Course Number: APO/PAS 631
Course Title: Theology of Social Media

Instructor

Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, OP smahfood@holyapostles.edu 

1. COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course explores the history, trends, and issues related to the Catholic Church and its use of

media for social communications. Students discuss how media is “social” and how this can be

used to “introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the

face of Christ" (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for 44th World Communications Day, 2010). 

2. ENVISIONED LEARNING OUTCOMES

3. COURSE SCHEDULE

Week 1: Introduction: The Internet and Social Media

Readings

Church and Internet – Pontifical Council for Social Communications

Section 1 – Chs. 1-5 - Gould

Speaking their Language: Connecting with Young Adults (Marcel LeJeune, in Vogt)

Being Present and Accountable in a Busy World (Intro) – Aljentera

Social Media Activity #1

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 2: Church and Media: Decree on Social Communications

Readings

Section I – Ch. 6 - Gould

Inter Mirifica - Vatican II

                Suggested Readings: Paul VI's Messages for World Communications Day

Social Media Activity #2

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 3: Pope John Paul II: New Pope, Same Message

Readings

What Makes Social Media Important for Parish Ministry? – Aljentera

Section II – Chs. 7-8 - Gould

Pope John Paul II's Messages for World Communications Day

Social Media Activity #3

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 4: Spirituality: Reading in non-Sacred and Sacred Contexts

Readings

Section 2, Chs. 9 and 10 - Gould

Into the Light: Sharing the Spiritual Journey (Jennifer Fulwiler, in Vogt)

Social Media Activity #4

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 5: Ethics and Culture: Doing the Right Thing

Readings

Ethics in Communications (2000) - Pontifical Council for Social Communications

Ethics in Internet (2002) – Pontifical Council for Social Communications

Section II – Chs. 11-12 - Gould

Social Media Activity #5

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 6: Taking it on the Road: (Re)Forming the Culture

Readings

Section II, Ch. 13 - Gould

Virtual Areopagus: Digital Dialogue with the Unchurched (Fr. Robert Barron, in Vogt)

That they May be One: Cultivating Online Community (Lisa M. Hendey, in Vogt)

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 7: Defending the Faith: New Modes, Same Mission

Readings

Digital Discourse: The New Apologetics (Fr. Dwight Longenecker, in Vogt)

Choose either Communio et Progressio or Aetatis Novae for the purpose of demonstrating how either document advances the mission in an increasingly secular world

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 8: Media Connections: Other Modes of Delivery

Readings

Familiarizing Yourself with Social Media: A Social Media Primer – Aljentera

Section II, Chs. 14-19 - Gould

Modern Epistles: Blogging the Faith (Mark P. Shea, in Vogt)

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 9: Ecclesiology: Engaging the Local Church

Readings

Integrating Social Media into Parish Ministry – Aljentera

Section III, Chs. 20-26 - Gould

Innovative Shepherding: New Media in the Diocese (Scot Landry, in Vogt)

High-Tech Community: New Media in the Parish (Matt Warner, in Vogt)

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 10: Benedict XVI and Francis: New Popes, Same Message?

Readings

Pope Benedict XVI's Messages for World Communications Day

Pope Francis' Messages for World Communications Day

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 11: New Kind of Fishing: Casting into the Deep of the Net

Readings

Section III, Ch. 27 - Gould

New Wineskins: Fresh Presentations of Ancient Tradition (Taylor Marshall, in Vogt)

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 12: Preaching and Engaging: Meeting the World where it is

Readings

Changing the World: New Media Activism (Thomas Peters, in Vogt)

Assignment: PowerPoint Due

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 13: Turning Words to Action: Filling the Gap

Readings

Putting Social Media to Work in Your Parish – Aljentera

Moving Mountains: Building a Digital Movement (Shawn Carney, in Vogt)

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 14: Moving Onward: Shaping the Future

Readings

To Infinity and Beyond: The Future of the Church and New Media - Vogt

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

Week 15: Conclusion and Impact

Readings

Pitfalls and Possibilities– Aljentera

Afterword by Timothy Cardinal Dolan (in Vogt)

Assignment: Project analysis or research paper due

Weekly Discussion: Post your initial comment by FRIDAY; respond to at least one other by SUNDAY.

4. COURSE REQUIREMENTS

Discussion postings – 25%

One or more discussion forums will be available each week. Students will respond substantively to fifteen weekly forums by FRIDAY of each week. The postings should be 300-400 words each and should address with some depth of thought the discussion prompt based on the lecture and the assigned readings.

Peer Responses – 10%

Each week every student is expected to respond (in around 50 words or so) to at least one reflection made by any student by SUNDAY of each week. The idea is to get to know one another through interaction.

Social Media Activities – 35%

Students will visit and/or create logins on different media sites to experiment with their form and content and/or critically analyze how the sites are used for engaging others. See course schedule for weeks when social media activities are assigned.

The Semester Project (and paper for graduate credit) – 30%

The semester project (for undergraduate credit) or project and paper (for graduate credit) is based on one of these learning outcomes (your choice):

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of how the Church responds to and initiates the use of media, especially social media.
  2. Students will demonstrate a capacity for critically engaging the media in light of the Christian Gospel.

Students will work individually to develop a short PowerPoint presentation (10-15 slides) and a research paper based on either of the two learning outcomes. This project will be divided into two parts, each of which will be on the dates assigned below.

