset attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a diagnosis that, even among children, is rare in the United Kingdom (1.5 percent of kids there are diagnosed annually) as compared with in the United States (6 percent). He was just using his electronics way too much. 
This gave me pause. But I wasn't feeling anxious or distracted, overwhelmed or unable to concentrate. I didn't have any problem consuming long-form content, like books or lengthy magazine pieces, so I didn't take it to heart. 
And then I was faced with a weeklong work trip away from home. 
How, I fretted, would I keep up with all my reading when I was going to be busy nearly every minute of every day in meetings and travel? 
Ultimately, I decided to set my email to out-of-office mode, planned to limit my daily news to just one printed newspaper per day -- compared with scouring three to four publications online -- and vowed to try not to "catch up" on my online reading and socializing once I returned. 
It was like the clouds parted. I noticed the changes in my health nearly immediately. Despite a hard-charging week of 15-hour days, keeping my gadgets out of my hands and face coincided with my being able to sleep better at night and not develop headaches at the slightest provocation. I just felt better. 
When I got home, I decided to see if the well-being would last by consuming only print newspapers and magazines, restricting my computer time to tasks that couldn't be done offline, and limiting my time on email and websites to the bare minimum necessary for accomplishing the important stuff that needs to be done. 
It's been three months and I haven't felt this good in years. 
Esther J. Cepeda is a Washington Post columnist.

Generation Zapped: Movie Trailer

Wireless is amazing – but is it safe? GENERATION ZAPPED! looks for answers

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Baylor Study: Cellphones Can Damage Romantic Relationships, Lead to Depression

Baylor Study: Cellphones Can Damage Romantic Relationships, Lead to Depression

  • Couple Fighting
    Research from Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business confirms that cellphones are damaging romantic relationships and leading to higher levels of depression. (iStock photo)

Sept. 29, 2015

‘Cellphone use can undermine the bedrock of our happiness – our relationships with our romantic partners,’ researcher says

Media contact: Eric M. Eckert, office: (254) 710-1964, mobile: (254) 652-0398
Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricBaylorU
Follow Baylor Media Communications on Twitter: @BaylorUMedia
WACO, Texas (Sept. 29, 2015) – Research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business confirms that cellphones are damaging romantic relationships and leading to higher levels of depression.
James A. Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing, and Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, published their study - “My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners” – in the journal Computers in Human Behavior
For their study, the researchers conducted two separate surveys, accounting for a total of 453 adults in the U.S., to learn the relational effects of “Pphubbing” – or “partner phone snubbing.” Pphubbing is described in the study as the extent to which people use or are distracted by their cellphones while in the company of their relationship partners. 
“What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction,” Roberts explained. “These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”
The first survey of 308 adults helped Roberts and David develop a “Partner Phubbing Scale,” a nine-item scale of common smartphone behaviors that respondents identified as snubbing behaviors. 
The resulting scale includes statements such as:
• My partner places his or her cellphone where they can see it when we are together.
• My partner keeps his or her cellphone in their hand when he or she is with me.
• My partner glances at his/her cellphone when talking to me.
• If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his or her cellphone.
The development of the scale is significant, the study states, because it demonstrates that “Pphubbing is conceptually and empirically different from attitude toward cellphones, partner’s cellphone involvement, cellphone conflict and cellphone addiction.”
The second survey of 145 adults measured Pphubbing among romantic couples. This was done, in part, by asking those surveyed to respond to the nine-item scale developed in the first survey. 
Other areas of measurement in the second survey included cellphone conflict, relationship satisfaction, life satisfaction, depression and interpersonal attachment style (e.g., “anxious attachment” describes people who are less secure in their relationship). 
Results of the survey showed that:
• 46.3 percent of the respondents reported being phubbed by their partner
• 22.6 percent said this phubbing caused conflict in their relationships
• 36.6 percent reported feeling depressed at least some of the time
Overall, only 32 percent of respondents stated that they were very satisfied with their relationship, the study shows.
“In everyday interactions with significant others, people often assume that momentary distractions by their cell phones are not a big deal,” David said. “However, our findings suggest that the more often a couple’s time spent together is interrupted by one individual attending to his/her cellphone, the less likely it is that the other individual is satisfied in the overall relationship. 
“Specifically, momentary distractions by one’s cellphone during time spent with a significant other likely lowers the significant other’s satisfaction with their relationship, and could lead to enhanced feelings of depression and lower well-being of that individual. Thus, when spending time with one’s significant other, we encourage individuals to be cognizant of the interruptions caused by their cellphones, as these may well be harmful to their relationship.”
Roberts explained that those with anxious attachment styles (less secure in their relationship) were more bothered (reported higher levels of cellphone conflict) than those with more secure attachment styles (more secure in their relationship). In addition, lower levels of relationship satisfaction – stemming, in part, from being Pphubbed – led to decreased life satisfaction that, in turn, led to higher levels of depression.
Given the ever-increasing use of smartphones to communicate between romantic partners, the study helps to understand how the use of smartphones can impact not only satisfaction with romantic relationships, but also personal well-being, Roberts said.
“When you think about the results, they are astounding,” Roberts said. “Something as common as cellphone use can undermine the bedrock of our happiness – our relationships with our romantic partners.”
In addition to its journal publication, this research provided foundational material for three chapters in Roberts’ new book, “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?”
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.
Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, housed in the new Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation, provides a rigorous academic experience, consisting of classroom and hands-on learning, guided by Christian commitment and a global perspective. Recognized nationally for several programs, including Entrepreneurship and Accounting, the school offers 24 undergraduate and 13 graduate areas of study. Visit and follow on Twitter at

