This has to be one of the more honest videos that I’ve seen recently. For those who might not have looked at it yet, its the video of a 1 year old child as they are playing with an iPad and then a magazine. The interesting – and probably distressing to some – aspect of this video is how the child seems to have better control over their hands when using the iPad than with the magazine.
Of course, we are talking about a 1 year old, and so comments about motor control and understanding have to be understood. However, there’s something to be said about how familiar the iPad is for the child than the magazine in respect to the kind of feedback that the kid expects and what they receive. The video (and this accompanying article at CNet) implies the claim that digital natives are going to forget the physical control and contextulization of print magazines if activities with devices like the iPad continue.
There’s a good chance that this could be the case with many of our cultures within a generation. There’s a truth towards the face of learning, financial transactions, entertainment, and more leaning much more on the Interent and connected devices than in generations past. But, we don’t want to go so far as to saying that everyone will have this experience. The digital gap very much mirrors the economic class gap in terms of accessible and usable services across these connected devices. And yet, we also see moments like in this video, where some methods of interacting are more “natural” and lend to changing the relevance of learning, relearning, and unlearning some of our assumed behaviors.
So then the question becomes, “what are you teaching towards with your mobile ministry efforts?” John Dyer notes in From the Garden to the City how many of the aspects of our faith behaviors that we think are needed or required really only became so because of (a) available technologies and (b) changes in expectations towards literate populations (location 327, Kindle edition). Even the mentality of reading the Word everyday is new – people had been oral learners, and so in order to keep the Scriptures afresh for continual education, they had to meditate on what was preached every day (Joshua 1:8).
We’ve aimed so far with mobile ministry practices as facilitating behaviors and expectations based on what we understand from former media channels (speech, performance, radio, TV, Internet). What do you teach towards when those former media channels don’t have any contextual bearing on your disciples? How do you adjust to a reality where faith practices that your disciples will do start from the latest things you’ve learned, not from the same place you’ve started?
My God daughter and I spent a number of days together this past Christmas. Due to me having an iPad, she also got a chance to play with it. She played so much in fact that the lessons she was getting on colors was accelerated. The lessons she was getting in motor skills was turned into a different direction (learning drawing, pinch-zooming, and multi-touch when you can’t hold a pencil too well is a heck of a swing). For her, the iPad is much like the Etch-A-Sketch was for me. And while I did learn how to manipulate the knobs to create cityscapes and other imagined moments, I also started from a place that was unlike that of my parents who didn’t have one while growing up. My God daughter starts from where I am now with the iPad and has the opportunity to do things that I couldn’t even imagine.
But that won’t come to pass if I insist that her way of interacting with her world – even her faith – comes through the same behaviors, contexts, and viewpoints that mine is founded in. Yes, the Scripture doesn’t change, but practices and behaviors do. As leaders of disciples, can your methods change to enable mature faith lives of those who will be starting from this moment were you are amazed? Or, are you set at teaching people at the level of things now, leaving their tomorrow in the hands of older methods and concepts that might fail to engage anything but disappointment?