Wheaton Montessori News

Technology in the Classroom

Technology in the Classrooms

Dr. John-Marc Bilezikian, Adolescent Program Director. 

 

A question that I am often asked is, “What’s your approach to technology?”  The questioner is almost as often surprised by the answer.  I think, perhaps because the Montessori mdethod has such deep historical roots and the primary and elementary classrooms are relatively devoid of modern technology, people develop the impression that we are an island of Luddites.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

As the first female physician in her country, and a revolutionary thinker in education, Maria Montessori was dynamic innovator at the cutting edge of multiple fields.  She would have loved the present day rate of change that we are experiencing for the opportunities that it presents.  Still, her prescription for advanced technological exposure is exclusive to adolescents.  Why?
Human beings evolved exploring the environment via direct experience, primarily through eye and hand.  We are still wired to learn by means of this kind of information acquisition through Maria Montessori’s second plane of development, which ends at around age 12.  Children, up to this point, are relatively concrete and literal in their understanding of experience.  It is the neuronal changes of adolescence that allow for higher order abstraction.  Any technology that takes experience out of a child’s hand distances them from concrete exploration and diminishes the learning opportunity.  Information on screens is almost entirely symbolic, and for primary and early elementary children is of little use (with the exception of text), and takes away from time spent in more fruitful activity.

Adolescents and Technology

With the extraordinary brain changes that accompany adolescence, the capacity for abstract reasoning begins to flower in earnest.  This new power requires stimulation to mature fully.  It is at this juncture that we add computers with a will.
Maria Montessori indicated that any adolescent program should have a “Museum of Machines.”  This term sounds anachronistic today, but keep in mind that she died in 1952.  Her intent was that adolescent students have a comprehensive understanding and facility with current technologies.  This includes understanding, to the point of having experience with, what came before.
For this reason, we have a classroom peppered with devices using multiple platforms.  The iMac is the latest welcome addition to our eclectic collection of Windows, Google, and Apple related devices.  For students to compete effectively in todays society and marketplace, they need to have understanding of the tools in use.  We give that to them.
Are there risks associated with new technologies?  Of course there are, but that is another conversation.
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