Expanding and Exploring Tech in Church Organizations

A Parish Technology Summit held today by the Villanova University School of Business offered many ideas for expanding the use of technology in church and parish organizations. The use of social media and communications technologies was explored by presenters and attendees. I was glad to hear about this event from our very tech savvy Communications Director, Donna Farrell and our Research and Planning staff.  Both are from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Shifts of this kind are both challenges and opportunities, whether your organization is a school, business or church.
For church organizations,

  • The unique sense of community and fellowship at the heart faith life is important.
  • Maintaining genuine respect for individuals and tradition is absolutely necessary.
  • Embracing modern tools and methods for spreading the Word of God may be challenging but it brings both excitement and hope
  • Forging new connections opens dialogue with younger generations and facilitates communications with all generations exponentially

Time for a New Tradition

This video which  I have seen shared in relation to educational technology was shown in an talk entitled  Reaching Youth Through Technology by Scott Miller. He shared excellent resources that are linked to his presentation. Scott encouraged attendees to think about how church can adapt to a changing world, connect to all, remain relevant and yet stay true to it’s mission.

This was a timely conference. Pope Benedict’s recent statement for World Communications Day highlights  the importance of ‘new technologies and the digital world’. He recognizes their potential as a ‘great resource for humanity as a whole and for every individual’ which can ‘stimulate encounter and dialogue’.  For many, this was an endorsement that brought new technologies to the forefront.  This statement and endorsement of use was also featured on Mashable.

If Pope Benedict ‘clearly knows that reaching young believers requires going to the places where they spend their time and converse’, then why wait?

School Bus of the Future

Today's Transportation
Today's Transportation

Recently, the Kaiser report was released. The Kaiser report studies media use by children and teens.  These results include:

“Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.”

It was also noted that in relation to Media and homework. About half of young people say they use media either “most” (31%) or “some” (25%) of the time they’re doing their homework.’

Obviously, research which applies to our students should cause us to sit up and take notice. In this way, our academic programs be rigorous and at the same time critically relevant to the world our students live in daily.

Yesterday, this New York Times article caught my eye when shared by Tony Baldassaro via Twitter. Some schools have experimented with adding wireless internet connections on school buses. Dubbed the Internet bus, it has resulted in a transformed environment. I like to think of it as the School Bus of the Future. Students are doing homework, connecting with each other and more. An important observation by a school official was made;

‘Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared

Blending the latest technologies with the latest research is beneficial to us as educators. Our students can get where they need to be. It may be that if we wish to truly transport our schools into places for 21st century, we need to learn from stories like the ‘School Bus of the Future’.

Snow Day- Schools Closed- Learning Continues

Snow Storm
Snow Day

Snow Days – Blizzard on the East Coast

This week we had 2 snow days – So far that is!  We had a big blizzard with high winds which kept schools and government offices closed both locally, in the Washington, DC and the surrounding states. This particular storm put us in the record  breaking category. As of this week, there is officially more snow in Philadelphia this winter than has ever been since records were first kept in 1888.

Of course,though being housebound during a storm on a snow day has it’s challenges by and large, you do get to relax a bit and know that you don’t have to be somewhere in a hurry. For some it means reading, relaxing or staying in by a warm fireplace. for others, it is sledding, shoveling, cleaning snow of your car.  Some local energetic types were even seen sledding down the Philadelphia Art Museum steps!

Tough government offices and schools can close during a blizzard, it is easy to see how learning online continues. With the world at your fingertips, learning is never canceled.

In our diocese, we had scheduled an online session with educators for today. Obviously, with this being a snow day there was reason to believe that some would not attend.  Our forward thinking Superintendent, Mary Rochford and I decided to go ahead with the session. What better way to encourage continual learning for all!   We were pleasantly surprised to hav 25 principals and teachers attend our afternoon session and 35 attend our evening session, each 1.5 hours long!  All links where shared in advance. Some that hadn’t planned to attend are able to take advantage of the snow day to join in the session. We had great sessions with input from these many dedicated educators.  We had inspiring leadership from our moderators Robin Ellis and Lani Ritter Hall in these sessions planned in conjunction w/Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson at PLP.

There are many ways to learn online. I share my thoughts here about how to learn on a Snow Day.

