The Toolkit

Teaching with
New Media

How can we model sound digital pedagogy and provide positive classroom experiences?
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TEACHING

Participants with computers - teaching practices
Participants with technology at e-Formation 2017

One common critique of the residential seminary model is that many centers of theological education don’t have a lot in common with the sites of ministry practice in which students will eventually serve.

There’s often a discontinuity between the divinity school classroom and Sunday school classroom. Some of that difference is perfectly appropriate, and some of it is highly problematic.

We know that the most valuable ministry training establishes good habits and practices that students will carry with them in their future work. Faculty modeling plays a huge part in that. Here’s Charles Foster, senior scholar with the Carnegie Foundation study of clergy education:

We asked seminary deans to identify teachers reflective about their practice. We discovered that … they modeled in their teaching the relevance and significance of disciplinary knowledge and skills, habits and perspectives for clergy practice. They did more. They coached students with varied backgrounds … into those same ways of thinking, being and doing through their repetition in class sessions and assignments. By engaging students in the rehearsal of dispositions, habits, and ways of thinking embedded in the deeper structures of their teaching practices, they cultivated student expertise to prepare them for the pastoral improvisations needed in addressing both familiar and unexpected challenges in daily clergy practice.

Modeling matters in theological education. If it’s true that ministry leaders will be navigating cultures, convening community, presenting pastorally, and cultivating wise habits with the help of technology, then their instructors should be exploring and demonstrating how to approach those same tasks.

This page is not a comprehensive guide to educational technology in theological settings. It’s a collection of lightweight pedagogical resources and classroom activities (loosely inspired by the Wabash Center’s Teaching Tactics) that will give you some ideas for giving ideas to your students.

Our motto: Whenever possible, show—don’t tell.

A NOTE ON DEVICES IN THE CLASSROOM

One question we get a lot is about classroom technology policies. Should students be actively encouraged to bring devices to class? Actively discouraged? Should we tell students what they should—and should not—be doing on their laptops during class time?

Thoughtful instructors can surely disagree. You can probably guess our preferences. But if our curation team has a “party line,” it’s that asking critical questions of your own and your students’ teaching and learning practices is more important than what you and they ultimately decide.

That being said, we have found it useful to emulate Joshua Kim’s “principles” approach to offer some general guidelines. Here are a few key commitments that we bring to this conversation.

  1. Our students are adults. We should be encouraging them to take responsibility for their own learning.
  2. Our students are human. Facebook is fun. Teachers are sometimes boring. We’d be crazy to pretend the potential for distraction isn’t significant and (possibly) detrimental.
  3. Our students aren’t (necessarily) learning experts. They probably don’t know about effortful processing and cognitive load. We can share some of our expertise to encourage their good learning practices.
  4. Our teaching plays a major role in determining student behavior. Did you just give a 68-minute lecture with a 7-minute Q&A? We respectfully submit that you shouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t have your students’ full attention. Even if you had it, there are better ways to use at least some of it.
  5. Our behavior outside the classroom is a model. Do you answer emails all through faculty meetings? There’s a good chance your students know this, and it undermines your credibility to influence their classroom choices.
  6. There are creative ways to leverage technology for engagement. This site will share some of our favorites.

Before we do, here are a couple more avenues into this challenging and often-heated debate:

Background image: “IMG_4975” by EdTech Stanford University via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

TEACHING PRACTICES & CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

Background image: “Gemeentemuseum The Hague” by John Valk via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)