Blackboards to retina scanners – schools are changing – is Spinnaker changing too?


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When I first began working with Spinnaker in 1997, blackboards were still a common site in schools, but most classrooms were embracing a new technology… the whiteboard!  They were clean, bright and when a good quality pen was used on them, they gave an excellent writing experience for the teacher compared with the dusty chalk of the preceding 200 years. 

Now, just two decades further down the line schools are full of incredible technology, which is constantly changing. Computer rooms have come and gone, in favour of trolleys of laptops that can be wheeled into each classroom. Laptops are being phased out in some schools to make way for iPads and tablets. Ordinary whiteboards have been replaced by interactive ones where whatever the teacher writes or shows on the screen can be recorded, edited and used again. Signing in sheets have been upgraded to computer consoles that take your photo and print you a badge straight away, even informing the person expecting you that you have arrived. Even dinner tickets and cash registers in secondary schools have gone, utilising finger print or retina scanners for children to pay for lunch. My son’s school has even got a robot teaching assistant, although she spends most of her time impressing the headteacher’s guests rather than actually helping students learn! Education has become a place where the technology of the future is being utilised, sometimes to great effect.

IMG 2362So how are we embracing this technology at Spinnaker? Are we producing fast paced video resources or having robots deliver assemblies? Not really. In our lessons and assemblies we will often make use of the interactive whiteboards and computer screens to show a short video, use PowerPoint and so on. However, the distinctive features of many of our visits to schools are simple  homemade resources, and good old-fashioned storytelling. In fact, one colleague from a different schools work organisation was visiting recently and called our approach ‘refreshingly low tech’. 

By now I shouldn’t be surprised, that when we begin a story, especially one from the Bible, children switch into a different mode – story mode. They listen intently, watch with eager eyes and often you can hear a pin drop. Of course, storytelling and story receiving are so integral to our being as humans. God loves a good story, as you can tell from the Bible, and Jesus himself was a fantastic storyteller. I often imagine him sharing stories with the crowds as they gathered. Did he use visual aids? Did he or the disciples act them out? Did he use children from the crowds? The technology wasn’t around in those days to record Jesus telling stories, which is perhaps a good thing. It means we have to find our own ways of doing it. 

So this term, as we head around schools with big bunches of cut out keys, we are confident that while we can use the technology around us to enhance our work, we are not dependent on it. While we can put together an assembly pack based on animated adverts like we did last term, the subtle art of storytelling will always be one of our most important skills. 

‘Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God’s message—as much as they could understand.’ Mark 4:33 – New Century Version