Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

During this wonderful season of Lent, we are challenging ourselves to any of the following: 40 Things to Give Up for Lent: The List.

These are all wonderful opportunities to develop our Spiritual Selves! And this wonderful season of Lent is a wonderful reminder that it is important to develop our spiritual selves.

Yet, another side to our Lenten practices could be to take time to become more comfortable with our digital skills.  Why? In this 21st century, being a Digital Disciple is very much needed in the ever evolving digital culture that surrounds us. The challenge of being a Digital Disciple is to have the digital skills so that we can communicate and create a message with digital tools, manage the business side of our ministries, or engage our learners of all ages in learning more about their faith via digital experiences.

In the ministry that I am engaged in – training others via Digital Discipleship Boot Camp – I’ve learned that many who participate in our DDBC training often lack the basic technology skills to really be successful in today’s digital world. So, I often wonder – What can I suggest to others that may be FREE or reasonably priced, and is a good learning product?

Recently at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) I discovered the Custom Guide group in the Exhibit Hall..  http://www.customguide.com/.  What immediately caught my eye at the booth was their FREE Cheat Sheets for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.

If you want to learn more about these tools, you can easily download FREE Cheat Sheets at their website  or order high quality laminated cheat sheets for your parish staff, catechists, or parish volunteers.

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More importantly, if you are looking for hands-on experience with engaging, interactive software simulations for Microsoft Office, SharePoint, and more I encourage you to explore the CustomGuide Interactive Training at www.customguide.com. Each tutorial covers a single topic, so you get quick answers to your “how-to” questions. CustomGuide Interactive Training is accessible from your desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone—making it possible for you to learn wherever you train best. Their motto is Learn by doing, not watching. “More importantly, it is reasonably priced so that your budget is maintained.

I love the guides, as I keep them at the side of my office computer.  When I need help, I quickly look at the guide and find what I need!

For example, I have forgotten how to insert a screenshot into my Word document.  Under “Drawing and Graphics” I locate the following –

To Insert a Screenshot: Click the Insert tab on the Ribbon and click the Screenshot button in the Illustrations group. Select an available window from the list, or select the Screen Clipping option to take a screen clip.

I easily add the screenshot to my document, and continue writing and creating the document that I am working on.

Overall, I have discovered that Digital Discipleship Boot Camp (DDBC) participants who come with strong skills in using programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are able to apply these skills to their boot camp experience.

If you would like to engage more in “hands on” learning experiences for learning more about integrating technology into your ministry, then come to the DDBC website to check out the summer schedule.  We’d love to welcome you!

 

 

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Pope Francis recently via Google Hangouts met  students with disabilities and special needs from Spain, India, Brazil and the U.S., who shared how technology is helping them study, play and communicate.  The Pope also said he is a “dinosaur” when it comes to technology.

Perhaps the “dinosaur” image is one that many of us identify with.  Yet the students who met with the Pope eagerly shared with him how technology is part of their lives!  Teachers around the world are learning and meaningfully implementing the use of technology in their classrooms.

We are in teaching ministries today that are radically shifting in methodology all around us.  The daily classroom is being revolutionized with digital tools in ways that today’s students are comfortable with and adapt too quickly.

One methodology concept that began with a simple observation: students need their teachers present to answer questions or to provide help if they get stuck on an assignment; they don’t need their teacher present to listen to a lecture or review content.  Today this method is called the “flipped classroom.”

To learn more about the flipped classroom, I’ve been following blog postings, observed a high school classroom and interviewed the religion teachers using the flipped classroom method, and recently while attending the Florida Educational Technology Conference attended these two sessions – Flirting with iFlipping (Aubrey Harrison) and Instructional Flipping into Practice (Mark Deschaine).

As I reflect on what I’ve experienced and learned about the “flipped classroom”, this is what I’ve learned:

  • There is really no ONE way to flip a learning experience.
  • The more you are comfortable with technology, the easier it is for you to flip your classroom.
  • Be conscious of how your video appeals to those watching it.
  • Learning activities need to be interesting when your students return to your class.
  • Ask yourself: Is what I am doing – video and/or activities – engaging?
  • If you are a “newbie” moving to a flipped classroom style, have this experience first by yourself! Find a colleague who has flipped their classroom and observe and learn from them.
  • Think critically about what you are doing.
  • How you think about teaching, determines how you will integrate technology in what you do!
  • Where you are able, collaborate with others!

I especially appreciate a comment made by Mark Deschaine – This technology revolution has a huge challenge for us!

Why is it challenging?

