Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

You’ve caught on and realize that the students in your classroom are Digital Natives with a smartphone or tablet in their pocket or backpack.  In addition to figuring out the best web applications or apps to use with them, here are some points to consider before you plan your lesson:

  1. Read your Diocesan AUP or RUP document. The Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) or sometimes called Responsible Use Policy (RUP) usually outlines the way the Internet can be used with students.  Helpful procedures and sometimes suggestions are included.  If you are unable to locate this document on your diocesan website, ask your parish leader or diocesan office for a copy.
  2. Review the “Terms of Use” and “Privacy Policy” of the tool or the website. These are the rules which one must agree to abide by in order to use a service.  Or, it can simply be a disclaimer when using a website.  What does the catechist want to be aware of? What information a site may collect about the user, age limitations, or is parental permission required. If you do not understand the terminology, check with your administrator.  It is helpful to let your administrators know what websites/tools you will be using with your students.
  3. WiFi is needed for BYOD. How your WiFi is set-up needs a professional who understands what is involved in the overall set-up in your parish as well as the school. To get on the BYOD boat, involve these professionals so that they become part of the secure-BYOD solution at your parish.  There are alternatives.  It is important to have secure BYOD.  Meet your parishioner/student mobile pastoral needs.  Help them to move forward to a better place.  Bring solutions to your pastor.
  4. Highlight the importance of Digital Footprints. The Cybersmart blog says “One of the great things about being online is the ability to share videos and photos with your friends and seeing their response.  Everything you post online combines to make your digital footprint. Remind students that what they create online contributes to their digital footprint. Guide students so that they are not compromising personal information.
  5. Involve your parish director, pastor, or diocesan office on web usage. Remember anybody today can create a beautiful website that appears to be a good Catholic website.  Make sure you seek out those who can guide you in choosing websites that represent the best in Catholic theology for the age level you are involved with. If your diocese or parish is lacking in this area, start the conversation.   If you are unsure about using something, ask your parish director, pastor, or diocesan leader.  There may be digital libraries available to you of vetted online material. If not, then…
  6. Completely vet the website or app before using. If the website or app has not been vetted, check with your parish or diocesan administrators for approval.  There may be a vetting form or process. Before you use this digital material, take time to review it and become acquainted with the content.  Just like previewing a video, you want to make sure that the site or app has good faith content and is age appropriate.
  7. Involve parents in the process. Parents normally provide their children with the devices they may bring into your classroom. It is helpful to let them know what digital activities their child will be using in your classroom. In the registration process, it is important to highlight your AUP (or RUP) and Privacy Policies. Remember that some web sites may need parental permission for their child to use the website. This is a good time to get the “Parental” permission you need for the class year. This is also a way to engage your parents to become partners and supporters of their child becoming a digital disciple.
  8. Incorporate good Digital Citizenship at all levels. Why is Digital Citizenship important? Even for Youngest Kids is an article that reminds us that our students are communicating in a 21st Century world. How we act and communicate today is very important in our being digital disciples.  There are helpful points to be aware of in the article so that you can help students communicate and collaborate safely and responsibly.
  9. Determine why the website and/or app is being incorporated into the learning experience. Remember that technology is not a “baby sitter” or to be used “to fill up class time.” As a catechist involved in crafting a well-designed lesson, we need to realize that our students come to our learning sessions with 21st Century Learning Skills.  How we adapt technology in our classes can be learned from those who are already engaged in technology integration.  You may find this article – Why Do We Need Technology Integration?  helpful!
  10. Become familiar with CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA. These are important rules and regulations that guide the education community. They are also important to the pastoral parish community. Click on the links and/or search the Internet to learn more about each of these topics so that you can learn why these areas are important for you and your students.

Technology provides multiple opportunities to provide learning experiences that are engaging, productive, and allows the student to learn.  Using a website or app provides you a way to engage your student in 21st learning experiences.  As you reflect on the ten ideas provided, you may have other ideas and comments to share.  Please feel free to share these via email, or comment, as I am always learning.  I trust that this blog post offers you a good starting place as you create exciting learning opportunities that integrates technology into your classroom.

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