Finally, one may use computers as productivity tools, both within content areas and as an area of study for future use. This means teaching general software, such as word processors, electronic spreadsheets, graphic, database, and communication systems. Once again the child will encounter the problem of software requiring, the use of commands that constitute a formal language and that force a highly constricted, logical thinking (Talbot, 1995).
The use of the Internet for education deserves mention, it is the newest and touted as the most powerful tool for learning ever invented. What makes it so powerful is that it allows children to freely search for educational material or useful information, and allows communication with all sorts of people in different parts of the planet (electronic globalization) (Bronfenbrenner, 1995). However, the Internet does not provide a constructivist environment, one where the child or young person learns by doing and interacting socially and cognitievly.
Objections to its use are: 1) the Internet has to be used through commands pertaining to a formal language, forcing the user to exercise the same type of logical-symbolic thinking and the use of a formal language inappropriate before high school, 2) the Internet reduces education to consuming information (Talbot, 1995). Certainly the informative part of education is extremely important, but not as crucial as the formative part (Monke and Setzer, 2000). The final argument that supports the aim of this paper is, cognitive and social development in children is not compatible with computer use.
Given that the activity of a computer programmer or of any software user is analogous to theorem proving in mathematics, it follows that the appropriate age to start using computers is the same one we consider appropriate for young people to start doing formal, algebraic theorem-proving (Talbot, 1995). This ideal age can be surmised by reviewing the concepts of the development of children. One supporting concept is that of Bloom and Krathwohl (1956), that forwarded six categories of developmental abilities necessary for the acquisition of knowledge by children.
This concept can be illustrated by asking six questions. Does the child have possess knowledge of facts and principles of the computer? 2. Comprehension of the computer, 3. Application of the rules principles as well as basic procedures used with computers, 4. Rudolf Steiner introduced another relevant concept in 1919, when he created what became known as “Waldorf Education”. Although all developmental theories carry validity, Steiner consciously addressed the needs of children growing up in an increasingly technological environment, much like our own.
According to Steiner the development of each human being may be divided into periods of approximately 7 years (Steiner, 1982). The Greek philosophers first acknowledged these divisions; Steiner deepened this knowledge and gave conceptual explanations and characterizations for the various periods. Steiner covered every aspect of life, providing a more holistic explanation of how the human life unfold, he advanced, that various stages continued to emerge through to adulthood. According to Steiner, in the first 7-year period the child is individualizing the will and forming a physical base.
Education should be based exclusively on contact with the physical environment, imitation, imagined fantasy and rhythm. He theorizes that any teaching through intellectual abstractions, as in reading (modern occidental letters and their composition into syllables constitute mere abstractions) goes against the child’s natural characteristics, disturbing his or her development and producing harm that may eventually manifest itself much later, in psychosocial or even physiological forms.
In the schooling sense, present an environment conducive to playing and learning through doing, involving motor coordination, socialization, and observation of the environment without conceptual explanations, in an atmosphere full of love, nature, and natural objects (Steiner, 1982). In the second 7-year period, the child enters school age. There existed a tradition, now almost lost, that children would begin formal schooling only when they were about 6 1/2 or 7, and it was at this age that they began to learn how to read.
During this period, the child, who now controls the will to a great degree, begins to concentrate development on individualizing the feelings. The child of this period requires an education based on these concepts, being expressed through artistic aesthetics in any subject. Science learning should take place through observation and description of phenomena, not through abstract explanations. Mathematics should be presented as something interesting and humane, giving incentive to imagination with aesthetic feelings (Steiner, 1982).
In the third 7-year period, whose beginning is marked physically by puberty, the time of high school and university, a young person strongly individualizes his or her thoughts, and starts looking for a true world. At this time, teaching has to begin to be directed to ‘pure’ abstractions, models of reality or of concepts, eventually leading to work that is purely hypothetical in nature. The student looks to understand conceptually what is observed or studied.
If during the second 7-year period one is to present phenomena and teach students how to describe them, in the third period one should begin to explain them through concepts. In this period, students should begin to prove theorems in mathematics, transforming it into pure symbolic manipulation, eventually without immediate application (e. g. , proving trigonometric identities) (Steiner, 1982 and Talbot, 1995).