Kick the Sage off the Stage!

This post is a bPortfolio reflection for chapter one of How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.

In the first chapters of Clayton Christensen’s book, How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (2010), he introduces multiple intelligences theory, educates the difference between modular and interdependent learning environments, and argues for a student-centric learning. Christensen’s work requires me to wrestle with how I teach others about technology, whether through a class, extensive student workers training, or drop-in appointment, also requires me to wonder how churches disseminate information to the congregation, be that sermons or class on Sundays or Wednesdays.

I remember learning about Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences in college. (Christensen, 2010, l. 595-596). In a teaching methods course we learned how individuals best retain knowledge and how, as church leaders, we can adapt our lessons to meet the learning styles of others. I never had the intention of using what I learned in a regular K-12 or higher education classroom, but envisioned how this new knowledge of learning would impact a youth group or parish. Today, as I mingle between higher education and church, I reflect on how Christensen’s content can impact the teaching and learning process of both environments.

As the library technology services coordinator at Seattle Pacific University I teach students, staff, and other library patrons how to effectively and efficiently use a wide range of technology tools. The teaching content ranges from the basics in Word and advanced video tools in iMovie. I also recognize a wide range of learning styles (students who know very little about movie creation, staff who are proficient in Word, but struggle with file structures in Windows). Christensen’s reflection on Gardner’s multiple intelligences really calls me out in how I spend time teaching a wide range of users to understand and use technology tools well. I especially think how I can collect multiple intelligence information from my student workers and then work with them individually. This individual work represents a student-centric modular approach of teaching that Christensen presents.

I’ve only completed four credits in the M.Div. program, however I have experience in churches and church plants. I am really interested in the relationship between technology and theology and the resulting impact on the Church. My experiences of the teaching and learning process in churches mirrors schools Christensen discusses. The content is different, yet the style doesn’t change. I really resonate with moving toward a student-centric teaching and learning style for worship teaching and various classes that are separate from the congregational worship time (Christensen, 2010, l. 798). The 21st Century ushers in a new way to teach and learn. The rapid advancements of technology, changing every month, provide opportunities for better learning environments. I deeply resonate with Christensen’s statement, “teachers can serve as professional learning coaches and content architects to help individual students progress—and they can be a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage (Christensen, 2010, l. 808-809). The “sage on the stage” is the pastor (or other teacher) every Sunday morning disseminating information without any regard for the multiple intelligences present in the congregation. It is a disconnected learning experience.

I am not entirely sure what it would look like for churches to change their central teaching time, but I know a first step should be researching what multiple intelligences are present. Secondly, I love the vision of pastors and other church leaders stepping off their figurative pulpit and coming alongside parishioners as coaches. A job title that says “I am in it with you and we are going to learn together.”

As a technology teacher, theologian, and possible future pastor I desire to pause and listen. At the core of Christensen’s first chapter is the idea of listening. Understanding what is going on in their life (students are not just tasks to complete, but people); knowing how the student learns (multiple intelligences), and what their motivations are imperative (Christensen, 2010, l. 350). These attributes mesh well with teacher or pastor as coach; a worthy and needed position that doesn’t require me to be the “sage on the stage”.

Below is a screenshot from Amazon’s Kindle app for OS X. This week I read most of the book on the computer. I chose the computer over my iPad for a couple of reasons. First, it was easier to annotate. I like to “write in the margins” so having a physical keyboard doesn’t hinder me as does a virtual glass keyboard. The second reason I preferred the OS X option is because the sun was out a lot and I wanted to be outside to read. The glare on an iPad is significant, as it is with a MacBook Pro, however, I am able to easily adjust the lid of the computer to deter glare. Overall I usually always prefer reading on a digital device, and that was especially true for reading this week.

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.

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