children and media / Commentary

Technology and Media in Religious Education?

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Yes, that’s a question mark. Education in American society is at a watershed moment evidenced by “flipped classrooms,” synchronous and asynchronous online learning and the exchange of resources and information via social media and Google tools. Then, there’s “gamification.” Religious education is no exception and there’s no doubt, as Bud Horell points out in his blog post on the Religious Education Association site, that new technologies facilitate preparation and communication for religious education and can bring that community’s message to a wide audience.

However, this is a pivotal moment for what MIT researcher Sherry Turkle calls “realtechnik:” a healthy skepticism about linear progress and a willingness to assess both possibilities and problems from technology use, to “step back and reassess when we hear triumphalist or apocalyptic narratives about how to live with technology. It encourages humility, a state of mind in which we are most open to facing problems and reconsidering decisions.” (1)

What questions do we need to ask?

Particularly when we focus on imagination, there is a need to be specific about several things:

What age group is addressed? Often the term “children” is used for all from birth through at least age 12. There are real and compelling developmental considerations in different age groups, especially around the use of screen media.

What group is being addressed as teacher, as learner? In “Total Catechesis/Religious Education: A Vision for Now and Always,” (2) Thomas Groome points to an ideal coalition of homes, schools and parishes which engages every member as both teacher and learner. There is no more compelling model for a child than an adult or older child who is truly engaged in a spiritual search. How does use of technology facilitate or impede that direct connection?

So, how to use the enormous potential of technology? When does it help and when does it deflect from the most important interactions around faith? I look forward to exploring these questions  at the Relgious Education Association conference in Atlanta, particularly with Kristen Treglia, my colleague from Fordham,  at the pre-conference workshop on Technology.

This post was written for the Religious Education Association as a guest blog.

  1. Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. 1st ed. Basic Books, 2011. Print.
  2. In Groome, Thomas H., and Harold Daly Horell. Horizons & hopes: The Future of Religious Education. Paulist Press, 2003.

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