The Differences between how we use computers in Christian Education, and how they set-up and use computers in Public School. An article by Neil MacQueen, Sunday Software
I wrote this article because it’s common for churches to tap public school teachers to help teach Sunday School, and sometimes to help set up a new computer lab. Sometimes the church turns to a “media specialist” or techie to help them set up their church lab. And that’s where the problem sometimes happens: their concept of use, software, practices, and leverage over their students is VERY DIFFERENT than what we in Sunday School have to work with.
And because our concept of use and software is different, our approach to setup and teaching is different.
Who am I to say this?
I have been teaching with computers in Christian education since 1990. And I’ve also been a volunteer computer lab teacher in three different public schools where my daughters attended. And a lot of my Sunday Software customers are public school teachers, an indeed, much of THEIR advice helped create this article.
1. Sunday School is NOT teaching math and reading skills. We are not sending kids to computers to independently create book reports or read articles, or research on the web, and wordprocessing. In Sunday School, we are sharing stories and doing reflection in a cooperative and voluntary atmosphere.
2. Because our teachers and classrooms/schedules are different, because our GOALS are different, and because our CONTENT is different (Bible, not math) we set-up and use our computers differently.
3. The Public school tends to view computers in the classroom as solitary learning devices. And their LEVERAGE over the solitary learning is their ability to GRADE the results. We value cooperative behavior in Sunday School, and don’t have the leverage of grading output.
In the past decade, quite a lot has been written about how public school are not using computers to their fullest potential. While Sunday School software and public school computer/software are different from each other, the reasons for failing with technology are not so coincidentally the same: Failure to have a concept of use that teachers buy into, and poor selection and use of existing software . At the end of this webpage you’ll find excerpts from a short interview about this subject with an expert in the field.
I have never met a public school teacher who was satisfied with the way they use technology. Most feel like they are missing something. Many feel like they aren’t TEACHING when the kids get on the computers because they are ONE teacher to so many students and computers, and different programs running at the same time.
In some ways, Sunday School labs have it better.
- We have a teacher-integrated concept of use in “guide by the side”. See this photo at the right >>
- We value cooperative learning.
- We have a better teacher to student ratio.
- The teacher can focus the entire class on software in Sunday School, whereas in public school, the teacher is trying to manage many different activities at once.
The following is a listing of the differences between computer in Christian education and public education. It is not meant to be exhaustive, but merely to help teachers (in particular those public school teachers helping the church) understand how and why their use of computers in C.E. will be different.
OUR approach to using computers in our teaching is different because our situations are different:
|1. Length of class time||35-55 minutes on average, once a week||7 hours a day, 5 days a week|
|2. Training/Preparedness of Teachers||Volunteer Teachers||Professional Paid Teachers and Media Specialists|
|3. “Hold” on Students||Volunteer students!||Grades, Detention, Class rewards, compulsory attendance, enforced homework, tests|
|4. Desired Outcomes||Typically, learning/discussing a story or verse, plus an emotional-Life changing emphasis||Knowledge and Fact acquisition. Researching a subject. Writing/composition. Testing. –All to produce grade.|
|5. Curriculum||Bible story-centered with reflection and discussion in small groups||Reading, writing, grammar, math, history|
|6. Teacher-Student Ratios||Approximate church average 6:1||25:1 in typical public school classroom|
|7. Funding and Help Available||Churches with financial resources limited to its members. Volunteer techies.||Government, District, and PTA grant-fueled technology initiatives. Paid techies.|
|8. Distribution of Hardware||Computer arranged in one room||Computers in each classroom|
Sunday School values cooperative learning.
And thus, we in Sunday School set up our computers as GROUP workstations, with room for the teacher to get in next to the students. Our computer use isn’t one activity among many during a day of activities, rather, –it’s the focus of the lesson which everyone is working on at the same time. And because we are working in groups, we can’t have computers lined up, and headphones aren’t preferred.
And because we in the Sunday School are ALL doing the same lesson in that classroom during a short window of opportunity (the 45 minute Sunday class) Sunday School computers are often all running the exact same software at the same time. Whereas the public school students may all be working on individual projects, and each computer might be running a different program.
Looking for specifics about how to successfully use computer in Christian Education? Browse the ARTICLES page at www.sundaysoftware.com. For a complete discussion on using computers in Christian education, consult the book Computers, Kids and Christian Education.
The Problem with Computers in Public Education
The following comments were excerpted from an interview in Educational Leadership Journal with Jane M. Healy, author of Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds—for Better and Worse (Simon & Schuster, 1998). You can read the entire text of the article at http://www.ascd.org/readingroom/edlead/0010/tell.html
Here’s what she says about computers in the Public School:
Teachers have to be part of the educational process. Unfortunately, the political pressures to toss computers into classrooms and to get Internet connections before people even know what to do with them is an attempt to run around the teaching profession. This troubles me a great deal. To assume that adding a computer and software to a classroom will automatically make kids learn better is a perfect example of how little our culture understands the dynamic interaction between teacher and student.
==It isn’t simply a question of whether the students seem “motivated,” are having fun, and can repeat back what was on the software, but whether they understand what they are doing and can apply it in a broader context. The key is carefully watching the student and asking important questions about what she’s really learning
==Now my feeling is that children under age 7 really do not need to be using computers.
==We’re not just developing this child’s left and right hemispheres. We’re trying to develop the entire brain and the entire child.
==We may lose the impetus to do the wonderful kind of research that explores how technology can benefit teaching and learning. Educators have to get their wits about them and take charge of technology, take this potential back from the industry and put it firmly where it belongs—in the world of educationally, and humanly, sound practice.
What’s cool about author Healey’s comments, is that WE in the Sunday School would completely agree, and the MODEL of how we teach with software in Sunday School puts the teacher at the SIDE of the students as they use technology.
I’m also proud to say OUR SOFTWARE reflects this priority, and anticipated the teacher being right there..