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Teaching Digital Natives

Jennifer Hooks

• Nurture learning 24/7. Offer kids a challenge that lets them explore and leverage tools and time you may not have in class. If you challenge kids to find as many phone apps related to Moses as they can in one week or to text one person with a faith-related encouragement every day for a month, you let them explore faith in a way that's natural and interesting to them.

• Change-often. Kids' brains are hard-wired for quick change, thanks to technology. So don't expect them to attend to one thing for longer than a few minutes. Dale Hudson, co-author of Turbocharged: 100 Simple Secrets to Successful Children's Ministry, advises to "design your format in segments that last one to five minutes. By creating short segments, you're creating multiple starting and stopping points throughout the time. Every few minutes you're resetting kids' internal attention-span countdown."

• Develop a collaborative environment. Your kids likely crave connection with each other. So get kids working in groups or pairs as they learn from God's Word. Find social media sources such as Club Penguin or where kids can form a closed group to chat and interface online. Post messages on your church website for kids, or allow them to create content for your children's ministry page.

• Interlope. You may not have a computer in your room. You may not own an iPhone. You may not know how to text. That's okay. You don't have to be the expert on everything--there's no such job requirement. All you need is willingness to learn--or at least a willingness to peacefully coexist with technology. If you feel so inclined, spend some time discovering available technology. Check out a Flip phone. Set up a Facebook account. Investigate upcoming technology. Inform yourself about the world in which kids live.

• Engage all your kids. Regardless of the tech-expertise and availability represented in your room, there's one common denominator to keep in mind: All kids want and need to be engaged. That's aside from technology, aside from your know-how. Kids' brains are hungry for active engagement-that's how they learn best. So go all out to hook kids and keep them on the line--in your curriculum choices, teaching style, experiences, and mission. Hone your focus so you're learning and exploring together.

• • •

There's no doubt: Kids today are mastering technology at the speed of innovation. They're poised to learn a layer of programming literacy that was unimaginable a few decades ago. As their leader, their teacher, go with them--fearlessly venture into this wondrous, rapidly expanding landscape with your kids. Don't be afraid to let them lead the way--- celebrate when they "power up" as they walk in your door. cm

Jennifer Hooks is managing editor for Children's Ministry Magazine.


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