Harnessing the Benefits of Interactive Technology12 Aug

The following vignettes show how interactive technology can create active learning within the design of a typical seminary course. Tapping the benefits of interactive technology does not need to require a costly course revision or the adoption of a full distance learning program. This kind of technology engages students, increasing their motivation to learn, and incorporates the diverse ways that many students learn best.

Vignette 1 – Systematic Theology

Maria is on the train to Dr. B’s class and working on her wiki assignment. It’s her team’s responsibility to suggest the best questions for the final exam that will cover the week’s reading assignment. Glenn and Suzanne are both online, too, so the discussion in their exam wiki along with their added Twitter feed keep them moving fast. “We might get finished in the next 20 minutes before my stop,” thinks Maria.

“Three questions down, two more to go”, she writes on the wiki. To cover the reading assignment, Maria and Glenn think five questions are really needed. Suzanne hesitates – she’s not quite sure. Then she has an idea – she tweets – “better idea – revising Q3 & Q4 – watch – respond.”

Maria clicks back and forth between the tweets and the wiki using her mobile phone keeping up with Suzanne as she revises Glenn’s fourth and fifth question, a great feature of a wiki. Maria tweets – “brilliant work S – I like.” Glenn, on the wiki, picks up from where Suzanne left off and makes a couple of small changes to the fifth question. “nice work. – sharper focus,“ tweets Maria. Suzanne tweets Dr. B, ”suggested questions for the final exam ready for class review.“ He responds, “excellent – right on time!” “It will be interesting to see what suggestions others in the class make this week,” thought Maria as the train jolts to a stop. She tweets the team while waiting to exit – “train just stopped – we did it! See ya in 5!”

While on his way to class, Dr. B decides to start with the small groups reviewing the recommended exam questions created by Suzanne’s team. “In light of the challenging reading this past week, it will be good for the whole class to review the questions and see what recommendations they make,” he thought.

Tip – blogs and wikis can be available to faculty without a high cost software contract. Numerous options are available in password protected social networking sites. Students can easily create their own Twitter account for the course. Watch the video of an Australian professor who used a wiki for this kind of assignment at http://vimeo.com/13414761

Vignette 2 – New Testament Introduction

Dr. K’s class is working on the New Testament characteristics of the Church. Teams of students must determine their five primary characteristics based on class lectures and then create a visual presentation that illustrates those characteristics drawn from within a ministry setting.

Using the project blog, each team of students communicates back and forth as they work to refine their five characteristics. Jasmine’s team liked the blog for posting comments and Jim added a Tweet feature so that each team member would know when a new post was up or a question needed to be discussed. That way the work on the project could keep moving as each one was quickly alerted to what was being said.

Jorge found the blog posts a good way to start their discussion but he was frustrated with how cumbersome it was for creating a final synthesis of their ideas. “An easier way to collaborate and finalize our ideas was needed,” he thought. So he set up a wiki and inserted their list of characteristics. He sent a tweet to the team to let them know what he had done and suggested they finish refining their list down to five through the collaborative feature offered in a wiki. Within minutes several were online making revisions. Jasmine tweeted, “great idea J. – faster and much easier – let’s get this step done, team!” The wiki allowed each one to revise any contribution made by a member of the group. If one person on the team did not agree with the latest wording, that person could edit the text suggesting a different statement.

Jasmine posted a suggested timeline to complete their final step, the media presentation. Their final project would illustrate each characteristic with either a short video or a photo collage. Team members would use their own personal media. Jorge, Jim and Jasmine had their own pocket-size video cams and Keith and Liz had their cell phone cameras for still photos. They decided that each video and photo collage would have a description in English and Spanish so Jorge’s community could see the final project and their part in it. Jorge agreed to do the final production work so the project would flow as a whole. The rest of the team agreed to recommend songs for background music and Liz agreed to do the final proofing.

After several weeks of intense work, a rough version of the project was linked to their wiki and the team began making recommendations for the final edits. Jorge was able to film a family baptism and Jasmine captured her church’s special worship celebration of new members. After watching the final production, Jim was moved by the story of the Church they had created. “Wow!! — awesome job everyone – what a powerful story of the Church in action,” tweets Jim. “A fantastic lesson on the Church for my youth gathering next week☺ !! Can we make this available for use after the course is over?” tweets Jasmine. “Thinking of the same thing. Let’s do it – everyone cool with that?” tweets Keith. “My blog site could hold this easily – access it for ministry whenever,” tweeted Jorge. “Sweet – do it”, sends Jasmine.

Tip – if a school does not have a software learning application such as Sakai, a short term (month to month) contract with a host service or social networking site such as Ning can be arranged for a modest fee. Many students today have their own blog site or website and this may provide the tools needed.

Post your ideas for including interactive technology in a seminary course!

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Quote by Evangelical Seminary Dean

“If Meri MacLeod speaks on distance learning, listen. Her mastery of the topic is matched by her enthusiasm. When we were contemplating online education, Meri was the first person I contacted and brought to campus. And now we’re moving ahead. I heartily recommend Meri to any school wishing to move into digital education.”

John V. Tornfelt, VPAA, Dean of the Faculty
Evangelical Seminary
Myerstown, PA

North Park Theological Seminary

“Dr. MacLeod is first an informed and able educator and designer of learning experiences. This is significant. It means that she comes from the perspective that technology supports, it doesn’t drive education.”

Thumbnail-Theo Ed Matters (1)

Linda Cannell
Academic Dean (retired)
North Park Theological Seminary