Computer Programming and the Montessori Method
The threshold of the 21st century has brought a debate within the Montessori circles, whether computers should or should not find their place in the modern Montessori classrooms. Advocates of computers integration in classrooms base their standing on the idea that the World Wide Web can support the learning process as a research tool, allowing children to formulate questions and then find the answers themselves. On the other hand, opponents of the idea view computer-assisted instruction as an attempt to have computers program the child, giving them an easy answer without much need for exploration. Instead, they propose that having computers in the class might only work if children learn to program the computer. Even then, this might be a bad idea as programming can only teach a data processing model of procedural thinking. In addition to that, children who are preoccupied with programming will lose touch with reality.
How to make peace with the two opposed standings, bearing in mind that computer literacy, namely coding, is a basic 21st century skill, the one that children of today cannot afford to miss out on? Let us first explore they pros for teaching your child the principles of coding.
What skills does coding develop?
While there are obvious benefits for the challenges of tomorrow and future employment, it is the development of critical thinking and emotional competencies that set up students for long-term success. When children learn STEM skills, it helps them to develop skills that can be applied to a range of other subjects. In fact, a recent study demonstrated that computational thinking skills were highly correlated with a non-verbal measure of intelligence.
When children develop computational skills they are able to articulate a problem and think logically. It helps them to break down the complex problems into smaller, more manageable chunks and figure out out all of the steps needed to make the task happen. This is called “algorithm design” in the coding world and is basically setting out the steps and rules needed to follow in order to achieve the same desired outcome every time. Through recognising patterns, children learn to identify the details that are relevant to solving the problem at hand and ignoring the other distracting details. Identifying the crucial information in a problem and disregarding the irrelevant information is one of the hardest parts of computational learning. On a social level, computation skills can have powerful impacts on children and how they manage their relationships with those around them. They also help kids to explore cause and effect and analyse how their actions or the actions of others impact the given situation.
Screen-time vs. Hands-on
Montessori is build on the foundation of hand-on exploration. In fact, Maria Montessori gave a priority to learning through senses in the earliest age of human’s existence when she said:
He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.
– Maria Montessori
Exposing a very young child to screen arguably has more harms than benefits – obesity, irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep, behavioral problems, loss of social skills – just to name a few. Does it mean it is hopeless to think we can utilize these most absorbent years to introduce the child to something as complex as coding? Most certainly not!
Cubetto – Montessori Inspired Coding Robot
Cubetto is the friendly wooden robot that will teach your child the basics of computer programming through adventure and hands-on play. What makes it Montessori?
Cubetto gives children the ability to solve problems within the world they create. This gives them freedom to express their creativity and aptitudes, unconstrained by the challenges of literacy, or the distractions of a screen.
All they need to get started is a nudge in understanding that blocks = actions. After this point, even the discovery of what each block does can be led by the child, leaving adults to observe and only help when needed.
Solving problems with the blocks is about trial and error. Once a sequence is sent to Cubetto, the result is immediate and non-abstract, giving children concrete grounds on which to self-correct without adult intervention. Just change the blocks and go again.
It’s designed for scaffolding
When a problem is too complex, the right sequence is easily pooled from collective knowledge of children in the play session. Each child can in turn add a block, or a suggestion, layering in their individual competence to the solution in small steps.
How is this coding?
Algorithms: Algorithms are sets of precise instructions that form a program. Cubetto’s blocks are a physical representation of an unambiguous instruction that children can touch.
The Queue: Instructions in programs are executed following a precise order. On the Board instructions are put together following a wavy line that represents a command line.
Debugging: The instructions are laid on the board, and are immediately executed by Cubetto, so when he doesn’t arrive where he should, fixing mistakes is as easy as swapping a block.
Recursions: Create a subroutine by “packing” a sequence in the function line, and call it in the queue with a blue block when you need it. Make long sequences shorted and more elegant, like in the real world.
Infinite Loops: Insert a function block in the function line and watch Cubetto go loopy. Want to stop an infinite loop? hmmm… tried turning it off and on again? 🙂
Order your Cubetto here and immerse yourself in the coding adventure!