“Teaching Naked” in the Church, Idea #3: Using Technology to Build Community that Promotes Applying What We Learn
This is fourth and final in a series of blogs on José Bowen’s book, Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2012). I shared in my first blog that the main thrust of his book was for teachers to use technology to deliver content outside of class sessions, and shift the use of class time to processing that information, promoting critical thinking and the application of knowledge to real life situations. I then identified three ideas from Bowen’s work that I think have the potential of deepening the impact of our teaching in the church. In my second blog, I put the focus on his first idea, finding ways to use technology to provide content to group members, preparing them for active learning in your Bible study group. In the third blog I focused on how to better use your class time to help students in processing and applying the content of the Scripture you are studying together. In this final blog, I want to give our attention to ways we can use social media and other online technologies to connect with those we teach, promote a stronger sense of community as we follow Christ, and promote the application of what we are learning over time, deepening the impact of our studies.
Not only can technology help deliver a lot of content to people; it can also promote connection and growing relationships when we are apart. Now, I’m not the most avid tech person you will meet. I’ve often jokingly told my kids that I am “part Amish” when it comes to my attitude and aptitude with emerging technologies. But even I can see the opportunities for utilizing a wide range of online technologies, along with low-tech or no-tech interaction, to foster the growth of a supportive fellowship as we seek to understand and apply what we are learning together as we study God’s Word. Let me stir your creative juices by suggesting a few ideas to try out with those in your Bible study group.
Online Follow-up Ideas Between Studies
1. Messaging those you teach throughout the week:
As a teacher in higher education, Bowen reflected on the use of online messaging to provide reminders of content learned as students engage in everyday life situations.
By repeatedly connecting to students outside of the classroom and reminding them of classroom material while they are in the real world, you can help them apply their knowledge. . . . You can use your messages or tweets to connect with your students in real time as things happen. (p. 136)
Simply taking time to send out short e-mails, text messages, and tweets, can help those you teach continue to reflect on what you were studying together, and the implications you had explored, as they face the realities of life on a daily basis. Just a little investment in following up in this way can help them not leave the lesson behind, but prayerfully reflect on it as God guides them during the week. When we’ve finished teaching the lesson, we ought not to just focus on what we are going to teach next week, but look for ways to extend and reinforce the studies already covered, to promote deeper learning and application. These messages can also contain prayer requests, reminders of what is coming up the next time you are together, and words of encouragement.
2. Message boards and social media sites for group interaction:
In addition to sending out messages to those we teach, we can also create sites online where they can be encouraged to interact with each other between class sessions. Again, from a higher education context, Bowen describes what this might look like for those who teach.
Creating a discussion board for your class, for example, is an easy way for your students constantly to reengage with material and concepts while they are away from your classroom. It also makes them a community of learners and allows them to model for each other how to study and solve problems. (p. 141)
Within our church teaching ministries, we can set up Facebook Groups and other bulletin board sites where questions can be posed that related to how the group members are doing in their application of the studies they have done together. They can be encouraged to log on at least once a week to post their experiences, questions, and respond to those of other group members. In this way all can be encouraged to live out what they have learned, and support one another in the process. Combining this with the first idea, it would be easy to send out texts or tweets inviting group members to log onto the site and respond to questions, post their experiences (including photos if appropriate), and respond to each other’s posts. Prayer requests can be posted, along with answers to prayer, encouraging a supportive community of pilgrims following Christ in daily life. Sites like these can promote mutual ministry, and a sense of accountability as we seek to follow Christ together.
3. Phone calls, Skype, Facetime
The above technologies allow for “asynchronous” interaction, allowing everyone to respond and interact at times convenient to their schedules. Sometimes there is great value in real-time interaction, particularly when individuals are facing crises or struggling. In those situations, being able to talk, and to see one another, can be a great encouragement. Skype and Facetime, along with other online video communication systems, can add richness to our communication with one another, with all the non-verbal communication that is so important. As we get to know those in our group, and what they are dealing with, when appropriate we can initiate real-time interaction at a distance to offer an ear, an encouraging word, or gentle correction as needed.
BUT DON’T FORGET: The Value of Face-to-Face Follow up Between Study Times
In our excitement about the possibilities of online technology use to extend the impact of our teaching, and promote community building while the group is apart, don’t forget to look for opportunities for getting together one-on-one, or in small groups, to reflect on what you have been learning and encourage one another. Inviting one or more group members to a local coffee shop or a fast-food restaurant to share and pray together has great potential for encouraging community building and mutual support. As we live in a high tech world, these opportunities for “high touch” become more precious.
FINALLY: Revisit When Together Again – Before Starting a New Lesson
While all of the communication methods discussed above can foster continued reflection and application of what has been learned while group members are apart, these do not replace the value and impact of sharing when you are back together for your next study time. Before launching into the new study/lesson, take 10 minutes to invite sharing by group members about what God has been teaching them, and the opportunities they have had to put into practice what they have been learning. This builds an expectation of real learning and growth, preparing hearts to anticipate how God may want to teach them in their new studies together. Too often we forget what we’ve studied so far, resulting in “biblical amnesia,” a condition too prevalent in our churches. We study and study, but because we do not follow up, what we learn evaporates from our brains, resulting in little change in our lives. Taking time between studies for follow up, and revisiting what we have learned and applied prepares us for new learning and growth.
So, should we “Teach Naked” in the church? I think that if we do not we will miss out on opportunities to deepen the impact of our teaching, and the learning we are doing together from God’s Word. I pray that you will find some “naked teaching” methods that will strengthen your teaching ministry. As you do, please share these with others at this blog site. May God make your teaching ministries fruitful!