Religious Education in a Virtual World 5
There is still a great deal of uncertainty about what parish life will look like this fall because of the pandemic. As you plan your on-line religious education sessions, more support will be needed. Here’s a fifth installment with some ideas.
Expand the Staff
Invite the Digital Natives
If you are like me, virtual classes and on-line almost anything are a fairly new thing. I’d arranged and spoken at conference calls and videoconferences. But, last March, that went into overdrive. We are all learning how to function in this new format.
Our students are “digital natives,” meaning, they have grown up with technology as part of their life; they don’t know a time before cell phones, social media, etc. So, as we begin our virtual religious education and youth ministry programs, enlist those digital natives in your work.
High school students, in particular, might really enjoy teaching and guiding teaching, and working with a favorite Sunday school teacher. They can certainly assist set up the needed technical side of a class, like delivering scanned materials or developing clever ways to engage learners. They can also lead small group break out discussions.
Like any in-person program, not everyone teaches everything. Enlist “specialists” from the community. Of course, the parents of students will be the first to be asked, but search widely. Every parish has members with special skills that could be shared and utilized in the online meetings, even as a “guest speaker.” Arts and crafts, music, cooking demonstrations (make koliva, prosphoro, artos, etc.) can all be shared online. For younger learners, perhaps there can be a “story time,” led by a beloved member of the parish. In this scenario, a forty-five minute class session can be divided up into a lesson and an activity, with two teachers, the specialist or guest speaker and the “regular” teacher.
Locating resources and determining ways to adapt them for an online session can become very time consuming. While many working professional teachers may not have a great deal of time these days, a young person studying to be a teacher or a retired teacher in a parish could be invited to help out. That volunteer could search online, review printed materials, and then share them with the teachers with ideas for using them in a virtual session, such as preparing a materials list that a student would need to find at home, or ways to encourage on-line discussion that would accompany both books and videos.
If you think about it, many of these roles work just as well for an in-person program as they can for a virtual program. They need not stop once we return to in-person religious education.
Don’t be overwhelmed by these additions. Most likely, you only need to find a few people for any of these tasks. In these coming virtual days, expanding and sharing the roles and tasks that are needed to hand forward our Faith can help the program thrive.