For several years, catechists have been trying to strike a balance between the inclusion of technology in instruction and traditional approaches to religious education—often resulting in tension as catechists endeavor to find middle ground between doing things as they have always done and a desire to prepare for the future. The global pandemic has completely removed any discussion of whether we should use technology in catechesis. The question now is how we should use technology in catechesis.
Whether we consider ourselves, our catechists, pastors, families, or students equipped to teach and learn with technology, what used to be considered future-ready skills are now the new minimum operating standard. Seemingly overnight, we’ve had to shift gears and jump with both feet into the world of digital catechesis with varying levels of success, not knowing exactly how long it will last or what will come next. One thing all experts seem to agree upon is there will be no such thing as “getting back to normal.”
The global pandemic has completely removed any discussion of whether we should use technology in catechesis. The question now is how we should use technology in catechesis.
Some parishes have quickly adapted to remote catechesis and worship while others have had more limited abilities or success. Everyone has made a valiant effort and done their best with the available resources. Nobody feels they have it all figured out yet. We’ve been in survival mode, just getting through the crisis in the short term. As hard as this has been, we have been field-testing some strategies. Now is the time to start thinking about what catechesis could look like and evaluate what it should look like for the long term.
We have a blank canvas to rethink and rebuild how we approach catechesis. Begin with a strategic plan to set goals for remote catechesis. Take advantage of tools for videoconferencing to effectively connect with students and families. Embrace opportunities for blended learning. Together, these actions will define your future programs and ministries!
In some sense, we are all going back to the drawing board in thinking about how to approach our religious education programs for the coming year. One lesson learned is that we cannot plan and teach the same way online as we do in the classroom. Even the most skilled instructors are having to rethink teaching and learning. The first step we need to take is looking constructively, with a critical eye, at what worked and what didn’t work in the quick shift to online learning. Hopefully we have all had some successes in our parishes and Catholic schools to draw from.
Now is a perfect time to assess our goals and do some parallel planning for what an in-person, online, or blended learning approach to catechesis might look like in the coming year. It is important to think of this opportunity beyond a response to a pandemic—an opportunity to reimagine our programs and ministries in a way that better serves our families and attracts new ones!
Don't wait to start assessing your program and planning for the future! Attend a FREE 3-part on demand Remote Teaching and Distance Learning for Catechesis Masterclass!
It is important to think of this opportunity beyond a response to a pandemic—an opportunity to reimagine our programs in a way that better serves our families and attracts new ones!
Shifting to remote learning is much more complicated than just posting our traditional assignments online. In Class 1 of my Remote Teaching and Distance Learning in Catechesis Masterclass, I will:
Even if you’ve already started the move to online catechesis, this is a good way to check your progress and plan for the coming year.
One area in which we have all had to quickly adapt was moving to videoconferencing. How exciting it is to have the power of videoconferencing at our fingertips, especially with so many free and easy tools! Several platforms are available with similar functionality.
More important than learning the basics of using these platforms is discerning how and if we can use them responsibly for religious education. Fear of making a mistake or protecting the privacy and safety of children is on all our minds. It is important to weigh the benefits and risks of such tools as well as learn how to use them in the safest possible way. We can utilize videoconferencing for multiple ministries by putting some basic best practices and safeguards in place for ministry leaders.
In Class 2 of my on demand Remote Teaching and Distance Learning in Catechesis Masterclass, I will:
Being future-ready while not knowing the future requires a blended learning approach. This hybridization of in-person and online learning can help us adapt instruction, so we can more easily pivot to virtual learning in the future. Planning and resourcing students, families, and catechists now can help us be more effective in the long run no matter where we are teaching.
In fact, one of the lessons learned during social distancing is that some students prefer or perform better with an online learning component. Flexibility and an expanded toolbox puts some additional demands on catechists and religious education programs, but even before the pandemic, we were seeking new ways of engaging and serving families.
Blended learning is not only a great alternative to in-person instruction, but a way to be more inclusive, attract and retain families, and provide options for differentiation for students with learning challenges.
In Class 3 of the Remote Teaching and Distance Learning in Catechesis Masterclass, I will provide ideas and resources for transforming traditional lessons to include a blended learning approach!
Knowing Where to Begin
A good place to start is a self-check for digital readiness. Consider surveying your catechists and other stakeholders in your school or parish to see what resources they have and what would be most helpful as you plan your upcoming religious education program. Before you can serve your families, you have to figure out what talents and skills are already in place and what will make your team feel supported to learn new skills.
As we rethink and rebuild how we approach catechesis, the goal should not be to get back to normal, but to figure out how to transform into the next iteration of what community, church, and religious education will look like. It will take humility, willingness to change, prayer, perseverance, and a little luck, but we can do it!
The goal should not be to get back to normal, but to figure out how to transform into the next iteration of what community, church, and religious education will look like.
Prepare for my Masterclass with a self-assessment for digital readiness that you can take and share with stakeholders and catechists in your parish. Consider key areas of technology use and prioritize your goals for getting started with remote teaching and distance learning for catechesis.
Don’t miss the 3-part Remote Teaching and Distance Learning for Catechesis Masterclass! Enroll now.
Andrea D. Chavez-Kopp is a nationally-recognized Digital Transformation Specialist. She is a thought leader and national expert in the area of using technology for catechesis. She was recently appointed as the Chief Learning Officer of The Procedo Project, a division of Eduscape which is devoted to innovation in Catholic education. She previously served as a Director for the National Catholic Educational Association and also spent 15 years as a parish youth minister and Catholic school teacher. Andrea writes and speaks around the country on topics related to ministry, educational technology, and professional development and is a certified educator by the International Society for Technology in Education