Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Digital Ideas for Lent!

Lent is this wonderful opportunity to reflect on various spiritual themes – the Year of Mercy and more! We often give things up.  Yet, I would like to challenge each of my readers to explore how they could “Evangelize” during Lent using any of the digital tools that are on their desktop, laptop, or any of the mobile tools that you have access to.

Why do I challenge you?  I listened to Fr. Frank DeSiano’s Webinar Lent in the Year of Mercy  recently.  And as I listened this slide was important to me –

What digital activities could be suggested?

What digital activities could be suggested?

Why?  Because my mind saw a chart just waiting to be transformed into ideas where we could be Digital Disciples and Evangelizers.  I invite you to “brainstorm” with me about possible options.  For example, I would retitle the slide to: Corporal Works of Mercy – Options for Digital Discipleship.  Then the three headings revised to: (1) Work, (2) Personal Digital Activity, and (3) Church Digital Activity.

As I begin to brainstorm, here are a couple of thoughts flowing through my mind:

(Work)To Feed the hungry  – (Personal Digital Activity) Give up a meal and contribute to the Catholic Relief Services

(Work) To clothe the naked  – (Church Digital Activity) – Create a graphic using Canva that promotes the local shelter with a call to action to bring in new or gently used clothes to give to the shelter.

Pinellas Hope-2

Use Graphic on Facebook or Tweet to your fans

I invite YOU, my wonderful readers, to continue to brainstorm for all us!  If you look at the chart, what do you see as possible options to be a Digital Disciple or Evangelizer?  I ask you to continue the conversation by clicking on the “LEAVE A COMMENT” link towards the bottom of this page.

I look forward to hearing the wonderful suggestions that you will offer this Digital Community!

Merciful Technology Prayer

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Recently Digital Disciple Network Associates gathered in Orlando before attending the Future of Educational Technology Conference (FETC).  Claudia McIvor led us in prayer as we began. We may often wonder on “...how our efforts to bring technology and faith together might bind the wounds of those who need to feel the healing touch of Jesus in the world today.”

I wanted to share this prayer with you as it highlights some of the possibilities of using technology for ministry.  You may wish to pray this with your staff in the future as you engage in conversations about the importance of technology in your ministries.

Watch this blog for more about technology and ministry after I attended the FETC Conference in Orlando last week.

Leader: In this year of Divine Mercy, let us reflect on how our efforts to bring technology and faith together might bind the wounds of those who need to feel the healing touch of Jesus in the world today. To guide us, we recall the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Leader: Many are hungry and thirsty. May we bring awareness to their needs and respond in generosity through the power of the Internet and social media.

R: Holy Spirit, impel us.

Leader:  The sick, the disabled, and the elderly often cannot join us in our churches. May our videos and live broadcasts reach out to touch, reassure and nurture them, bringing community into their homes.

R: Holy Spirit, inspire us.

Leader:  Isolation brings doubt and ignorance. May wisdom fly to those who are alone, reassuring them of God’s powerful and constant love, through our digital stories and emails.

R: Holy Spirit, guide us.

Leader:  Though we may be tempted to hold grudges, withhold kindness, or spread phobias, may we always choose to use digital media to forgive, instruct and share God’s love for all people, no matter their race or creed.

R: Holy Spirit, direct us.

Leader:  In all that we do in our ministries with technology, may we always be mindful of those in need, and may we call on the creative breath of God to find new ways to show mercy to all.

R: Holy Spirit, we trust in you.

 

The Corporal Works of Mercy are these kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs.

feed the hungry
give drink to the thirsty
clothe the naked
shelter the homeless
visit the sick
visit the imprisoned
bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are acts of compassion, as listed below, by which we help our neighbors with their emotional and spiritual needs.

counsel the doubtful
instruct the ignorant
admonish sinners
comfort the afflicted
forgive offenses
bear wrongs patiently
pray for the living and the dead

http://www.loyolapress.com/corporal-and-spiritual-works-of-mercy.htm

Blog-Apps

Recently, David Kapular shared a blog article Top 50 Sites and Apps of 2015. As I read through his list, I picked 16 that I felt had some possibility in the religion classroom.  I invite those who read this blog to try one, two, or three of these suggestions.  Please come back and share your story about how you are using the App in your program.  Or, if you would like to update us about the App in Catechesis20, please contact me by clicking on Contact Me.

