Some of you know that I am currently pursuing at Doctorate of Ministry through Rockbridge Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. Here's an honest disclaimer: if you're not an education nerd like me, these posts in the Rockbridge Series are probably not going to interest you. However, if you're are an education nerd like myself, you'll probably want to check back each Monday during this series.
Here's what's happening: in my final seminar of doctoral work, four fellow cohort members and myself have been tasked with providing a resource for churches and ministry organizations to understanding how to more effectively teach in an increasingly digital generation. While this was approached from a theological standpoint as a project, it has proven to be highly informative for secular educators and leaders as well. So for the next five weeks fellow cohort members will be guest writers here on my site to share what we're learning.
The principles share in this series are based on assertions made by authors Ian Jukes, Ted McCain, and Lee Crockett in their book Understanding the Digital Generation: Teaching and Learning in the New Digital Landscape. They suggest that while educators will continue to teach traditional skills, there will be a shift in emphasis of importance for those skills (loc 1652). For instance, they write the following:
Good handwriting has long been valued by teachers as an important skill for student to acquire because that skill was critical for a paper-based note taking, letter writing, form completion, and report writing that was done in the 20th-centure industrial life. And while there are still cognitive benefits to learning to write by hand and good reasons to teach this skill to students as they go through school, we must face the fact that the emphasis on handwriting as a critical skill for the world at large has changed significantly over the last 20 years.
The world has shifted to a digital realm where writing is done almost exclusively using digital software tools. This means that handwriting is not nearly as important as a job skill today as it was in the past. It is important that teachers re-evaluate the importance of all the skill they have taught traditionally in light of the realities of the new digital world (loc 1578).
With this considerable shift in mind, these posts in the Rockbridge Series will explore a essential skills in which people need to be fluent in order to function a world full of technology today. These are the skills that leaders and educators in both Christian and secular realms need to consider when engaging with their students or followers.
THIS WEEK'S SKILL: COLLABORATION FLUENCY
It has been heralded in the business world, particularly in the world of Network Marketing, that “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.” This is referring to the network of business partners pooling their resources together so that everyone—The Team—would win. This concept of working together has probably been around since the beginning of time. The slang term used here is “co-op,” which stands for co-operative: an autonomous association of persons united to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
Farmers are a good example of this extremely successful practice of working together. Their cooperation with each other—members include a majority of our nation’s 2 million farmers and ranchers—has perfected to the level of developing divisions such as, Marketing Co-operatives, Bargaining Co-operatives, Farm Supply Co-operatives, and Credit Union Co-operatives. Their objective for existing is to reduce cost, improve income opportunities, manage risk, obtain needed products and services on a competitive basis, maintain access to competitive markets, capitalize on new market opportunities, and strengthen bargaining power. This concept of co-op is being realized and utilized more in our educational and Christian teaching environments.
As we venture further in the 21st century, and engage more—hopefully not disengage—with the digital generation, it is incumbent that we understand each other and cooperate with each other. For the remainder of this blog I will highlight the third essential fluency skill identified by the 21st Century Fluency Project devised by Ian Jukes, Ted McCain and Lee Crockett in their book, Understanding the Digital Generation. This fluency is called Collaboration Fluency. Jukes et al. defines this skill as, “teamworking proficiency that has reached the unconscious ability to work cooperatively with virtual and real partners in an online environment to create original digital products” (Jukes, et al., 2010, Kindle loc. 1624).
The goal here is to inform the traditional teacher—specifically the Christian ministry leaders—of the need to develop a 21st century teaching mindset in order to effectively teach this new generation of learners. We simply must start speaking their language, engage in their digital environment, so that we may have a complete understanding of their learning preferences. Check out the misunderstanding in this picture below and the need for collaboration. A little cooperation can lead to a lot of success.
Let’s take a brief look at the process of collaboration fluency as defined by the 5Es.
The Five E’s of Collaboration Fluency
- Establish: This includes establishing: the group; roles and responsibilities; the norms; the scope of the project; information needs; leadership; and committing it all to a group contract.
- Envision: At this stage the group visualizes, defines, and examines the purpose, issue, challenge, preferred solution, or goal. They also develop an agreement on the outcome and the criteria for evaluating it.
- Engineer: Engineering a workable plan means breaking out all the necessary steps to get us from where we are to where we want to be. Again, the team works together to work backwards from the end to develop the plan.
- Execute: Here the plan is put into action with a focus on the development of a tangible, viable solution or product that best utilizes the individual strengths of the various members of the collective.
- Examine: Examine involves looking back at the process and determining if the challenge was met and the goal achieved, looking at areas of improvement, recognizing contributions, and giving constructive feedback.
Now that we’ve taken a snap-shot at collaboration fluency, how do we as spiritual leaders, teachers, and directors teach, and reach, the 21st century digital learner?
First of all we have been commanded to “Go” (Matt. 28:19, NKJV). The mandate here is, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (v. 20). Let’s not be afraid to enter into this digital environment and learn this digital language and technology. It will only enhance our ability to make disciples of all nations, and be his witnesses “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Finally, we are commanded to diligently teach God's commandments and statutes to our children. Although technology is giving us different methods of communications, the "message" has not, and will never change. God's instructions are for "you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life" (Deut. 6:2). So let us be those faithful men and women who have received that life giving word from other faithful disciples, that we might in turn also commit this same word - that may be transmitted differently - to faithful followers of Jesus, who will also be able to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2).
THIS WEEK'S GUEST WRITER: MELVIN FLUELLEN
Melvin D. Fluellen is Senior Pastor at Strangers Rest Missionary Baptist Church in Bellevue, Nebraska. He is a retired U. S. Air Force Chaplain and current student at Rockbridge Seminary in the Doctor of Ministry program. He has been married to Annie for 37 years, and have been blessed with four sons, three daughters through marriage and seven grandchildren—five boys and two girls. His doctoral project plans to focus on Intentional Pastoral Care for transitioning military chaplains’ return to civilian ministry. You can email Melvin at firstname.lastname@example.org.