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Autumn 2004 | Volume 27, Number 4 | Faculty

In Journal Article, Professor Promotes theMarriage of Theology and Technology

YOU MIGHT THINK THE Theology Department is the last place on campus where you would find computer technology as part of the curriculum. Medieval texts and religious icons, maybe, but PowerPoint? “

As theology professors, we try to blend rigorous academic instruction with pastoral concern for the spiritual lives of our students,” says Rick Steele, Seattle Pacific University professor of moral and historical theology.

One of the ways he performs this work is by using computer tools with tech-savvy students. In the Summer 2004 issue of Christian Scholar’s Review, Steele describes his use of three “moderately high-tech” teaching methods: email correspondence between professor and student, online discussion boards among students, and data projection systems such as PowerPoint in the classroom.

For several years, Steele has encouraged his students to email him with questions about class. “Email is a strong tool,” he says, “especially when students and professors engage in discussion about how class material affects the students’ lives.”

This has sometimes developed into a high-tech confessional booth, a private place where students feel free to express problems, griefs, and joys. Confessing to spiritual dryness, one student wrote to him, “Just getting this off my chest, knowing that someone will be reading it, helps me.”

Steele also urges his students to participate in an online forum for each class. “There can be some lengthy, sharp discussions about what students are learning in class,” according to the faculty member. This is especially helpful, he says, for those who come to college thinking that questions of theology should never be debated. “It shows students that God’s will is not always obvious. Choices need to be made that are not black and white.”

Surprisingly, the third technology tool is used to encourage contemplation. In PowerPoint slide shows, Steele projects art that illustrates theological concepts. “I prefer to use still images rather than video,” he says. “Staring at art requires contemplativeness. Truth is revealed when the observer lets it speak, and that requires time.”

Steele says that SPU professors seek to lead students toward a stronger faith commitment and a vibrant prayer life. “To do this, there are many kinds of tools at our disposal,” he explains, “including technology.”

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