God created us with an innate need for connection, not only with Him but with each other. There are a variety of social media platforms out there that work to address the need we have to connect. The downside is that much of the content is either neutral in spiritual impact or very often negatively impacts us. The bombardment of videos, posts from perfect people (aren’t they almost always?), and advertisements based on our digital footprint creates the potential for time to be spent in empty pursuits of “connection.”
Connecting with Christian Educators
Over 45,000 Christian educators (yes, you read that right—45,000!) are on the ACSI Community, which is a platform for educators around the world to connect with each other, but in a way that is focused and beneficial. You will not find pictures of cats and dogs (as cute as they are!), nor will you see vacation news. Instead, the focus is on the betterment of the Christian education movement. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Here educators share concerns, ask questions, and collaborate with each other in a way that can get diluted by drama, politics, and differing worldviews on other platforms.
Over the last nine months, the Christian educators on the Community platform have generated 900 unique conversations, written 2,200 replies to posts, uploaded 1,000 resources to share freely with each other, and downloaded those resources almost 12,000 times. These educators are diverse in their roles (from heads of school, to teachers, to librarians, to coaches, and everyone in between) as well as in their school location and size.
Trending Now on Community
One of the benefits of Community is that we are able to see, in real time, which topics and discussions are of most importance to these 45,000 Christian educators. That makes Community an unparalleled resource for understanding what’s “trending now” in Christian education. Beginning with this initial post, we will share these hot topics and insights via the ACSI blog on a regular basis—including a sense of where the conversation has been, where it’s headed, and any resources that have been shared as part of it.
Without further ado, here are the topics trending in Community discussions over the past two months.
The Impact of Cell Phones on Learning
Schools in all sectors are struggling with technology in the classroom, particularly as it pertains to cell phones. While cell phone policy discussions abound (Google returns 385,000,000 results on the topic!), a trending conversation occurring in our Community platform is looking at the research that links cell phones to a decrease in attention and focus amongst our students. The member who initiated this thread asked, “Apart from having a (no phone) policy, are there any school heads (using research) and taking a deeper dive into a policy that (accounts for) digital citizenship and mental and emotional health?” A key point emerging from this discussion: Is simply having a cell phone policy enough, or do we as Christian educators need to have a better understanding of the long-term impact this convenient and prevalent technology is having on our students—so that we can address this issue holistically, rather than just in a one-dimensional policy-focused manner? An interesting resource that was shared with this post is a link to the TED Talk by Collin Kartchner, described as a primer on the range of concerns in this area.
Transgender Policy Conversation
A very robust conversation on Community centered around how Christian schools are handling gender issues that are prevalent in the culture today. Schools have shared a number of their policies, and participants have commented and even offered constructive suggestions for improvement. The discussion has covered biblical views versus a secular worldview, and includes Scripture, citations from the psychology realm, and articles by secular news media outlets that are antagonistic to a Christian worldview. Subtopics have included discussions of definitions (e.g., the difference between biological conditions like intersex, versus decisions not based on biology, like transgenderism) as well as identity development and how environments can impact children’s views of who they are. Practical decisions around single privacy unit washrooms, or privacy in a group shower setting, are discussed, as is the role of the state (an example from Washington state is included, complete with state health standards, definitions of many of the new terms being utilized, and ending with the biblical foundation for handling this in a Christian setting). The conversation emphasizes the need to have policies that stand up to legal attention and, above all, how the unconditional love of Jesus that must be central to every conversation and decision in this area.
Private Schools and Segregation/Inequality
Posts in this discussion asked questions like, How is your school dealing with the inequity and segregation (real or perceived) that can be a part of Christian education? Are you prepared to answer questions that the community may ask, either directly or internally? How are you as a school addressing the needs of the increasingly diverse population of our Christian schools? What research-based writings demonstrate both the value and the need for our schools to pivot? Schools are not only discussing these questions, but also taking action; a Denver school recently hosted a free event about race that was open to the community and addressed the topic from a Christian perspective.
Interested in Joining the Conversation?
As humans, we do not operate well in a bubble. As a chemistry teacher, my own experience in the classroom taught me that what one person can achieve is just a shadow of what a group of like-minded individuals can do. Having the ability to share thoughts and ideas with a group and brainstorm together creates a synergy that is missing from individual efforts. ACSI is excited to be able to offer an easy-to-use platform for this purpose. I look forward to seeing you in Community soon!
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About the Author
Heather Wendt is the content and community manager at ACSI in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she has helped build and run a digital platform that allows educators from around the globe to collaborate and engage with each other. She has worked in education for 16 years: 11 as a high school chemistry teacher and three as a director of education for a medical seminar company. One of her passions is innovation in education, and she was part of a small team that developed a course that blended science, technical writing, presentation skills and project-based learning through a partnership with a local university while obtaining her master’s degree in corporate training and knowledge management. Her goal in life is to provide connections: whether person to person or person to ideas. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.