Innovation, education, and Jesus

While not all of our readers are from the same faith tradition as myself, some might be interested in our new endeavors at a Christian school. We are exploring the intersection of wisdom and technology in the context of education.

Not too long ago, it was innovative to have a room full of computers available for elementary school students. There, kids would practice their research, drawing, and writing skills. If you're like me, you can remember figuring out the keyboard on an Apple II running Oregon Trail. In middle school, the lab was probably your only opportunity to type an essay. Things have changed, right?

We're now in the middle of a huge expansion of the technological landscape. Multi-touch screens, the internet of things, and pocket computers have infected nearly everyone. And it causes quaint confusion among kids. Students touch an iMac screen and are irked when the image doesn't follow their finger across the glass. Yup, I do that, too.

The march of technology isn't just about glass and processors, though. These machines shape our humanity and spirituality, and it raises interesting questions. How does technology impact the way we think? How does archive, search, and find impact memory and recall? Where do the digital and physical effect each other? How can technology help us be agents of reconciliation and bridges of cultures? What new doors open up through technology?

Cultivate and reconcile

Two biblical events should shape our answers to these questions. The first is the creation of man and woman in the garden. God forms us from dirt and breathes life into our bodies. We are the image of the Creator and commissioned to do as he did: name and cultivate what we discover in the world. You know how the story unfolds. We mess up. Instead of being stewards, we become liars and murderers.

The second event is the birth of Jesus. God intervened. He nuanced our mission in the world. Yes, we are still creators of beauty and order, but we are also called to do as he does: reconcile. We are reconciled to the Creator, and we are reconciled to our neighbor. Jesus calls this love.

From users to visionaries

Do you see how odd having a "Computer Lab" sounds against this backdrop? A desktop computer, which is what most labs contain, is just one of many tools available to us today. Having a room dedicated to this one tool isn't a full vision of what we are capable of as educators and parents. The desktop computer is an incomplete picture of what students will eventually use in their life and career.

There's a term in education called "project based learning." Basically, kids learn more when the lesson is connected to solving an actual problem. Our technology education needs to be "vision based learning." Kids need to have their imaginations fueled with the dreams of what's possible. Our job is to teach them how to be innovators of mission.

As Christian educators, we need to teach biblical innovation. We teach children that they are builders, designers, innovators, and... reconcilers. They are ambassadors of the new world that Jesus inaugurated.

We're not throwing away the desktop. But, we should also include tablets, 3D printers, and robotics kits of every shape and size. And then, we'll need a healthy dose of character, coding, and design training.

Global problem solvers

The problems our world faces span across all people groups. Our children will need to leverage powerful tools in order to solve the problems of their day. They will heal diseases, explore the cosmos, create transformative art, stop wars, and bridge other cultures. This is reconciling work that requires the most brilliant imaginations.

Over the course of the next few months, I'll be sharing more about the transformation of our Computer Lab into an Innovation Lab. The curriculum will be a mashup of Common Sense Media's Digital Citizenship, STEM labs, Maker Spaces, and the Bible. We chose these tools because they each bring a voice to the innovation conversation. These tools teach children that they have real impact on the world around them. They are innovators of reconciliation.

I'm pumped about this and can't wait to tell you more.

Rick Stawarz

Minneapolis, MN

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.