Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Changing our DNA

I’m not a scientist!  What I know about DNA would fit on 1/1000 mb’s  of my iPad memory.  Yes, DNA is related to our genetic properties.  If you watch CSI or NCIS they can tell who you are by your DNA.  Some of us are saying, but I do not even have one technology gene in my body!  No “technology” in my DNA!

Well, it’s time for the transfusion or whatever it will take to integrate technology into your very being!  Why?

When our use of the new means of social networking is self-giving, truthful and loving, it then becomes “ a reflection of our participation in the communicative and unifying Love of God, who desires to make of all humanity one family” (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for 2009 World Day of Communication).

Pope Benedict XVI implies that technology is not the enemy but a graceful means of evangelizing and a way of loving our community.  So how do we change the “technophobic” DNA of our inner being?

Brad West began a conversation around “Fear Not: Objections to Tech in Parishes”  with five points of what seems to hold us back.

  1. I don’t understand.
  2. Show the real benefit in terms of numbers.
  3. We’ve always done it this way.
  4. I don’t have time to learn that stuff. and,
  5. We don’t have the money for that.

If you are holding yourself back from embracing technology because of any of these reasons, then you need to be involved in a MINDSHIFT transfusion that will change your technology DNA!

  1. If you do not understand, there are plenty of ways to learn.  Simply decide that you will learn more than you already know and proceed at an inch-by-inch pace!  Who says you have to know everything?  One step at a time! Ask a friend or your children to be your digital guiding angel!
  2. Benefits?  One of the best stories I heard to demonstrate a “benefit” is from Amy Barber, a middle school catechist at Queen of Peace Parish, Gainesville, FL.  After a workshop I gave about cell phones being used in a classroom, she went back and “tried” it with her students.  Three months later, she shared this story with me!  Amy now has parents knocking on her classroom door, because they want to take their son or daughter home for the evening meal.  The students want to stay so that they can finish their projects!
  3. Our students are in a different place and learn differently.  Take a moment to listen to the 21st Century Pedagogy video (See below).  We may be comfortable with the way we’ve always done it.  Our students are not!  Are you willing to travel to their digital continent and to learn a new language and digital culture so that you can communicate with them?  It is time to erase from your inner database “We’ve always done it this way!”  Never ever utter this again!
  4. Time!  Yes, it does take time to learn what I need to know.  I had students this summer who  over an 8-week period, spent about 3 hours per week to learn more about technology and are now working on projects to apply what they learned to their religion classrooms.  They were part of the new Digital Discipleship Bootcamp!  Most classroom educators need to be involved in technology at least a year before they feel really comfortable using technology.  So my question to you is – When are you going to start?  Your children are already on the train.  If you miss getting onboard, they will go on without you!
  5. Money!  Yes, money is important!  But you do not need a ton of money to start.  Figure out the basics and get what you need to start!  If you have the good of your students at heart and communicate what you are doing to your parents and others, they will support what you do.  Yes, even with money!

I trust that you will truly move ahead to change your technology DNA!  How to use faith-based educational technology today with your learning groups – whatever age – is a MUST!  If you are a leader, and do not understand what needs to be done, look around for those in your parish who have “educational technology” background and degrees.   Invite them to mentor and to assist you.

As we continue to ponder the changing of our technophobic part of our DNA, let us pray – Lord, help me to learn more about this wonderful digital world. I so want to walk the walk and talk the talk of our young people so that I can guide them to becoming Digital Disciples.  I want to learn how I can use these new tools, so like you – instead of writing in the sand (John 8:9) I can learn how to share your Gospel with the grace-filled tools of technology.

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

Comments on: "Changing our DNA" (6)

  1. Sr. Caroline,

    I was wondering if you knew the “benefits” for having cell phones in the faith formation classroom??

    • Hi Nancy, Great question!

      Liz Kolb in her book Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education covers:
      – Cell Phones as Learning Tools
      – Concerns with Cell Phones in the Classroom
      – Cell Phone Podcasting, Voice Mail, Conferencing, and Mobile Notes
      – Cell Phones as Cameras and Camcorders
      – Developing Classroom Projects for Cell Phones
      – Cell Phones in Preschool and Lower Elementary Learning
      – The Future of Cell Phones in Schools
      – More Web 2.0 Resources for Cell Phones

      My suggestion, purchase the book! Learn from those who already have “best practices.” It is the tool that financially will make it possible for religious educators to have access to technology in the religious education classroom.

      The big benefit comes from a story of a junior high catechist who heard my presentation last spring and tried it with her students. Now, they do not want to leave the classroom. They find the class interesting and fun! Parents are now knocking on the door to try to get the kids to come home for dinner!

  2. I am becoming convinced that the change we need to help happen is more than a movement from fear of technology to embrace of it.

    There is a far deeper issue and that is how does learnng happen. The pedagogue fills the vessel, in today’s world the vessel is brimming with ideas, information and more. In my analogy the vessel is the learner, the learner is student, parent, extended family, teacher, administrator and more. We need to allow a DNA to grow in us that goes to the root of how we see ourselves. Successful education in the 21st century will accept that information is readily available to all and sorting and processing and integrating is the first step. In a world of information overload and change as a constant, we need as formators to accept that we no longer could or should control what is available but we must help organize, sort, priortize and help to categorize that information which can feed us.

    The Socratic dialogue seems to me to have great hope here. it is not look what I am showing you but do you see the question and if my question leads you to a question how will e share that so that when a, “lesson,” is complete we both know what is, “a Priori”

    My sense is that the DNA we are seeeking is more about shaping questions, engaging dialogue and being able to quantify the results so that if we are teaching for example about Noah’s Covenant, we come away knowing the story, exploring the covenant and applying it in action to where we celebrate our faith today. With the grace of God, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and a little mental and physical persperation we can open our lives to the flow of the new DNA. Bless the ministry of Catechesis and enligthen us as we move forward.

  3. Patrick, I love the Socratic dialogue that you refer to in your post! And I would say, that as we embrace the technology we will learn new ways to engage our learners in this Socratic process. One of the best tools I’ve seen so far, is what is referred to as the Collaborize Classroom. I’ve viewed webinars by an English teacher where she demonstrates how she asks questions to engage her students in her classes. I would say, this type of model could be easily adapted to the Religion classroom. What’s key is that the catechist/religion teacher needs to embrace the tool and learn how to use it. Just what you are advocating! Thanks for your comment!

    • Sr. Caroline, we had our Open House with our parents & students last night. We discussed the digital tools we were going to use during the year and the response was very positive. The questions that came up were some of the same you mentioned, mostly, “How will it fit in to learning about God?” We used a brief exercise using Glogster and made a digital poster based on the “seventy-seven” times we need to forgive. Using cloud-speech bubbles our 4th & 5th graders gave their thoughts on forgiveness. We then brought that up on a scree to the parents in another room. they were right on board with us. Also, I know it was a typo, but when I saw ” e share” on Patrick’s response, I knew God’s hand was in it 🙂
      Walt Smith

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