Alex van Donkersgoed eats, sleeps and breathes technology, and for two years the concept of applying online education to the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) family has consumed much of his energy.
The beginning stage of his new pilot enrichment program, Christian Education in a Digital Age, recently came online. Scheduled to begin in August 2011, it will be open to 16 Grade 8 students. The deadline for applications is the end of May.
When discussing underserviced needs in Christian schools, especially smaller ones, he compares his new online product to early technology that morphed into modern refrigerators.
Ice-boxes were more efficient in those days, at least in cities, but in the countryside, ice delivery was less profitable. New technology filled the void in those underserviced regions, and the refrigerator continued to improve until it became virtually indispensible everywhere.
As he considered this example, he decided to explore how online technology might fill a void in OACS schools, but what void?
At Halton Hills Christian School (HHCS), where van Donkersgoed teaches Grade 7 and is the IT co-ordinator, he says they’ve long wished for an enrichment program that could challenge exceptional students.
Resources are limited, however, and are “rightly” directed to students who struggle, he says.
After an “unscientific” survey of fellow Christian educators, he learned most other schools had an enrichment program on their wish-list, with limited resources available.
A light bulb went off, the seeds for an enrichment program were planted in his mind, and the fruits of his labour are now visible online.
Like refrigerators, the program won’t be perfect in the beginning, he says, pointing to the high cost as an example of “one of the key things that bothers” him.
Through the pilot experience, however, he expects to learn how to make the system as strong as it can be, and accessible for the students who need it most.
Ultimately, he sees a future where all students can be challenged in ways they may not be today, before an audience as large as the technology allows.
For information on the program and how to apply, visit www.ceiada.org.