  1. Seesaw– Excellent free mobile app (Android/iOS) for students creating digital portfolio with educational portal.
  2. Oncore– A free to use iPad app for teachers that acts like an all-in-one Learning Management System, where educators can assess students, take attendance, communicate with parents, and much more.
  3. Plotagon– A wonderful site/app for digital storytelling where students create animated movies (i.e Xtranormal) by typing a script.
  4. Sketch Nation– A great free site/app (iOS/Android) for creating games.  Students can also work on their STEM skills and learn the basics of programming.
  5. Ignite Teaching– An excellent free iPad app for Project Based Learning through collaborative digital presentations/projects.
  6. WhatsDue– A cool new free mobile app (iOS/Android) for keeping students and parents up to date on what is happening in the classroom.
  7. Bloomz– Bloomz is a free (iOS/Android) app for educators looking to communicate with parents via mobile devices.
  8. Versal– A nice site for creating interactive digital lessons, that is ideal for online learning.
  9. Learnteria–  A new site for educators looking for reviews on a wide variety items, such as: sites, books, apps, and more.
  10. Story Shares– An interesting new site for readers grades K-12th.  Story Shares creates digital books that are customized per Reading Level.
  11. Quizizz– A excellent site for creating multiplayer quizzes where educators get results in real-time.
  12. Choosito– A new and safe way to search the web for students and library resources.
  13. Make It– A nice iOS app for grades K-2nd for creating games, stories, slideshows, and more.
  14. FlipQuiz– A fun site for creating Jeopardy style game quizzes.
  15. Scoodle Jam– A great iPad app for grades K-6th ideal for Project Based Learning.  Students can create presentations, drawings, projects, and more as well as choose through lots of educational templates.
  16. Kidtopia– A nice safe COPPA/CIPA compliant search engine for kids/students.

For those who live in the Florida area, if you are interested in learning more about educational technology, I invite you to attend the Future of Educational Technology Conference.  For 36 years, FETC has brought education leaders and technology experts together to exchange techniques and strategies for teaching and learning success.  Known worldwide for its outstanding program FETC provides educators and administrators the opportunity to explore the integration of technology across the curriculum – from kindergarten to college – through hands-on exposure to the latest hardware, software and successful strategies.  FETC offers a wealth of information for all education professionals which can be easily adapted and used by ministry professionals.

DigitalWordCloud

I’m not sure where 2015 went.  Here it is, it is now 2016!  So what will ACyberPilgrim be about this New Year?

I must admit, that it is always a challenge to pick a topic to share with you.  It is probably time to invite you to offer your suggestions.  What would you like me to write about in the area of faith-based educational technology?  Please take five minutes or less of your precious time to share your thoughts and ideas by clicking here.

As you ponder your response, new technologies have the potential to transform discipleship in our church.  The power of being a Digital Disciple is available to all of us today – parish members, youth, clergy, and religious. But, this potential will remain unrealized unless we empower our members with the digital skills necessary to be a Digital Disciple.

Grovo teaches Internet and technology skills.  Here is what they identify as the 8 core digital skills that the modern workforce requires to deliver on business goals and how to develop an action plant to address the digital skills gap in an organization:

  1. Working with documents
  2. Project collaboration & management
  3. Attention management
  4. Communication
  5. Digital etiquette
  6. Search and research
  7. Platform flexibility
  8. Security and privacy

Note: To learn more about the 8 core digital skills visit this PDF document.

I am inviting you to identify at least ONE digital skill that a minister needs today.  You have a question in the survey to share your thoughts and reflections.

Thank you for visiting this blog.  And I encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas with me.  Blessings to you in this Year of Mercy!

 

 

 

 

You’ve caught on and realize that the students in your classroom are Digital Natives with a smartphone or tablet in their pocket or backpack.  In addition to figuring out the best web applications or apps to use with them, here are some points to consider before you plan your lesson:

