16 September . Comment
George Siemens is one of the people whose work I’ve followed for years, and his current reflection on value in higher education bears deep thought on the part of those of us who are in the tiny corner of higher ed which is theological education. For instance, Siemens writes:
Let me posit a duplication theory of education value: if something can be duplicated with limited costs, it can’t serve as a value point for higher education. Content is easily duplicated and has no value. What is valuable, however, is that which can’t be duplicated without additional input costs: personal feedback and assessment, contextualized and personalized navigation through complex topics, encouragement, questioning by a faculty member to promote deeper thinking, and a context and infrastructure of learning. Basically: human input costs make education valuable. We can’t duplicate personal interaction without spending more money. We can scale content, but we can’t scale encouragement. We can improve lecturing through peer teaching, but we can’t scale the timely interventions and nudges by faculty that influence deeper learning.
Universities that thrive in the future will be those that recognize the need for new value point positioning. Some will pursue an integration approach to value creation, others will rely on world-class faculty, and still others will rely on huge research projects or successful sports teams. Those will be anomalies and outliers. The vast majority of universities that will educate humanity in the coming decades will be those that structure their value point on elements that cannot be easily duplicated and scaled, or at minimum, require input costs to do so.
One of the most difficult challenges facing theological education right now has to do with how we support spiritual formation in our students, and how we help them to support spiritual formation in others. That’s a deeply personal form of interaction, and it’s one of the most unique aspects of a theological journey. Yet it is also a form of learning that is often left to students affairs people to process, with faculty barely paying attention.
Chuck Foster led a project through Carnegie and Chris Scharen is currently leading a project on pastoral imagination. These are resources within Christian theological education to which we need to be paying more attention!
My answer to this question has been “no,” or at least, “not much of one” for some time now. I like Sheldon Good’s essay, and would quote this excerpt in particular:
School? In an age of accessible information, the hierarchical concept of “teacher feeds students with information” is outdated. Young and old seem increasingly wary of institutional frameworks that may stifle childlike faith rather than create possibilities for invitational and imaginative spiritual formation. Author Walter Brueggemann once said, “The Bible is an act of imagination that is rooted in memory but that presses always toward new possibility that is still in front of us.”
Though such formation looks and sounds quite different across our churches — praise the Lord! — it seems that people of faith are moving from “let me show and tell you what to believe” to “let’s have a conversation.” This is especially true for younger people, who are growing up in a social environment that more freely welcomes sharing stories, multimedia, fine arts and Tweets. The traditional Sunday school model is no longer life-giving for many young people.
danah boyd has another excellent and thought-provoking essay up about the intersection of adolescence and the attention economy:
Teens’ desire for attention is not new. Teens have always looked for attention and validation from others – parents, peers, and high-status individuals. And just as many in business argue that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, there are plenty of teens who believe that there’s no such thing as bad attention. The notion of an “attention whore” predates the internet. Likewise, the notion that a child might “act out” is recognized as being a call for attention. And it’s important to highlight that the gendered aspects of these tropes are reinforced online.
So what happens when a teen who is predisposed to seeking attention gets access to the tools of the attention economy? Needless to say, we see both exciting and horrifying events play out. We see teens like Tavi Gevinson propel her interest in fashion into a full-blown career before the age of 14. And we see countless teens replicating the trainwreck activities of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and other celebrities. When teens leverage social media to propel themselves into the spotlight, they fully (and with reckless abandon) engage in a set of practices that Terri Senft and Alice Marwick talk about as micro-celebrity. They work to manage their impressions, cultivate attention, and interact in ways that will increase their fame and social status.
Oh, to have been a fly upon the wall! There was a large meeting of bloggers that took place at the Vatican this week. The twitter feed (hashtag #vbm11) helps a little, as does a variety of individual pieces following. (Here, for instance, and here).
I can’t figure out what to say about this, other than it’s a huge loss for the Christian community, let alone the world. Peter Gomes was an amazing preacher, deeply thoughtful theologian, and a wonderful teacher. His voice alone could move me, but his convictions also challenged and transformed me. As the Boston Globe wrote, “The Rev. Gomes also was the only gay, black, Republican, Baptist preacher most people would ever meet. Descended from slaves, he nonetheless delighted in serving as trustee emeritus of the Pilgrim Society and celebrating his hometown’s Mayflower history, a distinctly white Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition.”
Update: from Andrew Sullivan
Update: the page at Harvard Divinity School where people are posting remembrances.
Update: a glimpse from the Colbert Report:
MIT is adding additional resources to their open courseware initiative to make independent learning more likely/possible? with their materials. Useful for project-based schools, I’m thinking?