  • Many of us are dinosaurs trying to adapt to an ever evolving digital culture, language, and learn new skills.
  • Time commitment – Ask yourself – Are you taking time to learn the basics so that you can adapt gradually your methodology to fit the needs of those you minister to? Change happens gradually, not overnight!
  • Competence development – Are you learning the basic skills you need, and choosing to be a lifelong learner to increase the development of your skills? It is impossible today to stand still and learn only ONE thing. A few months later, the technology has changed and you learn or lose it!
  • Class redesign – Will we use the methods that worked for our generation or will we listen to instructional designers (educational technology specialists), tech specialists, multi-media experts, peers, and others who are exploring and mentoring others? We need to redesign HOW we teach the faith today, so that learning objectives are accomplished via pedagogical methods, not the educational technology tool.
  • Teaching/Learning experience – How are catechists and ministers supported during this time of adapting to a new learning/teaching culture? Are we simply teaching technology tools? Or, are we engaging those who are adapting to the digital world to form others in their faith effectively, with better learning outcomes, and increased satisfaction?  What is the built in support?
  • Reflection: Are we taking the time to reflect with one another so that we examine newly implemented teaching strategies, consider student feedback, discuss and share results with peers?

Additional Resources:

Book: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day

Blog Post: Why is Adoption of Educational Technology So Challenging?… ‘It’s Complicated’

If you are flipping your classroom, come and share your story here.

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Inspirational Moments

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One of the reasons I go to the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC), is to meet folks who will inspire me to learn new things.  Recently I was reminded how simple conversations with others are also inspirational.

To my wonderful surprise, a new Digital Disciple Boot Camp (DDBC) participant shared this with me:

Hi, Sr. Caroline – I just had to drop you a quick note and tell you about what I did tonight during a class I was teaching as a result of our conversation. 

I was teaching a group class that combined three 6th grade RE classes.  I had one class waiting for the other 2 classes to arrive so I asked how many had a smart phone with them – all hands shoot up – great, I say, please look up the word “covenant” – hands start flying, voices speaking into Siri – first one that found something was about a movie – nope – next one – a good lay dictionary definition – nope – something more religious – sure enough someone finds the “Biblical” definition – perfect- screen shot so you can read it to the rest when they come. 

It was a perfect use of technology and useful as well.  Thanks for inspiring me today.

Thank you Deb Ryan, Assistant Director of Religious Education, St. Francis of Assisi Church for sharing your story with me.  I trust that you will continue to encounter many others during DDBC who will continue to inspire you.

My wish in this ever evolving 2015 year is that each of you will be inspired by others who are involved in Digital Catechesis.  We are each pioneers, trying to figure out what is possible and what works!

I look forward to sharing FETC stories with my readers over the next couple of weeks.  Since I am an introvert, it takes time to sift through the mass of information that I was exposed to at FETC.  As you visit this space, I will share with you what and who inspired me to continue to be a Digital Disciple.

Of course, come and share your stories with ACyberPilgrim as well!

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.    – Mother Teresa

What is FETC?

FETC-2015

This week I will be in Orlando attending the FETC Conference.  What is FETC?  Well, FETC is the acronym for the Florida Educational Technology Conference.  So why attend FETC?

There are three reasons why I attend:

  1. Outstanding Programming: 200 sessions and 80+ workshops focus on the latest resources and techniques-wikis, blogs, social networking, virtual learning, podcasting along with other hot topics.
  2. Learn from the Experts: K-12 Education technology leaders help you explore current and emerging technologies—and show you how you can apply them to your school challenges.
  3. The FETC 2015 Exhibit Hall and ed-tech marketplace, where you can meet face-to-face with the vendors carrying the technologies you need to know about!

In today’s digital environment, I need to keep developing my Digital Mind.  When I attend our regular conferences – NCCL, NPCD, NFCYM, and others – there are always wonderful technology workshops offered.

However, when I attend an educational technology conference, I am immersed (almost baptized!) in a digital world.  When I first attended an Ed Tech conference in Chicago, back in 1983, I froze at the very entrance of the Exhibit Hall.  I remember being frightened because I knew next to nothing about any type of technology.

Today, I am immersed in a digital world that covers three major areas:

  • Information Technology or IT- IT refers to anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software, the Internet, or the people that work with these technologies. Many companies now have IT departments for managing the computers, networks, and other technical areas of their businesses. IT jobs include computer programming, network administration, computer engineering, Web development, technical support, and many other related occupations. Since we live in the “information age,” information technology has become a part of our everyday lives.
  • Communications Technology – Refers to any communication device or application (e.g., Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.), encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning.
  • Educational Technology or sometimes called Instructional Technology – The study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. Read more here.

I’ve learned that I do not need to master all three areas.  However, I need to understand how these three areas fit into my world.  If I need my computer fixed or networked, I know I need to connect with an IT professional.  In Communications Technology – there are more areas than I need to know – so I pick and choose (e.g., Social Media, Radio, TV, etc.).

However, it is the Educational Technology World where I spend my time.  I have earned an MA in Educational Technology, which has helped me to engage in today’s rapidly changing, wired world.  Today, to become a better catechist requires a hands-on understanding of current technologies and the strategy and skills to integrate them into the learning experience and ministry training. How we teach and form others in their faith in a Digital World is different than when I began teaching or being involved in the parish world.

