Magazine article Montessori Life

Montessori, Children, and the Digital Age

Magazine article Montessori Life

Montessori, Children, and the Digital Age

Article excerpt

"Headphones with Swagger (and Lots of Bass)/' an article in the Business section of the New York Times on November 19, 2011, featured Beats, $300 headphones designed by Dr. Ore, "the sonic architect of gangsta rap." One of the photos in the article is of (I am assuming) a father and his son and daughter attending a party at a pop-up store in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. The young girl is wearing the headphones while her father and brother look on (Martin).

This scene called to mind another New York Times article ("A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Compute/' October 22, 2011) on Waldorf schools, which eschew all varieties of high-tech tools. The featured school, Waldorf School of the Peninsula, apparently has an enrollment that reads like a Who's Who of Silicon Valley. The Times online version of the story features a slide show from the Waldorf School of the Peninsula showing children engaged in various hands-on learning activities. The contrast between these photos and that of the girl at the SoHo pop-up is dramatic. Though all are stills, the Waldorf photos somehow convey action and involvement, while the other looks and feels like a sales pitch.

The connection between the two articles is technology. One deals with hightech gadgets to be sold perhaps more than to be used, the other with a movement to forego technology in all forms at least until sixth grade. Headphones may not be technology in the purest sense, but they are tech add-ons and are marketed as essential tools we cannot or should not live without in this brave new world.

NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children), in its lengthy "Draft Technology in Early Childhood Programs," positions the organization as favoring the use of technology:

The purpose of this position statement is to provide a framework to guide practice in the selection, use, integration, and evaluation of technology tools and screen media in early childhood settings serving children birth through age eight. Early childhood educators can adopt the principles and guidelines from this statement to make informed decisions about the selection of technology tools and screen media; the appropriate use of technology; the integration of technology in early childhood settings; and the evaluation of technology to effectively support children's learning and development.

According to a further statement in the same draft, the phrase employed is ". . . the genie is out of the bottle." The draft clearly supports the use of technology by young children from birth to 8 years.

Effective uses of technology and screen media are active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering; give the child control; provide adaptive scaffolds to ease the accomplishment of tasks; are integrated into early childhood practices, curriculum, routines and environment; and are used as one of many options to support children's learning. To align and integrate technology with other core experiences and opportunities, young children need tools that help them explore, create, problem solve, consider, think, listen and view critically, make decisions, observe, document, research, investigate ideas, demonstrate learning, take turns, and learn with and from one another.

Though there is discussion on the importance of careful selection and appropriate use of technology, NAEYC suggests that it is imperative to provide technology to less affluent children on the downside of the digital divide because current practices are contributing to the "growing digital learning divide. …

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