OUT ON A LIM with Educational Technology

Adventist Distance Education for K-20: A Vision

Summer 2000, GC Edition, Journal of Adventist Education, written by Janine Lim, Shirley Freed, & Marilyn Eggers

     The Seventh-day Adventist educational system is the largest centrally organized parochial school system in the world, having grown from humble beginnings in Michigan to approximately 5,800 institutions worldwide. Most schools were established through the sacrificial giving of multitudes of Seventh-day Adventist church members who were committed to providing a Christian education for all those who wished to have one. Functioning for years in physical isolation from one another and connected only by a common mission, these schools have sought to provide excellent education in a faith environment and to prepare young people to fulfill the gospel commission.
     However, when schools were located in close physical proximity, their relationships were sometimes marred by a competitive spirit rather than one of cooperation. Today, our mission remains the same – "Go ye into all the world" (Mark 16:15, KJV) – but now technology provides an way to bridge distance and create a cooperative consortia of Adventist schools.

The Potential of Modern Technology

     In the past, the church and technology have had moments of epiphany, when the right technology was in place to spread the gospel. Roads during the Roman empire and the printing press at the time of the reformation brought the gospel to people around the world. Early Adventist pioneers made publishing a focus of their work – sometimes physically carrying printing presses to mission outposts.(1) Today, we are seeing the introduction of a new way to publish – via the World Wide Web (WWW) and new ways for people to be connected via satellite, video conferencing, and the Internet. Will these technologies be used to spread God's final message? Our school system is challenged to respond to the opportunities of distance education. Through it, we can work work together collaboratively and share the resources that God has so richly bestowed on us.

Collaboration Possibilities

  • Imagine a single location, a WWW site, where all available courses from every Adventist university, college, high school, and grade school is listed.
  • Imagine students from widely separated locations working on cross-disciplinary, service-oriented projects.
  • Imagine teachers being able to access professional development or academic courses wherever and whenever they need them or even working on advanced degrees through distance education.
  • Imagine a K-20 consortium where students can take distance courses that are not offered at their local school. They would enhance their learning through specialized curricula and aquire lifelong skills of collaborating, working in cyberspace, problem solving, and critical thinking.
  • Imagine an Adventist education resource site where educators in school, church, and family settings could find exemplary curricula, as well as suggestions, activities, materials, and projects that integrate faith and learning.
  • Imagine Adventist professionals being able to access materials that enhance their work (courses, in-services, training sessions).
  • Imagine teachers collaborating with fellow experts in their fields to construct distance courses that could be taught either by a team or independently.

     These imaginings are not just dreams, but real possibilities. Today, several distance initiatives are changing the landscape of Adventist education. AE21 (Adventist Education for the 21st Century)(2) is connecting small Adventist schools from North Dakota to Florida. One on-site facilitator proclaimed, "This program helps students to be deep thinkers." And a Freshmore (9/10) facilitator explained, "This program teaches structure and discipline. It also prepares [students] for college."(3) Silver State Adventist school in Reno, Nevada,(4) offers a complete high school diploma via the Internet. Students are connected from Hawaii to Tennessee using live audio and video. Brian Hartman, the teacher facilitating the initiative, said, "This year we used an electronic physics lab program, and students found they could manipulate the simulations on the computer in ways they couldn't do in a real lab. In addition, they were able to experiment with wind tunnels, dangerous voltages, and expensive equipment that they never would have in a traditional classroom. These projects have deeply engaged the students in learning physics."(5)

Making the Vision a Reality

     WMany people and organizations must work together towards our common goals by pooling our expertise, and with humility, expanding our vision and implementation of Spirit-filled, quality Seventh-day Adventist education. At Pentecost the world was turned upside down by a few committed followers of Jesus. The gospel commission remains the same, "Freely ye have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8, KJV). Who will be the first to give - openly, freely and without measuring the cost/benefit for individuals or institutions? Keeping the vision of a unified whole, we can move toward the mark of our high calling in Christ Jesus.

This column was a collaboration between, Marilyn Eggers, who is making a transition from Pacific Union Conference ATIE Director to ASI/NAD Distance Education Coordinator; Shirley Freed, Professor of Education, Andrews University; and Janine Lim, Instructional Technology Consultant, Berrien County Intermediate School District in Berrien Springs, MI.

Notes and References

  1. For example, a recent Adventist Review article featured Harry Miller. See Adventist Review, (February 10, 2000), p. 13-15.
  2. AE21 was a North American Division-sponsored three-year pilot project, with 1999/2000 being the last division-sponsored year. The Southern Union (Gerald Kovalski) has been actively directing the project with much support from the Florida Conference (Gene Brewer). Beginning next school year it will be a Florida Conference project.
  3. See http://www.ae21.org for more information.
  4. See http://www.silverstate.org.
  5. An outstanding example is the C.I.R.C.L.E. Project: Curriculum and Instruction Resource Center Linking Educators, http://circle.adventist.org, the clearinghouse of resources for Seventh-day Adventist educators, which is scheduled to begin operation later this year.

© 2000 Journal of Adventist Education

 


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