For our youngest learners, digital tools would be minimal. Children under the age of 5 are engaged in an ongoing process of making sense of the world around them. They perceive and learn through their senses and as such, multi-dimensional materials that they can handle and manipulate are the best options for their learning. Montessori’s materials are second to none for the young child.
Yet, there are a few tools that fit well with the Montessori philosophy and could be included, such as the Merlin Bird ID app by Cornell. Children can use this app with the support of teachers to identify birds that frequent their outdoor learning spaces. The app takes the user through key questions about the bird, providing images to support the user in choosing responses. This process supports children’s development of the awareness of key scientific processes, vocabulary and concepts that would be much more difficult to access using handheld books.
Another example is the use of Skype by 5-year-olds who, while working with Montessori’s geography materials, develop questions about the lives of people living in Asia. Tools like Skype can provide these children with real-time access to people and even other classes of children in Asia, resulting in a rich and meaningful learning exchange the surpasses what can be achieved by simply looking at photos of people living overseas.