Do iPads and Montessori mix?

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How children and practitioners’ use of iPads fits with traditional Montessori practice will be debated at a national conference later this month.


How can children use digital technology to learn and explore?

The role of technology in Montessori education in the 21st century is the theme of the Montessori Schools Association’s national conference on 21 March.

Chair of the Montessori Schools Association Martin Bradley said, ‘We felt that the whole issue of IT in the nursery was coming to the fore now. ‘There are certain concerns among Montessorians about using iPads and we thought we’d look at the pros and cons.’

He said there were two aspects to it – children are using tablets and digital media more in nursery and at home, and settings are increasingly using tablets to track children’s progress.

The part played by digital media in play and learning will be discussed by Professor Lydia Plowman from the University of Edinburgh and Dr Christine Stephen from the University of Stirling.

Both have been carrying out research into the role of technology in the lives of under-fives for more than 15 years.

US academic Dr Paul Epstein, head of school at the Rochester Montessori Montessori School in Minnesota, will talk about the role of digital technology for children and how that fits with traditional Montessori materials and principles.

Barbara Isaacs, director of national strategies at Montessori St Nicholas, said, 'I hope the conference will encourage us to examine the benefits as well as the challenges of technology and so provide us with better understanding of its pedagogical value.'

Free schools

Speaking to Nursery World ahead of the annual conference, Mr Bradley also revealed that the MSA had been involved in partnerships with two attempts to set up Montessori free schools this year but these had stalled for various reasons.

‘The nature of free schools has changed from groups of parents setting up a school to sponsor schools taking over,' he said.

‘We’ve moved towards the view that totally independent parent groups face more problems [getting approval].’

He said that it was also hard for parent groups to find school premises and get planning permission.

The first state-funded Montessori free school closed last year. The Discovery New School in Crawley, West Sussex, was the first state-funded primary to adopt a whole-school Montessori approach.

The charity Montessori St Nicholas had come to the school's aid, after it was placed in special measures by Ofsted, but it was too late to save it from closure.

  • The MSA national conference takes place at the Institute of Education, London, 21 March. Click here for more information and to book your place.
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