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Old teaching strategies and modern technologies: Could an LMS be part of Montessori?

Many people have heard about Montessori schools, or the Montessori paradigm, but not everyone knows that Montessori has a first name too! Maria Montessori was the heart and brain behind what we know to be the Montessori education.

On the Montessori education

The prepared environments and the role of the teacher in the classroom distinguish Montessori from other educational approaches.

The prepared environments enable children to perform various tasks which induce thinking about relationships, and offer practical occasions for introducing social relationships through free interaction. The logical, sequential nature of the environment provides ordered structures that guide discovery: theories are discovered, not presented; spelling rules are derived through recognition of patterns, not merely memorized.

The independent activity in a Montessori classroom counts for about 80% of the work, while teacher-directed activity accounts for the remaining 20%. If we think about traditional education, the percentages are generally reversed.

Every aspect of the curriculum involves creative invention and careful, thoughtful analysis. In viewing learning outcomes at each Montessori level, it must be emphasized that why and how students arrive at what they know is just as important as what they know.

My take on learning

As a parent living in this day and age I value a lot the Montessori philosophy. I am aware that there is no one great method of teaching, so I try to keep an open mind, learn as much as I can, and sift the information I come across in my research. I choose to retain what fits my family and our way of living.

But this is not an easy process, as I always get the hanging question: Was this the right choice? I believe both in human error and machine failure, so no one is 100% right at all times. So the only thing left is to make that choice right for me and my kids.

As I was going through my research on the Montessori approach to education, I ran into its ground rules for classroom and how lessons are structured. And let me tell you something: technology has no place there!

All the materials in a Montessori classroom are entirely natural, everything happens at a slow pace and through a soft voice. A Montessori learning environment is like a few hundred years away from the fast-paced, constant noise we and our kids live in our ordinary lives.

But we live in a digital era, and our kids are exposed to technology every day. Kindergartens and schools introduce BYOD policies and work with electronic devices on a regular basis. Natural materials and old ways of teaching are less and less present in today’s classroom.

So parents are faced with two options: ban technology and try a Montessori school (which can be quite expensive, but that’s not really the point), or go with the new-age flow and embrace the Hi-tech.

But what if there would be a third option?

I am a parent, I love the Montessori philosophy, and I also like technology. Why couldn’t my kids have it all in terms of education?

Could technology really be a part of the Montessori education?

So I went back to my research to see how these two could come together. And I’ve found that learning management systems and adaptive learning have more in common with Maria Montessori’s method of education than I initially thought. Perhaps the people who first thought about creating an LMS had a Montessori education background.

Here are the basic Montessori classroom principles depicted into the features of an LMS:

  • The working space is a carefully prepared and ordered environment

    Everything in a Montessori classroom is planned ahead according to the age group, it has its own designated place, and children are taught to keep the space clean at all times.

    Now think of an online learning portal, where every resource, lesson, piece of content or assignment has its own place, and it’s easy to grab and explore as needed. Everything is thoughtfully prepared by teachers before students’ first login.

  • Children should feel secure, relaxed and happy all the time

    In the Montessori education, the classroom provides a secure environment. Children are taught to respect each other’s space, time, and work. The teacher is always there for guidance and assistance.

    In an LMS, every student has his/her own personal academic space. He/she can choose to share ideas or work within a group or discussion board. But other than that, only the teachers and parents can access that space to give feedback, grade assignments, and make available content and resources for each student individually.

  • Children should work at their own pace in a child-centered teacher-facilitated environment

    In a Montessori class the student decides what to work on after he/she was presented the available options. The teacher is there to explain each task and offer help if requested.

    The best thing about online learning is the demolition of all barriers like age, distance, cultural differences, social status, and so on. Teachers can create self-paced courses that suit everyone’s learning needs. The analytics in a learning platform let teachers notice in due time whether a student is struggling and needs more attention, or if the student is gifted and needs more challenges.

  • Children must work both individually and cooperatively

    Students in a Montessori classroom have group activities and individual work during the day. One rule is that everybody works without disturbing the others, and they can join another classmate’s work only if the latter agrees. Maria Montessori believed that children should work uninterrupted and should not be forced to share an individual work unless they desire to. This helps children to learn to stay focused for longer periods of times.

    A school LMS allows for group assignments, as well for individual ones. Collaboration tools provide the means to work together from miles away. The teacher’s role is to observe students and present the learning materials that follow their interests and development needs. Teachers can help students achieve their full potential by tracking down progress, and making available to them customized content and resources.

  • There has to be regular contact between teachers and parents

    Children don’t stop learning when school finishes for the day. Some things are learned at school, while others are learned at home, through interaction with the family and friends. Parents need to know what their child learns at school, so they can reinforce that learning at home, and vice versa.

    Within a learning platform, parents can have an account and be in regular contact with teachers and school staff. And the good news is that this communication channel is available at all times for both adults. Teachers can let parents know how their kid does at school, while parents can offer targeted support for homework if necessary.

So if you choose to educate your children in a non-Montessori school, it doesn’t mean they will be totally deprived of such valuable teachings. There are always ways to make all the good stuff from the existing educational methods and create a new way of learning.

PS: I hope Maria Montessori will forgive me for not keeping pure her way of teaching, but I like fusion… in everything. We should not forget the past, nor fear the present, but take the best from both of them and create a better future.

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