  1. Read your Diocesan AUP or RUP document. The Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) or sometimes called Responsible Use Policy (RUP) usually outlines the way the Internet can be used with students.  Helpful procedures and sometimes suggestions are included.  If you are unable to locate this document on your diocesan website, ask your parish leader or diocesan office for a copy.
  2. Review the “Terms of Use” and “Privacy Policy” of the tool or the website. These are the rules which one must agree to abide by in order to use a service.  Or, it can simply be a disclaimer when using a website.  What does the catechist want to be aware of? What information a site may collect about the user, age limitations, or is parental permission required. If you do not understand the terminology, check with your administrator.  It is helpful to let your administrators know what websites/tools you will be using with your students.
  3. WiFi is needed for BYOD. How your WiFi is set-up needs a professional who understands what is involved in the overall set-up in your parish as well as the school. To get on the BYOD boat, involve these professionals so that they become part of the secure-BYOD solution at your parish.  There are alternatives.  It is important to have secure BYOD.  Meet your parishioner/student mobile pastoral needs.  Help them to move forward to a better place.  Bring solutions to your pastor.
  4. Highlight the importance of Digital Footprints. The Cybersmart blog says “One of the great things about being online is the ability to share videos and photos with your friends and seeing their response.  Everything you post online combines to make your digital footprint. Remind students that what they create online contributes to their digital footprint. Guide students so that they are not compromising personal information.
  5. Involve your parish director, pastor, or diocesan office on web usage. Remember anybody today can create a beautiful website that appears to be a good Catholic website.  Make sure you seek out those who can guide you in choosing websites that represent the best in Catholic theology for the age level you are involved with. If your diocese or parish is lacking in this area, start the conversation.   If you are unsure about using something, ask your parish director, pastor, or diocesan leader.  There may be digital libraries available to you of vetted online material. If not, then…
  6. Completely vet the website or app before using. If the website or app has not been vetted, check with your parish or diocesan administrators for approval.  There may be a vetting form or process. Before you use this digital material, take time to review it and become acquainted with the content.  Just like previewing a video, you want to make sure that the site or app has good faith content and is age appropriate.
  7. Involve parents in the process. Parents normally provide their children with the devices they may bring into your classroom. It is helpful to let them know what digital activities their child will be using in your classroom. In the registration process, it is important to highlight your AUP (or RUP) and Privacy Policies. Remember that some web sites may need parental permission for their child to use the website. This is a good time to get the “Parental” permission you need for the class year. This is also a way to engage your parents to become partners and supporters of their child becoming a digital disciple.
  8. Incorporate good Digital Citizenship at all levels. Why is Digital Citizenship important? Even for Youngest Kids is an article that reminds us that our students are communicating in a 21st Century world. How we act and communicate today is very important in our being digital disciples.  There are helpful points to be aware of in the article so that you can help students communicate and collaborate safely and responsibly.
  9. Determine why the website and/or app is being incorporated into the learning experience. Remember that technology is not a “baby sitter” or to be used “to fill up class time.” As a catechist involved in crafting a well-designed lesson, we need to realize that our students come to our learning sessions with 21st Century Learning Skills.  How we adapt technology in our classes can be learned from those who are already engaged in technology integration.  You may find this article – Why Do We Need Technology Integration?  helpful!
  10. Become familiar with CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA. These are important rules and regulations that guide the education community. They are also important to the pastoral parish community. Click on the links and/or search the Internet to learn more about each of these topics so that you can learn why these areas are important for you and your students.

Technology provides multiple opportunities to provide learning experiences that are engaging, productive, and allows the student to learn.  Using a website or app provides you a way to engage your student in 21st learning experiences.  As you reflect on the ten ideas provided, you may have other ideas and comments to share.  Please feel free to share these via email, or comment, as I am always learning.  I trust that this blog post offers you a good starting place as you create exciting learning opportunities that integrates technology into your classroom.

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Once upon a time I was a Diocesan Director of Catechetics!  One of our major tasks in the diocese was the training and formation of our catechists.  After working at the Diocesan or Archdiocesan Level for over 20 years, I would affirm that all diocesan leaders offer outstanding faith formation training!

However, as we continue to march into the 21st Century the element that is missing is related to faith-based educational technology.  Why do I say that? Because I am an educational technology specialist and I’ve observed what is happening at the educational level for elementary, middle, high school, and college since 1983!

All one needs to do is to attend a national or local educational technology conference, and almost immediately you learn that you are stepping into a digital culture, language, with needed skills you do not have.  Often the ministry visitor to a national educational technology conference feels like a foreigner in a foreign land!

So what do we do?  Here are a few suggestions:

Let’s develop National Faith-based Educational Technology Standards.  Why? Over the last 30+ years, the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) –   have driven what is happening in the educational area from kinder through university. I suggest that we model our standards on the NETS standards.  This way when students attending public educational institutions step into our learning environments, we will understand and know how to use technology for evangelization and digital discipleship. We need to learn from those who have blazed this wonderful trail before us.  It is a common vision, which currently is needed in the ministry world!

The New Media and New Evangelization.  As I read Archbishop José H.   Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, presentation to the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders in Houston, Texas he clearly states – I want to talk with you today about the new culture of communication and its implications for the Church’s mission of evangelization.  I am delighted with his approach and comments.  He clearly invites us to – …the goal of our mission to the digital continent is the same of our mission in every age and every place — to bring people to the beauty of encountering Christ, to the beauty of living in authentic relationship with him and our brothers and sisters in the Church, which is the family of God. However, to get to this point takes collaboration between those engaged in the ICT Triangle.

