Updated: Mar 15, 2022
Have you ever felt that your program should use more digital methods but you have no idea where to start? Well, you’re not alone!
Recently a working group (Increase, SEAN, Relay Trust and more) explored what it takes to adapt an existing TEE course into a smartphone course.
It feels like almost everyone has a smartphone nowadays. And we all use our phones more and more. To connect with others, to learn about the world, to pay bills, to relax, and to find distractions, just to name a few. And young people even more so than ourselves.
Previously many schools would ban smartphones from the classroom, but since then they’ve learnt that smartphones can actually assist learning and help students become more engaged and independent learners.
Could this mean that smartphones are a good instrument for TEE courses too? Can we use the advantages of technology to help (young) learners become disciples of Jesus with courses on smartphones?
We believe we can, and that we should.
Can smartphones enhance learning?
Yes! A smartphone course can use pictures, videos, audios, different colours and other options. This makes it much more accessible to young people but also to learners who shy away when they see a huge amount of text on a page.
Smartphones create possibilities for additional activities and connections with real life.. Additionally, interaction between students and the group leader, and among students themselves is not necessarily limited to the group discussions.
Feedback is given directly, students know right away if they’re right or wrong. It is even possible to unlock new activities only when some key activities are completed. Group leaders can also follow the student progress more easily.
Another important issue is security. For some people having printed Christian texts in their home poses a risk. In these areas, courses on smartphones are both safer and more accessible. In most cultures the phone is considered a private object and no paper books need to be printed and bought.
Can we just put our course books online?
It is possible to just upload a stack of pdf’s from the course for students to read through. But is this going to be an effective learning tool on a smartphone? Probably not.
Likewise, just ‘translating’ the course into a set of simple questions in an app is probably not going to do it.
Good TEE courses aim to change people. The focus is not on knowing our faith but on becoming more like Jesus in our daily lives and behaviour. Attitudes and skills should be given as much attention as knowledge in creating learning materials in a smartphone course.
If we want to disciple people through a smartphone TEE course, we need to get it right. We need to create a variety of content, rethink the instructional design and make a course that is interactive, that engages learners, and that is not just an activity, but a learning process.
What should we consider?
We want to create and run smartphone courses that are also TEE courses, with all their aspects. This means that some issues will come up. A few of the issues the working group identified are:
1) The size of courses and units
On a smart phone it’s not really possible to view a whole page at once, like in a course book. Also, people’s attention spans on these devices tend to be lower. So lessons should be much shorter than traditional TEE lessons.
But when we break the course into smaller learning units needs we need to ensure that the integrity of the discipleship ‘journey’ is maintained and that connections within a lesson are not lost.
2) The learners
Who are the learners? What do they need and where do they come from and what problems do they face?
Many of the younger generations, even those who study in college or university, don’t read books anymore. There are also many others who prefer to learn orally. How can we enable these learners to engage with the Bible and theology which both rely on written text?
3) The costs
There will be initial costs for development, even though costs for usage and distribution might well be lower. Both the software for the delivery and the hardware for back up and such will need to be paid for, as well as security. It’s possible to use free software, but this will probably translate into more costs for experts to set everything up.
There are many more considerations. The working group will share their insights with Increase members and interested partners after completion.
The working group Creating Materials on Smart Phones consists of people from Increase, SEAN, Increase members and partners such as the Relay Trust.