Alex van Donkersgoed says he was invigorated and energized about the opportunities available for Christian educators in Ontario after attending a recent conference.
The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education for the 21st Century took place April 30-May 2, convening Christian leaders to discuss the K-12 Christian school movement.
Van Donkersgoed travelled with other Ontario colleagues working on developing an online Christian course provider in the province. He says the group had a lot of conversations as they took ideas from the event on how to strengthen all Christian educators in Ontario.
“We came back fired up with a whole bunch of new ideas, things we hadn’t thought about, some new opportunities we’re looking at,” he tells the OACS News.
As project co-ordinator for the Christian Education in a Digital Age (CEIADA) pilot project, which is finishing its first year with Grade 8 students from six Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) member schools enrolled, van Donkersgoed was invited by the conference organizers to present a pre-conference workshop.
“I was very humbled and honoured to be asked to speak when there were people there who had inspired what I was doing in the first place,” he says.
Van Donkersgoed shared about CEIADA and the mistakes that were made, which was appreciated by the attendees, he says.
One of the projects he learned about is an online B.C. school’s use of the game Minecraft as an English exercise. The game allows users to collaboratively create structures and worlds, and the students have created an entire economy with a series of related English writing and responsive exercises.
“It was a wonderful learning exercise on all sorts of interesting levels,” says van Donkersgoed, who is also a teacher and IT co-ordinator at Halton Hills Christian School.
He was also struck learning about Northern Beaches Christian School in Australia, where the Grade 5 and 6 class are doing things “so foreign and so different” that van Donkersgoed says he doesn’t even understand how they can do it. Students drive what they want to do and there is project-based learning.
Northern Beaches has a research and development arm called the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning.
Van Donkersgoed says a highlight was just being in the conference space with Christian educators from around the world passionate about teaching their students.
One presentation which talked about Christian education growth in different continents shared how the Congo has 15,000 Christian schools, some in name only because there are not enough trained Christian teachers.
He says within the OACS, schools come from a similar background that can at times limit the view of education.
“I’ve been learning that there’s a lot of other ways we can do education that are effective, totally different but they work,” he says, adding the stories of challenges and opportunities from different places provided an eye-opening broader view of Christian education.
This was the second of three annual Vancouver symposiums.
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