Technology and the Montessori School

 

Isn't it curious that quite a few people who have gone on to impact the world of technology received an early education that did not include the use of computers? According to an article published by the Montessori Society AMI UK, many of the titans of Silicon Valley attended a Montessori School at some time during their formative years.

Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, was a student at Okemos Montessori School from 1975 to 1979. Sergey Brin, Google co-founder with Page, attended Paint Branch Montessori School in Adelphi, Maryland. When the two appeared on a Barbara Walters special, The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2004, they told her they credit their Montessori schools with allowing them to think for themselves, thus fostering their creativity. Brin for his part, feels that, by giving him the freedom to pursue activities that interested him, the Montessori environment set him on the path to becoming a self-directed self-starter.

Will Wright, the designer of the popular video game, The Sims, went to a Montessori school in Atlanta until sixth grade and Jeff Bezos, of Amazon fame, attended a Montessori preschool in Houston, Texas. In an inspiring TED speech, Wright praised Montessori for how it "taught me the joy of discovery," ..... It's all about learning on your own terms rather than a teacher explaining stuff."

Seeing the success of these Montessori students in the world of computers, one has to wonder what Maria Montessori, who was a scientist, herself, would have thought about the use of computers in early childhood education. First off, although she might have been impressed with how the internet is able to deliver content to a child any time he looks for it, she'd probably have issues with the fact that he's sitting in front of the glass of a computer monitor or an iPad touch screen filled with abstract symbols and bright simulations, rather than actively engaged with physical objects in a real, meaningful, experiential discovery. 

Montessori believed that during the first six years of life, a child benefits by physically engaging with objects so she can create classifications to house the impressions these activities give her. Therefore, might Maria Montessori not warn that delving into cyberspace and its virtual objects at a young age will rob her of manipulating the real thing and can result in a blurring of what is real and what is not.

Neurological research into how the child's brain develops has validated Montessori's insistence on the importance of sensory and motor experiences during the early years. Studies have found that specific neural developments take place at different ages, and those that emerge between the ages of four and six benefit from appropriate motor and sensory activities. In other words, physical engagement feeds the specific neural areas while substituting  virtual experiences deprives them of this food, and prevents them from absorbing  how the natural world works.

Whether Maria Montessori might raise these points is impossible to say, but many working in technology argue against computer use in the classroom. The global operations director at Allied Signal, which manufactures aerospace and automotive components, is one. He credits the hands-on activities of his elementary school days with building his self-confidence, saying "if you've ever had the experience of binding a book, knitting a sock, or playing a recorder, then you feel you can build a rocket, or learn a software program", which brings up a point technology instructors would agree with. Most older students will be able to acquire computer skills in a one semester course, especially if they are grounded in the autonomy gained by their years in Montessori.

We certainly believe this at Brookfield School, and our alumni who've passed through our doors in our more than twenty-five years of nurturing education bear this out. If you want the Montessori experience for your child, contact us to find out about our Montessori preschool, elementary school, and our new expansion into middle school.

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