Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Archive for April, 2012

What is a Blog Tour?

Have you ever heard of a blog tour?  I haven’t!  Not until I received an email from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, with this invite –  “You (ACyberPilgrim)  are cordially invited to participate in a blog tour on the subject of religion and media, featuring Dr. Mary E. Hess, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.”

Mary is a wonderful friend, so I was delighted to be included in this blog tour.  Here is a wonderful opportunity to learn something new about using a blog to carry on a conversation with others in a virtual environment.

How does this work? 

I’ve been invited to submit questions on religion and media that I feel would be of interest to readers of ACyberPilgrim.

When will this happen?

On Wednesday, May 2nd – Mary will start the conversation with her response to –

The field of educational technology is over 35 years old and media literacy over 50 years – both are important to today’s  world of religion and media.  How do we as faith-based ministers catch up with a fast-paced media world to learn and to be exposed to the best practices of both educational technology and media literacy with church leaders who may be resistant to the use of media in church ministry?  Just the other day a Media Center Coordinator casually shared the following with me –

There is a commercial in our area that talks about digital learning… students will never need to leave home… and learn all they want.  It just scared the heebie-jeebies right out of me to think of a whole generation with no interaction with others… and book smart, not street smart – and that does say something else.  Please don’t think I’m meaning this in a negative way, or don’t want things to change….. OH MY… what would this world be if we never evolved and learned!  It is just the speed and lack of thinking that I hear when I learn what CAN be done… not the controlled methods that I’m sure Catholic and well planned schools will use.  As we clip budgets, people who “knew” are being let go, and people hired are in charge that do not have the skills and education to make these decisions well, and we all know the “makers” of these products don’t care one iota the impact… they just want the sell.  They use some cute marketing… but it goes out to the public that isn’t quite ready for it all… and I only mean ready in the prepared sense.. because social networking sure is a hit.

What I’m hearing in this comment is the following:

  • A judgment that “students will never need to leave home”
  • Fright that a “whole generation with no interaction with others”

The questions that come to mind are the following –

  • How do I keep up with this world? “It is just the speed and lack of thinking that I hear when I learn what CAN be done”
  • How do we teach the faith in a world that is more participatory and democratic? – “not the controlled methods” we are used to, and
  • How do we hire and/or train ministers today in a world that is now a Digital World?

What’s our role in the Blog Tour?

Come back to hear what Mary has to say about the growing fields of educational technology and media literacy in ministry.  I will post Mary’s initial response to the conversation late on Tuesday evening.  Throughout the day – Wednesday, May 2nd – you are invited to continue the conversation with Mary.  Your comments and/or questions will be a wonderful part of the conversation.  Mary will be available all day to respond to our conversation with her.

I look forward to being part of the Blog Tour with all of you!  See you soon!

Is This Today’s Everyday’s Student?

At breakfast this morning, I scanned through my parish bulletin.  The “Technology at ESCS” article caught my eye.  I’m sharing verbatim, the article by Mr. Carbonaro, Technology Instructor.

“This has been an exciting year here at ESCS .  Some of our seventh and eighth grade students have been broadcasting a morning news show called ESCNN – Espiritu Santo Catholic News Network. Our students learn the positions of anchors, weather person, mixer, teleprompter, cameras, and producer.  They have been doing a great job.  As our eighth grade class is preparing to enter high school, we have been covering all the benchmarks and standards to ensure that they are prepared for a new environment.  All the students have worked for years to achieve a goal of typing 30 words per minute.  We have studied internet safety and understand that the internet is an ever evolving too. Microsoft Office is another aspect of technology that our students are very well versed in.  The eighth grade students are ready for high school.

Our sixth grade class has been working with a program called Audacity.  I have been teaching them the basics about sound recording.  The students learn how to create different audio tracks and alter them.  They can do many things such as add effects, copy and paste and even create whole songs.

The fourth and fifth grade classes have been learning the program Microsoft Office Power Point.  This is a program used for presentations.  The fifth grade just completed their Power Point Presentations from their Kennedy Space Center field trip.  It was a fantastic experience to watch all the students stand up in front of their classmates and teachers to give this presentation using a computer and projection screen.  The fourth grade is in the process of working on their St. Augustine Power Points.  This is their first major project using this program.  Prior to the field trip, they were taught all the basics of preparing and taking pictures.  They did a great job.  Those pictures will be incorporated into their Power Points.

The third grade has been working diligently all year on their keyboarding skills.  Most of the students have hit their goal of typing 10 words per minute with 90% or better accuracy.  They are learning “Home Row” and how to keep their eyes on the monitor, not on their hands.  The second grade just completed their first project using Microsoft Word.  These are wish stories that the students wrote in their class rooms.  They brought the stories to the Lab and typed them into Word.

The first grade just finished working with Microsoft Excel.  The children entered letters into the columns.  Then they learned how to change the colors and how to save their work.  It was very exciting.  The kindergarten has been using the website, Nick Jr.  It is a great tool for teaching the students how to use some of the basic computer techniques at a developmentally appropriate level.

These are just a few things that our students are learning about in technology class.  I enjoy helping them prepare for their future in this amazing new technological world we live in.”

As I finished sipping my tea, I thought – I wonder if catechetical leaders, catechists, and others  working with youth from K-12 are aware of the technology skills that our students are gaining today? Why do I ask this question?  So often these same students arrive on the doorsteps of our catechetical programs, and there is NOT one “ounce” of technology in their learning environment.

