Schools spend billions of dollars on technology with promises of personalized learning and building 21st-century skills.
Wildflower Schools, a network of small, teacher-led Montessori schools founded in 2014, has a more radical idea: use sensors to track kids’ every movement—where they go, what they work with, who they interact with, and how long they engage with materials in the classroom.
It may sound creepy, and perhaps something that might make Maria Montessori roll over in her grave. But its backers say it’s an effort to make Montessori, an educational philosophy with passionate global backing, even more Montessori.
In 2017, Angeline Lillard, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Virginia, did a study comparing educational outcomes of 141 preschoolers who were randomly chosen via lottery to attend either a Montessori preschool or a traditional preschool. When the kids started the study, there were no academic differences, but by the end of a three-year period, the Montessori kids had made more academic gains, had better social skills, and reported enjoying school more. The also had more “mastery” skills (the desire to learn), and took on challenging tasks in order to do so. One possible reason, Lillard says, is that there are few external rewards—such as grades, stickers, or gold stars—in Montessori programs.
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