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Trent Toone, Deseret News
A man uses his cell phone to take a picture of a slide during Ronald J. Schwendiman's presentation on using technology to teach the gospel at BYU Education Week in in August 2016.

PROVO — Going back as far as Brigham Young, LDS Church leaders have prophesied for decades about inspired advancements in technology and how these miracles will hasten the Lord's work in preparation for the second coming.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints armed with smartphones, tablets, laptops, projectors and other devices have become pioneers in using technology to teach the gospel, said Ron J. Schwendiman, director of publishing product management for Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, who taught a series of classes on "Teaching the Gospel in a Digital World" at BYU's Campus Education Week.

"You are the pioneers," Schwendiman said. "We are going to talk about the generations below you, but for the most part, you are the pioneers setting up the church for its future in technology. My goal is to help you recognize the areas in which you can improve in your teaching the gospel using the technologies the Lord has blessed us with."

In his presentation about technology for the LDS classroom, Schwendiman referenced statements from several general authorities, from Brigham Young to President Thomas S. Monson, who articulated the blessings and challenges of new technology.

This technology can either help or hinder the Spirit in our lives and in teaching, Schwendiman said. The focus should be on the message, bearing testimony and allowing the Spirit to say what the teacher can't say. The use of technology and whatever you do in the lesson reinforces the message and the Spirit, Schwendiman said.

"Videos, music and pictures can enhance the message, but it takes practice and preparation," he said. "Technology is a tool, and mastering the tool in the classroom enables the Spirit to be felt."

The use of TVs, projectors and PowerPoint presentations has become standard practice in some LDS classrooms, with most members owning a tablet or smartphone that connects to the LDS building's WiFi. If a person is a teacher, Schwendiman highly recommends enlisting the services of a technology expert, possibly a teenager or a non-member, to aid in setting up, operating and taking down the equipment.

"Have them teach you. Let them set up the projector. Have them run it so you can focus on the message and the Spirit," Schwendiman said. "That is the best and simplest way to do it."

Being a pioneer of technology can also an expensive venture, he said.

"That's another reason why you get the assistant who already has all this stuff," he said, sparking laughter from the class.

He recommended for teachers to display pictures, quotes or scripture verses while teaching to create a doctrinal discussion. The best time to use a video depends on your purpose in showing it: at the beginning serves to introduce, in the middle generates discussion, and at the end testifies and closes, Schwendiman said.

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Also when showing a video, keep it to 5 minutes or less. Ask the class to consider a question before watching; ask them to share impressions, perspectives or insights after watching. Reinforce the message of the video with your testimony, Schwendiman said.

Other technology tips for success include practicing before class, keeping things short and simple, planning for the time to set up and take down, and being ready if something doesn't work.

"Have a back up plan, don't panic," Schwendiman said. "And remember, technology must 'add to' not 'be' the learning objective."

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