Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Posts tagged ‘Catechist’

Forming Catechists for the 21st Century

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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.

Becoming an Innovative Catechist in our Digital Culture

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A catechist in today’s learning environment – is challenged!  Why?  Their students are often engaged in some wonderful learning environments that utilize a variety of digital learning methods in their everyday schools.  Yet, when they come to the parish religion classroom, there are a number of challenges:

Experiences will differ.  Some parish programs have a wonderful relationship with their schools.  Technology like smart boards and WiFi are available to the parish program.  In some parish programs, there is a distance between the two programs, that is separated by a wall almost impossible to climb.  Most catechists in today’s digital world do not know or understand what is happening in the area of educational technology in our public schools. So, even if equipment is available they may not know how to use or there is an understanding that the equipment is only available to the school community.

Native student. Our students know and are comfortable with technology.  We often call them Digital Natives!  Instead of welcoming the digital tools (smartphones and tablets) that are in their pockets and school bags, we discourage them from using and/or ban them from bringing into the classroom.

Embrace the changing role of the catechist.  Are we paying attention to the changing role of the classroom teacher?  If yes, we will learn from and adapt what we learn from their everyday journey in the classroom.  The role of the teacher today is different!  They are no longer the sage on the stage but a mentor, coach, and more.  As a catechist, am I a spiritual guide who knows how to engage young people in evangelizing with digital tools? After all, digital culture is our youths “modus operandi.”

Empower yourself.  Take time to learn more about the digital world of our students.  Digital Discipleship Boot Camp is an option for you to consider.  It is an opportunity to not only learn about but to get hands on experience with the variety of tools that are available to you to use today in a learning environment.  Learning the digital world is a bit like learning a foreign language.  It takes time and practice to become fluent.  The more you use digital tools, the more natural it begins to feel.

A little learning can go a long way.  When you jump in with both feet, this changing learning environment can be overwhelming for a catechist.  So, what’s the secret to success? Go “inch by inch and eventually you can go yard by yard.” Instead of trying to do more than you can truly handle, find one or two things that will work for you and your students.  Later, you can expand your base of knowledge.

Every catechist is capable.  In working with adults in the Digital Discipleship Boot Camp, when I see comments like –

  • I consider myself a novice at most communications technology. I’m willing and excited to learn whatever I can.
  • I would like to know how to keep up with all the new technology that seems to keep developing every day.

I am delighted, as it is possible to learn something about this ever evolving digital culture, language, and gain new skills.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?  We are challenged today to be innovators in classroom methodology.     How we teach and share the faith will change.  We simply need to adapt to the world as it changes around us – best “inch by inch.”  Becoming a Digital Disciple is important today!

How can WE REDEEM Technology?

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As I read Tim Elmore’s blog post “Technology is not the enemy as long as we redeem it” I resonated with a comment he made…

Technology isn’t going away—so we’re going to have to find ways to redeem it.

So, let’s ask the question – What skill sets of our youth can we develop so that they become digital disciples who meaningfully share faith with their technology skills?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how to redeem technology.  Here are suggestions that I offer you to begin the conversation.

  • For Kinder thru Grade 3: At the beginning of the year, invite your parents to follow the @SaintOfTheDay Twitter account. Encourage your students, at least once during the week, to ask their parents, what the saint of the day is and to have their parents share the story of the saint with their son or daughter.  Why do this?  Children will observe their parents finding online information that they will be able to share with them and share what they learn that day with their child.
  • Grades 4 – 6: Using your iPhone or Tablet, go to @SaintOfTheDay and read the saint reflection for the day.  Invite your students to write a Tweet message (Refer to – What is a Twitter Tweet?) which will share what they learned about the saint of the day.  A Tweet example – April 24 who is the saint nicknamed the “poor man’s lawyer”? (Note: This tweet is only 60 characters).
  • Grades 7 & 8: Form teams and assign each team to a designated week of the class sessions. Invite the teams to review the @SaintOfTheDay tweets that are available during that week.  Ask the students to write one or two tweets that will communicate what they have learned about a few of the saints from that week. To be in a form where fellow students will reply with the saints name.

For example – Week of April 19-25: (Tweet #1) He was a theologian, archbishop and opposed the slave trade – Who is he? (72 characters) and (Tweet #2) Once buried in Gniezno cathedral (Poland) his relics were moved to St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Who is he? (108 characters)

Answer #1 – St. Anselm; Answer #2 – St. Adalbert of Prague

How are you considering bringing your children and families to become a digital disciple?

10 Ways to Affirm that You Are a Tech-Savvy Catechist

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As the digital world continues to surround us, how do we know if we are ready to adapt to this ever changing world? Here are 10 simple points to keep in mind:

  1. You embrace technology! New tools, new media of various types, you take time to explore and learn what is available. You are not afraid to try!
  2. Digital Citizenship is important to you. You model it in your everyday digital world. You encourage others to be responsible digital citizens.
  3. Digital Discipleship means that you are willing to share your faith with others online via various social media tools.
  4. You are a partner and collaborator with others across the world. You are aware of how social media tools are utilized to bring people together to share projects and faith with one another. These colleagues are also available to assist you when needed.
  5. You are aware that this digital world is a new culture, language, and involves learning new skills. You take time to learn new trends and understand how they can be integrated into the faith community.
  6. You find time to learn on an ongoing basis, participating in webinars, attending conferences, searching You Tube or Google for what you need to know, and more!
  7. Your network of friends are colleagues you may see every day as well as your online friends. You relish the day your online friends will meet you F2F. You’ve learned that social networking connects you with new and lasting friendships. You know that online community is possible!
  8. The term PLN – Personal Learning Network is real for you. You have cultivated a group of friends (both online and offline) who are there to coach, mentor, and challenge you.  When you have tech problems, your PLN is available to help you think outside the box!
  9. When you are working with students, they know you are awesome! You engage them in learning and sharing their faith in creative digital ways that often surprise them.
  10. Your students, parents, or others follow your blog or Twitter feed or any of your other social media options (e.g., Pinterest, etc.). Your students know that they can find helpful tips and resources in your comments.

