Oh! Canada! Cyber-Space and Inner Space

May 24, 2011
Cyber-Space and Inner Space Last weekend I was invited to attend The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education for the 21st Century, hosted at the extra-ordinarily beautiful Morris J. Wosk Center for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University, downtown Vancouver. I was deeply impressed, not only with the degree of professionalism demonstrated at each one of the venues, but also with the deep-down sense that this may become an historic event.

Eighty-six leaders from nations as far away as Russia, South Africa, Malaysia, and Australia assembled to brainstorm what education will look like in the foreseeable future and to share their wisdom, vision, and technical expertise on how to make the appropriate changes. The ultimate intention of the gathering is to formulate a pedagogical manifesto that will guide Christian Education over the next few decades.

One of my colleagues, Greg Bitgood, who has written a book on Discipling this Generation for a Digital World, has had a burden to see Christian schooling in Canada emerge as a model for modern education. He leads the Heritage Christian Schools’ movement out of Kelowna, BC. Heritage has a progressive campus and online component and is influencing how education is being done locally, provincially and globally – www.onlineschool.ca.

What an exciting day to be a student and an educator! Stephen Harris, from the Sydney Center for Innovation in Learning – www.scil.com.au, shared about blending architecture with new teaching strategies and has created an open, no walls approach integrated with virtual space. Dr. Mark Beadle of Sevenstar Academy - www.sevenstaracademy.org spoke about enhancing education in the classroom through digital tools like Mobile Social On Demand, YouTube, Twitter, social bookmarking, and so on.

I realise that not all technological advancement is necessarily good. Just because something is digital doesn’t make it better – just current. However, whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay and it is producing a type of tsunami in the educational sphere that few schools are prepared for. One leader shared, “If we are going to teach our children how to drive a car, you don’t do it by placing them on a horse.” Enough said.

Therein lies the challenge. For some educators, technology is a threat to traditional ways and structures. For others, technology is changing so rapidly that youth have surpassed their teachers in terms of digital savvy and they feel insecure and ill-prepared. Others can’t wait for our schools to move from structures and systems defined by the Industrial Age, to new structures and systems based upon the Informational Age.

Of course there are concerns with cyber-space values versus inner space values. There is a potential to lose our sense of humanity when we do not touch, even when we are keeping in touch. All learning does not happen in digital formats or through dazzling technologies. Life requires engagement, not just of the head but also the heart. Literacy is not simply a matter of learning to read and write. It is as much about knowledge coming to kids and flowing through them for the good of everyone around.

Dr. Mark Daley, a professor in Educational Philosophy, has become a leading educator in distance learning. He shared that learning is pre-eminently spiritual in nature. We learn, not only to find out about our world, but also to find out about ourselves. As education invades cyber-space, it is my sincere prayer that we do not overlook educating the inner space of the human soul.

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