Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

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Once upon a time I was a Diocesan Director of Catechetics!  One of our major tasks in the diocese was the training and formation of our catechists.  After working at the Diocesan or Archdiocesan Level for over 20 years, I would affirm that all diocesan leaders offer outstanding faith formation training!

However, as we continue to march into the 21st Century the element that is missing is related to faith-based educational technology.  Why do I say that? Because I am an educational technology specialist and I’ve observed what is happening at the educational level for elementary, middle, high school, and college since 1983!

All one needs to do is to attend a national or local educational technology conference, and almost immediately you learn that you are stepping into a digital culture, language, with needed skills you do not have.  Often the ministry visitor to a national educational technology conference feels like a foreigner in a foreign land!

So what do we do?  Here are a few suggestions:

Let’s develop National Faith-based Educational Technology Standards.  Why? Over the last 30+ years, the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) –   have driven what is happening in the educational area from kinder through university. I suggest that we model our standards on the NETS standards.  This way when students attending public educational institutions step into our learning environments, we will understand and know how to use technology for evangelization and digital discipleship. We need to learn from those who have blazed this wonderful trail before us.  It is a common vision, which currently is needed in the ministry world!

The New Media and New Evangelization.  As I read Archbishop José H.   Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, presentation to the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders in Houston, Texas he clearly states – I want to talk with you today about the new culture of communication and its implications for the Church’s mission of evangelization.  I am delighted with his approach and comments.  He clearly invites us to – …the goal of our mission to the digital continent is the same of our mission in every age and every place — to bring people to the beauty of encountering Christ, to the beauty of living in authentic relationship with him and our brothers and sisters in the Church, which is the family of God. However, to get to this point takes collaboration between those engaged in the ICT Triangle.

ICT Collaboration.  There are many ways to use technology in ministry.  Information Technology specialists are engaged in utilizing administrative and financial technologies at the diocesan and parish levels. Communication Specialists are engaged in a great deal of our public relations work that today also involves the integration of social media into our communication needs.  The educational technology specialist can serve at a number of levels, depending on their professional background.  When you Google – who is an educational technology specialist – you discover the following:

  • Aninstructional technology specialist facilitates technology use at schools and universities through a variety of interactive methods. Do we also need these specialists at the parish and with other ministries?
  • They assist faculty and staff with new classroom technology by developing tutorials, workshops and training sessions on new hardware and software, audio, video and graphics instruments. Yes, there is all sorts of available training, but is it tailored to our ministry world?
  • With an Education Specialist (EdS) degree in Educational Technology, you can initiate change in your classroom, at your school, or in your district. In our case you will be a leader in 21st Century faith formation experiences. Change is needed in the methodology of teaching the faith to our children, families, youth, and adults. Are we ready to adapt to the methodology that is already exciting our students in other subject areas? If not, let’s get degrees in this area to be the experts we need to be!

When I worked at the university level, I was in heaven (well almost heaven!) as the ICT Triangle was very operative here with three departments working collaboratively together – Information Technology, Communications, and Academic Technology.

So far in our church I see the following:

  • Diocesan Information Systems Conference – The Annual DISC Conference is the premier showcase for the use of information technology within the Catholic Church at both local and national levels. Members represent their Diocesan Information Systems Departments.
  • USCCB Communications Committee – The committee seeks to support the work of evangelization and faith formation through a comprehensive approach to media that includes media relations, media production and programming, policy, review of entertainment media, publishing, distribution, and licensing with sensitivity towards culturally diverse communities. I would venture to say that all diocesan offices have a Communications Department.
  • However, in the area of Educational Technology I do not see a concerted effort to hire these types of specialists at the diocesan level. Here in the State of Florida, only ONE diocese has an educational technology specialist at the diocesan level and she primarily serves the Catholic School Community.  In addition, there is no national group to represent educational technology specialists – except for the emerging Digital Disciple Network.

So, let’s find the folks who are interested in being or becoming educational technology specialists who are willing to collaborate and share with one another.  They are the folks who will be part of the training network that we need.

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