Technology’s Influence on Spirituality and Religion in Higher Education


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Author
Cenyeaa Williams - Fort Hays State University

Published
August 9, 2018


What is technology’s influence on spirituality and religion in higher education?

Technology has its hand in so much in today’s world. Higher education has been forced to adjust to the aggressive advancement of technology. It is no secret that the areas of spirituality and religion have struggled with finding the proper place in higher education. The issue can either be improved or hardened by technology. Technology, if properly implemented, can have a positive influence in higher education.

An article titled, Fostering Spiritual development: Prayer and Meditation Spaces, provides some very interesting insight in this area. Samuelson (2013) introduced the idea of the multi-faith America. The author wrote “our colleges and universities reflect these changes and their religious facilities need to adopt bold new approaches to the multi-faith realities of campus life.” The bold new approaches create opportunities to use technology. The authur speaks about these spaces that are now necessary, and I can literally envision technology being used in every aspect. The meditation practices can be playing on the screen for newcomers to quickly get adjusted. The people who use this place could submit different practices that they use to share with the community. This atmosphere could be digitally equipped to help share escape to where ever they need to go. Having a visible schedule that still provides complete silence for prayer and meditation is necessary as well. Samuelson asks, “Why develop a prayer and meditation space?” She answers the question with a simple statement; “self- reflection and mediation have positive effects on traditional college outcomes including academic, personal, and attitudinal outcomes.” This is necessary for fostering spiritual development, and technology can enhance this experience.

I attended a small, private Catholic institution in the Midwest to complete my bachelor’s degree. The institution relied heavily on its traditions and Catholic rituals. I believe some people might wonder what place technology would have in this type of environment. Every week there is a Mass that tasks place in the campus chapel at Noon. Some students, whether commuters or students that work, could find it difficult to make it during this time. Technology can have a positive influence in this situation. The Mass could have been live streamed from the campus website under the campus ministry section. Students would be able to stream the ceremony and even revisit it at a different time. This would even allow the parents to receive the same experience of their student(s) while engaging the campus community. Students that never attended Mass can also benefit because they can get the behind the scenes raw footage of what takes place.

Technology can also be used to get students involved in social justice. This could be accomplished in several ways. One way is every week someone could live stream to have open dialogue with students about current events that took place that week. The conversation takes place later that week then the conversation would have more substance. The dialogue can allow students, faculty, and staff to share their thoughts on different issues and close each discussion in prayer together. I believe that this would be effective because sometimes it is hard to have genuine conversations in person. Social media allows people to share their thoughts on different topics without being face to face. Another way to create the dialogue is to allow people to share their personal reflections on different subject matters. This would be an opportunity to reach people beyond a flyer on an email. People watching would be able to see the true emotions and receive a stronger connection to the call to action.

The challenge is to understand that there will be some resistance by the community. Downey (2017) stated that, “the number of college students with no religious affiliation has tripled in the last 30 years, from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent in 2016, according to data from the CIRP Freshmen Survey… these trends provide a snapshot of the current generation of young adults; they also provide a preview of rapid secularization in the U.S. over the next 30 years.”  This data supports the use of technology in spirituality and religion. These students represented in this data need something different to engage. In some cases, the students need professionals to take that bold approach to get them interested again. I am not saying that this is the ultimate solution to clear the air, but it will create new perspective for students. Technology has a positive influence on spirituality and religion in higher education.

References

Downey, A. (2017, May 25). College Freshmen Are Less Religious Than Ever. Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/college-freshmen-are-less-religious-than-ever/

Samuelson, R. (2013). Fostering Spiritual Development: Prayer and Mediation Spaces. NASPA Knowledge Community: Spirituality and Religion and Higher Education.


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