I just read a thought-provoking article that gets to the heart of the dilemma facing our catholic schools in America Magazine:
Unplugged but Connected: The role of catholic schools in the information age .
There are many in the world of education (not to forget the corporate powerhouses in the technology industry) who believe that the world was re-created on 1st January 2000, and catholic educators must recognize that there is not a single story and to think critically about the place of technology in our schools.
Technology has become part of life, and as catholic educators, we have no choice but to embrace modern technology. Still, most essentially, we must ensure that it serves our purposes and is utilized as a tool that enhances learning. Used appropriately, technology can be integrated into our curriculum in ways that serve our distinctive needs. Rather than reject the tools of the modern world, we can perhaps embrace them and use them as part of our pedagogy of instruction.
The tools of technology can be used in our classrooms to complement the overall learning experience of our children. The danger to catholic education is when the tools are technology are seen as ends in themselves. Thus, our Catholic schools need to ensure that students have limited screen time. Technology is only integrated into the learning process when there is evidence that it enhances learning. It is used in conjunction with a myriad of other appropriate pedagogical practices.
Whilst an overuse of technology can inevitably reduce human interaction and diminishes human relationships, this is not always the case. Technology also brings with it methods of human communication that can bring students from across the world into the same virtual classroom. I concede that these experiences are never the same as genuine personal interactions. Still, the fact that children in the U.S. and France can interact with one another in real-time provides a genuine opportunity for children in different countries and from different cultures (and sometimes religions) and traditions to learn together and share their ideas about the world. Furthermore, the technological revolution is affecting the economically developed world and is also transforming communications globally. It is now possible for American children to interact with children in Peru and French children with their counterparts in Cote d’Ivoire. Given the universal nature of our Church, this brings tremendous opportunities for our catholic schools.
The problem with universal access to technology is the fact that it provides almost unrestricted access to information. Much of this information is fantastic and can give a real boost to the learning experience. The danger exists where there is misinformation, inaccuracies and worst of all, information that might promote prejudice, discrimination, hatred and violence. To an extent, one might extend the same argument to any medium of the written word, but the key difference is the open access that the internet potentially provides. Once more, the argument boils down to the appropriate use of technology and information.
“By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others…we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it…. The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information.” (Pope Francis)
The words of Pope Francis are powerful as they stress that ‘encountering others’ is at the heart of our human experience, and this must be something that catholic educators must be conscious of and promote continuously. After all, our purpose as human beings is to know and love God and love our neighbours. Technology has the potential to enhance aspects of our human experience. Still, it must be used with the utmost care and with great responsibility in our catholic schools so that it enhances learning without ever undermining our humanity.