Knit to Code

The recent segment on A Current Affair, From Knitting to Coding[1], showed Birali Steiner School students highly engaged in knitting which has many benefits for well-being, resilience, creativity, mathematical thinking[2]…. and the development of digital coding skills. Principal Chris Jack and Steiner based academic Dr Shelley Davidow from the University of the Sunshine Coast spoke about how digital technologies are easily mastered at the right developmental stage by students who are firstly multiskilled in world crafts and contemporary non-digital technologies such as knitting.

There is a growing body of research[3] which directly links the process of knitting with developing coding skills. Knitting uses the same types of loops, conditions and concept of functions as computer language.  As Dr Davidow explained in the segment on A Current Affair, knits and purls are essentially the 0’s and 1’s of computer programming and when used in infinite combinations they create the same amount of variation as any code. Learning to knit is an obvious stepping stone to learning to code.

In the Steiner curriculum, knitting also plays a prominent role as part of an approach to learning where arts and crafts are not just an ‘add on’, but integrated with academic learning to enable deep learning experiences.  The Steiner handcrafts curriculum includes knitting right from class 1 and progresses to complex four needle knitting in classes 5 and 6. All these elements awaken a young person’s creative powers and will, which can find fruitful application in later life, in many different fields and aspects of living including use of digital technologies.

As researchers are continually evaluating the impact of the digital technologies on the developing brain[4], Steiner schools continue to consciously teach an ‘uplugged’ curriculum in the early years of learning as it is more important than ever for  development of creativity, original thought and an uncluttered self-image — a solid foundation for later application of creativity in the use of, and enthusiasm for, digital technology in its many forms. Learning to communicate and learning deeply without mediation of complex technology enables children to see themselves as active, creative human beings, connected to the real world around them.

We lose something by being so reliant on technology. It is so easy, so handy, but whether it improves student outcomes is questionable. As Pasi Sahlberg states: “What is happening with our kids now is the biggest educational experiment in history. As adults, we have much to learn about …the benefits and pitfalls of screen-based technologies for young people’’.  

For Steiner educators, knitting goes far beyond the practical. Handwork is a way to deepen learning, not to do well on tests or get a good job, but to educate the whole child. It is also wonderful that knitting is getting the accolades it deserves in preparing young people for the digital world – from educators, craftspeople, scientists, technology experts, and researchers alike.

[1] Here is the link to the segment on A Current Affair From Knitting to Coding: https://www.facebook.com/ACurrentAffair9/videos/211391223892594/?sfnsn=mo

[2] See https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/what-knitting-can-teach-you-about-math-180969637/

[3] See, for example:

 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/science/math-physics-knitting-matsumoto.html

https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/31684/can-learning-to-knit-help-learning-to-code

[4] See, for example the longitudinal study currently being conducted in Australia through the UNSW Gonski Institute Growing Up Digital https://www.gie.unsw.edu.au/GUDAustralia

 

Nov 2020