One grassroots Lutheran organization ahead of its time is TEC21, a technology-based ministry headquartered on Concordia University, Nebraska’s campus, in Seward. Launched in 2008 by educator Brent Dieckhoff, TEC21 is aligned with LCMS School Ministry’s Christ-centered mission to assist, equip and uplift educators.
“I identified in 2008 that teachers needed to feel confident as our pedagogy changed,” Dieckhoff said. “It was the model then to send the students to a lab where a technology teacher would teach them. But technology was coming into the classroom, so I wanted to provide a program that trained through a series of professional development workshops to give educators confidence to use it.”
Whether they wanted it or not, educators got a crash course in online teaching this spring. “COVID in the spring was an affirmation that what we are doing is important,” Dieckhoff said. “Teachers must be competent in the classroom today, and that necessitates, whether you are comfortable or not, being competent in technology.”
When technology enhances learning
For those who have been in his program over the years, the results have been noticeable. Joel Wahlers, former principal of St. John’s Lutheran School in Napa, Calif., wrote to Dieckhoff a few weeks after a statewide shutdown to say thank you. Wahlers, through email, informed Dieckhoff that when COVID-19 hit, he assigned one of their TEC21 trained teachers to grades K through 2; another to grades 3 through 5; and another to 6 through 8.
They were more than ready to play the cards they were dealt. But even before the pandemic, Dieckhoff points out, teachers wanted to be relevant and feel adequate for the task in the classroom. There’s a story Dieckhoff likes to tell to illustrate this point.
“A few years ago, we met a teacher in the North Wisconsin district who had taught the recorder for years. In one of our workshops, we taught her how to use the green screen and record her lessons. She was blown away. Why was this better? Her students loved it because they could watch her lessons and learn at individual rates.”
Dieckhoff said that this is one of hundreds of examples.
It seems appropriate to close with this final thought from Sutton:
“COVID-19 has not really changed the role that technology plays in the church. The church has used technology long before this pandemic. The church is using technology in the midst of this pandemic. And the church will continue to use technology long after this pandemic. As it always has been, the key is using technology appropriately to preach Christ crucified to a world that desperately needs to hear the Good News [of Jesus Christ].”
”Pray with us: Father, when it comes to technology, teach us to heed John the Baptist’s words: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Forgive us when we’ve made technology an idol. Help us to use Your gift to make Christ known and, through Your Holy Spirit, empower those who hear it to believe it and be saved. Amen.
What You Might Not Know About the Reformation
“In 2017, the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses, I was asked to a college campus to give a presentation on ‘The Next 500 Years of Reformation.’ In my preparation, I went back to see how we had celebrated the 400th anniversary, and I was astonished at what I was reading. I had always been taught that the Reformation resulted from two things: Martin Luther and the new invention of the printing press. When I read the Reformation history published in 1917, they were telling a totally different story. The Reformation was the result of two things, Martin Luther and the work of the Holy Spirit. There was barely a mention of the printing press at all.
I pulled up all the old histories I could find, and looked for “printing press” and “Guttenberg,” and the writers hardly mentioned it. The scales, then, began to fall off my eyes, and I could see how saturated my own mind was with the advance of technology as the driving force of history. If history is only about the things that change, we risk becoming blind to the most important things, the things that don’t change, the Lord’s institution of the church, the family and the neighborhood.”
Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller – St. Paul Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
This spring many educators had to learn quickly how to use technology to teach online. As the school year continues, have you considered investing in technology education for you or your teachers? If so, TEC 21 is your answer. Learn more from the founder Brent Dieckhoff as he shares how TEC 21 can equip you to utilize technology in the classroom—whether it is in person or online.