Friday, July 31, 2015

Montessori and Technology: Internet Research

NAMC Montessori technology internet research student at computer
Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.
—Maria Montessori
The Advanced Montessori Method, p. 198.

Maria Montessori was a maverick. An educational maven years ahead of her time, she turned the focus of education to the needs of the child. She taught us to respect children as human beings capable of extraordinary feeling and an immense capacity for learning. Her insight into child development brought about such changes as child-size tables and chairs, tools that fit the hands of growing children, and materials that appeal to the child at the current stage of development and that prepare them to be independent, capable adults.

Montessori didn’t use conventional “approved” methods of educating children.
There were no textbooks, no basal readers, no math worksheets. Through scientific observation, she watched to see how and what children wanted to learn. From the information she gathered, she created auto-didactic, or self-teaching, materials, allowing the child to freely learn and explore.

Internet Research and Technology in the Montessori Environment

While we quote and adhere to Montessori’s philosophy of auto-education for young children, we seem to stop trusting the method once the child enters elementary school. We become like those once naysayers who questioned the validity of children making their own choices.

We focus so much on what we think the child must do that we forget to observe and inquire about what the child needs to do.

The use of technology in the Montessori elementary classroom is a perfect example. I have spoken with Montessori teachers who consistently refuse to incorporate computers into the environment and who do not see the value in students using the internet for research. They believe that children must be able to use books, encyclopedias, and other reference books as the information in books is more reliable. They feel that if the internet is used, it should be as a last resort. There is a lament that “children don’t even know how to use encyclopedias anymore.”

Imagine for a moment that a fourth-grade student reads the headline “Mystery White Spot Beckons in Dawn Probe’s View of Ceres.” (Boyle, 2015) He rushes to the computer to start researching “Ceres,” “Hubble,” “NASA,” “Dawn Spacecraft,” and even “Water in space.” He is eagerly and spontaneously learning on his own, when his teacher walks by and stops him to ask to see his research from reference books. She asks him to walk away from the computer and shows him how to use the encyclopedias. She pulls some children’s illustrated reference books about space from the science shelves and requests that he make handwritten research notes before he uses the computer. Do you think he is still excited about it? Do you think he still wants to research the topic? And will he be able to find relevant, current information on the bookshelf?

We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child's spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself.
—Maria Montessori
The Montessori Method, p. 87.

As a Montessorian, it is difficult to think that a teacher would hold a child back because he had not conducted book research before getting on the computer. The child’s enthusiasm for the work and desire to conduct research is far more important than the mode of research itself. Starting with encyclopedias is not always the best research option either. Who knows how old that set of encyclopedias is? The internet has the most current, up-to-date research available. I would argue to let student start with the internet as a way of becoming familiar with the topic. Show him how to find reliable online sources. Let him exhaust himself in the quest for knowledge and lead him to books when he discovers he needs more information.
Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, July 31, 2015.


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