The Touch-Screen Generation. On the cover of the paper edition, actually. Hannah Rosin (a prominent, occasionally contrarian journalist at The Atlantic, Slate, and elsewhere) has a 7-page piece about young children and touch screen devices such as tablets and smartphones. Two points of interest caught my eye.
First, a Montessori reference in the second paragraph. At a children’s app developers conference, she reports that several developers
paraphrased a famous saying of Maria Montessori’s … “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.”
It’s not clear from the article whether the developers were citing Montessori themselves, or their words put Rosin in mind of the quote (from The Absorbent Mind, as it happens). She goes on to contrast poking fingers in the sand with tapping a screen, asking “what Maria Montessori would have made of the scene.” She also mentions the developer of an app which “teaches preschoolers the Montessori methods of spelling,” which seems a bit of a stretch in that the Montessori method is distinctively analog.
But, even with the prominent mention of Montessori, with an essentially representative slant, the article left me unsatisfied. The takeaway seems to be, “the digital transition has taken place, there’s no escaping it, and interactive apps are almost like interacting with the real world, so just go with it.” Read the piece for yourself, by all means, but in my view she doesn’t really end up anywhere.
Look, I get it, I’m old, and it’s already happened, and the technology is just going to get more interactive and sophisticated, and intertwined with our lives. But I just can’t bring myself to believe that we’re going to improve on the interaction between the brain, the body, and the real world as the appropriate developmental activity for young children. Plenty of time for virtual interactions later, when the foundation has been laid down.