Learning unplugged: School ditches digital

Learning unplugged: School ditches digital

By Dawn Picken

L-R Ava (left), Eli and Grace Simpkins-Simmonds. Waldorf School encourages learning by means other than technology. Photo/George Novak
L-R Ava (left), Eli and Grace Simpkins-Simmonds. Waldorf School encourages learning by means other than technology. Photo/George Novak
As Kiwis spend more time and money on technology like smart phones and computers, some of us are pulling the plug - opting for a low-tech life. While statistics show more than 80 per cent of New Zealanders have an internet connection, some locals, including education leaders, have put their digital lives on a diet.
Bay of Plenty Times Weekend reporter Dawn Picken reached out the old-fashioned way - by phone and face-to-face - to learn about benefits and challenges of spending fewer hours in cyberspace in favour of more time in the real world.
At Tauranga's Waldorf school, you can see a large swath of farm land (6.5ha), a block of classrooms for preschool through to Year 8 students, animals, a veggie garden and even a room for pursuits like juggling and acrobatics. What you won't see are screens and devices: no computers, projectors, tablets, TVs ... nary a whiteboard inside the class.
Instead, students draw on blackboards and paper. Learning continues outdoors, where Year 4 students shovel buckets of dirt from a hillside.
"We're digging a cave," says one girl. Teacher Michael Rall explains: "This is part of our maths project. They learn about measurements, weights ... it blends in with our main lesson about building. It's sort of a Hobbit glen."
The guiding philosophy of this state-integrated full primary school in rural Welcome Bay is that childhood is a precious one-time event, best undertaken slowly, explored thoroughly, with wonder, espousing the vision of philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
Principal Mary Tait-Jamieson says, while digital technologies are important for research, communication and entertainment, "our view is that computers and other communication technologies work best in the hands of competent teenagers and adults.
"We think a healthy childhood is full of movement, full of doing and full of dreaming. Screen time doesn't provide those things."
The school's online curriculum outline states: "Direct face-to-face communication is seen as vital for the development of language, social competence, and empathy. "Children in the lower school are not taught through computers or through other audio-visual means.
An exception to this might be the introduction of the computer in Class 7 as one of the tools of project research."
Principal Mary Tait-Jamieson. Waldorf School encourages learning by means other than technology. Photo/George Novak
Principal Mary Tait-Jamieson. Waldorf School encourages learning by means other than technology. Photo/George Novak
Waldorf parents tell Bay of Plenty Times Weekend their kids benefit from being unplugged. Jason Simmonds, an engineering projects manager from Ohauiti, says he moved his three children - 10-year-old Grace, 8-year-old Eli and 7-year-old Ava - from mainstream public school two years ago, where computers featured and the class had a blog.
Now, he says, school and home are mostly tech-free.
"Before Steiner, they would watch a good couple hours on the weekend, and also a little before breakfast during the week. When they started Steiner, they had no weekday TV and now watch at most an hour on the weekends." Simmonds says though his children initially grumbled, the lack of screen time is not an issue.
"They read, draw and play. Eli's doing a lot of reading. You can't get him out of a book these days." He says his kids aren't "glazed over" or grumpy from watching TV. "There's no chance of them interacting with you when they're stuck in front of the screen. They might be in the same building, but they're not engaged with you."
Karen Friskney's 10-year-old son Andrew is a Steiner student. Her eldest son, Thomas, attends Tauranga Intermediate, where he won a general excellence award. The Mangatapu mum says a strict digital diet hasn't hindered her sons' education. "They go to the library and use newspapers as well. It's not like we're cut off. Most devices are user-friendly.
They're not asked to do a programme, they're just asked to use them." Friskney says her boys read lots of books, play sport and play together outside. "You won't hear the words, 'I'm bored,' because they haven't been entertained. There's never been a device to entertain them - they have to sort themselves out."
Rotorua's Pathways Kindergarten head teacher Sue McGeorge (pictured on cover) says she minimised screen time long before working at the Steiner school.
"My children used to think I was terrible. They weren't allowed to use computers at home. They never picked up a computer until they left school at age 17."
McGeorge says lack of digital devices hasn't hurt her adult kids. Her daughter works as a physiotherapist, and her son's an insurance broker and football player who competed for the All Whites and went to the Olympics.
We think a healthy childhood is full of movement, full of doing and full of dreaming. Screen time doesn't provide those things
Mary Tait-Jamieson
Mount Maunganui's Glenys Watson home schools her 17-year-old and two 15-year-old children. The solo mum says one computer in the lounge serves the entire household. Her kids get 15 minutes of technology each day, either on the computer, or a Gameboy.
