As we know, the root word for curriculum is currere – “a course to be run.” Curriculum is one of many resources to help us “run the course” of being a lifelong disciple of Christ. At one time the teacher was “the sage on the stage,” using curriculum to pour information into the “empty vessels” of a child’s brain.
In today’s world, we understand how teachers and students learn together. We are partners as we teach and mentor others on the journey of faith. Curriculum has been and will continue to be a fluid dynamic that influence what is being taught as well how it will be taught. By fluid I mean that it needs to adapt as learners, educational techniques and lest we forget, technology change.
We have seen the increased influence of the computer, virtual classroom and the internet’s impact on teaching in our schools and now our churches. In recent years we have focused on multiple intelligences and hands-on activities that engage the whole learner and allow individuals to work to their strength in learning.
Teachers are now guides – becoming the facilitator or mentor and not just a conveyor of information. We are called to build relationships as well as build connections to prior knowledge and help make it applicable to daily life. We need to help students make associations. And we need to teach them how to access and retrieve that information.
The days of the traditional classroom setting are coming to an end, at least with upper educational doctrine – high school and college and even middle school. Days are numbered for an educational environment that does not address real-time issues. In today’s virtual classroom, students from all walks of life, geographic locations, and educational backgrounds have a plethora of relevant options to explore referencing their educational endeavors.
It was reported 10 years ago that over 2 million students were pursuing education via a virtual classroom. There are three trends that can be noted in how curriculum is changing:
- We are no longer shackled to books and paper. Books may become outdated.
- YouTube Videos such as “Fr. Matthew Presents” and “Chuck Knows Church” plus TED talks (Technology, Education, Design )
- Open source movement has given us Wikipedia as well as plenty of our new sites in which individuals share information. The Center for Spiritual Resources directed by Robbin Whittington. Ministry Matters from UMPH. And Building Faith from Church Publishing Incorporated!
- Research from the 1990s showed that students’ interests are directly correlated to their achievement.
- There is a growing movement of individualized learning technology. Chris Yaw’s ChurchNext project. By allowing each student to pursue his or her passion, educators are seeing that students are more engaged in their own learnings.
- Something to watch for is the importance of the student’s role as content creator and decision-maker in devising his own curriculum. We already see this at the university level.
- Getting information from the Internet has been likened to getting a sip of water from a fire hydrant. Students must have the skills to leverage the collective wisdom that thrives on the Internet by navigating the many sources of information and connectivity available to them.
- Real-world readiness – collaboration, innovation, critical thinking, and communication
- We will learn with others whom we seek and who seek us
- Deluge of information online. Learn what to trust. Be able to find what you need.
As teachers and educational leaders in this new paradigm, we need the lens to help discern what resources and curricular materials are compatible with our church’s mission. Theology – is it grounded in the Bible and our tradition? Are we helping learners become critical thinkers? How do we help them find content and discern reliable sources; help learners in our churches to engage with the tradition consciously, not unconsciously. How do we believe what we believe?
Seek partnerships, such as interfaith learning and dialogue. John M. Hull states, “Christian education must no longer be self-assertive. The function of Christian education in not to promote Christian distinctiveness as such, but to fulfill the historical mission of Christian faith in relation to the destiny of the human species. We shall do this best not through wasting our energies on a pointless competition but through seeking to cooperate with others, and other religions, forming common projects in partnership which will focus upon the actual forces of death in the world today.” (Education and Ecumenical Formation: World Council of Churches, Volume 12, April 2003, pp. 7-9). We also need to embrace ambiguity – living with the unknown when there is an answer for everyone.
What does this mean?
- Collaborating and customizing – working together to create content to tailor what is needed
- Democratizing education – internet access equals the playing field
- Changing the textbook industry – going digital
- Emphasizing skills over facts – curriculum incorporates skill building
We now have resources for faith formation that is always expanding by addressing the diversity of people today, life tasks and issues, religious and spiritual needs. We need to be able to deliver religious content and experiences to people wherever they are 24 x 7 x 365. We need to engage people in a wide variety of experiences tailored to their needs, interests, spiritual journey and busy lives. We have the ability to connect people to each other – in physical places and virtual spaces.
Relevance is the key word to future curriculum. Lifelong learning models will be called for. Addressing web based curriculum is quickly becoming the new trend in educational mainstream thinking. There is rapidly becoming a call for educators who can facilitate online forums, navigate the web for application, design and implement virtual curriculum, and come away with successful outcomes.
The best instruction digitally and the best curriculum digitally can turn any resource-poor learning environment into a classroom of the future. The key – educators must be able to learn right along with their students.
This was a part of a presentation give at the e-Formation conference held at Virginia Theological Seminary. © 2013 Sharon Ely Pearson. All rights reserved.