Montessori and Connectivism

I have an occasion to do a little research on the Montessori method. Named after Dr. Maria Montessori, who, in 1896, was the first woman in Italy to graduate out of medical school, the Montessori method seems to have rich similarities with Connectivism.

The basic Montessori concepts are pretty well known by now (Montessori in Perspective, 1966). 1 – The teacher must pay attention to the child, rather than the child paying attention to the teacher. 2 – The child proceeds at his own pace in an environment controlled to provide means of learning. 3 – Imaginative teaching materials are the heart of the process. 4 – Each of them is self-correcting, thus enabling the child to proceed at his own pace and see his own mistakes. If you were to look inside a Montessori classroom, you would get the impression of “controlled chaos” because each child would be quietly working at his private encounter with whatever learning task he or she chose (Montessori in Perspective, 1966).

(Quoted from, retrieved January 10, 2009)

Dr. Montessori said “I studied my children, and they taught me how to teach them.” And also her general principle – “first education of the senses, then education of the intellect”.

‘The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality’ (Maria Montessori – The Absorbent Mind: 206).

This connected with a further element in the Montessori programme – decentring the teacher. The teacher was the ‘keeper’ of the environment. While children got on with their activities the task was to observe and to intervene from the periphery. (Here there are a number of parallels with Dewey).

(Quoted from, retrieved January 10, 2009)

Cammy Bean, was at the same juncture as I am today. Sending my son to formal school. But my son also has had an year of so already under his belt at a Montessori pre-school. She asks:

So, the question is, can we make the Montessori Method a part of the coporate learning environment? Is that what all this informal/DIY/learning 2.0 stuff is all about?

Constance Steinkuehler in her post Digital Montessori for Big Kids, likens virtual worlds to digital environments natively conducive to the Montessori method.

The Microlearning conference 2005 proceedings“Learning and Working in New Media Environments” (June 23-24, 2005, University of Innsbruck, Austria) has an interesting paper by Gernot Tscherteu titled “The Blogosphere Map – Visualizing Microcontent Dissemination” (looks very similar to what Valdis Krebs does :)). The principles of the Montessori method are referenced in the context of microlearning:

  • the Montessori pedagogue is acting in the background, and,
  • Learning by playing in mixed groups
  • Free schedules, no collective teaching
  • Prepared environment
  • Learning materials are kind of small interactive games for real life learning experiences
  • Sensomotoric

Very similar to what I have learnt about connectivism e.g. the second is a characteristic of networks if you think about it.

Microlearning itself seems to be an interesting concept. Theo Hug summaries different dimensions together in his paper “Microlearning: A New Pedagogical Challenge” in the same Austrian conference.

There is not one precise definition which covers all the different concepts. In my view there are versions which are brought forth by different interpretations of particular dimensions such as:

  • Time: relatively short effort, operating expense, degree of time consumption, measurable time, subjective time, etc.
  • Content: small or very small units, narrow topics, rather simplex issues, etc.
  • Curriculum: part of curricular setting, parts of modules, elements of informal learning, etc.
  • Form: fragments, facets, episodes, „knowledge nuggets“, skill elements, etc.
  • Process: separate, concomitant or actual, situated or integrated activities, iterative method, attention management, awareness (getting into or being in a process), etc.
  • Mediality: face-to-face, mono-media vs. multi-media, (inter-)mediated, information objects or learning objects, symbolic value, cultural capital, etc.
  • Learning type: repetitive, activist, reflective, pragmatist, conceptionalist, constructivist, connectivist, behaviourist, learning by example, task or exercise, goal- or problem-oriented, „along the way“, action learning, classroom learning, corporate learning, conscious vs. unconscious, etc.

Interesting meanderings so far!

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