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There are many IT or “tech-y” Montessori materials available and being used every day in and out of classrooms, often times unknowingly. “Google it” is now part of our culture. Google is a Montessori material (or, at least, was developed by Montessorians Brin and Page). Amazon is more than a river; it’s from a Montessorian, too!

But what about today’s techy doo-dahs and young children? An increasing number of apps targeted at young children are in the digital storefront; is there value for them? Does your 3 year-old have to have their own iPad? What would pioneering educator Dr. Maria Montessori think about these doo-dahs? Now that I think about it, what did my children play with in the car? It seems the newest source for quiet passengering today is a smart phone, especially those with video capability…

“Mom! The DVD is stuck!”

“Honey, that’s not a DVD. It’s streaming video. We must be out of the hotspot!”

“Mom! Turn around!”

Montessori classroom materials (the ‘real’ ones that are expensive and finely crafted and have been around for more than 100 years) provide an experience meant for collaborative learning within the classroom setting. But don’t even consider piling the Pink Tower into your child’s car seat, and the Red Rods are too long for most fuel-efficient cars. But the digital versions of these educational tools fit into your child’s palm. That means Montessori ‘materials’ are available all the time, even in the car on the way home!

I actually think there’s a Montessori approach for children to experience Montessori “apps.” Some traditional Montessorians might gasp at the thought. I’m a traditional Montessorian and I’m suggesting that when in traffic, when in line, when your child is desperately seeking something to busy themselves, that if digital Red Rods capture their attention, or the tracing of digital sandpaper numerals fixes their concentration until you reach your destination, what’s the harm? If a Montessori-style “app” keeps them focused until you’re again available, might they learn something? Might there be some value? What would Dr. Montessori say?

Do today’s techy doo-dahs have a place in a traditional Montessori classroom? For adolescents, yes. For primary level three and four year-olds, no. Montessori adolescent programs often feature and utilize Smart Boards, iPads, laptops, and hand-held devices as commonly as paper and pencils. For now, those digital “accessory” learning tools are not expected in the younger children’s Montessori classrooms. But a surprising number of young children (under six years) now have access to their parent’s equipment at home, where the one-on-one nature of the techy doo-dahs makes for a better learning experience than in a Montessori classroom.

The Montessori preschool classroom may not be the ideal place for techie doo-dahs, but on the way home in their car seat when there’s traffic and they want to be doing what their older brother or sister are doing? Then, let’s consider the possibilities.

As for Dr. Maria Montessori, herself? She’d be tweeting. She’d be all over today’s techy doo-dahs, presenting lectures and streaming information everywhere. She was a pioneer 100 years ago and she would be today. In fact, here we are now, using IT experiences to share Montessori’s vision for children and their families. Welcome to Montessori 2.0!

Jim Fitzpatrick

 

Jim Fitzpatrick is the founder and Head of School at Santa Barbara Montessori School, an AMI school on the beautiful California coast.