How To Learn Online On a SNOW DAY

  1. Use Twitter: Use Twitter. Following folks on Twitter allows you to learn nonstop. Follow hashtags about the storm.  There were twitter hashtags for words such as snowstorm and snowmageddon which allowed me to keep up with updates related to the storm. Links to articles, blogs and stories continued to flow during the storm. Find educators to follow here.
  2. Use Elluminate. Tap into free learning sessions in web conferences. You can see some archived at Classroom 2.0. We have archived our Virtual Academy sessions for teachers here.
  3. Go Digital: Access and Share Photos and Multimedia. The internet was abuzz with news of the blizzard through the news media, facebook, youtube and much more. With user generated video and photos, you could find out about what the storm conditions were in almost any place at anytime. See the photos posted here on the New York Times. Our local paper the Catholic Standard and Times creatively asked people to upload photos of their church in the snow.Having encouraged viewers to share ‘snowtographs’ and videos,  WPVI Channel 6 in Philadelphia said they had record visitors to their website with over 2.7 million page views!
  4. Join Virtual Online Communities for Educators. Use a ning. Some popular Nings for Educators are: I belong to several communities online using nings such as ones through Powerful Learning Practice and Classroom 2.0. I had the opportunity to connect with many of our teachers and principals on a number of topics such as Netbooks, Smartboards, Professional Development and more.
  5. Connect with People Use various means such as  Skype, cell and more. I shared some snow photos from he New York Times with an educator participating in a skype project with our schools. Being from Australia, she said that her students have never seen snow.

I am a big proponent of learning online. I have the opportunity to interact with students online at a course online at Cabrini College and also use a variety of online tools for professional development myself and with teachers in my diocese.

Online Learning on the Horizon

At our online session today, the topic was Emerging Technology Trends and Impact on Education via the Horizon Report. One trend highlighted in the recently released Horizon Report is that ‘People expect to be able to work, learn and study whenever and wherever they want to.’

I love a ‘snow day’ now as much or more as I did when I was young. I enjoyed these snow days and spent some time relaxing with family.  I also spent a lot of time learning online. So if you are interested in learning more about weather events, the world around you or in connecting with others and expanding professional, resources there are abundant resources at hand.

In schools, keeping our eyes on the Horizon and keeping our minds open to adapting to new venues of learning is essential to providing quality programs for our students. This type of learning will continue to ‘snowball’.  So sit back, listen to the forecast and remember that with the world at your fingertips, learning is never canceled.

A Week to Celebrate

Putting Mission Into Practice

Schools thrive best by being true to their mission. In this article in Education Week we are reminded that in order for schools to thrive and grow, they must have a mission and to put it into practice daily.

Celebrating Our Schools

We set aside one week a year to celebrate our schools during National Catholic Schools Week. Each school plans activities and some are  listed here.CSW10Logo_rgbLR

This years theme was Dividends for Life. The theme emphasizes the idea that a Catholic education pays off both now and in the future in the  areas of Knowledge, Discipline, Faith and Morals.  Schools celebrate in various ways.

Events Attended

I was privileged to participate in a number of these activities which I detail below:

Thursday Before Catholic Schools Week: St. Francis of Assisi school in Springfield -Teacher Kate Nolan’s

Student In Technology Class
Student In Technology Class

technology class. Students were creating graphics on the computer using Kidpix. While discussing the theme for the upcoming week they illustrated files on their computers.

csw2 Click here to see a video of

Students and their Teacher Wishing all a Happy CSW

Friday Evening Kick Off: Distinguished Graduates Event – Over 700 people gathered to honor 5 graduates who have given life long service to our schools. This was a wonderful evening which included a touching video summary. Read about the honorees here.

Monday: Secondary Teachers Mass with Cardinal Rigali. This was attended by over 1000 teachers and was held at the Cathedral Basilica in Philadelphia. The homily is streamed here. Later, a small group of Catholic Education staffers enjoyed a lunch of a classic  Philadelphia treat, hoagies.

Tuesday: Secondary Schools Senior Athletes Mass with Bishop McFadden – This mass was IMG00322-20100202-1056

attended by over 1400 athletes. Music was provided by the amazing choir from Cardinal O’Hara. The homily is streamed here focused on sportsmanship and living a life inspired by faith.

