What would Maria Montessori say?

Since Voice announced an Early Childhood Australia (ECA) project on 21st century directions and best practice two years ago, we’ve unearthed a mountain of tips, research and myths as well as connections, people and ideas. It’s time for an update on the exciting resources and events for our sector.

The early childhood sector is at the heart of Australian family life and the economy. Along with family life and the economy, its future is being reshaped by broadband connectivity and new technologies.

‘Why does it matter for early childhood educators?’

Embracing possibilities aligns with many of the great early childhood theorists according to a new book by Dr Chip Donohue from Chicago’s Erikson TEC Center. Technology and digital media in the early years: tools for teaching and learning (2015) includes a fun chapter—‘What would Maria Montessori say?’—that joins the dots between early childhood theorists and digital technology.

It matters because early childhood is the time to engage young girls and boys in the ideas and tools that will steer their future. That’s the message from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who champions the early childhood educator’s role and whose portfolio funded ECA’s Digital Business Kit. (See the Minister making clay teacups and talking about young children, technology and more in the Digital Business Kit at www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/digital).

‘But I can’t keep up with technology’

‘You are only behind if you refuse to take a step forward’, says Dr Chip Donohue. ‘We’re all learning’, he says and stereotypes about who ‘can do tech’ do not reflect reality.

‘Children get enough technology at home’

‘That’s why children and families need educators to guide and engage on technology’, says Dr Kate Highfield from the Institute of Early Childhood at Macquarie University. Both Donohue and Highfield have been writing, thinking and teaching about technology in early childhood for many years and are keynote presenters at ECA’s Live Wires Forums in October (see below for details).

So what began as a project for a Digital Business Kit has become much more. Check out these resources.

Live Wires Forums—attend this unique one-day event (Perth—14 October; Brisbane—16 October; Sydney—21 October) to network and learn with Dr Chip Donohue, Dr Kate Highfield, Dan Donahoo and Anita L’Enfant.

For details and to register for the Live Wires Forum go to: www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/live-wires-forum

Live Wires magazine—edition two of ECA’s technology publication will be out soon, with a new price and parent, educator and techxpert views and reviews on tech for early childhood.

Getting up to speed—free, online and downloadable, the Digital Business Kit has modules, fact sheets, tip sheets and videos for children’s education and care, educator professional development and collaboration and tips for business. Go online to explore at: www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/digital.

More at ECA online—keep up with links, articles and research at ECA’s blogs ‘Digichild’ www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/digichild, ‘The Spoke’ www.thespoke.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au and ‘Live Wires Online’ www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/live-wires.

Further afield—people and places to watch include Donna Cross (Telethon Kids Institute WA), Suzie Edwards (Australian Catholic University), Joanne Orlando (University of Western Sydney), Leon Straker (Curtin University), Lydia Plowman (UK), Discovery Space (University of Wollongong), Dust or Magic and The Children’s Technology Review (USA).

What would Maria Montessori say?

We think she would carefully assess and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by technology for early childhood education and care.

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Clare McHugh

Clare McHugh is Early Childhood Australia's (ECA) Strategic Communications Executive, working on projects that support ECA’s reputation as a trusted voice for young children, their families, educators and carers. Previously Clare was ECA Learning Hub Content Manager and also worked on Start Early. Respectful relationships for life and ECA digital initiatives including the Digital Business Kit and Live Wires. Clare has been thinking and writing about children, family and social policy for a number of years, including previously for the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council and the Australian government. Her background is in psychology and professional writing. She has worked in adult development and group facilitation, employer sponsored child care, family relationships and in the publishing industry. Outside of ECA Clare continues several writing and publishing projects through her freelance business.

3 thoughts on “What would Maria Montessori say?”

    Bill Conway says:

    This question “What would Maria Montessori say” has come up frequently in my experience as head of a Montessori school. While staff have embraced the conveniences and efficiencies afforded by technology, we have not brought digital technology into our early childhood classrooms. The reason being: Dr Montessori recognised the importance of the senses in building a foundation for future learning. A child sees and feels the shape of a letter or geometric object, senses movement and weight, manipulates quantities, and experiences through all their senses what the world offers. The one finger swipe across a screen does not develop the brain in the same way for a young child. Once a child has moved into more abstract learning, however, technology in the form of computers, tablets, etc., have been a gift to learning which I’m sure Maria Montessori would have incorporated into the learning experience of older children.

    Clare McHugh says:

    Thanks Bill. You make good points. All the senses matter for young children’s learning and no-one is suggesting that only one mode of learning should replace all the others. Digital and interactive tools are just some of those available and work best when integrated and used intentionally. Some great work is being done by early childhood educators to incorporate all the senses when using technology so that it doesn’t become either/or. The advantage of mobile and newer forms (compared to fixed desktop computers) is that children, educators and families can ‘take it outside’ or bring the activity into the room and off the screen. Kate Highfield and Dan Donahoo are talking about these very strategies at the Live Wires Forums in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney along with Chip Donohue. I hope you can join us. (And the blog title was borrowed from a chapter in the book edited by Chip Donohue, mentioned in the blog. It could as easily have been: What would Piaget say? In fact chapter author, Warren Buckleitner, often does pose that question.) Thanks for your comment.

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