We are teaching Digital Kids today.  This video, created by Best Buy, shows us how kids are using technology and asks the question whether Best Buy will be ready for the next generation of gadgets boys and girls will want.

I sat and wondered, will catechetical leaders and catechists be ready to teach a generation that is being referred to as Digital Natives?  Are our skills on par with the skills of the Digital Natives?  I often watch young people using technology and they are excited and eager to communicate using their digital tools.  On the other hand, as I listen to adults – there is often a critical attitude: They are texting too much! They need to learn how to talk to one another! They…. you can finish the sentence.  I’m assuming that you have a critical comment as well.

But I continue to wonder – When will the religious education, catechetical, or faith formation community really wake-up.  I love the Mr. Winkle wakes video.  Yes, we need to wake up and teach what we know with today’s methods.  But we are now engaged in what is an ever evolving Culture, Language, and New Skills.  Who is involved in training the 21st Century Catechist?

Here is a video where educators are beginning to re-imagine how children are learning today.


Here is a video asking the question – How Will You Teach Me in the 21st Century?

If you are involved in training today’s catechetical personnel – at any level – click the “Like” button.  More importantly, come and share your story via this blog.  Add your comments here and let us know that you would like to be a Guest Blogger.  We’d love to share your story!

Communicating With New Media Tools

Recently I was reading ” Leadership communication tools” by Nancy Caramanico.  I liked how she highlighted various tools for school educators.  Allow me to mirror her article and focus on Parish Catechetical Leader (PCL’s) Communication Tools.

I totally agree with Nancy when she says, “Communicating in today’s world requires both a new mindset and a new toolset. Like a maestro conducting a symphony, savvy leaders pay attention to the sound, the effect, and the instruments needed to strike just the right notes. ”

I would go further to advocate that as you move into this digital communications world, you will need to learn new skills, a new language and digital culture to be an effective church communicator.

As I look back at my beginnings, which go back to 1983, I realize that I have slowly learned new terminology, new skills, and have gradually immersed myself in a digital culture.  I encourage any pastoral  and catechetical leader today to take the needed steps so that you speak the language, engage in the culture, and learn the skills that you need to communicate effectively with your audiences.

So what do you need to be able to engage in today to communicate with others?

10 Tools for Pastoral Communication (Paraphrasing  Nancy’s 10 Tools):

  • Microblogging – Create an account on Twitter. Follow other catechetical and pastoral leaders.  Check out Brad West’s article Go Tweet It On The Mountain Top .Tweet out information about your parish.  Explore use of twitter for conferences or meetings for sharing ideas.
  • Blogging – Write frequent news updates for your parish blog. Follow other Catholics – see the Catholic Blog Directory. Who are the catechetical bloggers? Encourage and read comments. Use Google Blogger, Edublogs or create your own.
  • Podcasting – Create audio messages for playback on web and devices. Use tools such as Audioboo, Audacity
  • Electronic Surveys – Use Zoomerang or Survey Monkey for advanced functionality. Make quality surveys with Google Forms which is free
  • Email – Yes email. It is still a common tools used by many. Regular timely updates seek responses and give responses in a timely fashion. HTML newsletters can be pre-formatted with a consistent design to add appealing design.
  • Learning Management System – This may be the tool that will be a staple to our doing online learning with our students and adults in the near future.  Take time to learn more about Learning Management Systems.
  • Parish or Faith Formation Website – Consistently post updates that are both engaging and informational.  Ask yourself – what content are we sharing with our members online?
  • Facebook – Use Facebook to update parish community on latest faith formation news, photos and videos
  • Video – Use Youtube or other video sharing sites. Broadcast videos about parish events
  • Google alerts – Set up Google Alerts to stay on top of mentions of your parish and other topics of interests to the parish or faith formation community.

If you like this article, click on the “Like” button.  We would love to hear about your experience of using these leadership tools?  Come and Share!

A Blessed Easter!

Happy Easter from Interactive Connections

May this Easter Season be filled with NEW LIFE

Easter week around the world – in pictures

Holy Week 2012

As we remember the journey of Jesus in Jerusalem in his last days, how do we involve our families in stopping their busy lives to remember and celebrate this Holy Week beginning with the Palm Sunday journey through the death and resurrection of Jesus?

Of course, our liturgies this week are rich.  Especially during the Triduum time (Holy Thursday-Good Friday-Holy Saturday). I recall while growing up that this week was regarded as a very special week in our lives.  However, do our families today have the time they need to engage in this spiritual journey.  Often times not!

When families are unable to participate with their parish communities, let’s invite them into the virtual community.  Here are a few links and suggestions for you to share with your families:

  1. View Fr. Barron’s commentary about Palm Sunday.
  2. What is Holy Thursday?  Check out Rome Reports
  3. A Family Together: Jesus’ Journey to Calvary. You may also want to go to Google Earth and virtually visit some of the locations mentioned in this article.
  4. Click to learn more about Holy Saturday: History, Information, Prayers, Images and More.
  5. Visit the Catechist’s article for the Easter Vigil.

Blessings to you this Holy Week!

If you like this article, click the “Like” button or add your comment to this blog.

(c)2012,  Caroline Cerveny

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