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Summit Integrates Work of Technology Task Force into Montessori Curriculum

Friday, December 9, 2016

Dear Summit Families and Friends,New Work Bench in Art and Design Studio

               As contemporary Montessori educators we continuously reflect on the skills and attributes that our Montessori program instills in our young learners as they prepare for not only next schools, but for their adult lives in the 21st century.  Technology is highly integrated into most of the jobs and futures for which our children are preparing. How are we effectively and appropriately integrating technology into our elementary classrooms in order to enhance our students’ engagement with curriculum now and to help them to gain essential skills and dispositions needed for their futures?

               During the past school year I convened a Summit Educational Technology Task Force to address these and other questions; the work of the group will continue throughout this year as well. The Task Force, composed of Summit elementary and Children’s House teachers, administrators, and the school’s Learning Specialist, reflected on key questions:

What is our vision related to the use of technology at Summit?

What are our current practices?

What do we dream of doing?

               Our work was in part inspired by a recommendation from our AISNE accreditation visiting team to examine our approach to technology. The work was given wings with the pledge of a $25,000 restricted gift from a current Summit family, for the purpose of implementing the technology master plan. This transformative gift has been made available to us as of the current school year. We have exciting plans to use it in order to expand, enrich, and integrate our uses of educational technology in our Summit elementary programs.

               We envision our LE and especially UE students using technology as a tool or resource to better understand their world and their place in it; to creatively and collaboratively solve problems and create possibilities; to learn elements of design and programming; to support their learning in individual ways; to empower themselves toward their own tomorrows.

               Students will have the opportunity to design and build prototypes, pursue and record scientific research, and to use a digital medium to further their explorations as well as present their findings. The technology component of their learning may include animation, graphic design, and 3D printing. Another aspect of the environment will include the opportunity to work with coding and robotics. This will allow students to gain 21st century skills including critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, and the engineering design process. This will also allow students to become more resilient as they use their programming and design mistakes as learning experiences in the reiterative design process.

               Two relevant questions are:

Will this approach detract from the students’ use of hands-on, experiential materials?  and

How do we envision implementing these initiatives?

All who serve on the Task Force share the deep belief that technology should not take away from, but rather enhance, our Montessori curriculum and pedagogy.  We view technology as an extension of classroom resources rather than a U-turn away from Montessori principles. Dr. Montessori herself was highly interested in the technology of her day, advocating for older students to take machines apart, use them meaningfully, and understand their power.  We view the student as the center of the learning experience, and therefore will incorporate the use of technology to enhance each student’s experience.

               We are now beginning the process of implementation, and by design this process will be a gradual one.

One focus of the Task Force has been to look at the space and resources already available to our students through use of the Art Studio (now re-named The Art and Design Studio).  Andrea Green, our multi-talented art teacher,  has already introduced some simple elements of technology into the studio (for example, simple machines such as drills, and a more complex machine, the sewing machine) for student use in realizing their projects and solving problems.  We plan this year to overhaul the Art and Design space, replacing the current huge picnic tables with a custom-designed work bench and smaller tables, gradually incorporating higher tech tools such as a 3D printer with which students can design projects in a two-dimensional format, analyze the project and create code in order to instruct the printer what to do, then produce a 3-dimensional product.

               This is offered as a brief summary of the intensive work that has gone into the planning stages of the Summit technology initiative.  Our work is ongoing and will be implemented in a gradual and thoughtful way in order to reflect on each step and move forward with care as we make and implement choices.

               Please stay tuned for continued information regarding this exciting adventure.                                                

Kind regards,
Martha Torrence
Head of School