Inspirational Moments

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One of the reasons I go to the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC), is to meet folks who will inspire me to learn new things.  Recently I was reminded how simple conversations with others are also inspirational.

To my wonderful surprise, a new Digital Disciple Boot Camp (DDBC) participant shared this with me:

Hi, Sr. Caroline – I just had to drop you a quick note and tell you about what I did tonight during a class I was teaching as a result of our conversation. 

I was teaching a group class that combined three 6th grade RE classes.  I had one class waiting for the other 2 classes to arrive so I asked how many had a smart phone with them – all hands shoot up – great, I say, please look up the word “covenant” – hands start flying, voices speaking into Siri – first one that found something was about a movie – nope – next one – a good lay dictionary definition – nope – something more religious – sure enough someone finds the “Biblical” definition – perfect- screen shot so you can read it to the rest when they come. 

It was a perfect use of technology and useful as well.  Thanks for inspiring me today.

Thank you Deb Ryan, Assistant Director of Religious Education, St. Francis of Assisi Church for sharing your story with me.  I trust that you will continue to encounter many others during DDBC who will continue to inspire you.

My wish in this ever evolving 2015 year is that each of you will be inspired by others who are involved in Digital Catechesis.  We are each pioneers, trying to figure out what is possible and what works!

I look forward to sharing FETC stories with my readers over the next couple of weeks.  Since I am an introvert, it takes time to sift through the mass of information that I was exposed to at FETC.  As you visit this space, I will share with you what and who inspired me to continue to be a Digital Disciple.

Of course, come and share your stories with ACyberPilgrim as well!

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.    – Mother Teresa

Returning soon!

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There are moments when we just get “over scheduled.”  That happened to me from May through September of this year.  I have been pondering a variety of articles, which are in “draft” form in my mind.  However, as I get ready to share a variety of articles with you, I’d love to hear from you, what you may be interested in learning more about technology in Catechesis and Evangelization.

If you would take a few moments to share your comments and suggestions at the bottom of this page, that would be most appreciated.  Thank you all for your wonderful comments and when I am at one of your conferences, just taking the time to say hello is most appreciated.

 

Engaging the Digital Disciple

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Today’s students have numerous gadgets in their pockets and backpacks – primarily smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Yet, have we considered how we could utilize these tools in faith formation? Perhaps you are just getting curious about how you could use these tools with your students.

In our curiosity, first determine the type of technological approach you would like to implement by considering the acronym SAMR: substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition. Dominic Norrish in a recent post “Classroom practice – Power up to become a tech-savvy teacher” explains the SAMR acronym:

  • Substitution is where the technology does little to improve the learning process for the child, instead simply swapping one tool (a pencil) for another (Microsoft Word) with no change in the task (writing a story.)
  • Augmentation is still substitution, but you get a little more functionality for your time. Let’s say your pupils are drawing using Photoshop. The process may be easily editable (they don’t have to start from scratch) and quicker, so there are gains, but fundamentally the student is still completing the same assignment: drawing a picture.
  • Modification is where technology begins to change the way a task is taken on. For example, making audio recordings or videos of presentations so they can be referred to later or shared with absent classmates.
  • Redefinition is where technology really comes into its own. Here, the way a subject or task is managed is fundamentally changed. This could be the use of video conferencing to work collaboratively with classes across the world, or students creating story walks in the community where the narrative and instructions to reach the next point of the journey can be downloaded to iPads at certain GPS points.

Substitution or Augmentation styles of using technology really do not improve or change what we do in the classroom. Overall, we have access to a tool and use it instead of a pencil or it simply replaces how we do the task. The task at hand with today’s technology is to engage our students in participating as Digital Disciples to share their faith with others. The Architecture of Participation offers us new ways to consider using Web 2.0 learning technologies.

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As I become more and more comfortable with Learning 2.0 technologies, I ask:

  • Am I facilitating a learning experience so that my students are able to learn more about their faith in a digital world?
  • Are they able to curate online materials so that they are able to identify reliable Catholic Internet content? After all, they often search for their information online!
  • Do I engage my students in using social bookmarking tools to tag and bookmark available digital resources? Could this be an opportunity to begin creating their lifelong digital library for faith formation?
  • Are we using news aggregator tools to follow faith news in blogs, online newspapers, podcasts and video blogs (vlogs)? Are we aware of current church news?
  • Am I using social media tools like Facebook, Instagram, and Vine to engage our adolescent students in sharing and amplifying what they are learning about their faith with others?
  • How am I engaging my students to collaborate with others in social justice issues by using technology?

I believe that our job today as faith facilitators is to engage our students in learning their faith, and using the digital tools that we have at hand to share what they have learned with others. If and only if I take time to learn more about Web 2.0 tools, will I be ready to engage others in learning and sharing their faith. This is a time to pioneer and share our best practices with one another.

I invite you to consider how during the summer you will learn more about this digital world. Come back and share what is exciting you in this ever evolving digital world.

Resources for you:

Social Media Aggregation Tools

Aggregator options

11 Based tools for online surveys

 

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