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Encouraged by Jobs, couple spreads Montessori mission through apps

Apps created by Montessorium, a Sioux Falls, S.D. firm that holds high the Montessori educational approach, have been downloaded around the world – but it might not have happened without personal encouragement from Steve Jobs.

Montessori education is a child-centered, one-on-one approach to learning. When Bobby and June George (left), founders of the first Montessori school in South Dakota, saw the initial announcement of the iPad, they said it was a “Neil Armstrong moment” as they imagined the possibilities for spreading education.

However, Montessori traditionalists don’t believe children should be exposed to technology before the age of 6, so they hesitated.

In August 2010, about a month after launching their first app, they received an email from Steve Jobs offering assistance. Bobby said since it was completely out of the blue, they thought it was a prank by one of their friends. It wasn’t. They went on to form a realtionship with Jobs, and now his words hang in their office.

“The kids and parents will prove you right,” Jobs wrote. “Keep going.”

They kept going.

Today, Montessorium offers four apps: Intro to Math (left) and Intro to Letters, both released in 2010 and retail for $4.99; Alpha Writer, released in March 2011 for $2.99; and Intro to Geography, released in December 2011 for $1.99. The apps follow the Montessori principles of self-directed learning. For example, in the Alpha Writer app, the child learns to write before learning to read or spell.

When Montessorium was founded in 2010, it consisted of two husband-wife teams: Bobby and June George of the Baan Dek Montessori and Angela and Stefan Hartwig, both of Electric Pulp, a Sioux Falls web and mobile design and development firm. Together, they worked out the concepts and design of the apps, eventually outsourcing the development to companies in New York and California. The Hartwigs later left the company to spend more time with family, and now the Georges run Montessorium and the school.

“We have a phrase around here: ‘Love what you do. Do what you love,’ ” George said in an email interveiw. “Needless to say, we love what we do.”

Montessorium’s apps have received some love in return. George declined to reveal how many downloads they’ve tallied, but in the App Store, Intro to Letters and Intro to Math have hundreds of reviews, mainly positive. The apps have also been featured in iPad commercials (below) as well as media outlets like CNET and Wired.

The goal of the apps — along with Blueprints, a Kickstarter project ending Saturday, and June Books, which are similar to the apps but in printed format — is to make the mission of Montessori education accessible to more people around the world.

The duo has a fifth app is in the works. As Jobs instructed, they’ve kept going.


“iPad is Electric” – 2010

Montessorium’s Intro to Letters at 00:05.


“We believe” – 2011

Montessorium’s Intro to Math at 00:24.


Credits: Photo of Bobby George from twitter.com. Photo of June George from baandek.com. Screenshot of Intro to Math from Montessorium on Facebook. Videos from youtube.com.

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