STALLINGS, N.C. (AP) — Most churches want them turned off, but one North Carolina church encouraged its members to use their cell phones, BlackBerrys and other devices to help spread the word during Easter services.
Next Level church in Union County was alive with Twitter during the Easter Sunday service. The electronic service sends short messages to other phones and online accounts.
“I hope many of you are tweeting this morning about your experience with God,” Pastor Todd Hahn said before his sermon. A tweet is a message sent through Twitter.
Many of you know that I use Twitter and you can follow me @Targuman. It is a toyl that can be fun (toy) and sometimes useful (tool). But I don’t think it has a place in worship. I even think, contary to some, that it really doesn’t have a place in class either.
In both cases the community should be paying attention to the message and, in the case of a seminar, interacting with the leader. Twitter is not the same thing as taking notes, which can of course be an aid to learn, but instead requires a different set of concerns (using tiny keyboard or touch screen, fitting it into 140 chars) and shifts focus from the content of the event to the creation of an artifact from the event as created by the twitterer.
In both cases twittering distracts the community from the primary goals of the event. In worship one is to be in a contemplative and refelctive posture (mental posture that is, not “crash position” hunched in the pew although feel free to slump if you like), considering the words of the preacher and participating through internal engagement.
In class the students should be focused upon the content and engaging with the material and the instructor. Some will argue that twitter allows one to do just that, but I do not think that is true. The medium is just too invasive, it puts up a barrier to note taking and reflection rather than facilitating it. And that is why I do not think twitter works for classroom in a general way. Technology should be about facilitating the activity not hindering it (unless you are the NSA or the RIAA in which case yes, they are using tech to hinder).
This is not to say that Twitter cannot have a role in “spreading the message” or in the classroom. Certainly there are a number of people using Twitter as an evangelism and devotional tool (see for example @CommonPrayer and @prayingthespsalms). And one could design a course that would leverage Twitters strengths, for example in a large lecture class taking a moment and asking student to tweet questions and then thread them and have a Q&A. But as I saw just yesterday in class, when the laptops are open or the phones are out the students are not focused on the conversation at hand. That makes me a bit sad since I am one who does use my MacBook to take notes, etc. but it seems that for most students the tempation is too great. (And small tip students, I can see what time you updated your facebook status and know that it was during my class….)
So we are back to my techmantra: Tools are tools. They key is to use the right tool for the right job.