Where are the iPads?
You will notice that we teach writing, in print and cursive, not typing. There is a reason for that, and it’s not that we are old-fashioned. It is easy for children to relate to a two-dimensional surface (how long did it take your child to learn how to use your iPhone?). It is much more complex to relate to a three-dimensional, tactile, and moving environment, and it stimulates learning in a completely different way than does typing on a computer. That is why we focus on the physical world.
It is easy for children to relate to a two-dimensional surface like a computer. The Montessori method relies on tactile manipulation to develop complex concepts – in short, children learn better when they can touch and manipulate the learning tools. They manipulate their tools in three dimensions, learn from texture, differences in shape and length, and how tools move in space. The Montessori materials are carefully designed to foster this conceptual development – their colors, shape, materials, and dimensions are developed over a long time to help the children internalize complex concepts of mathematics, language, geography, etc. In this context, a two-dimensional computer surface becomes very limiting. Children can in no way learn the advanced concepts they learn in our classroom when using a computer or tablet. Think of the difference between using an abacus and using a calculator. If a child knows how to use an abacus, using a calculator will be very easy, since the child already understands the mathematical operations that happen inside the calculator. Montessori teaches the children to use the abacus first. We do encourage parents to expose children to computers at home. Computer literacy is important. But we urge parents not to fall into the trap of thinking that unless their children develop computer literacy in preschool, they will be at a disadvantage later in life. Children learn computers very quickly, and children in our society generally experience a lot of screen time. At school, we give the children time to learn and explore without the limitations of a screen. Thinking in two dimensions limits creativity; thinking in a three-dimensional, tactile space fosters creativity. When a child understands basic concepts of logic and mathematics and is able to read, then the time comes to apply this through a computer platform.
In the Elementary program, research becomes increasingly prominent – building on the understanding of scientific methodology that we start in the primary program. In order to access information, we have a computer in the elementary classroom. We use this not only to gather information and learn the logic of digital search, but also to teach the children critical use of information. For example, that something exists online does not mean it is scientifically sound. The critical analysis and selection of sources, and their use in compiling information for the analysis of the question at hand, are very important as the children move through elementary school. We use our book library, high-quality electronic databases, and web search as part of our research. For both the primary and elementary program, we will sometimes use online resources to retrieve videos and pictures in order to illustrate parts of the curriculum. However, the primary sources for illustration throughout our primary and elementary programs are written books and non-electronic materials. Wherever possible, texts, pictures and illustrations found online will be printed out so that the children can touch and manipulate the illustrations. The students will then insert the material into a classroom binder for future consultation. This allows the students to maintain a connection with that knowledge, which helps develop the concept of how to access stored knowledge.