This project and paper together analyze and compare at least two examples of social media in order to shed light on "Christianity and Social Media" in a way that focuses on one of the two learning outcome areas defined above (either Church's use of media or engage media in light of Gospel).

The first part is for the individual to create a PowerPoint presentation explaining the research idea and how it is to be carried out. Due on the discussion board. (The rubric below applies to this presentation.) Due by the end of Week 12.

The second part is for the individual to write up an 8-10 page research paper documenting insights gained from the comparative analysis, and relating them to the readings of the course, in such a way as to integrate and describe the two examples in light of the Church's teachings and relevant readings from the course as well as other scholarly sources. There should be at least 8 scholarly sources (no wiki or similar sources). (The rubric below applies to this analysis.) Due the end of Week 15.  

Citations in Discussion Posts

For the purposes of the Discussions in Populi, please do provide a full footnote for sources at the end of your post. You will have to type a special character (^) at the beginning and end of your numbers to make a superscript in Populi, e.g. ^1^, ^2^, etcetera. Use the special characters for superscript also in your footnote.

Example Footnote

^1^ Dan Andriacco, Screen Saved: Peril and Promise of Media in Ministry (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2000), 5, [Hereafter SS].

Also, to bold, italicize, or underline words in Populi, please refer to the “Formatting Guide” located below all discussion/comment fields in Populi.

5. REQUIRED READINGS and RESOURCES:

6. SUGGESTED READINGS and RESOURCES:

Internet articles pertaining to current events as occur throughout the course.

7. EVALUATION

Also see Course Requirements, above. Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at http://www.holyapostles.edu/owl).

GRADING SCALE:

A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below

Grading Rubric for the Major Papers and Discussion Board (DB) Postings

0 pts. – Paper
0 pts. – DB Posting;

3 pts. – Paper
2 pts. – DB Posting;

6 pts. – Paper
4 pts. – DB Posting;

9 pts. – Paper
6 pts. – DB Posting;

12 pts. – Paper
8 pts. – DB Posting;

15 pts. – Paper
10 pts. – DB Posting;

CONTENT

Absence of Understanding

Analysis shows no awareness of the discipline or its methodologies as they relate to the topic.

Lack of Understanding

Analysis seems to misunderstand some basic concepts of the discipline or lacks ability to articulate them.

Inadequate understanding

Analysis is sometimes unclear in understanding or articulating concepts of the discipline.

Adequate understanding

Analysis demonstrates an understanding of basic concepts of the discipline but could express them with greater clarity.

Solid Understanding

Analysis demonstrates a clear understanding and articulation of concepts with some sense of their wider implications.

Insightful understanding

Analysis clearly demonstrates an understanding and articulation of concepts of the discipline as they relate to the topic; highlights connections to other concepts; integrates concepts into wider contexts.

RESEARCH

Missing Research

Paper shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Weak research and/or documentation

Inadequate number or quality of sources; many facts not referenced; several errors in citation format.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources; too many citation errors.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.

Excellent critical research and documentation

Critically selected and relevant scholarly sources demonstrating extensive, in-depth research; sources skillfully incorporated into paper at all necessary points; all citations follow standard bibliographic format.

WRITING & EXPRESSION

Incomplete writing

Analysis is only partially written or completely misses the topic.

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Analysis fails to address the topic; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Episodic writing, a mix of strengths and weaknesses.

Analysis noticeably neglects or misinterprets the topic; simplistic or repetitive treatment, only partially-internalized; weak organization and development, some meandering; simple sentences, below-level diction; distracting errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Analysis is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment; satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors.

Solid writing, with something interesting to say.

Analysis is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples; level-appropriate syntax and diction; mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error.

Command-level writing, making a clear impression

Analysis is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage.

COMMUNITY INTERACTION

Inadequate response

Response merely provides laudatory encouragement for original post, e.g., “Excellent post! You really have thought of something there.”

Poor response

Response misses the point of the original posting.

Weak response

Response summarizes original posting to which it responds.

Acceptable response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds.

Individually-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds and fosters its development.

Community-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the learning community and fosters its development.

8. DISABILITIES ACCOMMODATIONS POLICY

Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at rmish@holyapostles.edu or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.

9. ACADEMIC HONESTY POLICY

Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.

10. ATTENDANCE POLICY

Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required to be in class 3 hours a week and prepare for class discussions 4.5 hours a week. Expect to devote at least 7 quality hours a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.

11. INCOMPLETE POLICY

An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.

12. ABOUT YOUR PROFESSOR

Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, OP, is a Lay Dominican of the Chapter of the Holy Rosary in the Province of St. Albert. Dr. Mahfood holds a master’s in comparative literature from the University of Texas at Arlington, a master’s in philosophy from Holy Apostles College & Seminary, a master’s in theology from Holy Apostles College & Seminary, a master’s in educational technology from Webster University and a doctorate in postcolonial literature and theory from Saint Louis University. Among his publications include his book Radical Eschatologies: Embracing the Eschaton in the Works of Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Nuruddin Farah, and Ayi Kwei Armah and pending is a book co-authored with Dr. Ronda Chervin entitled Catholic Realism: a Framework for the Refutation of Atheism and the Evangelization of Atheists. Dr. Mahfood lives in St. Louis with his wife, Dr. Stephanie Mahfood, and children, Alexander and Eva Ruth.