Using Technology as a Tool to Teach Youth
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- Experiment with using technology and personal devices more in your Church classes.
- Help youth learn to use the vast Church resources available to them.
- The Media Library, Mormon Messages, and Music tools can enhance learning for youth.
“Any tool we have in our lives has the ability to do good or evil. Technology is a tool, and tools can be abused. … You have got to understand how you can help them use that tool appropriately.” —Brother Ronald J. Schwendiman, director of publishing product management for Seminaries and Institutes of Religion
Technology is a powerful tool when teaching the youth of the Church, Ronald J. Schwendiman, director of publishing product management for the Church’s Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, taught during a presentation at BYU’s Campus Education Week on August 20.
“There are many resources out there; it is just a matter of discovering and finding,” said Brother Schwendiman.
Rather than banning or putting phones and tablets away, integrating the resources is an effective way to teach gospel principles in a digital world. Not only can resources help in inviting the Spirit into the classroom, they can also help youth learn ways to use technology appropriately.
“Any tool we have in our lives has the ability to do good or evil,” Brother Schwendiman taught. “Technology is a tool, and tools can be abused. … You have got to understand how you [can] help them use that tool appropriately.”
With new graduation requirements for seminary and institute, along with a more hands-on curriculum in Sunday youth classes, many tools in technology are available to support those requirements and assist teachers—as well as their students—as they learn and teach the gospel.
“We have a lot—about 30,000 pages—of content on ChurchofJesusChrist.org that is hidden all over the place,” he said.
Although there is an appropriate “time and a place” for phones and tablets, Brother Schwendiman encouraged instructors to invite them into their classroom and “speak technology”—the youth of the Church’s language.
Brother Schwendiman shared a few teaching tools created to help in the classroom found on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
“For youth and children, messages must be shorter, varied, and related to them,” Brother Schwendiman said. It is important to not only teach to specific ages and needs. It is crucial for teachers to teach the doctrine.
Whether it is a coloring page for young children or images of a concept or scripture story being discussed in class, the media library has photos, artwork, and other helps for teachers.
“Do not oversimplify—be straight and undiluted,” he said. Use current examples that relate to them, and use images in teaching.
A simple search of the word “meme” in the search box on ChurchofJesusChrist.org takes patrons to lists of sharable images with artistically placed inspiring words from prophets and the scriptures.
“This generation is colorful and visual, and they like to see things,” Brother Schwendiman said.
“The rising generation wants to hear [truth] from three or four of the Twelve Apostles; they want to see that it isn’t just one person’s opinion,” Brother Schwendiman said.
The Church has put together a number of short videos—many sharing the words of prophets and apostles—to help teach gospel principles and concepts.
“In the Media Library you will find Mormon Messages,” he said. “Go find that section and watch them and use them. And in your teaching of youth, assign them to go find a Mormon Message to share with the class. Don’t expect the youth just to come on Sunday. … Give them an assignment for the next week.”
Rather than just giving assignments during class on Sunday, Brother Schwendiman encouraged teachers to contact their students during the week.
“It shouldn’t be a Sunday-to-Sunday activity,” he said. “You have to follow up more often than that. They’ll do it, and they will learn from it. They will share their blessings, and they’ll find things that relate to them and their audience.”
Assignments for class could also include choosing a meme, picture, or song to share with the class.
“In this world, especially with the youth, give them an assignment to find something,” he said. “Have them use the tools to discover a meme or a video or a piece of music they would like to share in class. … Don’t just give them talks and things to read. That is your generation. They will do it, but they would prefer to find a lot more.”
The youth website has a variety of doctrinally appropriate music. Hymns, as well as other songs associated with Mutual and Especially for Youth, are available. Individuals can even make a playlist from the songs provided.
Primary music is also available, making it easy to play during a lesson. “If you are in class and don’t have a pianist and are not in sharing time, you can pull out your device and start streaming a song,” he said.
Class members can sing along or just listen to the words. Tools on the website make it possible to change the key and tempo of the song with the ability to print out the music altered.
Through using tools of technology provided by the Church, instructors and parents are able to teach their children in an interactive yet still doctrinally sound way.
Through integrating pictures, videos, and music into lessons, teachers are able to reinforce gospel principles while teaching about the appropriate content available online. By involving children and youth in the teaching process, they are teaching them virtuous ways to use technology.
“That doesn’t mean you won’t have a week where you put phones and tablets away,” Brother Schwendiman said. “Experiment without technology, but don’t do it every week. …
“Help them see what it feels like to see the good. … Help them mature. They’ve got to learn it for themselves. You’ve got to help them learn how to use the tools.”
Memes—images combined with words—are a great teaching tool for instructors to use with the youth.
The LDS Media Library online is a great resource for teachers to find videos, photos, and images for class.