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December 3, 2019 REL Topic - Catechesis, REL Topic- Blended Learning, REL Asset - Support Article, REL PD - Catechist, REL PD - Leaders

Embracing Digital Tech for Catechesis

In this post, Steve Botsford, Sadlier’s Senior Director of Digital Catechesis, tackles the challenges we face in catechizing today’s kids and shares the importance of digital catechesis. Steve helps catechists face some of the most common fears surrounding digital technology for catechesis. You’ll be amazed at the benefits a new mindset will reap in your religious education program as you embrace digital tech for catechesis. Plus, download the 3 Steps to Embrace Digital Tech for Catechesis Support Article.

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Challenges to Catechesis Today

Reaching and teaching today’s youth with the Good News has proven to be a significant challenge involving a number of factors.

First, religious education enrollment in Catholic parishes and schools has been on a downward trend since 2000. On a national scale, there are less children in our programs and classrooms.

Second, those kids who are enrolled in faith formation may be difficult to engage. Traditional classroom approaches to catechetical instruction just aren’t breaking through and captivating today’s kids.

 

Finally, due to the introduction of technology in society and schools, kids learn differently than we did years ago. These challenges we face have led many catechists to embrace tech for digital catechesis.

Traditional classroom approaches to catechetical instruction just aren’t breaking through and captivating today’s kids.

 

Teaching Technologies and Strategies

In public and private K–12 schools, teachers use a variety of learning technologies and strategies with students. These technologies come in the form of software delivered via websites and apps. Depending on the task needed, the platforms offer dynamic digital components delivering instruction and assessment. The use of digital tech may be very straightforward with the appearance of a textbook, but typically includes gaming aspects such as points and competition, leaderboards and medals, and colorful graphics. These aspects appeal to students, which boosts their engagement.

Other common digital tech strategies include flipping lessons and blended learning. Flipping lessons uses technology to deliver content at home prior to the class session. Blended learning uses a blend of print and digital resources. Both strategies are successfully used in academic settings.

So, if children are present in faith formation classes and prefer learning using digital technologies, how can we embrace digital tech for catechesis?

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Are you ready to take the next step toward embracing digital tech for catechesis? Download the 3 Steps to Embrace Digital Tech for Catechesis Support Article today to begin using technology for catechesis in your faith formation program today! 

 

Digital Catechesis

Digital catechesis, simply put, is the integration of digital technology during the faith formation process. The exciting thing is that there is not a specific way to approach integrating digital tech for catechesis. Flipped catechesis is a new approach of using digital tech for catechesis based on the flipped classroom method. Blended learning can be used by integrating digital tech into the faith formation classroom instruction.

Digital catechesis, simply put, is the integration of digital technology during the faith formation process.

Benefits

Digital catechesis is important because it helps student engagement by reaching learners where they are. The current reality is that every student that comes to us for faith formation has grown up with computers, the Internet, and mobile devices. Technology has permeated our lives and is how youth culture experiences and lives life. Children use technology not only for entertainment, but to communicate, learn, and socialize, and we have an obligation to share the Good News in ways that young people can relate to.

Fears

Despite the benefits of using digital tech for catechesis, many catechesis have fears. Some feel that to use digital tech for catechesis they need to be a technology expert. Some simply do not understand how to use digital technology for catechesis. Others fear the possibility of exposing youth to harmful sites or information on the Internet. Still others feel the use of technology may be damaging to students and may lead to negative side effects. While all these fears may be legitimate, it is possible to overcome them!

Overcoming Fears

The good news is that there are ways to overcome fears of using digital tech for catechesis. By identifying what your specific concerns are about using digital tech for catechesis, you will be able to find solutions that help you move forward.

Fear #1: Do I have to be an expert to use digital tech for catechesis?

You do not have to be a technology expert to use digital tech for catechesis! You do need to understand what content or concept you need to teach and then find the appropriate technology to use. Catechists can gauge a student’s understanding of the content by assigning a task at the end of the lesson that includes digital technology. Here are two examples:

1. Catechists might ask children to create a “how to” guide for receiving communion. The catechist can decide what technologies students could best use to create the task, like a brochure, a slideshow, or a video.
 
2. Catechists might ask children to create a church tour featuring people, places, or things. After students learn about them, they could take pictures or videos and create a booklet, slide presentation or short film. It really is that easy!

digital catechesis fear 1

Fear #2: What about exposure to harmful content on the Internet?

It is true that bad things can be found on the internet. But the reality of encountering bad things is not limited to the Internet. We may encounter good and bad people, places, and things throughout our daily lives. We learn how to limit exposure to negative influences for ourselves and teach these strategies to our youth. Similarly, to limit exposure to harmful content on the Internet we must begin by learning about protective measures such as safety education, safety settings, and browser filters, and then apply them to our instructional opportunities.

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Fear #3: Aren’t there negative side effects to the use of technology?

Yes, there have been reported negative side effects associated with the use of technology. Reports range from devices serving as a distraction during class time, to mental, physical, social, and emotional health issues. The important thing to understand is that moderation is the key. One approach is to consider the distinction between tech use for education versus social, communication, or entertainment, and help students and parents embrace and schedule tech use for education over the others.

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Fear #4: Shouldn’t we consider our content as more important than technology?

Yes! The content we teach is always more important than the use of technology. However, the use of digital tech for catechesis is important for reaching and engaging today’s learner. Catechists should always consider what students need to understand and learn before they decide what technology to use!

Just as important as the message is the medium in which the message is delivered. This is nothing new to Christians or Catholics! As the famous educator John Wooden put it, “failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be!”

digital catechesis fear 4

 

Summary

In conclusion, embracing digital tech for catechesis is not as much about changing the ways we teach our students as it is about changing the ways we reach our students. By utilizing the same tools our children use outside the classroom for communication, socialization, and entertainment we can attract and engage them inside the classroom. All it takes is a new mindset and willingness to try something new.