CONSIDERATIONS IN TEACHING IN A DIGITAL LANDSCAPE

At the outset, let us look at the landscape of the world as regards communications which I limited only to the three factors namely the internet, television and cell phone.

INTERNET

ITU World Telecommunication estimated that “The world is home to 7 billion people, one third of which are using the Internet. Forty five percent (45%) of the world’s Internet users are below the age of 25. Over the last five years, developing countries have increased their share of the world’s total number of Internet users from 44% in 2006, to 62% in 2011.[1]” The survey also added that younger people tend to be more online than older people in both developed and developing countries. In developing countries, 30% of those under the age of 25 use the Internet, compared to 23% of those 25 years and older.

 In another internet use survey by world region distribution, Asia has the biggest percentage of internet users averaging in 44% while Europe ranks second only with the average of 22.7% internet users.[2]

There are about 1.8 billion households worldwide and one-third of these households have internet access compared to only one-fifth five years ago. And 25% of homes in developing countries possess a computer and of the 25%, 20% have internet access.[3]

TELEVISION

In another survey held by A.C. Nielsen Co. as regards TV statistics in the U.S., observes that the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of non-stop TV-watching per year. Almost all households possess at least one TV set and Americans spend an average of 250 billion hours annually in watching TV.[4]

CELL PHONES

Another form of digital communication is the mobile phone or cell phone. ITU World Telecommunication[5] reports that there are almost 6 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions. With 5.9 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions, global penetration reached 87% and 79% in the developing world. And according to the same survey, active broadband subscriptions reached almost 1.2 billion and a total of 159 economies worldwide have launched 3G services commercially and the number of active mobile-broadband subscriptions has increased. Mobile-broadband is often the only access method available to people in developing countries, the report adds.

THE DIGITAL AGE: What’s not to like?

Since the appearance of advanced electrical/electronic signals in the late 1920’s the world underwent a rapid change in the way people behave, think and the way people communicate. From a simple visual signal of fire and smoke, from simple audio signals like trumpets and drums, we now have very advanced and complex forms of visual and audio signals. We are now in the digital world of communication. What is not to like in this digital age of communication? It takes only seconds to connect with friends. It is now very easy to research for an assignment. With a click or two, you can enter into a vast source of available materials in the web. Having trouble locating your long lost relative? Or classmates?Or colleagues?Not a problem anymore, thanks to social networks. Here you can even see information about their status, their occupation, address and what they are up to.

Did you miss your favorite noontime show or your favorite drama series? It’s not a problem anymore as long as you are connected to the web, because you can always download them. Gone were the days of beeper, pay phones and radio handsets. We now have cell phones in all sizes, shapes and colors with all those installed applications of your choice. They come even with camera and radio and even TV and a whole lot more. No previous generation has been blessed with the means of communication like ours. And still new vistas in communications are constantly opening up today and in the future.

TEACHING: Employing the New Media of Social Communications

These advanced forms of communications also affect the way we communicate and teach. The modern media of social communication are cultural factors that play a role. As the Second Vatican Council remarks, “although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ”, nevertheless “such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society”.[6] Considering the media of social communication in this light, we see that they “contribute greatly to the enlargement and enrichment of men’s minds and to the propagation and consolidation of the kingdom of God”.[7]

Pope Benedict XVI in his message[8] for the Catholic Church’s 2010 World Day for Social Communications, called on the ministry to use the latest technologies, such as Web sites and blogs, to preach the gospel and encourage a dialogue with their practitioners. In his message, Pope Benedict told the people that church communities have traditionally relied on modern media to open the lines of communication. And as the culture changes, the church needs to use the latest technologies, especially if it wants to reach younger people.

HINDRANCES: Disadvantages of the New Media of Social Communications

There are hindrances also. There are disadvantages as regards these new media of social communication. Although referring to communication of and in the family, these hindrances can also affect the bigger picture of the society and hence the teaching too. According to Anthony G. Roman in his article Building Digital Bridges, some factors hindering authentic communication of and in the family are television, Internet, cellular phones.[9] Roman adds, “Many other facts can be added to this; facts about how families and communities are robbed of opportunities for authentic communication, dialogue and sharing.”[10] This advantages and disadvantages as regards the new media of social communications bring us into a dilemma, a crisis. But since the Chinese term for crisis consist of two characters namely danger and opportunity, we can therefore still have the possibility of turning this crisis into an opportunity.

