In his latest article, titled “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute,” Matt Richtel continues his seeming rampage against education technology by describing how the children of many technology leaders in the Silicon Valley attend the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, which is one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning though creative, hands-on tasks—and that don’t use technology in the classroom. Although it’s true that the use of technology in education is often fraught with problems, as I’ve written about here, we’ve seen that online learning has a different transformational potential. And although it might not be the best mode of learning for every child, Richtel completely missed the mark by failing to note how technology can improve learning for many children.

The Waldorf School of the Peninsula offers a strong, well-rounded education that any child whose parents could afford the annual tuition of $17,750 for kindergarten through 8th grade and $24,400 for high school would be lucky to attend. But the unfortunate reality is that most children in the U.S. don’t have access to the same quality of education or teachers as children enrolled at Waldorf schools—or at most private/elite schools for that matter. For students in low-income schools, online learning is oftentimes a better option than what their schools currently offer. Online learning can give low-income students access to the same quality of teachers as students at Waldorf schools by streaming video of successful teachers via the Internet. For example, Sal Kahn has created a series of popular videos to teach math that can be accessed via the Internet. Online learning can also enable low-income students to receive the same individualized and one-on-one learning as students at Waldorf schools by freeing teachers from lesson planning so they can work individually with students on a one-to-one basis and at their own pace—as I’ve written about here. This allows teachers to really work with their students and help each of them to understand and master the content before moving on to the next lesson—as I’ve also written about here.

If all children regardless of race, income level, and zip code had access to a high-quality education like the one described in the article, then online learning—and any education reform for that matter—wouldn’t be necessary. Technology-rich classrooms aren’t always transformational. But when technology is implemented correctly and with the right policies in place, it can be an enabler to transform the education system to provide all children with an individualized and high-quality education. It’s time we got the other side of the story now, too.


  • Katherine Mackey
    Katherine Mackey