Wednesday: Technology Award – I visited a Philadelphia school, Holy Innocents for a Netbook presentation to a 7th grade classroom. Getting the best technology into the hands of our students is a top priority at the Archdiocese.  There was great excitement here as

Students with new netbooks
Students with new netbooks

this school was just awarded a grant for technology which included 60 netbooks for students in 7th and 8th grade. This grant presentation was attended by Bishop McFadden, Superintendent Mary Rochford, State Representative John Taylor, teachers, students and office staff. The students were so excited to get these new tools for the classroom. With these tools, they could immediately access information about their support Haiti project.  In his talk to the students Bishop McFadden said this technology will help you ‘to learn about the world, connect to people all over the globe and to make the world a better place.’

Thursday: Convocation, Bishop McDevitt High School, Speaker,  Immaculee –  An IMG_9272inspirational speaker, Immaculee talked to the assembly of students and educators of her survival of the genocide in Rwanda during the 90’s. Through faith and prayer she not only survived but went on to forgive her captors. She reminded students to have faith and to spend time each day giving service to the poor and disadvantaged.  Immaculee has an organization called Left to Tell where she raises money for orphans in Rwanda.

Friday: View Online Technology Project – Entitled, the Catholic Schools connect schools can sign up and connect with schools  in our area, across the country and even across the world. There they could discuss the events of the week and share unique facts about their own school. Web 2.0 Technology tools such as Skype, wikis and blogs where used.  A few schools connecting with teacher Barb Gilman in Nebraska and St. Genevieve’s connected with Frances Manning from Holy Family school in Australia. We encourage these connections with schools both locally and globally. We plan to connect with Catholic Schools in Australia during their Catholic School’s Week in March. Kudos to our participating schools and teachers! We expect this list and these connections among schools to grow.

I then visited Hallahan High School for a website training class on our newly updated Catholic Education website.

A Surprise Visit

While at Hallahan, I  heard about their surprise visit this week from Mayor Nutter. His mother had attended the schoolMayor Nutter Visits Hallahan when she was young. When Hallahan students saw his car pass them on the street, they waved a friendly hello. Right then and there, he decided to  stop by the school for a quick tour and surprised principal, Mary Kirby when he walked into her office. He then took a tour of the school.

All in all this was a fun and inspiring week.

Then, something interesting happened that reminded me about the continuity of our schools – our present, our past and our future.

A Interesting  Find From the Past

On Wednesday evening, when I was home and looking through some old photos, to my surprise,  I found insert to the Catholic Standard and Times, our local Catholic newspaper from 1961. It was a supplement detailing the installation of Cardinal John Krol as Cardinal of Philadelphia.

In this paper, there was an article profiling the growth of Catholic Education in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. It starts from the beginning. In 1782 a new schoolhouse was opened at St. Mary’s in Philadelphia employing 2 full-time teachers. The article continues to profile growth in schools and attendees until it’s publication in 1961 when there were over 250,000 students in diocesan schools. Though the number of students in our schools is less now than it was in 1961, the dedication of many to our schools remains and is evident daily in classrooms and school communities in the 5 county area.

With this being our Catholic Schools week, I found it to be a positively appropriate time to come upon this old newspaper. My mother in law, Betty Caramanico, had saved it for over 50 years before she passed last summer. The paragraph written at the end of the article though written many years ago is as true today as it was then. It states, ‘The road that stretches from that two room schoolhouse at St. Mary’s to our present extensive system has been traveled only at the cost of much labor and sacrifice. Yet through the grace of God and the dedication of men (and women) our children have been educated and our faith has been preserved.  Catholic Education has prospered because it is God’s work. That work will continue. When our doubts and fears have long since ceased to exist, the fruits of Catholic Education will still be growing.’

Whether in a Catholic system, a public school system or a private one, it is important to stay true to your school’s mission and to put it into practice daily.

While participating in these events, I saw dedication to Catholic Schools evident in the hearts and  minds of so many. This promise of our schools was evident in to many this week. The  ‘fruits’ and the dividends are still growing and will grow long into the future.

Netbook and 1:1 – Policy Needs

Many schools and classrooms are going 1:1. Naturally, there will be a need for some policies and guidelines that add to standing AUPs.

What about replacement?

  • in the case of loss
  • Damage

What are the student responsibilities, ie…

  • Bringing them charged
  • Remembering to bring them
  • Use and care
  • What can a student put on or take off of the device

What are the school’s obligations?

  • Tech support
  • Management
  • Assessment
  • Teacher Training

What are the parent responsibilities?

  • In the case of loss? Damage
  • Supporting student acceptable use

I found this policy online which addresses some of these things.

What do you think?  How should these issues be best handled? I would like to look at what other schools are doing and collect best practices. Let’s build choices here.