Education Week: Using technology to spiritually engage young people

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Whitnie Soelberg
Social media can be challenging, but there are diverse ways of doing missionary work via social media.

The youth and young adults of the church love learning the gospel, but they also love their smartphones and tablets. Fortunately, there are resources that merge the two.

During his Education Week presentation, Ron J. Schwendiman, the director of publishing product management of seminaries and institutes of religion, suggested media tools that adults can use to teach the gospel to younger generations.

“Give them an assignment to find something, don’t give them talks and things to read — that’s your generation,” Schwendiman said. “They will do it, but they would prefer to find a lot more, in an immersive experience.”

Young people are visual learners and information seekers, according to Schwendiman.

Their attention spans are also much shorter than those in a traditional Education Week audience, which is why religious instructors should use mixed media to capture the attention of their younger audiences.

Fortunately, the church has created several mixed media resources, including songs, videos and picture quotes, on lds.org, that promote and emphasize gospel principles.

These resources can be especially helpful when it’s time to teach lessons on sensitive topics that are the responsibility of parents to teach in greater depth, such as chastity.

Schwendiman showed the video, “Chastity: what are the limits?” which talks about what the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet outlines. The video presents an analogy and advises viewers to pray and ponder about the standards they have set for themselves when it comes to chastity.

The materials on lds.org are also approved by church officers and are easy to share on multiple social media platforms.

Also, changing pace by using a song, image or video can help keep the attention spans of children, youth and young adults —which ranges from five to 10 minutes — during Sabbath day lessons and weekly activities.

Top church leaders have also noticed the decreasing attention span in younger church members, teens and children, Schwendiman said.

For example, LDS apostles used to speak for 17 minutes each during General Conference, while other leaders averaged 11 minutes. In more recent conferences, the addresses have become shorter, approximately 14 minutes and nine minutes, respectively, he said.

Even so, Schwendiman said that print resources and prolonged spiritual pondering should not be entirely abandoned, because these methods are essential to receiving revelation and spiritual guidance.

Sometimes technology can be a signal blocker to the Spirit, when phones and tablets are used in Sunday meetings to play games or to check social media, he said.

However, some youth and young adults are able to use their devices responsibly and are reading their scriptures during times designated for reflection and pondering.

Schwendiman suggested that teachers ask their young students to switch their devices to “airplane mode” in order to prevent distractions and reduce the temptation to open apps unrelated to gospel instruction.

For leaders, a loving example is the best way to teach young people about where and when technology use is appropriate in a gospel setting.

 

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