These words came from one of my students who participated in an on-line conference hosted by the Christ in Media Institute. I have had the opportunity for the past several years to provide students in my Intercultural Communication class a chance to participate in an on-line conference. On-line conferencing is not a concept either my students or I were familiar with. I am sure when I introduce and explain the assignment students are skeptical of the benefits for such a course requirement. But the on-line conference provides them a unique opportunity to join participants from more than 100 countries — students, faculty and lay people, in Christ centered careers using media for gospel outreach — to connect with each other. By participating in these conferences my students have identified new ways to use their gifts and abilities to glorify God whatever occupations they might pursue. What blessing!
Students take ideas shared through interaction with conference presenters, move beyond the assignment, and take them to their home congregations, campus, and community. A posting from Lakeside Lutheran High School about making video to promote the school resulted in connections with other schools and churches, and prompted looking into the future at the choice of a Christian high school over a public school for their siblings and children. A conference review of Christian movies initiated a great back and forth, and sharing of titles of films to see. Conference presentations on photography, painting, cloth art, and gaming technology all had students encouraging presenters to continue their commitment to do gospel outreach using their unique gifts. Social media is often a topic covered in the conferences. Blogs, smart phones and Twitter contests provide ways to interact especially with the younger generation. But balance is the key word. These are seen as communication tools and the conference provides examples of how these media can be used to spread the gospel.
One presenter observed, “It is clear that communication is hard.” As a professor of Communication I see evidence of this every day. The challenge for me is to try to provide opportunities for students to move beyond our campus and their busy lives. The on-line conference format has provided me an opportunity to deliver to my students a whole host of diverse presenters on a variety of topics. These presenters have been willing to share their media related projects and gifts, answer questions, and respond to suggestions — from all over the world. Some of the students have even had the chance to interact in Spanish or German. The cost is nothing but time! The benefits are priceless!
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