Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

I live in Florida!

Yes, I live in Florida!  So, when you’re freezing in the North I am walking outdoors in jeans and a sweatshirt in sunshine! But that is not why Florida is important at this time.

On Thursday, February 17, 2011 I was reading the St. Petersburg Times.  Right on the front page was the article – Florida looks at taking school textbooks completely digital by 2015.

Florida Texts

Florida Looking To eBooks!

As I read through the article, here are the points that became significant for me:

  • There’s a move to go all-digital in Florida classrooms.
  • State education officials rolled out a five-year proposal this week that calls for all students in K-12 to use only “electronic materials” delivered by Kindles, iPads and other similar technology by 2015.
  • “This project reinvents the way students learn and will revolutionize instruction in Florida,” says the plan presented to the state Board of Education Tuesday.
  • “Digital is here. We can choose to ignore it, or we can choose to embrace it,” said David Simmons, chairman of the Senate Pre-K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.
  • …in the proposal, all Florida districts would begin phasing in digital-only content, first for high school students and then for all others in reading, math, science, history and language arts.
  • “It is not something you do without planning.”

I’ve been reflecting on this article for several days.  Here are some of the thoughts and questions that are flowing through my mind:

  • What will happen to our parish religious education students when they participate in parish programs and are asked to purchase a traditional style textbook when many of their other texts are available to them via iPads, Kindles, Nooks, and any other electronic reading tool?  Will they begin to think that their faith is antiquated?
  • Where are our religion publishers?  Are they moving into pilot programs with Catholic Schools to explore what will work with today’s Digital Natives?
  • Where are our parishes?  Are they beginning to explore what it will take to engage all involved in catechetical ministry with the e-tools that are moving into our students lives at all levels, put perhaps not in the religious arena?
  • Where are our catechetical leaders (at all levels), are we learning all that we are able so that we can communicate our faith to our Digital Natives with the tools that are at their fingertips?
  • Are we beginning to consider, how tools that are purchased for students with federal funds might be used in the parish arena? Do we need to advocate for this use?
  • Do we know how to budget and plan for these tools at the parish level?
  • Do we train our catechetical personnel how to use e-tools in the overall faith learning process?
  • Is it time to begin looking at the parish being the broker for Technology Planning and Training, where the School, Religious Education, Youth Ministry, Young Adult, RCIA, Sacramental, and any other parish ministries are part of the planning and development of a Parish Technology Plan?
  • Is it time for each Diocese to become a major leader of technology throughout the Diocese at all levels – Administrative Tools, Learning Tools, Online Learning Resources, Educational Technology, and more so that all parishes will  become 21st Century Parishes at the levels that are needed in today’s ever expanding technology environment?

Are these questions of value to us as catechetical leaders?  Or, are there other questions to ask?  I’m wondering how you feel about the issue of catechetical eBooks?  I invite you to contribute to the online conversation with your questions or comments.

Next Week:  What About These Google Tools?  What creative ideas do we have for using in Catechetical Ministry?

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

Comments on: "I live in Florida!" (15)

  1. angela ann zukowski said:

    Good points, Caroline! It is interesting watching how all these developments are evolving.

    Now what I am looking for is to see how character, personality and quality of life is formed via digital interaction.

  2. And the research is beginning to happen in this area. Let’s keep our ears open for how researchers are exploring the issues of digital interaction. I’m sure there will be both positives and negatives!

  3. Caroline,
    I believe there are two changes happening simultaneously that are linked and to which the exploration of and adaptation of technology is critical in successful transition. The two are the emergence of Digital Natives and the entry to 65+ for the Baby Boomers.
    I firmly believe that it is through technology that we will most effectively reach these two large populations who will change the landscape of the church over he next almost 20 years. In 2009 the greatest growth group in facebook were the 65+ population growing in that year at a rate of over 700%. Digital natives are opening the gates of learning using the most powerful learning tool we have had to date, the smart phone. Finally from my work in Youth Ministry and Family Education there is an incredible synchronisity between the needs of teens and the needs of the emerging generation of elders. A key link is in discipling and at a minimum we are advantaged by using technology to work with this effort. It seems to me that the Bishop’s framework is to Disciple Youth to Christ and I would argue that for many of the boomer/elder it is to, “re-disciple” that cohort in light of the present times. I think of the opportunities to offer shared information, common starting points and shared time that overcomes some barriers of movement and distance and again I find myself back at the world of technology at the service of catechesis. I think we are on the doorstep of a new ways of sharing information, connecting lives and fostering the intentional learning conversations that will help all to grow. I applaud your work and present reflections and look forward to ways to grow.

