Digital Disciples Summit Going Where No Educator Has Gone Before

Where No Educator Has Gone BeforeWhat do companies like Schoology, Kidaptive, Knowbox, AltSchool, Echo360, and NearPod have in common? No, they aren’t simply the latest educational contractions to hit the marketplace. They are a handful of the 90+ Ed Tech startups building the future of education. The introduction of educational technology has met many challenges. These include budgeting issues, resistance to change, lack of planning or setting clear expectations, professional development, and ongoing training. In spite of the challenges on how to make the shift to educational technology, commitment to innovation has led to transformation in our schools today. The result of such initiatives has paved the virtual highway for digital disciples to go where no educator has gone before.

Van Winkle Effect

Not too long ago school classrooms were said to have had the Rip Van Winkle effect. If Mr. Van Winkle had awoken in the 90s or even early 2000s, it was suggested that the classroom would have been the only place he would have recognized. Technology had transformed the world but many classrooms still physically resembled the familiar teacher-driven, chalkboard adorned classroom of the 1950s. Recent advances in educational technology, mobile devices, computer hardware and mobile and modular furniture have begun to transform what was once a place where teachers poured pre-determined content into empty vessels, students, for the sake of preparation for factory work.

Rip Van Winkle where no educator has gone beforeContrast this scenario with the average church classroom of today. Many remain staged for teacher-driven lessons designed to fill young believers with content necessary for knowing the precepts of faith, prayers and practices. Digital technologies, however, remain mysterious and challenging for religious educators and seem to have no relevant purpose for engaging or preparing faithful learners to face today’s challenges. Digital pioneers have struggled to make sense of how to effectively engage learners and lead to digital transformation in faith-based institutions.

Advisory Group

When I was invited to consider participating on the advisory group for a Technology Ministry Summit, I had no idea where that initiative would take me. The other group members, representing a combination of practitioners from various backgrounds, shared a common desire to implement digital technologies. Together, with the inspiration and direction of the Summit’s visionary and creator, and President of Digital Disciple Network, Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF, undertook the challenge to create common strategies for approaching the digital transformation. The result of our efforts are the Digital Discipleship Technology Competencies for Ministry, and the Digital Disciples Summit: Engaging in Digital Transformation.

Sister Caroline has been doing this a long time with involvement in educational technology since 1984. She has built on her experience of teaching at Catholic high school and college levels, involvement in parish religious education, diocesan director and consultant, parish pastoral associate, and involvement in educational technology in the publishing industry.

Digital Disciple Boot Camp where no educator has gone beforeSister Caroline is a presenter and writer and in 2010 founded the Digital Disciple Network (DDN), a global network of faith-based ministers for professional development, knowledge generation, advocacy, and leadership for innovation. DDN supports its members with information, networking opportunities, and guidance as they face the challenge of transforming catechetical ministry to 21st Century learning experiences.

That brings us to the present. After training over 500 Digital Disciples it became clear to Sister Caroline that her Digital Disciple Bootcamp, and all involved with faith formation transformation, that educators needed a set of digital competencies, or standards from which to operate. These standards could be used to create training and offer clarity and consistency in our methods and approaches, thus reducing the redundancy and wasted resources in everyone trying to develop and recreate similar outcomes.

Developing Standards 

Nearly 40 years ago, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) began by recognizing that educational technology could change the way learning and teaching take place to make it more meaningful and impactful for educators and learners around the globe. They since have developed (among other areas) ISTE Standards to lead educators through the complexities of the digital age. More practically speaking, they “provide clear guidelines for the skills and knowledge necessary to move away from the factory model” and “provide a framework for rethinking education, adapting to a constantly changing technological landscape and preparing students to enter an increasingly global economy.” The question became “Could a set of competencies benefit ministers in dioceses, parishes and schools engaged in digital transformation, and if so, what would they be?”

The process of developing digital disciple standards began. Referring to the ISTE standards for learners as a starting place, the team began to analyze and dissect the educational technology standards for public education. Some were retained and adapted and others introduced as necessary to transform today’s learning environment to a place of relevancy and engagement, all for the purposes of forming digital disciples. The result is a set of six guiding principles.

Digital Discipleship Technology Competencies for MinistryDigital Disciple Technology Competencies Word Cloud where no educator has gone before

Community Discipleship – Ministers employ technology for creating faith relationships with others.

Digital Citizenship – Ministers recognize the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal, and ethical.

Digital Communicator – Ministers use a variety of platforms and digital tools to evangelize and share faith.

Mobile Evangelization and Catechesis – Ministers can “sow the seed” of faith, engaging others in sharing their faith online through mobile tools.

Collaborative Disciple – Ministers foster digital collaboration, both with students and colleagues.

Digital Curator – Ministers critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to provide meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

(for detailed components of each competency go here)

Digital Disciples Summit – Where No Educator Has Gone Before

The 2018 Digital Disciples Summit: Engaging in Digital Transformation is a gathering of 50-100 Catholic Church leaders in dioceses, organizations, schools, and parishes who are committed to the digital transformation of ministry, education, and faith formation. Ministers are now in a world where rapid advances in technology have an impact on the ways we work, communicate and live. We struggle to keep pace. At the Summit, we will gather to share our knowledge, skills, and resources to equip ministry leaders and communities to engage in digital transformation. The Summit program is designed around the content of the new “Digital Discipleship Competencies for Ministry.”

Summit Registration

The Digital Disciples Summit will take place on January 23 and 24, 2018 in Orlando, FL in conjunction with the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC). Register for the Summit at this link:, or, for additional information, click here.

Recognizing and accepting the challenge has been a rewarding experience for me. I have had the opportunity to contribute in what may prove to be the next big step in faith-based education. We now ask, “What Learning Transformation can we engage in to carry our faith and the faithful into the 21st Century?” Please consider joining us at the Digital Disciple Summit and go where no educator has gone before.







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