Monday, February 11, 2013

NuDunkers: A vision for Brethren theological education

(Moocow image by Gordon Lockhart;
remix of ‘la vaca de los sinvaca‘
by José Bogado/Flickr)
Last week the NuDunkers held our second live discussion on Google+ Hangouts, on the topic of pneumatology. Here's the video, and the event page has a transcript of questions and discussion items that were raised by folks watching the video discussion. Unfortunately, I missed the whole event because of an internet outage. But I still benefitted greatly from the pre-hangout blogging exercise and the follow-up remarks from our guest (new NuDunker?) - Laura Stone. I think we're off to a great start.

Simultaneously, in my professional world of educational technology, I was busy participating in, thinking about, and writing critically (and humorously) about the MOOC - massively open online courses - a phenomenon that has the higher ed world all up in a tizzy.

And as often happens for people who wear multiple hats, my worlds happily collided. I thought to myself:

Is NuDunkers a MOOC?

It's my contention that the NuDunker project is almost a MOOC in some senses, and with a bit of tweaking and explicit thought around digital pedagogy, it could be more so. And not only that, but NuDunkers could be a vision for Brethren theological education. Stay tuned as I unpack this a bit...

Of course!

From the beginning last fall, NuDunkers has been framed as a conversation. It has been, though, a certain kind of conversation - namely a theological and somewhat academic one, but with the intent of doing theology from and for the church. We want to use our brains faithfully for the concrete work of God (discipleship, ministry, mission) through God's concrete people (the body of Christ). So in this way there is an educational dimension to our conversations and their intended impact.

For the foreseeable future, we will be holding these blogging/discussing exercises around particular theological topics (last week: pneumatology). Given that these topical, educational discussions have time dimensions put on them, we start moving toward something that could be considered "a course" - that is, a particular group of people engaged for a particular period of time in the work of teaching and learning around a particular set of topics. I want to say that theological education is already happening in NuDunkers.

Open season

One important mark of a MOOC is that it is open. NuDunkers, from the start, has been intended to be open in a number of ways very similar, if not exactly like a MOOC. We're open with respect to...
  • Cost - If you have a device with an internet connection, you're in. No registrar, no admissions, no tuition.
  • Participation - You only have to have an interest in the work we're doing and a willingness to engage in respectful dialogue. You're not required to have a bachelors or associates degree, or even a high school diploma, and you don't have to be a professional pastor or seminary professor (in fact, that would probably help overall).
  • Media - We're carrying this out in an array of online media and networks that are open to the world: YouTube, for everyone to watch the discussions; Twitter, for everyone to see tweet-sized bits of information; blogs, for everyone to read the more substantive writings and discussions. We're not locking this stuff behind university or seminary systems.
True, the language will be a bit academic, but again this is an educational endeavor, and we're trying to build a bridge here between the academy and the church. Negotiating the language games is going to be tricky at times, but we're convinced that risking those negotiations is both necessary and worthwhile.

All in for online?

U.S. institutions of higher education, including theological education, are in big trouble these days. The cost of college and grad school is, like health care in this country, spiraling out of control, while at the same time the plight of the professional pastor is looking increasingly grim.  Many schools are turning to online programs to bolster enrollments in their flagging institutions. But these programs often foster very little in the way of substantive engagement between students and instructors, and provide food for the head only, starving the rest of our bodies and our relationships.

While NuDunkers is being carried out entirely online, we're trying to do so in ways that engage more than just our intellects; we tell stories, we laugh, we pray. We also share an emphasis on the importance of local bodies of worship and discipleship (i.e. congregations) - so our work online should inspire and propel us deeper into local and more embodied forms of mission and ministry.

Questions going ahead

  • For NuDunkers: How can we take our pedagogical vision further?
  • For Brethren institutions: Are you interested in NuDunkers? What if you somehow got involved? What if you granted credit for participation in NuDunkers?
  • For Brethren in the pews: How can we better engage you for the renewing of our minds in the body of Christ?

No comments:

Post a Comment