Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Posts tagged ‘Instructional Technology’

Online Collaboration & Communication Tools

I’m back to my desk after being very involved in the Interactive Connections Conference that was held in Orlando, Florida last week. In the near future I will share more about the conference.

Overall most of us have been involved in collaboration and communication while teaching or in our ministry endeavors. The Webster Dictionary states that collaboration involves- to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor. Yes, we do collaborate in so many ways! We love seeing each other and meeting face-to-face!

However, what is “new” for us is to be able to collaborate with others in an online environment. Most of us are unfamiliar with how to do this or may think that this option is beyond our budget. Some of us will come to this option with the mindset that – collaborating face-to-face (F2F) is better! So, we will not even have the desire to try the online option.

I would encourage the “Pioneers” in our midst to be the catalysts in their communities to engage others in online collaboration. The options are many! Most of the options are FREE. Check out Sean Aun’s article, Work Together: 60+ Collaborative Tools for Groups for suggested tools.

OnLine Collaboration

OnLine Collaboration

I will highlight some of the tools that Sean refers to and others that I’ve used successfully with other collaborators. I would invite those who have used any of the collaborative tools mentioned in Sean’s article (or any other tools) with success to share their stories with us.

Here are a few options for you to consider…

Doodle –  A collaborative way to coordinate groups for identifying a date/time for a meeting. All can easily collaborate to find the best date possible.

Google Docs – Here is the place to collaborate with others using word processing, spreadsheets, form building, presentation and date storage tools. How can these tools be used?

  • Documents – Invite your students to use Google documents to write a short essay. Show them how to share the document with you. You can add your comments and grade the reflection. Students can choose to create a digital portfolio of their work.
  • Spreadsheets – Invite a team of students to create a spreadsheet where they are sharing information with one another.
  • Presentations – Invite a team of students to create a prayerful reflection that is shared in class.
  • Use Google Docs to build a form with a text box (or text boxes) that correspond to question(s) you want students to respond to after class at home. Invite your students to input their thoughts into the form. This application automatically incorporates the feedback into a spreadsheet. Next class, have the printed spreadsheet in hand or show via your computer and LCD projector and open up a discussion based on what students have shared.

The gift of Google Docs is that students can work from the comfort of their home computers and collaborate creating their document at various times or at the same time of the day.

Blogs – Yes a blog is a collaborative tool! As a teacher you can focus on writing a weekly question, comment, or assignment where students are expected to comment and collaborate with each other in this virtual space. A blog can be a private or an open space for the students. You choose!

Glogster.Edu Simply put, a Glog is a kind of poster – fully designed by yourself! As a tool, a student can be creative using text, images, music and video. Think about a Who is Jesus exercise! To use in the faith-classroom, I would engage junior high students. What allows this tool to be collaborative is that others may comment on the Glog. Here is an opportunity for students to engage in a digital activity as well as to respond to other students.

John Kuglin sees presentation as another critical part of 21st century learning. It doesn’t matter what field you’re going into, you’ve got to be able to collect, organize, and pull your thoughts together—typically with a team—and then present those thoughts in a way that is understandable to other people. Collaboration and presentation are absolutely tied together.

I so appreciate what Andrew Marcinek has shared – One of our best resources as learners is our ability to connect. We can connect like never before and have the opportunity to engage with others from around the world on a daily basis. If we can learn anything from the web 2.0 generation it is that the ability to share and learn from each other is limitless.

With the many tools that are now available to us, it just takes time to explore and to see what works best for us. Here is another list of tools that you may find helpful.

Once you have used a tool for a project, come back and share your story. Many of us would love to hear what you are finding to be helpful to you in your ministry.

Ed Tech Ministry: Is there a gap?

If I felt like a gap existed between myself and the 12-year old that I met back in 1983 in the Radio Shack store, imagine how many of us feel today when we compare ourselves with a Digital Native?  Regardless of the gap we feel, it is time to learn more about educational technology.  In many ways, even though we may feel like we’re running to catch up, we are at an advantage.  Educators all around us are savvy users of educational technology, and we can learn from them! We can learn from their “best practices” and adapt what works to our faith environment.

If you take time to Google “educational technology” you will find helpful background information.  Don’t expect to learn all that is possible overnight! Remember, this field of study emerged at the university level about thirty-five to fifty years ago.  Many of the degree programs in educational technology began being part of university programs in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  Today’s teacher training programs normally require one-course in educational technology.  I am not aware of any ministry training programs at the undergraduate or graduate levels with similar requirements. Perhaps, if we want ministers to be savvy users of technology, we will need to train them to use these tools!  We need to ask – What is 21st Century Education?

One of the first educational technology conferences began in Florida, known today as the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC).    Other educational technology conferences are: International Society for Technology and Education (ISTE), Computer Using Educators, Missouri S&T, and TIES 2010 Educational Technology Conference . There are many Ed Tech conferences across the world.  Yet, if you explore these programs, we would be hard pressed to find workshops or learning sessions that would interest a religion teacher, a catechist, a youth minister, a pastor, a PCL or DRE.  Yes, many of our national organizations have included Ed Tech type of workshops in their programs.  But the “energy” that is created at a conference that solely focuses on educational technology is not generated at these conferences.

A couple of videos that offer an overview are:

A Brief History of Technology in the Classroom

and Educational Technology History

These are helpful as they visually remind us that the classroom and teaching has changed!  However, most of us who volunteer our time, may not be aware of how this learning world has changed over time.  Nor have we been trained to merge new media into our teaching method.

As a result, our parish students come to us from 21st Century classrooms, and many of our environments are very limited in 21st Century tools!  I often present workshops at the local or national level.  Many of the participants tell me, that their students are bored!  However, I also hear from participants who are using 21st century tools, that their students are engaged and enjoy learning about their faith using contemporary methodology.

Today, we need to re-imagine how we do “technology” at the parish and diocesan levels!  A little over twenty years ago, many of our Catholic Schools got very involved in creating their technology plans.  This planning provided a means for purchasing equipment and a strategy for training administrators, teachers and students to use this equipment in their learning environments.  Today, our school people need to lead our parishes in Technology Planning for ALL parish ministries – school, catechetical, youth ministry, young adult, RCIA, and all existing parish ministries.  Today’s assumption – All ministers need today’s digital tools!

More importantly, we need to join together to attend conferences like FETC to network and to strategize how we can truly be 21st century catechetical leaders.  We need to “walk the walk and talk the talk” of a 21st Century faith leader who remains rooted not only in the values of our faith.  How we integrate 21st century tools into our ministries will make a difference with those we share our faith with. Only time will show this to be true!

The question becomes today – How will all ministries and ministers have access to and be trained to use the technologies that are currently evolving today?  Perhaps this week’s conversation – Share how your parish is moving into the 21st Century?  What are you doing that is bringing new energy and excitement to sharing the faith?

Note: If you are still curious, check out these two websites – National Office of Educational Technology and Teachers Use of Educational Technology in Public Schools (PDF).  We begin to see in these documents what is happening all around us.

So, let the conversation begin for this week!

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