Guest article by Dr. Mitchell Salerno, Assistant Superintendent (The Master’s Academy)
As we enter 2012, Christian schools face some decisions that could dramatically affect the extent of our mission and impact. A recent article in USA Today (http://usat.ly/wlEI2N), makes some suggestions worthy of consideration. In the article, Abrams suggests seven trends that small businesses must consider to remain competitive and relevant. Not surprisingly, five of the seven directly or indirectly involve technology. As small businesses, Christian schools would be wise to consider these technological trends, seriously considering how to responsibly respond.
1. The Cloud
Technology is encroaching into every area of business and education. Christian schools need to consider how the cloud can impact business and education. Many schools already utilize the cloud for SIS services (i.e. RenWeb); however, most schools do not strategically consider how the cloud can impact student learning and the bottom line. Has your school considered Google Apps.? Does your school evaluate software programs, asking essential questions about if the cloud could reduce costs and increase productivity? Quality Christian schools should begin to engage the cloud and become knowledgeable regarding its potential to enhance the essential functions of the school.
2. Social Media
Much myth and hyperbole surround social media. Rarely does one find a moderate opinion regarding social media and its purpose and values. Zealots leap in with little discrimination or discernment, while others are fearful and avoid all forms of social media. Worse yet, some Christian condemn social media and those that use it. In the midst of this contentious environment, Christian schools must navigate carefully. One thing is clear, social media has a ubiquitous presence and it is not going away any time soon.
How should Christian schools engage social media? Certainly there are opportunities for the admissions, school communication, alumni relations, and development; however, I would suggest that in 2012 schools must seriously consider how social media can impact student learning and pedagogy. Immediately, many are polarized by this thought. That's too dangerous! What would happen if students had access to all of the perils of the social media? Really, what would happen? Our students are engaged in this world everywhere except in our schools.
In my estimation, Christian schools must lead education by innovating methods for incorporating social media. The modern classroom demands a skillful blend of traditional and digital pedagogy. How can Twitter engage students and improve learning? Do Facebook and Google+ have a place in the classroom? As 1-to-1 technologies emerge, I question whether traditional pedagogical approaches are able to effectively utilize the power of 1-to-1 computing. At some point, we are going to reach a tipping point where it will be impossible to ignore social media. I believe that Christian schools should begin to engage social media for education, rather than simply utilizing it for administrative functions.
The first two trends are fueling an increase in mobile technology. In education, these forces are encouraging distance education and computer based learning. How do these trends impact traditional K-12 education? Most immediately, mobile technology threatens, at least conceptually, the idea of a brick and mortar school. While I do not believe we will see the demise of the traditional school in 2012, Christian schools must begin to engage mobile technologies.
Many Christian schools, mine included, have begun to explore 1-to-1 technologies such as the iPad. Regardless of the device, and there will be many to emerge in the coming months and years, Christian schools must begin to ask questions on how mobile technology should impact classroom learning. Much like the previous discussion on social media, Christian schools must not only provide mobile technology for administrative functions such as cell phones, iPads, and laptops for administrators, but they must consider how mobile devices can be incorporated into student education. Perhaps the most challenging force prohibiting the incorporation of mobile learning is school faculty. Much work needs to be done to encourage innovation and experimentation in the classroom.
The convergence of the cloud, social media, and mobile technologies are an exciting, yet daunting, proposition for Christian schools. I believe 2012 will be a watershed year for Christian schools and educational technology. Many schools will discuss technology, several will implement solutions, and a few will become models of innovation. Regardless, we can no longer ignore the tsunami that has inundated education.
Technology provides information and information is power. Schools can leverage this information in and out of the classroom. Google Analytics provides data on website usage and access. Learning management systems provide information on students access and usage. School information systems provide information for parents, students, and teachers. As we move into 2012, successful Christian schools will utilize the information available to them to make wise decisions.
"Think outside the box by thinking outside your borders" (Abrams, 2012). Where are your borders? This is an essential question for 2012. We live in a world where the Kingdom can advance in a variety ways. Therefore, it is essential that we teach our students how to leverage technology for the Kingdom. I would suggest that Christian schools begin to determine where there borders are and how to expand them. Personally, I am interested in connecting Christian schools together and assisting in the utilization of technology. Christian schools have always had a global mission. In 2012, we have tools to truly have a global impact.
Abrams, R. (2012, January 12). Small business strategies: Seven trends you can’t ignore. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usat.ly/wlEI2N