In the forward to his book Understanding Media, author Marshall McLuhan said, “The young student today grows up in an electrically configured world. Not of wheels but of circuits, not of fragments but of integral patterns.” While this was written nearly 50 years ago, ironically plastered as a “new introduction” in an age old book, it perfectly states how students today learn. McLuhan goes on to emphasize how in the age of the mass media and information, students learn in a different way than they used to and while his references to IBM may seem outdated, he was completely correct in how computers have become a huge part of human learning, if not even the central way, we learn now.
One man who has experienced this change over the course of his career is theology teacher Mr. John Norman, who is currently the longest serving teacher at McNicholas High School. While he certainly believes learning has changed with computers reducing lecture time by providing information right in front of them, he stated that “one must decide whether the purpose of theology is the accumulation of information or the transformation of the individual and the world? While I do believe that Theology classes must be transformative, on a personal and community level.”
He emphasized the role a teacher plays as a mentor to his/her students. “As teachers, we are mentors for our students. We continue to walk this journey of faith, and with the Lord’s grace we share with our students what the Lord has taught us, in hopes that it will help them in their journey with the Lord,” Norman said.
It seems to be that the aspect of helping people understand whatever faith they subscribe to is always going to be one better communicated by humans than computers. For all the data computers give us, a personal human understanding of that data is hard to come by. The role of a teacher as a provider of context and understanding of the material being able to draw on his own human experience to help others grow and understand is as important as ever now, and Norman takes his role with seriousness and understanding.