Recently I spent several weeks reviewing entries for the Catholic Schools of Tomorrow Award. Each year I am deeply impressed with the creativity, breadth and depth of the digital educational transformation being introduced into the curriculum within our Catholic schools. I am not surprised, but impressed! I am proud of the digital pioneering of our Catholic educators.
I am convinced Catholic educators need to tell their stories of digital innovation. Catholic educators are applying computer and mobile technology resources such as iPods, iPad2s and e-book readers into the curriculum. The number of Catholic schools shifting toward "paperless learning contexts" demonstrates the implementation within Catholic education of the Department of Education's National Education Technology Plan (NETP 2010) for the application of technology. We are in digital pioneering times and the evolution is rapid. Marc Prensky (2011) states: "The distinction between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants is becoming less relevant. Clearly, we need to imagine a new set of distinctions helpful to those who are trying to help create and improve the future. I suggest we think in terms of digital wisdom" (p. 202).
Bishop Moore Catholic High School in Orlando, Florida, is taking to heart Prensky's perspective. They have designed interactive classrooms to enhance the quality of excellence in learning. Building on the fact that problem-solving and collaborative skills are necessary for preparing their students for college life, Bishop Moore is on the cutting edge moving away from the traditional lecture hall set up of the classroom to more collaborative styles of learning inclusive of digital resources.
National Standards and NETP- a Good Combination
This issue of Momentum highlights the "National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools." I recommend that Catholic educational leaders position these standards and benchmarks side by side with the NETP 2010 document to explore designing an effective plan that challenges a new way of being a Catholic learning community in the 21st century. The combination definitely can be a guide for assessing, strengthening and sustaining a prophetic Catholic learning environment.
The pendulum of Catholic education policy is swinging, placing new challenges before us. Many of us grew up with the idea that learning means taking courses in school. This idea is unraveling as digital technologies open new avenues for curriculum development- from new ways of teaching and learning to new ways of organizing the interaction of students not only within the classroom but in connecting with the world.
The NETP 2010 has offered guidelines that can complement the national standards presented in this issue. The NETP 2010 is organized around five areas: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure and productivity. There is a challenge for Catholic educators in each one:
* Use technology to motivate and inspire all students regardless of their background and to create personalized learning experiences focusing on 21st-century skills that are continuous inside and outside of school's walls.
* Use technology-based formative and summative assessments to diagnose and modify the conditions of learning and instructional practices.
* Create connected communities of learning, which will require innovation at all levels of the educational system.
* Ensure that students and educators have broadband access to the Internet and adequate wireless connectivity both in and out of school.
This is more than a "plan." It calls for a complete rethinking of the traditional educational system.
What does a Catholic school or, I prefer to say, a Catholic educational learning community, look like in the 21st century? We still are in need of innovative models that radically shift the paradigm of learning experiences for both today and tomorrow. …