Just stumbled across this cool promo for our friend Dave Harrity’s Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand. On our list to review!
This post is the first in a series of reflections by VTS students enrolled in a CMT-initiated independent study entitled Digital Media for Ministry. Here Justin Ivatts reflects on his experience teaching an online bible study class with Adobe Connect. You can read his scriptural reflections on Biblische Ausbildung, the blog of VTS Old Testament professor Stephen Cook.
Most modern-minded educators would argue that online education is the way of the future. Now our lives are so busy that it is a lot easier just to click a hyperlink in an email and attend a class than get in a car and drive 30-60 minutes, attend a face-to-face class, and drive the same amount home again. Many people now study for their entire degrees online. It is the one-off class type of teaching that this post is interested in, however.
Recently I had the opportunity to teach an online class on a passage within the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. I found this to be an extremely worthwhile exercise. Currently Virginia Theological Seminary offers a Bible Briefs series of short introductions to books of the Bible aimed at the lay person. I would like to see this online education become a component of that.
Some of the aspects of designing an online course are pretty similar to a classroom course. The research needs to be done so you know your subject matter; the script needs to be prepared along with any visual aids. If visual aids are important in the traditional classroom, they are at least twice as important in online learning, since you only have a very small webcam picture of yourself in order to connect with your students through body language. The aids are your main connection tool.
Judith Boettcher and Rita-Marie Conrad argue that the main pedagogical model that is needed with online learning is a student-centered approach. They say that the other piece can be added around the outside: the content, the environment and the mentor (Boettcher, Judith V., Conrad, Rita-Marie. 2010).
The content refers to the knowledge that is being transferred from teacher to student. The environment is obviously online but is far greater than that; it can refer to the platform being used. What are the capabilities that can be employed to enhance the learning experience? Lastly, the mentor is the teacher who designs the course and ensures that the learning objectives are met via formal or informal assessment.
It is important to set clear, measurable objectives and ensure they have been met. In the type of class that I taught, informal assessment was fine. This can be as simple as asking the students to describe concepts that you have covered or utilizing the platform and polling individuals to gauge interpretation. It is important when teaching online to avoid the temptation to utilize all the bells and whistles of the software for no apparent reason. Every interaction you have through whatever means must have an objective for its use.
Also, it is important to realize that not all your participants will be as familiar with the platform as you are and as tech savvy as you are. A mistake I made when teaching my class was not to have my email open. I discovered after the fact that a participant had emailed me because she was having difficulty logging in. Unfortunately, by the time I saw her email it was too late.
Online teaching is the way of the future and can be extremely effective but it MUST be done right.
Boettcher, Judith V., Conrad, Rita-Marie. The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
By Kyle Matthew Oliver
I miss my hacker pals. You see, before I went to seminary, I worked with a scientific computing research group in the engineering department where I was pursuing graduate study. I wrote modeling software, which in my case meant developing a very technical program designed to study nuclear fuel recycling facilities and approaches (think SimCity with no graphics and no monsters).
What was so exciting about the work was the chance to learn with a bunch of really smart people who mostly had to teach themselves on the job. Our classroom study had ill-prepared us (we were mostly engineers, not computer scientists or software developers), and we only had one (very busy) advisor to go around. So the group formed a peer-training network; got connected to some mentors; and eventually started teaching classes, producing content, and even serving humanity as ways to share and apply what we were learning.
Little did I know in those days that I was already training for my current work in a resource center for teaching and learning in the church. It turns out that we self-starting grad students on the fourth floor of the Engineering Research Building had a lot in common with the lively faith formation networks I study and try to help support today.
After all, whose Christian classroom training prepared them sufficiently (in this case, for a life of faithful discipleship)? Certainly not mine. I’m constantly reaching out for help in work/faith/life to formal and informal networks of friends and colleagues: in person, by phone, and on social networks (including a private Facebook support group whose members ask and help each other answer several tough, real-life questions each week). Indeed, I now realize what a silly notion it is that Sunday school, adult formation classes, seminary, or any other single experience could possibly complete a person’s training to follow Jesus. It’s the work of a lifetime.
Like those hackers-turned-teachers-and-curators, some of the liveliest church circles I know of connect in person and online to share resources, encourage one another, and (not to get too mushy about it) engage in journeys of personal transformation. In my work as a curator for the Young Adult and Online & Digital Media centers here at the Faith Formation Learning Exchange, I hope to share the best of their stories and their resources with you. If you know of ones I should be passing along, don’t hesitate to be in touch.
There’s no definitive guidebook for forming disciples in the digital age. We’re just going to have to hack one together—with God’s help, and with each other.
Found this promising curriculum about the baptismal covenant on Friday, prompted by a student inquiry for field ed. Includes leader guide and audiovisual resources. Courtesy of the Diocese of California.
h/t to BuildingFaith
Here’s the teaser for the new round of images…
“Old & New provides a platform for contemporary graphic artists to exhibit works themed on Biblical stories and passages. It also aims to introduce a new online audience to Biblical art, attempting to replace popular, yet sometimes low-quality, contemporary Biblical artwork with the kind of accessible and honorable work that has historically been associated with the Bible.”
I’ve posted about this project before, but I’m happy there’s a third series coming out now.
The Old and New Project is a beautifully illustrated and curated collection of challenging and thoughtful biblical art. This image is by Amy Hardy. The project grants permission to use in slides for lectures and presentations with artist and project attribution.
Lisa and Kyle are starting to think about Saturday’s big event at VTS and how it might function as a faith formation activity. Here are some of the questions we’ll head into the day thinking about:
- What do we learn when we experience role reversal (and when we don’t)? On Saturday, VTS students, faculty, and staff will be geographic hosts of this event. And yet the Christian music festival scene is unknown to our institutional experience, and pretty distant to most of us as individuals too. The simultaneous experience of being host and guest promises (for both parties) to be a rich one and may help us be in touch with the reality that the Holy Spirit is the true host and convener whenever people of God gather in Christ’s name.
- How does our witness form our faith (and what kind of faith are we forming)? Our professor of evangelism notes that evangelism is a spiritual practice, a habit wherein public spaces and lively conversation shape everyone involved. Guests at this event will come from a wide variety of faith backgrounds, probably not more than 25% Episcopal. Some may be fans more of music (or Quidditch) than Christianity per se, and many are used to different ways of being church than, say, your average VTS professor or student. What will happen when we all get together and start sharing our stories? How will leaving our comfort zones open us to transformational learning?
- How does pop culture, and fun, stimulate faith (and what else might be required)? The intersection of diverse pop cultural activities promises plenty of fun to go around on Saturday. And surely fun and celebration are important marks of Christian fellowship, especially during the Easter season. Yet more and more programs for ministry with young people are emphasizing the need for “more than fun and games.” What might be the place of, say, catechesis, at an event like this?
What questions do you have heading into Saturday? What are you expecting to learn?