Lutheran Education and the Digital Age—Part Four

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This has been a fascinating series to be a part of. Working with two amazing Lutheran educators has been a wonderful experience. I hope this post, which closes out the series, will do justice to their previous posts (here, here, and here).

If you are just now checking in, over the past four weeks, we have been giving a Lutheran response to Will Richardson’s blog post 16 Modern Realities Schools (and Parents) Need to Accept. Now. We have been tinkering with several different ideas and looking at them through a uniquely Lutheran lens. Let’s continue on with the last four “modern realities.”

Workers in the future will not “find employment”; employment will find them. Or they will create their own.

This is an interesting proposition. It isn’t interesting in the fact that it might be true in the secular world one day; it’s more interesting because this point is probably already true today. One need not look much further than the popular show Shark Tank to find the swarm of entrepreneurs out in the world. And technology has enabled companies to find the exact match for the jobs they need filled. Being able to see people’s work in real time has given companies a faster vetting process and allows them to hand select members of their workforce that they may have reached out to first.

As Lutherans, we look at employment as just one of the many vocations we fill in life. Open up your Small Catechism to the Table of Duties. There you will find all of the ways the Lord has commanded us to serve our neighbor. These vocations will not change. True, you may have vocations added to your plate, but how we are expected to serve our neighbor will always be the same.

Consider: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22–25 ESV

We’ve come to the end of “The End.” Everything we produce remains a work in progress, in “perpetual beta.”

We see this so much in our world today. I am a part of a unique generation that has been conditioned to accept this reality. We only have to look as far as Facebook to see an example of this trend.

I was in college when Facebook was released, and you could only be friends with students on your college’s campus. In fact, it was still called “The Facebook.” How many of you remember how big of a deal it was when they introduced the News Feed? I remember people having mini panic attacks every time there was a major change to the site. Look at how much the homepage has changed since 2004:







The changes on the inside of Facebook have been even more dramatic. Over a short time, we have been conditioned to the idea that things are always changing—this thought of perpetual beta.

Classrooms have even traveled this route, and I think it has been a positive shift. Removing the thought that an assignment is ever done allows there to be room for constant improvement and iteration. It allows teachers to help students move beyond simply meeting requirements to get a grade and points them in the direction of mastery. Any teacher who has utilized project based learning as a pedagogical practice will tell you how much of an effect this change has on the culture of learning in their classroom.

From a Lutheran viewpoint, though, there is no perpetual beta. There is no lifetime of climbing a ladder, always changing to try to get to a goal. There is, though, the old Adam. There is the Simul Justus et Peccator. There is the Savior. Once and for all.

“One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:5–6 ESV

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15 ESV

This truth has never been, and will never be in beta. It is the promise that was fulfilled 2,000 years ago on a cross.

Global connections and transparency mean the pace of change will increase. Embracing and adapting to change must be in the modern skill set.

If you haven’t wrapped your head around this one yet, you’ve probably been living in a hole the last fifteen years: 1:1 learning, learning-space design, cognitive load theory, RTI, and every other three-letter acronym you can think of.

“The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

The quote above is attributed to futurist Alvin Toffler, but he never wrote those words. It’s so fitting for the twenty-first century that the quote he is most known for is something he never wrote or said. There is, however, a lot of truth to those words.

Think about the last five years in the world of education. How much different does your classroom look today than it did five years ago? How much different is the experience of your students? I’m sure for most of you, it is night and day different. We have probably seen or are getting ready to see, the end of a time where you can write a lesson plan and use the exact same lesson for more than one year. Both students and educators have to be able to learn, unlearn, and relearn just to keep up with the advances we are making.

For the Lutheran, though, there is only learning. Sure, we may have to unlearn some poor theology and doctrine we may be carrying with us from former beliefs, replacing them with the pure teaching found in Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, but once we are on that train, there is no looking back. There is only more learning, learning that is focused on Christ and Him Crucified.

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV

We cannot predict with certainty the impacts of technological advances on the future of learning and work. Our students will have to be comfortable with fast-paced change and uncertainty.

Google Cardboard, self-driving cars, auto pilot in cars, and augmented reality—I don’t think many of us dreamed any of these things would ever be a reality in our lifetimes, but they are here! Think of all of the change that has happened since the advent of the iPhone. Think of all the change that has happened since the advent of social media. There are jobs out there today for people to just manage a company’s social media presence! Who would have ever thought that that would be a job fifteen years ago? These are the realities we must prepare our students (and ourselves) for.

The Lutheran response? We must also prepare our students for a future of certainty: Certainty that we are all sinners in need of a savior. Certainty in the fact that we have a Savior in Jesus Christ. Certainty in their Baptism. Certainty in the true presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Certainty in the absolution that their pastor gives them in the stead of Christ. Certainty in the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”  Jude 1:3 ESV 

So while technology, our educational strategies, and the very way we teach children may change rapidly, our knowledge of what Christ came down and did for us on the cross does not, and will not ever change. God’s blessings to you as you pass down this faith to your students.

Photo via VisualHunt

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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About the Author

Joe Willmann


Joe Willmann is the Senior Instructional Designer for Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, MO. A former teacher and administrator, Joe has a passion for education and learning theory. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from Ball State University and his Master's Degree from Concordia University - Ann Arbor. He lives with his wife, Nicole, his daughter Ava, and his son Carter. You can read his latest posts here.

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