This past quarter I had the great privilege to work with Ryan Bolger on his class “transforming contemporary cultures” at Fuller Seminary. In this class we used the internet as a basis for much of the learning that took place during the quarter. We made use of both individual and group Blogs, Wiki’s and Podcasts. The internet gives us some very distinct advantages over older pedagogical methods.
1. People tend to find the internet a “safe place” where we can say what we are really think.
2. The work that is done is live instantly. Seminary is a place where students learn how to serve the church, if this is not the case then seminary is not doing what it was created to do. Because of this assumption, students ought to make their learning available as a resource for churches worldwide. Students in our class did just this, they found resources for all kinds of issues and by publishing them to their blogs they made these resources more easily available for churches.
3. Because of the instant access of such knowledge, the wager of what is being done in the classroom is hopefully raised.
4. There is more interaction from one student to another because each is required to read and engage with a small group of their classmate’s work. Only one time in my years of schooling have I had the opportunity to read and interact with my students work, in our class this happened multiple times a week.
5. The time in the class room is freed up to focus more on matters important to and can only be done in the classroom – discipleship and face to face interaction with one another.
6. Because the students felt freer to share what they really thought about any given subject on their blogs, their encounter with one another in the classroom was drastically different. Many students got to know one another much better than normally happen in any classroom, especially a class of over 40 students. Even with groups, rarely to we trust one another enough to get to know each other over the course of 10 weeks. Blogging gives more time to getting to know each other.
7. It also created challenges that rarely face students in class, they had to deal with their own views and those within their own groups who saw the world differently. This could happen in any classroom and does from time to time, but because of such a focus on creating “group content” for their wiki’s – and because of their own individual research they found and placed on their own blogs they as a group were forced to work through real issues – that resembled the kinds of troubles that face churches.
8. It also gives the possibility for more sustained attention from the professor (or TA) in the class.
Given this list my own thoughts about making the web a place for learning are obviously in favor of it. What we have covered this past quarter only barely scratches the surface of what we can be done with the web and classrooms.
Juan Martinez and Mark Lau Branson are also starting a class this quarter that is fussed with both the cyber and real-life classroom experience.
What we need is students and administration who are willing to incorporate new ways and old ways together to create useful learning experiences.
There are some disadvantages to this style of learning:
1. Until everyone has access and is literate in using the web there will be a good amount of time on techie type troubles.
2. It is not that easy to keep track of – Dates and content are harder to moderate than a piece of paper handed in at a specific time (Paper is much easier to read).
3. Because people feel free to say whatever – a lot of useless things are said, and grammatical structure seems to take a dive (this is obvious if you’ve read much of my own blog!).
4. It can feel like its just something more to keep students busy.
5. It has the possibility to make the classroom non-existent which if something we must stay away from.
And so we continue to think and re-think what it means to teach, be students, have a classroom, create meaningful and transformative assignments, and spend time that is used in valuable ways. We know face great opportunities and possibilities within the academic world, with the Light of Christ our steps will be guided in ways that will be useful for the Kingdom.