A COMMITMENT TO THE LIBERAL ARTS PART 2:
Technology is playing a more significant role in the education of our students today. More specifically, the teaching and learning taking place within our schools, in many regards, is becoming dependent upon technological innovations that historically have not been necessary to produce well-rounded students. My own perspective is rooted in the liberal arts and the role they have played for centuries in building and equipping Christians for service and leadership. Mount Paran Christian School’s perspective is rooted in the knowledge that education is deeply relational and that every student must be known and loved to be effectively educated. Christianity is, after all, about relationship.
As a student growing up near the beginning of the computer age, I have lived in an educational world that has attempted to keep pace with expanding technologies and the inherent implications for schools, teachers, classrooms, and even educational theorists. My first significant experience with computers came in ninth grade (1984-1985) as every student in my school was required to start taking computer classes (both keyboarding and programming, as we called it then). Mr. Gibbons was my teacher and I liked him, so I ended up liking his classes – mostly, the last five minutes when we got to play Oregon Trail. However, for me, the lessons did not really stick too much, as I was interested more in other things (namely basketball and girls). Don’t tell your children I said that!
Fast forward to today. I do believe technology, if applied sensibly, can and should play an important role in a liberal arts education, providing students with opportunities to explore the world and learn in ways we never could have imagined when many of us were children. We live in a technological world and if we do not, in some way, shape, or form, embrace the power of technology, we may find ourselves lost pretty quickly. That said, technology can be a very good thing – and this, as you recall, is coming from a dinosaur.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Technology can never replace the teacher, even though there are many schools in our nation that are experimenting with the philosophy that algorithms and software can do just that, as we attempt to “individualize” education. In some districts around the nation, 75-100 students sit in classrooms with one teacher whose job is to facilitate learning through the computer programs that “know” every child and the pace at which they “learn” the material. This is not what I am talking about when I suggest that technology can play an important role in teaching and learning.
As Steve Jobs stated when Apple was preparing to roll out the iPad 2:
“Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields the result that makes our hearts sing.”
Technology is and should only be used as a tool by a trained educator who has the capacity to make learning come alive through its use and through numerous other teaching techniques such as a good lecture, a Socratic discussion, and a well-marked written assessment (you know the ones – they have red pen correcting all of the mistakes), to name only a few.
Interestingly, some schools in Silicon Valley (the most prominent being The Waldorf School of the Peninsula) have banned technology in their buildings and have reverted to pen and paper, outdoor education, and Socratic dialogue to ensure students are being well formed. Many of these children's parents work for Google, Apple, and other tech behemoths. Both parents and schools have determined the tech is easy to learn, but being civil, just, articulate, and collaborative – these skills, along with specific curricular matter, are more important to be learned during the school day.
At MPCS, we have determined there must be a right balance of both. We are still figuring out the balance and probably always will be, as technology and the world are moving at such a rapid pace. However, we do know one thing that will never change. Our teachers. They will always engage our students through relationship. They will always know and love every student they teach. And, they will always seek to be disciplers of students whose hearts are just as important as their minds. They may use technology to do this at times, but most importantly, they will facilitate learning by being present, being known, and being engaged.
Technology can and should play a role in our teaching, as a tool that enables us to tap into resources, as a tool that enables students to go places they could not otherwise go, and as a tool that enables students to explore ideas and venues that otherwise may be inaccessible. Technology should be a tool, like any other, that brings us closer to the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Technology can be used to enhance community, to enlighten students more fully, and to support the personal relationships of those living in community with their neighbor and their God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I look forward to the ways that technology will help us be better at what we do; but even more so, I look forward to walking through the halls and sticking my head in classrooms so that I may see the great teaching that is taking place as our faculty engage our students through relationships that are deeply personal, because they know and love your children.
Please watch for the final installment of this blog series as I explore what the world is currently saying about the need for the liberal arts.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Timothy P. Wiens, Ed.D
Timothy Wiens, Ed.D, serves as the Headmaster at Mount Paran Christian School. Dr. Wiens earned his B.A. and M.Ed. from Bethel University and doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. He also has completed his MBA from the University of Oxford.
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