Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

If I felt like a gap existed between myself and the 12-year old that I met back in 1983 in the Radio Shack store, imagine how many of us feel today when we compare ourselves with a Digital Native?  Regardless of the gap we feel, it is time to learn more about educational technology.  In many ways, even though we may feel like we’re running to catch up, we are at an advantage.  Educators all around us are savvy users of educational technology, and we can learn from them! We can learn from their “best practices” and adapt what works to our faith environment.

If you take time to Google “educational technology” you will find helpful background information.  Don’t expect to learn all that is possible overnight! Remember, this field of study emerged at the university level about thirty-five to fifty years ago.  Many of the degree programs in educational technology began being part of university programs in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  Today’s teacher training programs normally require one-course in educational technology.  I am not aware of any ministry training programs at the undergraduate or graduate levels with similar requirements. Perhaps, if we want ministers to be savvy users of technology, we will need to train them to use these tools!  We need to ask – What is 21st Century Education?

One of the first educational technology conferences began in Florida, known today as the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC).    Other educational technology conferences are: International Society for Technology and Education (ISTE), Computer Using Educators, Missouri S&T, and TIES 2010 Educational Technology Conference . There are many Ed Tech conferences across the world.  Yet, if you explore these programs, we would be hard pressed to find workshops or learning sessions that would interest a religion teacher, a catechist, a youth minister, a pastor, a PCL or DRE.  Yes, many of our national organizations have included Ed Tech type of workshops in their programs.  But the “energy” that is created at a conference that solely focuses on educational technology is not generated at these conferences.

A couple of videos that offer an overview are:

A Brief History of Technology in the Classroom

and Educational Technology History

These are helpful as they visually remind us that the classroom and teaching has changed!  However, most of us who volunteer our time, may not be aware of how this learning world has changed over time.  Nor have we been trained to merge new media into our teaching method.

As a result, our parish students come to us from 21st Century classrooms, and many of our environments are very limited in 21st Century tools!  I often present workshops at the local or national level.  Many of the participants tell me, that their students are bored!  However, I also hear from participants who are using 21st century tools, that their students are engaged and enjoy learning about their faith using contemporary methodology.

Today, we need to re-imagine how we do “technology” at the parish and diocesan levels!  A little over twenty years ago, many of our Catholic Schools got very involved in creating their technology plans.  This planning provided a means for purchasing equipment and a strategy for training administrators, teachers and students to use this equipment in their learning environments.  Today, our school people need to lead our parishes in Technology Planning for ALL parish ministries – school, catechetical, youth ministry, young adult, RCIA, and all existing parish ministries.  Today’s assumption – All ministers need today’s digital tools!

More importantly, we need to join together to attend conferences like FETC to network and to strategize how we can truly be 21st century catechetical leaders.  We need to “walk the walk and talk the talk” of a 21st Century faith leader who remains rooted not only in the values of our faith.  How we integrate 21st century tools into our ministries will make a difference with those we share our faith with. Only time will show this to be true!

The question becomes today – How will all ministries and ministers have access to and be trained to use the technologies that are currently evolving today?  Perhaps this week’s conversation – Share how your parish is moving into the 21st Century?  What are you doing that is bringing new energy and excitement to sharing the faith?

Note: If you are still curious, check out these two websites – National Office of Educational Technology and Teachers Use of Educational Technology in Public Schools (PDF).  We begin to see in these documents what is happening all around us.

So, let the conversation begin for this week!

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Comments on: "Ed Tech Ministry: Is there a gap?" (4)

  1. Caroline,

    Well said. Your use of the term ‘digital native’ is very appropriate. We must understand that the current generation of students who will become the next generation of grown-ups and parishioners are growing up online.

    While a technologist myself, I marvel at my 12 year-old daughther who almost nightly logs on to Skype and initiaties her own video conferences with her friends to do her homework. She’s not cheating; they’re just leveraging the technology they now have.

    One of my favorite resources on this subject is Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics, who authored another book two years ago called, “Growing Up Digital”. Here’s a short interview of Don on this subject,

    .

    As he reminds us at the end of this interview, the answer isn’t just in the technology. The answer is in the students themselves, if only we would listen to them.

    Keep it up!

    Sincerely,

    Joe

  2. Thanks Joe for sharing the story about your daughter! I keep learning that more students her age are more comfortable with technology than we realize. I wonder what suggestions she might have for her religion teachers!

  3. Donna Francis said:

    Simple, Simplicity
    Spoken from a retiree of the telecommunications corporate world, I must be honest & ask you.
    Did we do such a great job with the thrust in moving to a less physical wave of communicating with each other?
    I walked into my dentist office recently. In the waiting room were three young children waiting for their parent, whom was with the dentist. All three of the children had computer devices which they were intently using for whatever the intent…blogging, twitting, emailing, accessing the intent, playing a game, who knows. They were each in their own cyberspace network. Obviously, the parent didn’t know what they were doing at the moment; they were with the dentist.

    As our human journey/destiny continues, we are becoming more & more technical; yes, progress continues; however, there is still some beauty and value in keeping it Simple, Simplicity.

  4. Donna, Thank you for your comment. I walked out of my allergist’s office the other day, to witness a two-year old playing with an iPad. Recently I saw a Best Buy video about Digital Natives (I’ll be sharing with you all shortly). As we keep it simple – I agree – how do we utilize these tools to stay in relationship with a generation where these tools are second nature them. And we – well – we were not brought up with these devices. So, we are rather uncomfortable!

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