BS: the Montessori Prize

Dr. Maria Montessori developed auto-didactic materials, or materials that teach when manipulated by a learner.  She was born in the 1870’s and passed on the 1950’s.

Think about the technology that was introduced within her lifetime (automobiles, radio, television, airplanes, telephones) and the technology introduced after her death (computers, cell phones, the internet, space travel, satellite communication, GPS).

Dr. Montessori never saw photographs of the earth from space.  She never saw a computer in action or marveled at the information available on the internet.

What kind of auto-didactic materials would she create if she were alive today?

These thoughts were inspired by a TED talk by Will Wright, the developer of the SIMS computer games which he says were inspired by the Montessori materials of his youth.

Do you suppose that Larry Page & Sergei Brin (Google founders) Will Wright (Game designer) Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) and others might be interested in endowing an annual prize for the development of new, developmentally appropriate auto-didactic materials?

The Montessori Prize could be like a Nobel Prize for material design, maybe with age categories 0-3, 3-6, 6-12, 12-18, adult.

This would be an interesting way to raise awareness of Montessori education principles within the “toy” and education industry.


3 thoughts on “BS: the Montessori Prize

  1. Isn’t that what the AMI pedagogical committee is for? Also, Montessori isn’t just about the materials, but about how to present them, how to allow the child to experiment without having the adult hovering nearby or correcting… And the materials have to be presented in accordance with the sensitive periods or they hold no interest to the child, so they would have to be for a narrower age range than 3-6. I doubt that there are any materials for 3 yr olds that interest 6 yr olds. Maybe the prize could be for funding low-income students or charter schools, instead! Or authors of Montessori texts… Interesting idea, though, and one I’m sure many former Montessori children would be in support of!

  2. The AMI Pedagogical Committee would be an excellent choice to evaluate submissions and award prizes for all the reasons you mentioned ( knowing how they must be presented, allowing child to experiment without adults nearby). I certainly wouldn’t know how to determine the details of such a prize (age categories, etc…), but I do see it as a way to raise the profile of Montessori principles in “toy” and educational material design. Last summer at a wedding reception I chatted with a designer from Leapfrog, a company that creates electronic toys for children to learn to read. You may have seen these devices where the child touches a pen to a storybook page and an electronic recording reads the word or page. I shared a little about Montessori with him and he seemed very interested (but he had also had a bit to drink at that stage) and ever since I have wondered how great it would be if a multimillion dollar company like Leapfrog could be nudged towards Montessori. I think a prize might nudge the industry.

    Perhaps there could be additional prizes for Philanthropy (funding low income schools) or Media (texts, books, webpages) much as the Nobel committee awards in various categories (economics, peace, etc…). Raising profiles can be a great way to increase awareness and inspire others. Thanks for your comments, I always enjoy knowledgeable responses that help shape an idea and discussion.

  3. It would certainly be a great way to dissuade toy designers from creating computerized toys that do all the work for the children, and give instant satisfaction and superfluous praise in the process. I actually saw a toy recently – small plastic triangles reminiscent of constructive triangle boxes – with instructions imploring parents to let the children experiment with the toy by themselves, and reminding parents that children need to be left alone if they are to develop their concentration and learn to think outside the box.

    I guess I just dislike seeing all the toys in catalogues, which are passed off as “Montessori materials” and are purchased by unknowing homeschooling parents. But even those toys beat the likes of Leapfrog. 🙂 Who knows, you might be on to something!

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