  4. Claudia McIvor said:

    A couple thoughts: As schools and parish faith formation programs start asking for digital materials, publishers will respond.
    As we catechetical leaders see our students speaking the new digital “language”, we will learn it ourselves so that we can continue to talk to them about faith. The message of salvation has not changed, only the medium by which the message is transmitted sometimes. If I found myself magically transported to an alien land, I would learn the language and then start sharing my faith in that language. Wouldn’t you? So yes, I am learning all I can about the new technology and readying myself to share my faith in the language of youth. The language (technology) is not the message. Jesus is still the message. Perhaps talking about that will reassure some who feel resistance to embracing technology as a new way to evangelize.

    • Claudia, I love the reference to a “new digital ‘language'” and right – it is not the message! Most of us know the message as we have been raised in the Catholic tradition and are comfortable with the tradition, the Liturgy and more. But how we may deliver the message has a new twist to it. Yes, Jesus is the message! And like missionaries who came from English speaking countries learned the language of those who did not know the faith. We are called today to learn the digital language that now surrounds us. We are called today to become “Digital Disciples!”

  5. Deb Zabloudil said:

    I work for a university with a graduate program in Educational Technology. One of the questons that teachers (our graduate students) always struggle with is – what happens to children who are economically disadvantaged. Will you provide them with the technology? Will they be comfortable using it if it’s not available at home? Will their parents understand how to use it? How will you help them get comfortable? I want to see us use technology but I don’t want to see us leave anyone behind when we’re trying to spread the gospel.

    • Deb, yes excellent questions! I recently heard of a school system in Ohio with a high number of economically disadvantaged families. A federal grant was given to this system so that netbooks were purchased and distributed to ALL students! Now the issue becomes, technology is now accessible to the students in a school setting. However, my understanding of federal funds is that this equipment cannot be used for a religious purpose. So now what happens is that these students have access to the tools, but religious educators will not!

      There are many issues to address in the area of faith-based educational technology. However, this has been a dormant issue in most catechetical ministries. Like Rip Van Winkle, we are waking up in a new world!

  6. In my initial discussions about the use of technology in faith formation, one long-time catechist, commented, “I am not convinced that this is the way to go . . . . I am thinking about the message of the incarnational Christ, and I am afraid that message is being lost in the discussion. I want to make sure that when we are using this technology, we ALWAYS keep in mind the PERSON, Christ and the person to whom the message is being addressed. We can too easily lose sight of that part of the message . . . ”
    I personally think this is a good insight and must be kept in mind at all times . . . .

    • And here is where we need to go back and reflect often about the reflections, documents, letters that have been shared with the Church (that’s us) for many years from the Vatican. Yes, Christ is central! Yet, how – that is HOW – we may share the message is adding another dimension to it! As Claudia commented earlier, it is a NEW LANGUAGE! Most of us are still hesitant to learn the new language. Our resistance comes in many layers – we don’t have time, we don’t have money, our economically challenged families do not have, and more…. We need to move from hesitation to EMBRACING and to being a PIONEER in this evolving DIGITAL WORLD!

  7. Great post! This “New Language” is a part of the New Evangelization. The message is not changing but the method is.

    • I love how Sr. Angela Ann, from the University of Dayton approaches the evolving methodology with the image of a Kaleidoscope – where all the media pieces from the ages become part of the methodology. We are just adding the potential of new media into the overall mix!

  8. Valerie Shpak said:

    I think this is a great idea that some colleges are already doing. The savings is great to a budget and the information can not be lost like books. It also allows the children to not have heavy backpacks and work off the technology they are native too.

    As there is a Catholic platform available to access for even less than each church or school could purchase a license for this is positive choice. Way to go Florida!

    An example of ebook usage an be our RCIA team using the Paulist Press free Seeking Christ and using it with team members and sponsors allowing us to utilize the savings to take them on retreat. It was a win win week.

    • How eBooks will evolve will be interesting. I purchased a Kindle at Christmastime. I love it! However, I see both the advantages and the disadvantages to the current ebook style. Campus Technology recently included an article by John K. Waters titled Can Tech Transcend the Textbook? Some interesting points here! Yes, I love being able to carry the 10 books I recently purchased all in one device. However, to find what I’m looking for, sometimes is a challenge!

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