Category Christian School Education
Title Answering the Call
Author/s Mark Canterbury
Preview Students must find new ways to apply their readily available knowledge to high-level thought processes; they must create, evaluate, and synthesize to demonstrate their learning.
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God has a way of calling us to things we may not fully understand. I felt that call a little over five years ago at a professional development conference in Orlando, Florida. The subject: educational technology.

I had visited schools that were beginning to use mobile device technology in their classrooms. It seemed like a fad. I was interested in these new gadgets, but not ready to jump on the bandwagon. However, as I learned more, I realized that educational technology was no longer just a flash in the educational pan, but a true shift from the traditional "stand and deliver" approach to collaborative methods in a student-focused learning environment. Teachers were no longer just givers of knowledge, but guides.

I sensed this was a direction that God wanted us to take at Seffner Christian. We had been using SMART boards, projectors, and document cameras in our classrooms to engage students, but it was evident that we needed to take the next step in our educational technology journey.

The next five years proved to be full of vision, planning, and continual integration. Although all organizations need dreamers and visionaries, schools must also be willing to take the next step of formulating goals, mission and vision statements, and a plan of action in order to bring life to the dream. Once we embraced the process, it truly changed our approach to integration. We decided to begin with mobile devices-just one of the popular options in educational technology. We implemented an iPad program from pre-K through twelfth grade, and quickly realized that arming our teachers with such a powerful tool would have a significant impact.

The success of any mobile device integration program lies in teacher training and support. In the hands of a trained teacher, a mobile device can be a tool to enhance instruction and empower students to drive their educational experience. If teachers are untrained, however, the best devices will be useless in improving the educational experience. These tools act as a magnifying glass, revealing the state of classroom methodology and management-for good or ill.

Device integration also lends itself to the needs of today's learner: the millennial. These students have never known a life without technology. Because of this, our classrooms are full of students who desire a relational, relevant, rationalized, and relaxed learning environment. Mobile devices, when appropriately and responsibly integrated into a classroom, can create opportunities for exponential growth for our millennials by carving out four instructional anchors.

Engagement

Engagement in the classroom can be a challenge for a teacher in a classroom full of millennials. For decades, teachers have lamented the change in students. Now more than ever before, the "kids these days" are different. Since exposure to technology and a child-centered society has been the norm throughout their lives, students walk into classrooms expecting to be entertained. They multitask habitually.

It was in this area of engagement where we began seeing a more eternal layer to our educational technology journey. Our job as Christian educators reaches far beyond turning cartwheels for our students. It is to train up these children so that they might later know how to navigate life. Research has shown that students no longer respond to lecture methods in the classroom. We must teach them how to navigate a lecture while remaining engaged. As teachers, we can easily do this through interactive presentation platforms such as Nearpod, which allow the teacher to lead the discussion on individual mobile devices while giving the students the opportunity to participate through interactive components. The teacher also has the ability to monitor student participation and understanding. The instantaneous wealth of information in informal assessment enables teachers to make important educational decisions, adjusting the instructional pace to accommodate every learner.

Collaboration

The relational millennials like working within a community of peers. Mobile devices create venues for students to share work, express ideas, and build projects. Though collaboration is nothing new to sound pedagogical strategies, technology components allow teachers to reach those students who may be more reluctant to share in a class setting. Millennials are used to communicating through technology; some who won't say a word in a physical classroom become bold and outspoken in virtual discussions. Through various digital workflow processes, students can collaborate on group projects easily from home and class without the "lost" papers or forgotten supplies at home.

Creativity

Creativity is an expected skill in today's rapidly changing and competitive workforce. Mobile devices give students the opportunity to exercise their creativity and make learning meaningful. A classroom of eighth grade students no longer writes their vocabulary words three times each or makes flash cards to review content. Memorized knowledge isn't valuable to a generation able to Google almost anything. Educators now ask students to create virtual representations of their understanding that increase the lasting meaning and relevance of material. Students must find new ways to apply their readily available knowledge to high-level thought processes; they must create, evaluate, and synthesize to demonstrate their learning. This sometimes daunting task is made easier for educators by the wide breadth of tools in the realm of educational technology.

Innovation

Bill Gates said, "I choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it." Millennials have a bad reputation for being lazy, but we have the opportunity to hone their eagerness for finding "easy" solutions. Opportunities to innovate with a mobile device are limitless, ranging from creating a digital children's book to building specs for a race car to managing schedules. Mobile devices provide tools to research, test, and execute the wildly innovative ideas inside the millennial learner's head.

Conclusion

Christian educators have been called to an important ministry: building the church of tomorrow. Part of our ministry now requires us to embrace the technology of the twenty-first century in order to serve our students, that they might use these powerful tools responsibly and effectively for the glory of God. Teaching biblical digital citizenship is necessary to the ministry of Christian education. We can do this, all the while enhancing our instruction with the key components of engagement, collaboration, creativity, and innovation. It is the duty of Christian educators to teach students to use technology wisely, but also to teach them how to guard their hearts and navigate the available temptations. Educational technology is more than a call to implement the newest device. It is a call to train up the minds, souls, and hearts of God's children.


Mark Canterbury has 19 years of experience in Christian education as a teacher, administrator, speaker, coach, and consultant. He graduated from Clearwater Christian College with a degree in business administration and earned his master's degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University. He is currently the business administrator at Seffner Christian Academy.

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