Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Instagram - a creative success story

Instagram. Within two years of its inception, this hugely popular app acquired over 30 million iOS users and a further 1 million new users within 12 hours of its release on the Andriod market. Despite its obvious popularity, the news on 9 April 2012 that Facebook was acquiring the photo-sharing service for $1 billion still came as a shock to most and got me thinking about the creative process that goes into taking an idea and transforming it into a multi-million dollar reality.

As Kim-Mai Cutler points out in her article “From 0 to $1Billion In Two Years: Instagram’s Rose-Tinted Ride To Glory” the concept of Instagram was not about making money. Founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger were first and foremost focussed on the user experience. They worked on a number of different versions of a photo-sharing app before finally hitting the jackpot with Instagram. They weren’t afraid to think outside the square, to start over in order to get it right and to think big. They actively engaged in the creative process and managed to create an app that, purely through organic growth, has managed to climb the heights of the mobile app world.

It is clear that while the mobile era is only just bringing, innovation and creativity are key components with any internet success story. It may come as no surprise then that the co-founders of one of the biggest internet success stories, Google, were schooled in Montessori. Larry Page has credited Montessori with giving him the ability to do “things a little bit different”. One of the cornerstones of the Montessori education system is providing a child with freedom – freedom of choice, freedom to think for themselves and freedom to be creative. As we recognise the need to foster innovative thinking, we need to create an environment which can cultivate the necessary conditions for people to innovate and be successful. Montessori is that unique teaching method which blends a spontaneous learning environment with active encouragement. Even though it is now over 100 years old, the Montessori way seems almost tailor-made for the creative technological era we are entering by encouraging creative and independent thought. Who knows what future Instagram-like innovators we may be encouraging today?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Montessori - is it right for you?

For most parents, the type of education they are able to provide for their children is a very important decision. Decisions such as whether to send them to public or private schools, whether there are religious factors to be considered, whether they will need to go to boarding school....the decisions are endless. However what is not generally thought of is the type of education they will receive. In Australia, mainstream education is broken down into primary and secondary school, with these years generally being from prep to year 7 and then from year 8 to year 12. While each state and territory governs the administration of their education system, there is a national curriculum that is adhered to across the country, focusing on certain areas of learning. Having grown up and been through this system themselves, most parents would not think to question this or even look for other alternatives. However there are alternatives out there which are deserving of greater recognition in order to give parents more choice.

Montessori education is not a new method of learning, having been founded by Maria Montessori who established her first classroom – Casa di Bambini - in 1907. Over many years, she observed and worked with children and discovered their natural ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings. The idea that children teach themselves became the cornerstone of her educational philosophy which became known as the Montessori educational programme. She believed each child passes through what she termed sensitive periods, where a child is at their optimal best for learning experiences, where they can learn almost unconsciously. By allowing children to develop skills naturally, they cultivate a love of learning through their natural curiosity. Creating an atmosphere where children actually want to learn is a great gift and one I would argue most parents would want to set up for their own children. An excellent resource for Montessori information, Montessori Education provides a comprehensive overview of the key developmental phases of learning and the ‘sensitive periods’ each child passes through during these phases. For an overview on the differences between Montessori and traditional education, you can also see my blog entry Montessori vs. Traditional Schooling.

In Australia, there are a number of Montessori schools in the private sector, however programs are also starting to flourish in the public arena as well. This can only be considered a good thing as parents have greater control and influence on the type of education they wish to provide for their children.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My interest in Montessori

The first time I heard of Montessori was in May 2009. We had just moved house and I was frantically trying to find a new daycare centre for my son. There was a new centre that had recently opened not far from our new home, however the only places they still had availability in was in the Montessori stream. I took the spot and asked them to keep my name on the waiting list for 'normal' daycare just in case I decided that Montessori was not for us.

I've never looked back.

Before discovering Montessori, I'd always thought of child care as somewhere to send my child while I was at work, where he would be well looked after and kept entertained. I never really thought about the education aspect and what I expected him to be learning in this environment. However, once he started at the Montessori centre, I decided I had better find out exactly what it was so I could be sure it was something I was comfortable sending him to. In a very basic description, Montessori can be explained as a method of education that is based on the principles drawn from the natural development of a child. These include practical life, sensorial, mathematics, language and culture. It aims to teach children skills at particular points of their development (referred to as sensitive periods...more about that next week!).

The more I learned about the system and how a child's naturally curious nature is actively cultivated to explore different situations to encourage learning, the more I was certain I had chosen the right path for my children's education. Montessori claims to teach children to love learning and that is a philosophy I want to give to my children. When attending school myself, I was not a bad student, but I certainly did not particularly enjoy learning, only doing the bare necessity to get by. It is only now that I'm older I can see the value in really wanting to learn. Being able to provide a great foundation for learning is something I feel very passionate about providing for my children. Having now been exposed to Montessori, I am no longer comfortable with the thought of the mainstream education system. While the children still need to learn the same things, pass the same tests, it is the way in which they learn how to achieve these things that differs.

I definitely feel that Montessori has opened my eyes to the possibilities that are before my children and has given me the opportunity to really make a positive and valuable contribution to their education.