Retrospect and Prospect

I’m not sure whether it was a short planning meeting that lasted painfully long, or a a long planning meeting that went by fast. The “long” part involved sitting in on deliberations that bear relatively little upon my areas of strongest interest; I’m not part of the “affinity group” or “community of practice” that ATS wanted to consult (educational technologists). I just don’t have much to contribute to conference planning oriented toward enhancing the cooperation and coordination of seminary-based IT/ET professionals. That’s entirely OK, too. I don’t need to be in on that, and I’m confident that such planning can proceed smoothly and effectively without my input.

The exciting parts that went by in a blink involved, unsurprisingly, the stuff that does animate me. At several intervals, the concerns of educational technologists converged with the concerns of technological pedagogues, and those times came as refreshing gasps of vital air.

For quite intelligible reasons, the get-together concentrated on practical concerns such as encouraging seminary presidents, deans, and CFOs to plan and budget appropriately for the maintenance of their information infrastructure, and for supporting Ed-Techs in their work. The future that the planning meeting examined and prepared for was very much like the present, only with the benefit of advice from an elite cadre of Educational technologists.

With mountains of respect for the work of ed-techs — I’ve filled that role more than once on a casual basis, and it’s a challenging role indeed — my perspective as a pedagogue immersed in the digital world convinces me that we need just as much, and perhaps more, to prepare for a pedagogical environment that has already changed significantly while seminaries have stood aside, and that will change more, more rapidly. The items of special concern to one constituency in our planning meeting stayed fixed at the Web 1.0, or generously at the Web 1.5 level — whereas the digital natives who will very soon be entering seminary take Web 2.0 for granted, and some have begun messing with more adventuresome instantiations of the digital environment. To a student who’s active with Facebook and Flickr, who plays in Second Life or Warcraft, who’s comfortable chatting in text, conversing over a shared audio server (such as Ventrillo or TeamSpeak), at the same time she’s flying to her island in Second Life, a seminary’s installation of BlackBoard not only represents archaic technology, it represents determined irrelevance to her way of daily life.

The sessions of the planning committee reflected plausible preparations for theo-educational ecology that’s gradually disappearing, and efforts to refine our obsolescent technologies oblige us to squander energy on sustaining the cultural ecology within which those technologies make sense. We all, pretty much, agreed on that — and went ahead with a sensible plan for lobbying administrators to budget more soundly, and for enhancing support for ed-techs.

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