Monthly Archives: June 2013

Andrew McAfee Tells it Like it Is

Andrew McAffee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at MIT Sloan, author of Enterprise 2.0 and (with Erik Brynjolfsson) of Race Against The Machine, widely read blogger, and public intellectual in the business and IT world, wrote about Montessori in 2011, in the Harvard Business Review: Montessori Builds Innovators.

Here, in a video interview with his co-author Byrnjolfsson and NYT’s Thomas Friedman, he gives another shout-out. (I can’t post a clip, but the Montessori bit starts at 28:38.) Friedman is asking him what, given the economic disruption created by the digital revolution, we as a nation should be talking about “in terms of education, jobs, and the future.”  McAfee:

I was a Montessori kid for the first years of my schooling (applause!), and I’m so thankful because that is an educational system that teaches you that the world is a really interesting place, and  your job is to go explore and understand it and maybe change it somewhere down the road. Thank heaven for that.

My school only went up to 3rd grade, and after that I went into the public school system for the 4th grade and I felt like I had been sent to the gulag. I’m like, “You want me to sit there in this grid of desks all day, and then a succession of things are going to be either inflicted on me, or instructed  —this doesn’t make any sense.”

Eric and I were at TED  earlier this year and the TED prize was given to Sugata Mitra, the educational researcher for India, who he says that system was designed to turn out clerks for the British empire, and we don’t need that anymore. We need to teach people that the world is a really interesting place.

Sounds like he got it about right.  Friedman, McAfee, Brynjolfsson, TED, Mitra (who I posted about here and here), MIT Sloan—this is the conversation we want to be in.

Montessori Outcomes

Like many of you this time of year, I recently had the opportunity to attend a Montessori graduation (or “Moving On Ceremony”, or whatever you call it).  These were 8th and 9th grade students reflecting on their time in Montessori school:

Montessori is something that I feel every child should get the opportunity to experience in their life because of the things you learn that the text books leave out.

One of the most important things I learned in all of my years here was responsibility, which requires the opportunity to do things independently.

We didn’t just learn lessons in school; we learned lessons far beyond the walls of the school.  The Montessori way made me want to learn and have fun doing it.

I think finding independence within yourself is the biggest step you can take towards finding true peace, because peace requires independence.

The more you invest in your community, the more you and other members of the community benefit. A true, functioning community hinges on the efforts of its people, and without that effort it will simply fall apart.

In my Montessori experience I have done a lot of things that can teach me a lot of what I know but also about who I am and what is my place in the world.

I know now that it is up to me to make full use of my ability — and to take the initiative instead of waiting.  To me this is a large part of what it means to be in a Montessori school.

This is exactly the thing I love about Montessori education: that everybody pushes you and encourages you to do new things, and then people offer you support so you can do that thing successfully.

But being good doesn’t change the world.  Only the people who care enough to actually do something are able to change the world.

These experiences make me grow like a person and give me the things that I need to make my lfe and be happy in what I want to do in it.  And why not make others happy to put some of these experiences in everything that I am going to do in my life.

This place has given me so much knowledge as well as the questions I must pose to myself and the world.

I am what I make of myself and I have chosen to make myself of these qualities: open-mindedness, equality, honesty, and will power.  With these qualities I hope to shape myself into a man who will change the world for the better.

Fourteen and fifteen years old , these young men and women.  This is for anyone who asks, “so what will my child get out of a Montessori education?”

Montessori in All But Name: Scientific American

I had that feeling again today when you read an article about education and think, “In Montessori, we already do this.”  And I’m a little tired of writing this same post over and over. But here we go again.

Scientific American.  Scott Barry Kaufman’s Beautiful Minds blog: Profiling Serial Creators.  Kaufman is a psychologist at NYU specializing in intelligence and creativity, a broadly published academic, and a popular science writer.

The article opens with this premise:

Every single day, all across the globe, extraordinarily creative and talented students sit in our classrooms bored out of their minds.

Great, I thought—this has got to be about Montessori.  It was another case of everything but.  The piece is worth reading in full, but here’s the outline.

Creative children are not being well served.  Creative children are bored in school.  We don’t have good ways to identify and measure them.  Portfolios are ann imperfect instrument, and there are issues with the standard creativity test, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT).

What we should be doing: We can look more carefully at IQ tests.  We can use checklists. But our best be might be profiling: looking for children who have the characteristics of creative adults.  It turns out that Barbara Kerr at the University of Kansas has done this work.  Here’s how she described creative students (bullet-pointed for easy reading):

  • Creatively gifted students may be spontaneous, expressive, intuitive, and perceptive, with evidence of intellectual sophistication and childlike playfulness. 
  • They are very likely to be curious, open to new experiences, and innovative in many areas of their lives. 
  • They may express originality in thoughts, and are probably unafraid of what others might think of their ideas. 
  • Most likely, these students have a wide range of interests and abilities, and may be comfortable with ambiguity and disorder. 
  • Likely to be unconventional, creatively gifted students are imaginative, and may challenge the status quo. 
  • By late adolescence, truly creative individuals usually have significant creative accomplishments that have earned them recognition by experts in their domain. 

Umm, sound like any students you know?

The piece goes on with some excellent studies and interventions aimed at identifying and supporting these students, which is great.  Here are some selected characteristics:

  • love of play
  • openness to experience
  • prone to flow experiences
  • high levels of affiliation, nurturance, and agreeableness

 And some final observations:

These creative adolescents appeared to be very friendly, socially oriented, and socially well-adjusted.

An intriguing possibility is that the current generation of creative youth is more connected, community oriented, and affiliative than prior generations.

Déjà vu.

By this point I couldn’t help thinking what I hope you’re thinking, too:  How can you talk about all this and not mention Montessori?  Instead of digging through our current system to find the children like this who we’re not even serving very well, why not design a system that support these characteristics from the outset!  

OK—I got a little heated there. But, really. The article goes on with interventions “to help the students see their real authentic selves and the narrative of their lives, instead of focusing on the results of a standardized profile.” I just had to stop. There’s work to be done.

I Google-scanned Kaufman’s other work, and I didn’t find Montessori anywhere (or mentioned on any Scientific American blog, for that matter). But that’s not his fault, and there’s nothing to be gained by acting like it is. I’m going to send him an email and some links at sbk334@nyu.edu, and you can too. Tell him about Stephen Hughes, Angeline Lillard, and Sian Beilock, and the Montessori connection to Csikentmihalyi’s Flow theory. Maybe his next piece will bring us in.

AMI Going Global

ami logoThe Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) has a new website up: [edit:  Apparently it’s not meant to go live yet, so I’m taking down the link.  But I, and I guess a few others, got a sneak peek.] It’s the beautiful, modern, professionally produced, information-packed website the movement deserves.

.

Interestingly, For now the old website, www.montessori-ami.org, is still up.  I suppose that eventually the old site will redirect visitors to the new, but for now you can you will soon be able to compare the two to see just how far AMI has come into the digital age.  It’s all there on the new site: comprehensive, authoritative Montessori information, AMI’s global perspective, teacher training and training of trainers programs, publications, video, and much more.  Someone put a lot of time and trouble into this, and it shows.