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: SOLUTION FLUENCY
The world is changing faster and faster, so it is increasingly difficult to keep up. There are too many problems in need of solutions – problems in our society, in our churches, in our families, in our lives and in our ministry. Using traditional teaching methods, the teacher gave the students a problem, and then told them how to solve it. Students only had to practice solving similar problems in a similar way. But today’s problems are too diverse for such methods.
Add to this, the problem of the new generation. How do we reach them? How do we help them to grow? They have grown up in a different world: a world with unlimited information and immediate communication through the Internet.
God has given us a world of problems, but he has also given us a generation of problem solvers that wants to learn by solving real-world problems. But we need to step back from teaching traditional problem solving methods and guide them to teach themselves.
A six-step method called Solution Fluency (from “Literacy is Not Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age” by Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes and Andrew Churches) offers a way to find solutions in which the student becomes his own teacher.
Step 1: Define
Identify clearly what the problem is. If we don’t clearly understand what the problem is, we have little hope of finding a solution. To define the problem:
- Write down what the problem is
- Rewrite/rephrase the problem
- Challenge the assumptions
- Gather facts
- Arrange and re-arrange details, pulling them together or breaking them into smaller parts
- Consider multiple perspectives
Step 2: Discover
Having understood the problem in the present time, look at the problem's past for a context and greater understanding. This involves:
- Finding information and taking notes
- Skimming, scanning, and filtering
- Analyzing, authenticating and arranging the information
- Knowing when to go back to the defined stage based on what was discovered
The questions to ask are:
- How did we get here?
- What decisions were made in the past?
- What could have been done differently?
- What has worked in similar circumstances?
Step 3: Dream
Knowing the present and having understood the past, dream about the future. Imagine what a solution to the problem might look like. The skills needed to dream are:
- Visualizing a possible future
- Generating wishes
- Exploring possibilites
- Imagining best case scenarios
The questions to ask are:
- What is possible?
- What is not possible, but if we keen an open mind, are there possibilities to be explored?
- Why not?
Step 4: Design
Having defined where we are now and imagined where we want to go, look at the difference and analyze how to get from here to there. The skills need are:
- Working backward from the future
- Creating a plan (a logical strategy, blueprint, or roadmap) to guide us and avoid wasted effort
- Checking, discussing, evaluating, and redrawing the plan
The questions to ask are:
- What are the necessary steps between here and there?
- What are the milestones on the journey?
- What are the achievable deadlines?
- How can I accomplish the tasks?
- Are the steps easy to follow, positive, and logical?
Step 5: Deliver
A plan on paper means nothing until it is made reality. There are two components to deliver:
1. Produce - The plan need to become a real-world product or solution. This could be a website, a multi-media presentation, an experiment, or something else.
2. Publish - This product needs to be delivered so that people know that it really works. A song written needs to be recorded. A script written needs to be produced. A hypothesis needs to be tested.
The skills to deliver are:
- Be able to identify the most appropriate format for presenting the information
- Being able to use that format to present the information
Step 6: Debrief
It is important to look back and learn from what has been done. This involves through self-assessment or assessment by others. The skills involved are:
- Seeing clearly each stage of the process
- Examining the pathways that were followed
- Asking questions about the process used and information obtained
- Transferring the learning to different circumstances
Questions to ask:
- What could have been done better?
- What have we learned for next time?
Problems don't have to be roadblocks. They can be special opportunities to build up the people of the digital generation and to follow God's leading.
THIS WEEK'S GUEST WRITER: NICK BRIDESON
Nick Brideson comes from Australia but he serves as the English Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Taipei, Taiwan, the church where he gave his life to Christ. He works among people from many cultures including Chinese, Indian, and Bhutanese. He plans to write his doctoral project on reaching out to Himalayan Buddhists. You can email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.