“Don’t be discouraged by the traditionalists.” For the type to think outside the box, it’s sage advice. Especially when it comes from Steve Jobs. “In the middle of the night, [he] sent us a note and said, ‘I love what you’re doing,’” says Bobby George. George and his wife June gambled their life savings to start Montessorium, which makes apps to encourage a love of learning.
When they saw Apple roll out the first iPad, they immediately saw potential. “We said oh my God, we can take everything that’s in the classroom,” and reinforce it at home.
You probably guessed they get inspiration from the montessori approach to teaching, which is highly tailored to an individual’s needs and skills. The company doesn’t like when kids are forced to fit into a mold. “We want to be encouraging them rather than bending and breaking them,” says Montessorium CEO Bill Anderson, who wants more from an educational system. “I want to have the best critical thinkers.” He doesn’t want educators working in a system that treats kids like they’re “trained chimpanzees.”
For Anderson and George, much of their love of learning came down to a single teacher. In third grade, Anderson’s teacher pegged him as “an overachiever.” He was tracked as gifted and challenged like someone who might easily “be bored”. George’s happened in college when a philosophy professor took him for walks where they reevaluated “all [their] traditional assumptions.”
Notice how Anderson’s took place early and George’s was many years later in life? And yet both had a lasting impact. Seems fitting for the constant learners they are. Encouraging lifelong learning is Montessorium’s framework. They know that Montessori schools aren’t an option for every parent. There’s usually tuition anywhere from $1,000 to $15,000 per student/per year. The method works when class sizes are small because much more labor and time intensive than public schools.
That’s where tech can help fill the gap. Kids don’t have to be in Montessori schools to use Montessorium’s apps. Says George, “we don’t see it as a replacement, but rather a supplement” to classroom time.
Montessorium has a handful of apps like Intro to Colors and Intro to Math. They focus on mastery of skills, regardless of age. “It can be when they’re 3, or when they’re 8.” On average, kids are using the apps for 21 days before moving on. This means the company needs to move on, too. Enter the latest app: Primary. This one isn’t skill specific, but rather community building. There are daily tips and ways to interact with other parents. George calls it a social network for mindful parenting.
Are you a lifelong learner? 1 Million Cups is a great place to hear from entrepreneurs and innovators. Check out Montessorium’s presentation on Wednesday, November 16. It’s happening at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.