The family doesn't use Facebook and didn't own a television for eight years. Although they have a set now, Watson says it only gets switched on during weekend evenings, unless they're watching news. She says one child reads 90 books a year. "It's wonderful.
We have great family discussions. They're busy and interested in lots of things and not caught up in the negativity of cellphones. I don't have to say 'Stop, look at me'. It means we have more family privacy."
Watson says she wants her kids to be family-centred.
"It's not easy to do, but I believe it's working and wouldn't swap it. I had to make the conscious decision to go against the everyday culture of their peers. It takes hard work and constant vigilance."
Misha Watson, 15, Nina Watson, 15, Glenys Watson and Tatiana Watson, Glenys  limits her teenagers to 15 minutes of technology time each day. Photo/George Novak
Misha Watson, 15, Nina Watson, 15, Glenys Watson and Tatiana Watson, Glenys limits her teenagers to 15 minutes of technology time each day. Photo/George Novak
She says those choices may not be popular with everyone; in fact, her eldest son who has left home is into technology. She says her teens at home stick to the rules. "We're not always fighting other distractions. Even though my kids aren't online, one became a victim of cyber-bullying, which made me relieved they're not in that universe."
An organisation called the Screen Free Project started in 2013 to drive awareness of social and health effects due to excessive screen time. The group aims to help New Zealand families rebalance electronic play with offline play through education, guidance and fun initiatives. The group's website includes resources for parents about how and why to restrict time spent with devices. Articles linked to the site include one from Britain's Daily Mail, reporting primary school children are speaking like toddlers because parents pacify them with iPads instead of talking to them. Another recent article in the New Zealand Herald says experts are warning parents to limit their children's time in front of iPads and other electronic devices, after new research found prolonged use can result in long-term back and neck problems.
University of Waikato associate professor of screen and media studies Geoff Lealand says, while he spends virtually all day on the computer (with an iPad and iPod close at hand), he doesn't use a cellphone. He says he doesn't want another tech layer and he has seen how phone dependency affects habits and etiquette.
Professor Lealand says we all inhabit technological worlds. "I don't think we can step away from such worlds in any permanent way, for we risk becoming dangerously isolated. But I think it is valuable to take occasional breaks - to sit by the sea and gaze at sand dunes."
He points to a recent study in America, which found 92 per cent of US adults have a cellphone and 31 per cent say they never turn them off. He encourages students to step back from their digital worlds and see the consequences of dependency on "relentless technology".
We're digging a cave, this is part of our maths project. They learn about measurements, weights ... it blends in with our main lesson about building. It's sort of a Hobbit glen."
Teacher, Michael Rall
Papamoa resident June Pharo says she hardly uses her computer, though she took a technology class at the public library. "I've lost most of it. Probably because I keep going back to the old-fashioned way. I do Google things, but that's probably about it."
She never Skypes and she would rather ring than email. "I prefer to actually talk to people. I think the actual talking to people is being lost a bit." She often leaves her cellphone at home. "Only once I can think of where somebody really wanted me and couldn't get me."
Her husband Phil doesn't mind being the go-to guy for tech. "Everything on the computer, I help her with: passport application, internet banking, emails ... we don't spend a lot of time on the computer. It's just a tool we use."
June exercises, volunteers in an op shop and works on Sudoku instead of playing with her phone. She's free of the pre-occupation she sees plaguing many peers. "They'll talk to you and still be punching on their phone, and you know they're not really listening."
Back at the Waldorf School, Mia Kelly and Hamish Graham draw a map of New Zealand.
"The kids get really good at drawing," says principal Mary Tait-Jamieson. She says learning without technology doesn't mean loss of education quality. "Research on multi-sensory learning is quite clear. The more senses used, the more effective learning is."
While she says there are no rules about screen time at home, it compromises a Waldorf education. "It gets in the way of academic development, social development and, obviously, physical development, as it is so sedentary."
The principal says the school received a positive review from the Government's Education Review Office. "They noted that Maori are the school's top achieving cohort group and the school's strong performance in meeting National Standards by Year 8 even with the slow start."
Parent Jason Simmonds says he's pleased with his kids' progress. "They're noticeably happier and more engaged in the school. If I asked how their day was previously, I would get nothing. Now, they come home and want to tell me what they did. It's such a dramatic difference."
DIGGING UP INFORMATION: Year 4 students learn about maths and measurements during a digging exercise. Photo/George Novak
DIGGING UP INFORMATION: Year 4 students learn about maths and measurements during a digging exercise. Photo/George Novak
For more information see Screen Free Project: Waldorf School: