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Throughout history, education has been transformed by technological innovation. For example, the invention of the movable type printing press opened the door to a much broader representation of ideas in the university classrooms of Western Europe. It also moved the transmission of knowledge more deliberately away from oral presentations to written representations. The elite had access to the written word for centuries, but the much more cost effective and efficient printing press made these ideas available to a much broader audience. As a result literacy became a skill necessary for everyone. It is no coincidence that the age of the printing press was also the age of revolution and titanic worldview shifts in the West.
We are currently in the middle of another great era of technological innovation, the outcome of which is not certain. The rate of innovations is now moving at a blinding pace. Improvements that were once centuries in coming happen in a matter of three months. As an example, android smart phones are updated and improved every three months (compared to Apple’s glacially slow rate of every 12 months!) Three years ago futurists were hailing the era of the netbooks. That ‘era’ lasted barely a few years and now we are in the era of tablets. The rate of change is proving to be disorienting to many, save for the children who are being conditioned to consider technology outdated if it is more than six months old. These children expect major device updates at every gift receiving occasion of the year.
For these reasons, education (and almost everything else for that matter) is shifting away from delivery models that fit the technology of the past to models that are still being developed and refined. In a recent edition of the Globe and Mail a series of articles were written under the title Future of Education (theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/). In the third article The Changing Face of the Classroom, the paper gave a list of what’s in, what’s out and what’s odd. The list of what’s in consisted of iPad therapy, twitter assignments, and smartboard MacGyvers. What’s out were listed as cursive writing, long division and computer labs. What’s odd were Wikipedia U., and Robot teachers (yes robot teachers!). If these titles have raised your curiosity click the link above and read the articles online under the title Future of Education. The paper evaluates each trend and gives each a grade. The only one that earns an A is smartboard MacGyvers because it is a rare innovation which actually costs less than $100 and though a bit clunky works as effectively as a much costlier smart board. If you want to check this out, click on this link (youtube.com/watch?v=5s5EvhHy7eQ).
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Most people are today. But we all have to do the hard work of adapting and adopting. There is something else though. How do these innovations enable us to more successfully present a Christian worldview? We are missing out if all we are doing is using new ways of doing the same old things. For example, instead of a photocopied worksheet we send them to tablets. I think worksheets are a helpful tool at times, but the fluid and alterable digital environment is poorly utilized if it becomes a fill in the blank environment. I know there are Christians actively developing some effective new ways of presenting Christ in a digitized educational environment, but the movement is in its infancy.
I believe that we are being given an unprecedented opportunity to create a personalized approach to education which will enable educators to fine tune a student’s program to maximize the development of their gifts and life calling. But to do this well we will have to find ways of developing material that are manageable, time-efficient, collaborative, focused and Christ-saturated. I would like to write future eNews articles on specific ways of achieving this within the context of current innovations and future innovations. We will also be engaging and challenging you on the role of technology in the Christian school at our upcoming one day spring convention in BC. The website for the convention is provided in this eNews.
Historically Christians were the leaders of educational innovation and excellence. The finest universities in the world were all started or profoundly influenced by Christians. The secularists have stolen our lead because we mistakenly began to associate technological innovation with worldliness during the fundamentalist movement at the turn of the 19th century. It is time to get back in the lead and affirm that Jesus is as central and relevant in the digital world as He is in the material and spiritual world. He is the ultimate reality and therefore the only one who can make pixels and digits another effective platform for the restoration of humanity and the universe in which we live.