Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

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Pope Francis recently via Google Hangouts met  students with disabilities and special needs from Spain, India, Brazil and the U.S., who shared how technology is helping them study, play and communicate.  The Pope also said he is a “dinosaur” when it comes to technology.

Perhaps the “dinosaur” image is one that many of us identify with.  Yet the students who met with the Pope eagerly shared with him how technology is part of their lives!  Teachers around the world are learning and meaningfully implementing the use of technology in their classrooms.

We are in teaching ministries today that are radically shifting in methodology all around us.  The daily classroom is being revolutionized with digital tools in ways that today’s students are comfortable with and adapt too quickly.

One methodology concept that began with a simple observation: students need their teachers present to answer questions or to provide help if they get stuck on an assignment; they don’t need their teacher present to listen to a lecture or review content.  Today this method is called the “flipped classroom.”

To learn more about the flipped classroom, I’ve been following blog postings, observed a high school classroom and interviewed the religion teachers using the flipped classroom method, and recently while attending the Florida Educational Technology Conference attended these two sessions – Flirting with iFlipping (Aubrey Harrison) and Instructional Flipping into Practice (Mark Deschaine).

As I reflect on what I’ve experienced and learned about the “flipped classroom”, this is what I’ve learned:

  • There is really no ONE way to flip a learning experience.
  • The more you are comfortable with technology, the easier it is for you to flip your classroom.
  • Be conscious of how your video appeals to those watching it.
  • Learning activities need to be interesting when your students return to your class.
  • Ask yourself: Is what I am doing – video and/or activities – engaging?
  • If you are a “newbie” moving to a flipped classroom style, have this experience first by yourself! Find a colleague who has flipped their classroom and observe and learn from them.
  • Think critically about what you are doing.
  • How you think about teaching, determines how you will integrate technology in what you do!
  • Where you are able, collaborate with others!

I especially appreciate a comment made by Mark Deschaine – This technology revolution has a huge challenge for us!

Why is it challenging?

  • Many of us are dinosaurs trying to adapt to an ever evolving digital culture, language, and learn new skills.
  • Time commitment – Ask yourself – Are you taking time to learn the basics so that you can adapt gradually your methodology to fit the needs of those you minister to? Change happens gradually, not overnight!
  • Competence development – Are you learning the basic skills you need, and choosing to be a lifelong learner to increase the development of your skills? It is impossible today to stand still and learn only ONE thing. A few months later, the technology has changed and you learn or lose it!
  • Class redesign – Will we use the methods that worked for our generation or will we listen to instructional designers (educational technology specialists), tech specialists, multi-media experts, peers, and others who are exploring and mentoring others? We need to redesign HOW we teach the faith today, so that learning objectives are accomplished via pedagogical methods, not the educational technology tool.
  • Teaching/Learning experience – How are catechists and ministers supported during this time of adapting to a new learning/teaching culture? Are we simply teaching technology tools? Or, are we engaging those who are adapting to the digital world to form others in their faith effectively, with better learning outcomes, and increased satisfaction?  What is the built in support?
  • Reflection: Are we taking the time to reflect with one another so that we examine newly implemented teaching strategies, consider student feedback, discuss and share results with peers?

Additional Resources:

Book: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day

Blog Post: Why is Adoption of Educational Technology So Challenging?… ‘It’s Complicated’

If you are flipping your classroom, come and share your story here.

flipped-traditional-classroom

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