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Meaning-making in prayer: A model for the use of collaborative constructivist technology for spiritual engagement

, Teachers College, Columbia University, United States

Teachers College, Columbia University . Awarded


This study was an exploratory investigation to demonstrate the efficacy of using digital technology in a constructionist fashion to develop an increased ability to be self-reflective and a mature member of a religious community of practice. Perkins's (1992) "person-plus" model of distributed cognition was combined with Lave and Wenger's (1991) theory of Legitimate Peripheral Participation and the philosophy of Heschel to provide the theoretical foundation of this study of meaning-making. In a summer camp, eight twelve-year-old females explored and shared their experiences as members of the modern Orthodox Jewish prayer community of practice. After viewing examples of illustrated sacred texts, pairs of girls collaboratively constructed a multi-modal representation of Jewish liturgy using the computer and a rich surround. They translated the Hebrew text into the vernacular, English, and presented the prayer as a poem. The dyads designed and illustrated the prayer text with color, fonts and images that expressed their negotiated interpretation and meaning. Participants were engaged in conversation with the prayer text, created joint knowledge and distributed meaningful imagetexts. The project was facilitated in an ambiance consistent with the principles of spiritual education. The analysis of this intervention, named PrayerLive, utilized data collection methods including field notes, pre- and post-activity profiles, individual interviews, videotapes of dyadic collaborations and group sessions, as well as the completed multimedia presentations. The findings of this study include a portrait of the modern Orthodox Jewish adolescent female's liturgical literacy as well as their attitudes and prayer practices. Research indicates that the computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL) when applied to the affective domain, supports meaning-making and increases participation in a community of practice, especially when it engages the feelings of the participant. The cohort reported positive changes in their personal experiences with the prayer text as well as a significant increase in their comprehension and reflection as a result of their participation in PrayerLive. The paradigm set forth in this study is a prototype for an interdisciplinary project that both explores a content area while teaching visual literacy, metaphorical thinking and computer skills. The success of the intervention recommends further study and development of technospiritual interventions for spiritual education.


Preiss, D. Meaning-making in prayer: A model for the use of collaborative constructivist technology for spiritual engagement. Ph.D. thesis, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved April 22, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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