16 March 2014

Choose Your Ed Tech Like a 500 Year Old Saint

Having a plan for the education technology you use in your classroom, school, or district must be the first thing you do when considering technology implementation.

You could do worse than designing your technology plan around the educational principles of a 500 year-old saint.

St. Ignatius and the Jesuit Educational Mission
Quick background for the Igna-ignorant like I was several months ago (with apologies to my Catholic friends who know more about this than I do).
"Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and, on 19 April 1541, became its first Superior General.[2] Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation. Loyola's devotion to the Catholic Church was characterized by absolute obedience to the Pope.[3]" - from Wikipedia, "Ignatius of Loyola"
"The Ignatian pedagogical paradigm is a way of learning and a method of teaching taken from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.[1][2] It is based in St. Ignatius Loyola's Spiritual Exercises, and takes a holistic view of the world.[3]
The three main elements are Experience, Reflection, and Action. A pre-learning element, Context, and a post-learning element, Evaluation, are also necessary for the method's success, bringing the total to five elements. Ignatian pedagogy uses this dynamic five-step method along with an Ignatian vision of the human and the world to "accompany the learner in their growth and development."[4] 
The Ignatian pedagogical paradigm is also used in spiritual retreats and learning experiences as an active means of developing and questioning one's own conscience, as well as in making sound and conscientious decisions." from Wikipedia, "Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm"
These 5 elements of the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm and the Jesuit motto, ad majorem dei gloriam ("to the greater glory of God"), serve as a educational framework for the numerous Jesuit sponsored high schools and universities in North America and around the world. (including St. Louis UniversitySt. Louis University High, and De Smet Jesuit High locally)

To the greater glory of God and the salvation of man

Wrapping Your Faith and Your Professional Life Together
Its been my experience teaching in public schools as a Christian that the further I want to make all of my choices in accordance with my mission to Jesus, the more fulfilled I feel, the more I can stand in the conviction of my choices, but also, the less some of my colleagues, students, and parents may understand where I'm coming from.

Being a teacher that's a Christian is about more than "being Jesus to my students" as the most honest, or most compassionate, or most just teacher in the school - its a challenge to make every pedagogical decision in light of you and your students as spiritual beings with imbued worth as beings created in the image of God. As just one example, being a standards-based grader is a great opportunity to silently craft a narrative of mercy, repentance, and redemption to your students. (The analogy falls apart when I think about grace - if our sins are really analogous to grades, we don't try and try again until we get it right, Jesus takes the failing grade for us and we're granted "mastery" through his sacrifice, but you get the point.)

A lot of money gets thrown at technology because it looks good, or because its the next lastest, greatest savior of education, but following Ignatian principles and reflecting on "to the greater Glory of God," we can be more sure of the stewardship and utility of our technology choices.

For more reading on the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm, this paper from the Jesuits, "Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach" was very helpful for me.

Using Technology to Enrich Your Students' Experience and Call to Action
How can education technology affect or serve each of Ignatian elements of education?

1. Context
Thinking about your students contextually should always be a consideration when evaluating a technology tool. Can my students use this? Would my students be willing to try this? When I was anti-flipping the classroom on the basis of home access for some of my students, I was sitting here in context.

2. Experience
When a lesson affects your students on more than a superficial level with little active engagment, the material is less likely to "stick" or to spur students to action to apply the knowledge. Integrating multimedia resources to affect senses, reaching out to professionals in the field of study with social media, creating discussion boards via Padlet, or creating a digital artifact to link to the lesson in the students' experience are just a few examples

3. Reflection
Ignatius and the Jesuits went against a "monastic" life of seclusion, which made reflection and solitude in the midst of mission of vital importance. We see times in Jesus' ministry where he left the crowds to be alone with the Apostles, and separated even further to be along in prayer.

Reflection in the Ignatian paradigm is the opportunity to look back on the experience and action of the day to find their worth and to seek what the Holy Spirit is doing next. Even if you're not a Christian, reflection is VITALLY important to teaching because it is the time when we see how we've done and what we have to do next. Reflection is when we sort out our perceptions from reality. Blogging is the only edtech application I see here, but really, why try to do more with it than that? :)

4. Action
The Jesuits were all about being on mission (some compare them to "Catholic Marines"), so the purpose of any learning experience is to compel the student to want to do something with what they've learned. Action is where you put into practice what convictions you found in reflection. This is an excellent opportunity to use technology to reach out to community leaders, upload a video to launch a viral campaign for a cause, or even use a 3D printer to make a product to meet someone's need.

5. Evaluation
How'd you do? What your action effective? Evaluation is the last element in the Ignatian cycle because it then affects the next lesson's context. As far as technology goes, here's another chance for students to blog as self-assessment, use adaptive software tools like Study Island, Manga High or Renaissance Learning for testing, send students a Google Form to fill out, or depending on the product they created in action, using site analytics or view counts as a real-life metric to their success.
YouTube Video Analytics of my most popular upload
"What's in it for me?"
As I mentioned earlier, once I started researching St. Ignatius' educational philosophies and how they fit in with the Jesuit mission for education, I found a lot of clarity in what the Holy Spirit had begun in me several months ago as far as what it means to be a teacher that's a Christian. I have always believed that whatever technology we use in schools should be in service to the learning, but it was harder to go further with that - "and what, exactly, beyond "math," do I want the kids to be learning?"

I felt a little embarrassed at "discovering" educational principles that teachers have been using in my own cities for nearly 200 years, but its been a refreshing response for me to the subjective, everyone's-truth-is-good-for-them attitudes that often prevail in education.

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Thanks for sharing!