I was camping with my family this weekend. Actually, with quite a few of my wife's relatives. Which is great, really. (My in-laws are pretty fantastic.)
By design, I left my iPad and laptop at home.
This was, I confess, a challenge for me.
If you know me personally or if you follow this blog regularly, you will know that I have several passions: education, faith, and technology among the top spots. I even advertise that in the subtitle above.
If I'm really honest about it, technology in particular holds a lot of sway over me. I'd be most honest if I'd say that there are times that my love of technology is idolatrous.
It hurts to admit that, but...it's true, from time to time.
I'm teaching a couple of courses this summer in an online format. They are masters-level courses, and the learners I'm working with are all Christian teachers--some in distinctively Christian schools, others in public schools.
We are wrestling together with what it might mean to teach in a distinctively Christian way, no matter if the school in which you teach has the word "Christian" in its name or not. This has been a wonderfully challenging blessing, and I think my students would agree. We've had some really good conversations throughout our weeks together trying to get our mind around big ideas like:
- Is "teaching Christianly" really possible in a public school setting? Is it really possible in a Christian school setting?
- Is "teaching Christianly" just about "acting Christian?" Being a good role model and living out our faith in plain view of the students?
- Is it really possible to be "Christian" in all of our teaching activities? In planning? In the way we teach? In the way we mark papers?
- Is there such a thing as a distinctively Christian approach to planning curriculum? If so, what would it look like?
- Is there a distinctively Christian approach to using technology in your teaching practice? If so, what would it look like?
Interesting conversations, to be sure.
I definitely have opinions about these things, but I'm making deliberate instructional decisions too--I don't want to dominate the conversation too much in this online setting and shut down the interactions. So I'm trying to guide the conversation in certain directions by asking questions and assigning provocative readings that will get people talking.
I try to always read along with my students, as much as is practicable. Even though I've read most of these pieces multiple times, I find it helpful to try and see what they are seeing, as many of them are viewing these ideas for the first time.
I assigned one of my classes to read this lovely piece by Rosie Perera entitled Loving Technology, Loving God. (It's kind of lengthy, but if you--like me--sometimes struggle with putting technology in it's proper place [i.e., not letting it become an idol], you might find it valuable.)
I assigned my class this piece to get at the question: Is there a distinctively Christian approach to using technology in your teaching practice? If so, what would it look like? I don't believe it holds all the answers for us, but it might be instructive.
On our camping trip, I had a fantastic time not having my tech tools/toys along for the ride.
Over the four days we were away I had the opportunity to enjoy a great many different activities, some solo, others with my family:
- swimming in the lake
- relaxing by the fire
- exploring new trails
- teaching my son to kayak
- pedaling 27 miles on my bike
- noodling around on my guitar and watching the sun set
- spending a day on the boat out on the lake
- fishing with my daughter
- grilling chicken kabobs
- reading a novel in the shade
- skipping rocks
- enjoying a fish fry hosted by my sister- and brother-in-law
- playing bocce with my wife and in-laws (Dad and I are going to beat the women one of these times!)
I truly did not miss checking my email at all.
One of the great ideas in this piece from Perera is a "technology Sabbath."
Leaving the iPad at home.
Avoiding Facebook and Twitter and checking the email.
In our technology-saturated culture, this is worth thinking about. Perhaps one of the best ways to keep technology in it's rightful place is to deliberately avoid it from time to time.
When I got home, I was ready to pick up the iPad. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't.
85 new emails awaited me. 17 new Facebook notifications. Dozens of posts on the message boards for the online classes I'm teaching.
It was a good Technology Sabbath.