Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology


Students Using a Laptop Computer

Annunciata Catholic Academy

In the June/July 2011 issue of Learning & Leading with Technology, the feature article by Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education , tells us how we can “Harness the Power of Technology”  in the classroom.

As I read the article, I felt challenged as a religious educator!  Classrooms all around us are changing!  Yet, the methodology we use for religious education is changing very slowly.

Allow me to highlight several of the article comments for you.  You may even want to substitute “catechist” for the term “teacher.”

Innovative teachers like you are leading this technological transformation in our classrooms today. You use powerful resources to engage students, deepen their understanding, expand their creativity, and help them solve problems. Because you have the passion, knowledge, and experience, you can prepare your colleagues to follow your lead and play a pivotal role in our national effort to transform our schools into innovative learning environments.

I understand that you face considerable challenges as you create digital learning environments. Some schools are rich with technology but are still stuck in the 20th century model of teaching and learning. Some teachers still see technology as an add-on to their lesson plans rather than integral to the process of teaching and learning.

Much like the printing press allowed people to learn from books as well as teachers, digital technology offers learners powerful new environments that include simulations, animations, scaffolded and guided practice sets, and experts who may be far away. With your firsthand experiences, you are uniquely qualified to articulate, showcase, and explore the power of technologies for learning.

So, how will catechetical leaders harness the power of technology in their teaching the faith?  Where are the current stories?  Perhaps you will share your story.  In addition –

Let’s have a chat about the following this week –

  1. Are we ready for this classroom transformation?
  2. What is holding us back from moving into becoming a 21st Century catechist?
  3. How do we immerse ourselves in the transformation that is already taking place around us?

Let us begin a conversation to see what we are thinking and feeling!

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

Comments on: "Harness the Power of Technology" (14)

  1. Frank Koob said:

    I have to figure out what being a digital catechetical leader is before I can know how to guite people to become digital catechists. what does a digital catechetical leader look like?

  2. Shelly Bole said:

    I’ve been talking with some of our Catechectical Leaders about the use of technology with catechesis. Most of them are on board and so are the catechists, but the parishes do not have the necessary equipment: DVD players (some only have 1 – so if more than one catechist wants it….); computer and internet access; CD players…just the basic stuff. If the parish also has a school, the school stuff is off limits because it was purchased with Title 1 money. How do we get around that?

    • Hi Shelly! A little late in the conversation, but we started a “Wish List” at our parish, and presented it to our pastor and our Thrift Shop. Because of this, we now have two DVD players, a wide screen TV for our Youth House, a “Flip” digital camera/camcorder. Sometimes, as it says in Matthew, “…look for a worthy person…”, we need to offer our needs to the community, and they will come through.

  3. Shelly, I have the same question as you do – How do we coordinate the purchasing of technology equipment so that it is available to both school and parish audiences? And it is not only purchasing that needs to be coordinated, we also need to explore – What is the vision of technology for the parish/school that includes the continued addition of technological resources and opportunities for teacher training and staff and catechist training. We are now in a world where it is not either the school or the parish to have technology. Both the school and the parish need equal access to technology. I’m sure there are parishes who have crossed this bridge. What are their stories? I know, I’d love to hear them!

  4. Frank, I love your question! What does a Digital Catechetical Leader look like? I’m sure that if any one of us interviewed 10 different leaders, we would discover 10 different responses to this question. In my personal experience, I see catechetical leaders who have a “vision” for technology as key! They see the possibilities and gather folks around them to make it happen in their parishes or schools!

  5. […] Harness the Power of Technology (acyberpilgrim.org) […]

  6. Doug, Thanks for sharing your 7 signs of a 21st Century Educator. I’ve talked to others in the catechetical education field, and they’ve said: A Digital Age Catechetical Leader is one who… Isn’t afraid to use the tools of modern technology to spread the Gospel message. (Richard Drabik) and …moves easily in and out of the tools of the age, using what furthers the mission of Jesus, while also knowing and respecting the necessary boundaries to protect those in our care. (Judith Dieterle) and . . . is not afraid to use social networking, media and technology for ministry and catechesis – and willing to learn new technology skills. (Joyce S. Donahue)

    What other insights can other of our readers share?

    • Shelly Bole said:

      I’ve been talking with some of our Catechectical Leaders about the use of technology with catechesis. Most of them are on board and so are the catechists, but the parishes do not have the necessary equipment: DVD players (some only have 1 – so if more than one catechist wants it….); computer and internet access; CD players…just the basic stuff. If the parish also has a school, the school stuff is off limits because it was purchased with Title 1 money. How do we get around that?

      In response to Doug, I would also add that a Digital Catechist also understands that person to person catechesis is critical as well. There is a delicate balance.

  7. […] Harness the Power of Technology (acyberpilgrim.org) […]

  8. Teri Burns said:

    I’ve been thinking about the equipment side of using technology. I’m beginning to think that we can encourage our students to utilize the technology that their families already have. Most parents (and many children) have cell phones. Most households have computers, digital cameras-still & video. Many have iPods or other MP3 devices. How can we instruct and encourage them to use their electronic devices to spread the Good News?

  9. angela ann zukowski said:

    As always, Carolyn, it is a pure delight to read the notes here! Keep up the great work! SAAZ

  10. angela ann zukowski said:

    I think we are always ready for conversations. The reality with parish catechesis is the funding (always) but more importantly the catechist preparation to know what and how to do it. It is one of those chicken and egg issues. Which comes first? For some the technology and funds, for others the formation. I realize it is both.

    When all is said and done, I think have a good number of Best Practices out there will stimulate the larger population to take it all more seriously. There are many who are quite into it but they are the people who are ‘into technology’ anyway.

    What do you think?

  11. In the education field it was a slow and growing awareness that technology is important to learning. Over thirty years of experience is embedded in this area. Looking back there were many, many levels: Equipment was purchased where money was available, but often sat unused because training for the teacher was lacking, Where funding was an issue, educators gathered and advocated for funding at the federal, state, and private levels; Grants were developed and schools applied; Training was recognized as being important and the field of educational technology has grown and blossomed over their 30+ years; and Technology Plans once unheard of are now a staple part of school planning.

    This is where we are at today in the catechetical field:
    (1) Little or no money, and we do not know how to advocate for the funds we need.
    (2) Planning needs to happen at the parish level – after all – ALL ministries today need technology as a staple part of their ministry.
    (3) Mobile technology is growing by leaps and bounds with social media. Are we paying attention to this trend and are we ready to use mobile technologies in our ministries? Just recently I took my iPad with me and had planned to use for responding to students for a class I am facilitating. However, the message I received on my iPad is that the software used by this Catholic institution was not compatible with my iPad. I could see the student work, but was unable to comment back! Hmmm!
    (4) Technology allows us to collaborate in many ways. We are still an institution of separate kingdoms each struggling to do it our way! Only to duplicate our expenses instead of imagining new ways to collaborate and save money and get what we need!

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