Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

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.

OR

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!

Comments on: "Is This Today’s Everyday’s Student?" (17)

  1. Wishing we all had Mr. Carbonaros and learning environments that would work with the skills he develops in children.

  2. … and wondering if all of our students’ public schools have one or two Mr. C’s each. And the students have know Idea that the skills they are developing in their real world could be put to good use in their religous ed. classes.

  3. Any ideas on collaborating with the public schools at least to see what skills are being taught that we at our end could make use of? Why not invite one of their very best tech instructors to your group or cluster of CLs to share and suggest?

  4. Thanks Frank for your suggestion. Another place to explore to see what is happening with technology in education is at the International Society for Technology and Education (ISTE). Visit http://www.iste.org

  5. Les Monroe said:

    Sister you assembled a great journey into the future of the digital continent for the 60-something digital immigrant. How is it will we encounter the digital native and their human experience? I will be sharing your blog with members of my parish. I have been reading Brandon Vogt’s “The Church and the New Media.”

    • Les, Thanks for sharing the blog! Brandon’s book is very interesting! ‘m aware that today’s child is very comfortable with technology, and many adults are not for a variety of reasons. Today’s child also enjoys what we enjoy in the human experience – love, being cared for, affirmed, and more. Many adults, often because they are not comfortable with technology, are fearful and critical of these tools. Often passing judgement on others because of a negative space they are in regarding technology. We need to be ongoing learners of new methods and technologies – and using them when they fit what we do!

      • Agreed Sister, we do need to be ongoing learners of new methods and technology. To that end, I am considering embarking on a “digital media” study program. Cleveland State offers a certificate-level program on “Web Design Essentials”, are you familiar with the course? Can you offer any suggestions on how one might engage a structured pathway to learn about and to apply new media capabilities, especially at the parish level?

  6. Working with our DRE for consistency among the 600+ religious education students we are utilizing a catechist dedicated website with links by level/week/chapter to various electronic resources so catechists don’t have to search for them. Also we are hoping it will allow those catechists who are less comfortable with technology to begin … perhaps just showing a you tube clip or the stations of the cross.

    The biggest problem for us is there is not a lot of training time available for our volunteer catechists AND when you only have the students for 1hr and 15min a week, you don’t want to spend too much time away from the curriculum to let them make their own projects in class.

    But I will have my students (in the fall) email in pictures of their favorite parts of God’s creation which I will match up with “This is my Father’s World” (Go Fish) to create a class video. Also I would like to videotape some skits (found online) to use as service hours which could be shared on our website with other levels in our program. And, I have a microphone – I am thinking of recording the kids on various questions throughout the year to create a year overview video which I can email to the parents/students about what we did.

    I agree with Frank in that the students have no idea how to use technology in classes – they like to play with it alot though. I am hoping when I start these ideas some of the kids will be able to give even more ideas to use technology.

    • Carol, I agree “…there is not a lot of training time available for our volunteer catechists.” Formation needs to be both F2F and in online formats. I’ve seen parish directors with 90 catechists unable to reach all with the F2F format. So, what do we offer those who are unable to attend the actual event? Today we are able to offer webinars, record the webinar so that it is available to those who missed the event, and provide online learning options. But, do we know how to do this? Most of us in catechetical ministry have not been trained to develop online training that could be available 24/7. So, we rely solely on the F2F model which is impossible for ALL of our volunteers.

      This issue is also related to the question that Les asks – Can you offer any suggestions on how one might engage a structured pathway to learn about and to apply new media capabilities, especially at the parish level?

      The type of training that today’s minister needs is related to “educational technology,” “media literacy,” “digital storytelling,” and “social media which are also Web 2.0 tools.” I’ll reflect on this further and post a response in the near future.

  7. Biblical “digital discipleship” MUST include adult formation in faith community — to prepare us to accompany treasured youth who, with us, are being formed most effectively by consumer culture using digital technology for marketing.

    See: http://www.maryknollsocietymall.org/chapters/1-57075-666-X.pdf

    Consider developing JustFaith formation, in your parish, together, to this end. See JustFaith founder Jack Jezreel (2011 Religious Education Congress):

  8. Yes Mac, to be truly effective today we need to know, understand, live our faith, participate in a faith community, and understand the culture that is surrounding us. If I choose to go to France, I need to learn the culture, the language, and new skills to survive in this new and foreign place. Many of the skills that many of us currently have need to be updated so that we really understand and can be effective in the ever growing Digital Culture.

  9. What would a good parent workshop on their children’s digital world and skills look like that would not just be trying to frighten them about the dangers in cyberspace?

    • Frank, I’d love to hear what others would like to see in this type of workshop. If I were covering this topic, I’d like to spend a day with the parents (yes, that’s stretching it) – as a retreat day where there is some time for silence and some time to converse with other parents and some time for input. Let’s say around:
      – Understanding Media (An overview – How do we learn about media, what are best practices, the not so good practices, and how media intersects with faith.)
      – Parenting in a Digital Age (Exploring children’s use of technology, challenges around technology use, practical proactive strategies, and where to find support and resources to better understand the issues.)
      – Cyberbullying (What is it? What does the law say about it? Relationships can be wholesome online. How do we foster good online relationships with our students?)
      – Digital Discipleship (Exploring how we can use the Internet Web 2.0 tools for Evangelization and online Discipleship.)

      What would others like to have parents experience in a workshop or retreat?

  10. Convincing and training 90 catechists is daunting. Why not find among them the “early adapters” and get them started? Others may follow. Good publicity about their projects may interest others in the parish to become catechists once they see that the catechetical environment is changing.

  11. Great ideas- and as supportive as I am of individual catechists or directors using technology for catechesis… but I think we need more. The key difference, I think, is that schools are automatically set up as a system, with regional resources and personnel. We need a few dioceses with the vision and commitment to take the risk of being early adopters. For instance, if the diocese were to help parishes collaborate on catechist training- perhaps even using high school students to help record workshops digitally… or if a publisher would develop e-texts and not just supplemental websites… we could SEE what this looks like.

    I think if we could get the basics online (vocabulary, for instance, or basic introductions to the sacraments), then we could use that precious 75 minute gathering time for discussion, prayer experiences, or other face to face relationship building that helps create disciples!

  12. […] A CyberPilgrim wrote… “I sat and wondered, will catechetical leaders and catechists be ready to teach (ENGAGE) 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. […]

  13. Thank you for sharing this, Sr. Caroline. I wish I could go back to school to have the time that I need to truly develop my digital skills. When I mention the tools that I have been learning about in your class, the reactions of my peers range from “What are you talking about?” to “I want to learn about that.” It seems that when we come to the digital world, our students may just be our best teachers!

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