The Disrupted Church: Sharing Virtual Learning in Physical Community

In the fourth chapter Christensen presents his visions for a student-centric learning environment within the public school system. He argues for ways that online learning (l. 1770-1772) can be used disruptively to enhance the learning of students and provide time for teachers to respond individually to a specific student’s need (l. 1895-1898). Addtionally, Christensen argues that online learning will change the assessment process to be more continual and not an “after the fact grade” when the learning content is completed. He shares examples from Toyota, comparing Detroit’s assembly process of vehicles with Japan. Japan’s method relates to not allowing the students to move to the next level of learning until the current content is mastered, whereas Detroit’s process is an extensive end of the line assessment (l. 1919-1941). Christensen paints a picture of a future classroom with students staring at notebook computers with headphones participating in student-centric online learning while a teacher wanders helping individual students needing assistance (l. 1877-1889).

I don’t want to fall in the category that Christensen quotes from Maurice Maeterlinck, “At every crossway on the road that leads to the future each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past” (l. 1977-1980). I am not trying to protect the past at all, The future is important and exciting. There are some great points in Christensen’s picture of the future disrupted, classroom; however, I grieve the potential negative impacts of physical social connections and communal learning, especially in a church context. It is very possible to have great relationships through social networking communities. For example, in this course utilizing Google+ I am able to have a private IM conversation with another students, read posts from others, some which may be about their personal life if they decide to share that with the circle they placed me in. I am also able to interact with comments and reply to bPortfolio posts and Google+ posts. This is social networking and community, yet grounded virtually and not physically. I wonder, how can online learning also include a physical community and still be disruptive?

There are a few things I would like to see when adapting the future classrooms Christensen wrote about (l. 1864-1889), for a church-based online learning environment that could still be disruptive, but provide holistic physical community and social interaction, and importantly, physical partaking in the Eucharist. Below is an idea of how it could be adapted.

Throughout the week church goers can work through various modules of content. Maybe focused topically or on particular chapters of scripture. The modules may consist of interactive lessons, audio, video, discussions with others across the globe working through the same module, or another new upcoming technology. On Sunday, or whatever day corporate worship is, the congregation joins together and breaks into groups allowing others to share what they are learning, questioning, or wondering about. As I alluded to in my first post, Kick the Sage off the Stage!, this is a movement towards disrupting the pulpit and providing space and time for others to share about their learning that was taught based on their multiple intelligences and their speed of learning.

This vision allows for the use, or requirement, of online learning to educate the congregation, but still allows for physical space and time for social interaction, community, partaking of the bread and wine (Eucharist), corporate singing of songs, and proclamation of scripture. While the learning modules can have a social networking component connected to the globe, a local church can be fed with knowledge at a deeper and broader level, from the congregation. The pastor can still serve as a spiritual shepherd and provide the congregation with a short homily, but the pastor could also form into a spiritual coach role, much like Christensen described the future disrupted teacher as a learning coach (l. 1897-1898). The pastor, and other church leaders (Martin Luther was huge on priesthood of all believers, not just ordained pastor) can spend time with individuals and groups during the week. The pastor’s role is freed up to be in deeper Eucharistic community and not just a content provider. Furthermore, this method focuses on community on Sunday, and provides a whole week for the congregation to learn. This leads me into another can of worms, but essentially this method provides the congregation with more time for family and outside commitments and eliminates the guilt impressed when they are not at Sunday school or youth group during the week, but in this vision those would take place virtually). The congregation learns content on their own time when most convenient.

This week I read most of the book on the iPad. I liked to have music running on Spotify at the same time to help me focus. It was nice to do it all on one device. However, I kept checking my email and Facebook. Those are distractions paper books don’t afford. On the OS X Kindle app I enjoyed copying a passage out of the book for my bPortfoilo response because it automatically provides the location for citing the source.

Christensen, Clayton., Michael Horn., & Curtis Johnson. (2010). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. (2nd ed.). n.p. McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

The following are resources that continually shape my philosophy of church ministry, which is present in this post.

Chester, T., & Timmis, S. (2008). Total Church: a Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway.

Dean, A. R. &. K. C. (2011). The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books.

Hirsch, A., & Frost, M. (2004). Shaping of Things to Come, The: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church (Reprint ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Peterson, E. H. (2011). The Pastor: a Memoir. New York: HarperOne.

Root, A. (2010). The Promise of Despair: the Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church. Nashville, TN.: Abingdon Press.

  1 comment for “The Disrupted Church: Sharing Virtual Learning in Physical Community

  1. July 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Ryan,

    I really like the model you’ve envisioned. I wonder though, about the church goers who are not particularly motivated to do work throughout the week. Those that appreciate the church experience but who are unlikely to do “homework.” Perhaps a more traditional model is maintained for them? Or they join break out groups that interest them most?
    It’s interesting for me to think of this in the context of the church since it feels so different. It almost seems like, rather than on how quickly someone learns something, it’s seems it may be more about what resonates most.

    As you know, I’m having some of the same hesitations that you are about the lack of physical proximity and social learning. I found myself getting into a couple conversations this week with other educators regarding the move to more online courses. Both times, the other had very strong resistant feelings, arguing the importance of socialization and collaboration for students, and, as teachers, truly knowing what students need through personal interactions. I guess my thinking right now is that we don’t have the technology developed that will answer these questions.

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