Technology in a Montessori Classroom

Technology in education is a hot topic.  Not only does it provide students with easy-to-access information, accelerated learning, and fun opportunities to practice what they learn, but also gives students the opportunity to gain 21st century technical skills necessary for future occupations.  You may find technology in a Montessori classroom presented quite differently than what you will in a more traditional classroom environment.  

Walk into a quality Montessori school and you will see some of the most beautifully prepared learning environments imaginable.  Wooden materials carefully arranged on easily accessible shelves, observant teachers, and children working independently at tables or on the floor with mats.

What you probably won’t find, however, is a tech-heavy curriculum.  Though smart phone ownership is prevalent throughout most of the world, rare is the Montessori school who uses smart phones, tablets, or computers as a major role in the curriculum, especially in the early years 0-6.

When Maria Montessori developed the Montessori Method over a hundred years ago, the technology she had access to is nothing like what is available today.  There were no computers, internet, or handheld devices to integrate into the classroom.  But that does not mean that Maria Montessori would not have approved of the use of technology.  

Modern Montessori schools can look at the core tenets of the Montessori Method and get guidance on the appropriate use for technology.  Dr. Montessori was adamant that the learning of abstract ideas begins with the child’s own hands using concrete objects.  For example, having a child hold a pumpkin and examine the various parts of the pumpkin (outside and in) is preferable to looking at a diagram of a pumpkin on a piece of paper or on a screen.  This is the essence of a Montessori education – learning is more meaningful and occurs best when a child can move, explore, and manipulate the world around them.  Montessori believed that “a child’s hands and developing brain are intimately connected.” 

Today’s classroom technology does not always embrace a young child’s senses and skill set.  Why you ask?  Well, the types of technology often lack the opportunity for tactile interactivity.  Most common are tablets and computers.  These devices place a high value on output and few of these technologies require physical manipulatives – things children can touch and play with – that also connect to the digital realm.  

The good news is that things are changing.  There are companies out there that are re-imagining education technology to become a more tactile experience for hands-on learning activities.  This approach, also known as connected technology, pairs a physical object the child can hold, such as blocks or a robot, with a digital interface.

Why is connected technology so important in the early learning setting?  The simple answer is that it takes the essential aspects of tactile play and builds a bridge to the digital world.  While enhancing critical thinking and problem-solving skills in young students, connected technology also puts the control back into the child’s hands.

At Villa Montessori Leesburg, we understand the importance of introducing technology to our students while at the same time preserving the Montessori philosophy of hands-on learning and student choice.  We are excited to introduce screen-free coding to our Practical Life and Reggio activities.  Students use beautifully made wooden directional disks with various loose parts to create grids on the table or floor.  These beginning coding activities help children think about direction, location, and movement while working on counting and math skills.  Coding encourages skills such as problem-solving, considering multiple paths to arrive at a solution, strategy, and planning.  Working on coding activities with a partner will also help strengthen communication and listening skills as well as patience and courtesy as they take turns.  

Students also have an opportunity to program robots to move on their command without ever having to use screens.  The children simply input their directions into the robot itself and watch with delight as the robot navigates the grid they have created.  We believe that Maria Montessori would be pleased to know her learning theories have not only withstood the test of time but are being applied in the new wave of connected technology.  

Please call 571-281-5800 and set up a tour to see how a Montessori education benefits your child!

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