So, I go to FETC to stretch my mind to learn new methodologies, tools, and processes that include e-learning and more.  I’ve attended this conference on a regular basis since 2003! And if you look at the list of who is invited to attend –

  • Superintendents
  • Principals and Vice Principals
  • Technology-using Educators
  • District-level Leaders
  • Curriculum Designers
  • Media Specialists
  • Technology Directors/Technologists
  • Instructional Support Staff
  • Non-instructional Support Staff

Yes, it is geared for the school educator.  However, I go to learn what is happening in our schools.  These are the folks who come to our parish programs. And I ask – Can we “Walk their Walk and Talk Their Talk” when it comes to integrating technology into our ministries?

I plan to share more with you from the conference.  So, come back to learn what I’ve discovered.  If you have questions you would like to explore, please ask them in the Comments section of this post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

I recently discovered Tom Spiglanin’s article “I Believe in the Value of Connectedness” where he characterized the connectedness of the business organization.  In his opening paragraph, he said:

While every organization in the world is unique, most have characteristics in common. Each has its own culture that derives from its mission, vision, values, and the people who work there. Every employee has his or her own roles, responsibilities and work style, but he or she seldom works in isolation, even if working individually. All employees are ultimately connected to one another through a common purpose to succeed and fulfill the mission of the organization. This is the nature of healthy organizations.

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21st Century Connectedness

As I read Tom’s post, I reflected on the value of connectedness in today’s faith formation world.  Yes, we are a network of learning networks in our neighborhood, city, state, country and around the world.  Once upon a time, learners sat in a one-room school or engaged in learning in a traditional classroom.  Today’s learning environment is now a mesh of traditional and eLearning opportunities. A year ago, I shared the 21st Century Faith Formation: Are We Ready graphic with those who were attending the 2014 Interactive Connections Conference.  As I look at this graphic, I wonder – How do we as formation staff, utilize this ever evolving digital world in our learning ministries? Are we ready for this ever evolving digital environment?

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A time of exploration and formation

Just as NASA sends rockets out to explore the universe around us, it is time for each of us to launch eLearning opportunities in our own parishes and diocese.  As we launch new initiatives, some will be successful and others will allow us to see that we still have a journey to pursue.

It is a world where we will be immersed in an ever evolving culture, language, and skills.  Many times, after giving a presentation, I’ve had participants come to me and say something like – An excellent presentation, but I did not understand many of the terms that you mentioned.

After hearing similar comments from other workshop attendees, I began Digital Discipleship Boot Camp.  Now, after three years of boot camp training, there are over 250 participants who have been immersed in the digital culture, language, and skills of this evolving Digital World.

What have DDBC participants accomplished? 

Come and visit the DDBC Capstone Projects Page.  Here you will discover that those who have immersed themselves in the Digital Culture, Language, and Skills are today’s Explorers.  They apply what they have learned to their ministry world and created a variety of ways to connect others in parish faith formation.

Read on to see what others have done!  You will see that those who participate in Digital Discipleship Boot Camp do become Digital Disciples.  If you are interested in learning more about DDBC, come and visit the DDBC website. You are invited to share in DDBC Connectedness!  Come join us!

Thank you for reading this post.  You are invited to share how you are connecting others in your parish through digital tools.  We would love to hear from you!

 

Dear wonderful friends,
I want to thank each of you for your wonderful and creative approach to the ever evolving Digital World.  Our ministry is one of communicating the Word!  In today’s digital world we are called to learn more about the Digital Culture, Speak a New Language, and Learn New Skills so that – “Technological innovation as an expression of God-given creativity frames social communication within the divine plan and invites humankind into is as coparticipants through our generativity.”   (Daniella Zsupan-Jerome)

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A few things to watch out for in 2015:

  • ACyberPilgrim articles will resume in 2015, so watch this space.
  • Insights from the Florida Educational Technology Conference will be shared in early February.
  • Watch for news about the 2015 Digital Discipleship Boot Camp training. Now ALL online and our DDBC team has updated the Module assignments and added a new module –  Websites for Ministry

Have a wonderful Christmas break.. I look forward to seeing you in 2015.

Christmas wishes,

Sr. Caroline

Getting Ready for Advent

Note: This blog page is an example for the CATECHIST article “Create an Advent Blog” that models a blog page for a junior high class group during Advent. (Pg. 46 CATECHIST November/December 2014)

As we get ready for Advent, it is a time in which Christians throughout the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Advent is a time of expectation, waiting, and hope.  Let’s watch the video to learn more about this Advent season.

After watching the video, take a moment to answer these questions:

Getting Ready for Advent

Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God’s Word (Lectio Divina) allow yourself time to hear, listen and reflect on the Sunday readings.

First Sunday of Advent Scripture Readings

What is the Lord saying to you in this reading? Take a moment to share your reflection and add your comment below.

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