OPPORTUNITY: The Positive side of the Possibilities of Crisis

The media is not an all-evil phenomenon, nor a hot bed of vice as some people might think.[11] The Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio, magna carta of communications, says modern media have the capacity to carry the message of salvation. “Modern media offer new ways of confronting people with the message of the Gospel… are invaluable helps for Christian education… offer marvelous opportunities to all for considering the implications of their religious convictions through the discussion of events and problems of the day…” and make more interesting the “teaching of Christianity.”[12]

These new forms of social communications offer a place for those who seek religious and faith materials. Many faithful are turning to the Web. [13] In Apr 11, 2004, a newspaper reported that millions of online faithful use Internet for religious info and e-mail.[14]

 SILENCE AND THE WORD: Some Considerations

With all these opportunities that open new avenues for teaching in this new communication landscape and all the many dangers that lurk around these means of social communications two things are to be taken into consideration according to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, namely, silence and the word.

In his message for the 46th World Communications Day issued on January 24, 2012, the Holy Father points out that the relationship of silence and word, which is an important aspect of the human process of communication, is often overlooked.[15]

[Silence and the word must] be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.[16]

Silence is very important as we communicate as we communicate God’s word and as we communicate to the Word. Silence allows us to listen and understand clearly ourselves and the words we want to say. Silence allows us to understand not only ourselves but others as well and thus creating a deeper mutual understanding.

Not only that, the Holy Father also adds that silence gives way for deeper reflection which is important in determining what is essentially relevant from what is insignificant.

Contemporary man continues to ask ultimate questions of human existence but he is bombarded with enormous amount of ideas, unfamiliar questions and answers he has never asked. Search engines and social networks offer these unfamiliar ideas, questions and answers. In the face of these overwhelming upsurges of data, silence offers a path for him to discern properly.

Silence is an important state that can help man to rediscover himself and that Truth which gives meaning to all things. God is a God of silence and speaks by the mystery of his silence as seen in the cross of Jesus Christ which echoes the eloquence of God’s love.

In one interview with Cardinal Tagle, he said that “the church must discover the power of silence. Confronted with the sorrows, doubts and uncertainties of people she cannot pretend to give easy solutions,” he said. “In Jesus, silence becomes the way of attentive listening, compassion and prayer. It is the way to truth.” (attenditus, from Latin. attentus “heedful, observant.” It is a sense of “actively ministering to the needs and wants” of another person).

Tagle suggested that silence would be one signal of a new spirit of humility. “The church’s humility, respectfulness and silence might reveal more clearly the face of God in Jesus,” he told the synod. Bishop Tagle also said that “we see in our time so much exchange of words happening at high speed and across national boundaries. But unfortunately the world is as divided as ever. Why is communion not achieved in spite of the exchange of words?”

There are two ironies here. First, how can it be to evangelize through silence since proclaiming the message entails one to speak? Second, with such position of Bishop Tagle he was made VP of the Synod for the Message. Let us consider silence (as attentive listening according to Bp Tagle) and the word and take a look into it.

SILENCE: Effective Way to Teach and Preach

If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and teaching about God. In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation to communicate that which we have seen and heard” so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.[17]

Through silent contemplation, the Word of God, Jesus Christ is being incarnated, being born, being made present anew. The Word that which is not outdated but ever present and up-to-date, is Jesus our very own contemporary who continues to make us aware share in the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing by word and deed. And as sharers of this work of God we too preach salvation in our humble way “asheralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.”[18]

The Holy Father concludes his message affirming the importance of silence and word in proclaiming Christ in this contemporary period, he favorably said: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world.


[1] http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/facts/2011/index.html

[2]http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.

[3] http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/facts/2011/index.

[4] http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.

[5] http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/facts/2011/index.

[6] Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium etSpes, 39.

[7]Vatican Council II, Decree on the Media of Social Communications Inter Mirifica,

[8]Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the 44th World Communications Day “The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word”

[9]Building Digital Bridges: Considerations for the ministry in the Emerging Communication Landscape, Anthony G. Roman. Available at http://www.fabc.org/offices/osc/docs/pdf/

[10]Building Digital Bridge, p 3.

[11]Building Digital Bridge, p 5.

[12]Pastoral Instruction CommunioetProgressio 126-131.

[13]San Jose Mercury NewsApril 8, 2004.

[14]Chicago Sun-TimesApril 11, 2004.

[15]Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the 46th World Communications Day.  Available at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/communications/documents.

[16]Ibid.

[17]Ibid.

[18]Ibid.

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