What hath God wrought?

Posted Oct 26, 2011 | New Media Project

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By Lerone A. Martin


Since the words “What hath God wrought?” officially opened up America’s long range electronic telegraph wire in 1844, many religious institutions have interpreted advancements in electronic communication technology as a Godsend—offering each generation unprecedented transmission of the gospel.

Today, Abilene Christian University and their use of the iPhone are emblematic of this sentiment.

The Church of Christ school equips all faculty and undergraduate students with their choice of an iPhone or iPod Touch mobile device. The mobile communication devices are foundational in promoting the school’s mission of Christian education.

Students and faculty use their Apple mobile devices to access various course materials, such as attendance records, assignments, deadlines, and course readings, as well as financial information and obligations. Mobile devices also serve as “clickers,” an application that allows students to utilize their mobile devices during class to respond to quiz questions, posit questions during and after classroom lectures, and respond to discussion prompts and even polls during class time.

In addition to classroom interactions, mobile devices offer faculty and students multiple venues of engagement outside of the classroom. Faculty and students often use their mobile devices to interact via online discussions, podcasts, Skype, class blogs, classroom chat portals, email, and social networking. Moreover, the mobile devices facilitate anonymous accountability partnerships as well as spiritual formation groups.

In all, the Mobile Learning Initiative is re-shaping how faculty and students engage in the educational process.

The role of the teacher in the classroom is experiencing significant shifts. When I visited recently to write a case study for the New Media Project, several students relayed to me the idea that the heightened level of universal access to knowledge via their mobile devices endows them with the increasing feeling of autonomy in their learning experience; one that changes the way they feel about faculty. The professor is no longer viewed as encompassing the totality of knowledge and expertise, but rather is expected to help students to discover, interpret, and synthesize multiple streams of knowledge and information.

The teacher still possesses a form of authoritative power for direction, vision, and assessment. However, in this new media environment, she is increasingly seen as a guide and/or mentor and not the sole authority.

Perhaps the religious use of new media is causing similar shifts for today’s pastors serving congregations? What hath God wrought!

Lerone A. Martin, a research fellow for the New Media Project, is Assistant Professor of American Religious History and Culture at Eden Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, MO.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Phil Towne 31 Jan
    Your last line, "Perhaps the religious use of new media is causing similar shifts for today’s pastors serving congregations? What hath God wrought!" is precisely what I will be writing my dissertation on. The nature of changing religious authority in a local congregation.

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