Earlier this week, I had the great honor of speaking at a faculty meeting for the teachers at my sons’ former elementary school. My brief presentation focused on the topic of technology in our parish school. In the thirty minutes I was allotted, I highlighted important themes from Pope Francis’ World Communications Day Message for 2015, including this passage:
Today the modern media, which are an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families. The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that “silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.” (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 2012 World Communications Day). The media can help communication when they enable people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters. By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, these “new possibilities”, we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it. Here too, parents are the primary educators, but they cannot be left to their own devices. The Christian community is called to help them in teaching children how to live in a media environment in a way consonant with the dignity of the human person and service of the common good.
Fortunately for me, I wandered upon this fantastic article at America Magazine by Catholic educator Mike St. Thomas. Among his many excellent points in “Connected but Unplugged“, St. Thomas shares a concluding paragraph which literally brought tears to my eyes:
What is the goal of Catholic education in the midst of the flurry of screens and devices that bring the modern world to our fingertips? It is to keep the human person at the center of our enterprise. The world of information may be only a swipe away, but we should know better than to think it is the most important world. That honor goes to a world made of flesh and spirit, of encounter and conversation. That world must guide our schools, and everything else must follow from it.
Combine Pope Francis’ take on families as the primary schools of communication with Mike St. Thomas’ reminder that technology is not the be all and end all of education and we have potent marching orders for the coming school year. From my seat in the pew, in an ideal world, our Church and individual parishes and schools would:
- Adopt models of communication which would maximize the efficiency and potency of digital tools.
- Regularly equip families to provide oversight of their children’s (and their own!) use of technology for good, but also form our consciences to help us know when we are entering “danger zones” where our use of these tools will draw us into sinful behavior and away from Jesus Christ and one another.
- Encourage us to be more fearless but also more effective in our use of digital tools to share the Good News of the Gospel by modeling excellence.
- Provide avenues to employ these tools for ongoing service of others and stewardship as a hallmark of our parishes and communities by reminding us that technology makes it easy and enjoyable to be people of generosity.
If you have a moment, please join me in lifting up all of our educators and students as they head back into the classroom. May they enjoy days filled with and focused upon encounter, communication, and communion in and through God’s abiding love.
A question for you: What would you say to a staff of Catholic school educators on this topic if you had the opportunity? What questions would you have if you were a teacher?
Image credit: wilhei, pixabay