One of the most difficult conversations I have had as a Montessori guide has been the discussion of technology in the classroom.
The goal of the Casa (3 to 6) world can be defined by “let me do it my self.” This does not mean that the guide’s job is to teach the child how to do everything. We selectively teach skills. Skills whose secondary purpose enhances other aspects of the child’s development. For example spooning items helps with fine motor control while eating; it also aids in wrist, shoulder, elbow, and finger development that will directly affect writing.
I don’t teach a child how to hold and thumb click a remote controller even though the majority of adult Americans find this skill deeply important. It doesn’t aid the child in other skills. (We do work quite a bit on conflict resolution which might come in hand here.)
In Casa, I don’t use technology beyond an electronically powered stereoscope. Defending this stance is not difficult when you are dealing with young children. It gets far tricker when working with children who are older.
In Lower El, children’s goal is to be given the whole world. Since we can’t travel everywhere, books are important. Rarely do we move beyond books. Why? As in Casa we are looking for other skills to be taught. We are working on research questioning, practical language skills, and reading skills. These are augmented tremendously by reading books. As part life skills, going outs are regularly made to the library.
Last week we watched a video on the Bronze Age man found in the Italian/Austrian Alps (we are looking at the work of water – glaciers). BW is now pronouncing “glacier” with a British accent – “GlA/cEE/er.” Before we go to see a Shakespeare play or an opera, we always watch the video first. We keep a balance.
In upper, the kids use computers for research. We also use going outs to the local public and university libraries as part their research skill development. They are expected to produce a written project with bibliography as well as a speech for presentation. Their work goes through an editing process. Occasionally illustrated works are not created on the computer. For example, JV is creating a timeline of the life of Cicero. It is painstakingly being written on a long roll of adding machine tape. The Uppers also take notes when they go to lectures.
JV in particular does not like to use a computer for his notes as he is visual and likes to sketch things. He has found that if he writes his rough draft by hand, he can get his thoughts out better. Upper is a time where all the skills are being pushed and pulled to create a truly cohesive paper and speech that informs and teaches classmates. We are working to give an understanding of the cosmic nature of the world and its history. My goal is to whet the child’s hunger for more knowledge in an area and they research and provide the rest of the group with more information.
These guys regularly watch TED videos, educational programs, and humorous videos.
Technology exists. I’m not a technophobe (even if I won’t join Facebook or own a cell phone); however technology doesn’t exist to be the cure all. It is only a tool. It must have alternative benefits.