ICT Collaboration.  There are many ways to use technology in ministry.  Information Technology specialists are engaged in utilizing administrative and financial technologies at the diocesan and parish levels. Communication Specialists are engaged in a great deal of our public relations work that today also involves the integration of social media into our communication needs.  The educational technology specialist can serve at a number of levels, depending on their professional background.  When you Google – who is an educational technology specialist – you discover the following:

  • Aninstructional technology specialist facilitates technology use at schools and universities through a variety of interactive methods. Do we also need these specialists at the parish and with other ministries?
  • They assist faculty and staff with new classroom technology by developing tutorials, workshops and training sessions on new hardware and software, audio, video and graphics instruments. Yes, there is all sorts of available training, but is it tailored to our ministry world?
  • With an Education Specialist (EdS) degree in Educational Technology, you can initiate change in your classroom, at your school, or in your district. In our case you will be a leader in 21st Century faith formation experiences. Change is needed in the methodology of teaching the faith to our children, families, youth, and adults. Are we ready to adapt to the methodology that is already exciting our students in other subject areas? If not, let’s get degrees in this area to be the experts we need to be!

When I worked at the university level, I was in heaven (well almost heaven!) as the ICT Triangle was very operative here with three departments working collaboratively together – Information Technology, Communications, and Academic Technology.

So far in our church I see the following:

  • Diocesan Information Systems Conference – The Annual DISC Conference is the premier showcase for the use of information technology within the Catholic Church at both local and national levels. Members represent their Diocesan Information Systems Departments.
  • USCCB Communications Committee – The committee seeks to support the work of evangelization and faith formation through a comprehensive approach to media that includes media relations, media production and programming, policy, review of entertainment media, publishing, distribution, and licensing with sensitivity towards culturally diverse communities. I would venture to say that all diocesan offices have a Communications Department.
  • However, in the area of Educational Technology I do not see a concerted effort to hire these types of specialists at the diocesan level. Here in the State of Florida, only ONE diocese has an educational technology specialist at the diocesan level and she primarily serves the Catholic School Community.  In addition, there is no national group to represent educational technology specialists – except for the emerging Digital Disciple Network.

So, let’s find the folks who are interested in being or becoming educational technology specialists who are willing to collaborate and share with one another.  They are the folks who will be part of the training network that we need.

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A catechist in today’s learning environment – is challenged!  Why?  Their students are often engaged in some wonderful learning environments that utilize a variety of digital learning methods in their everyday schools.  Yet, when they come to the parish religion classroom, there are a number of challenges:

Experiences will differ.  Some parish programs have a wonderful relationship with their schools.  Technology like smart boards and WiFi are available to the parish program.  In some parish programs, there is a distance between the two programs, that is separated by a wall almost impossible to climb.  Most catechists in today’s digital world do not know or understand what is happening in the area of educational technology in our public schools. So, even if equipment is available they may not know how to use or there is an understanding that the equipment is only available to the school community.

Native student. Our students know and are comfortable with technology.  We often call them Digital Natives!  Instead of welcoming the digital tools (smartphones and tablets) that are in their pockets and school bags, we discourage them from using and/or ban them from bringing into the classroom.

Embrace the changing role of the catechist.  Are we paying attention to the changing role of the classroom teacher?  If yes, we will learn from and adapt what we learn from their everyday journey in the classroom.  The role of the teacher today is different!  They are no longer the sage on the stage but a mentor, coach, and more.  As a catechist, am I a spiritual guide who knows how to engage young people in evangelizing with digital tools? After all, digital culture is our youths “modus operandi.”

Empower yourself.  Take time to learn more about the digital world of our students.  Digital Discipleship Boot Camp is an option for you to consider.  It is an opportunity to not only learn about but to get hands on experience with the variety of tools that are available to you to use today in a learning environment.  Learning the digital world is a bit like learning a foreign language.  It takes time and practice to become fluent.  The more you use digital tools, the more natural it begins to feel.

A little learning can go a long way.  When you jump in with both feet, this changing learning environment can be overwhelming for a catechist.  So, what’s the secret to success? Go “inch by inch and eventually you can go yard by yard.” Instead of trying to do more than you can truly handle, find one or two things that will work for you and your students.  Later, you can expand your base of knowledge.

Every catechist is capable.  In working with adults in the Digital Discipleship Boot Camp, when I see comments like –

  • I consider myself a novice at most communications technology. I’m willing and excited to learn whatever I can.
  • I would like to know how to keep up with all the new technology that seems to keep developing every day.

I am delighted, as it is possible to learn something about this ever evolving digital culture, language, and gain new skills.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?  We are challenged today to be innovators in classroom methodology.     How we teach and share the faith will change.  We simply need to adapt to the world as it changes around us – best “inch by inch.”  Becoming a Digital Disciple is important today!

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