Scholar Spotlight on Kyle Oliver: Digitalization in the Seminary Classroom

The digitalization of religion has and continues to increase every day. It is believed that this increase in digital religious interaction creates an opportunity for seminary students to further understand the roles of ministry sites in teaching religion.

Kyle Oliver, Doctoral student studying digital storytelling in faith-adjacent settings in the Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design Program at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, along with many other accomplishments, discussed the pedagogical approach to training seminarians for faith leadership in the era of digital religion in the article, “Networked religion meets digital geographies: Pedagogical principles for exploring new spaces and roles in the seminary classroom.” Oliver explores various learning experiences that encourage active learning through various avenues, such as observation, immersion, simulation and role-playing.

Oliver’s interest is “digitally mediated meaning-making in religious and theological education, particularly in the context of teaching and learning in faith and faith-adjacent settings.” He uses Heidi Campbell’s “networked religion” model to conduct his research for the article. The main theme discussed in the article relates to the new opportunities in religious media and how it can be used for seminary instructors.

The article emphasizes four pedagogical principles that are essential for teaching purposes, such as “new media connect classrooms to authentic sites of ministry practice, digital geographies are navigated by embodied persons with human identities, communication practices shape our community spaces, and learners need orientation to spaces' structural, representational, and social dimensions.” Oliver believes that the strongest idea in the article is the idea that classrooms can become a bridge for digitalization and ministry.

In conclusion, this paper created an opportunity to merge the ideas of digital geographies and digital religion together, creating a pedagogical guideline for how “theological educators can think about convening new types of very practical student learning in seminary classrooms.”