I have 2 kids (Emory 7.5 and Jasper 3.5) who are both going to our local Montessori school. I have always felt strongly that the standard school system sucks. I’ve always had a desire to help reshape formal education, to create a better experience focused on: inquisitive thinking, creativity, collaboration, discovery, and following your passion.
No worksheets, no tests, no lectures, no classrooms, no homework.
It turns out, Montessori is what I’ve been after.
We went to a parent night where they showed us some of the materials the kids are currently using and learning. It was incredible. I was so jealous. I wanted to take my 7 year old’s class!!! The things he’s learning are concepts that I’ve only just barely discovered myself after re-reading Bill Bryson’s book “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. I went home and talked to Emory about it and I could see how much he’s absorbing: stong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, dark matter, supernovas, on and on. The learning he’s experiencing is not the type that’s only good for passing tests. He gets it, probably not all of it entirely, but he gets the big important ideas. Meanwhile, he’s enjoying it, really loving it, and because of that a lot more is actually sticking and getting processed in a meaningful way.
The following night we watched a video that outlines the major differences between Montessori and traditional schooling. (I’m happy to lend out my copy if you’re interested in watching it)
At first, it comes off like a cheesy corporate training video. But the content blew my mind.
I came to the profound and stark realization that sending your kid to a traditional school is like giving your kid a lobotomy and throwing them in a torture chamber. If they come out fine, it’s in spite of the education they were given. That’s how I felt about school when I was in it. Now I just wish I saw that video about 2 years ago (and I wish my parents saw it 30 years ago). Our older son Emory went to Montessori pre-school. It was awesome. Then when he was 6 we decided that he should go to the local school: it’s a block away, it had a great reputation, we were unsure whether the Montessori primary school would provide enough “grounding”. Ugh. In some ways it was a necessary and important way for us to learn that even at a “good” school in a country with a good reputation for their education system is just the same old bullshit: worksheets, tests, and catering to the lowest common denominator. It’s just as backwards as everywhere else. After eighteen months of standard schooling, we switched Emory back to Montessori and we are ecstatic.
While watching the Montessori video, I realized how directly related the principles are to interaction design, the web, social networking, and open platforms. Fundamentally, Montessori is a well designed platform that uses the same underlying techniques as our best digital platforms:
- object oriented architecture
- peer networking
- multi-sensory inputs and outputs
- parallel processing
- iterative and agile development
- progressive disclosure and perceived affordances
Best of all, the Montessori platform provides so many beautifully simple, highly imaginative, fun materials to help people (kids and adults alike) enjoy the learning process so that it is an extremely powerful and meaningful experience.
This past week I went in and spent a couple hours with Emory’s class. I had a lot of fun making this simple little digital story together with the kids. I can’t wait to do it again!