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Your Opinion: Catholic educator contemplates digital age

Your Opinion: Catholic educator contemplates digital age

September 28th, 2011 by Sister Barbara Neist, SSND, coordinator of curriculum and instruction, Helias Catholic High School in News

Dear Editor,

I agree with David Wilson's article "Schools must adapt to needs of tech-savvy "Net gen.'" He outlined several ways in which schools must change in order to better serve students who are being described as "digital natives." At Helias Catholic High School, we are planning those changes that we must consider in order to best serve our students.

But in the midst of the major shifts that will take place in our educational practice, Catholic school educators are also committed to maintaining a balanced perspective. In his book "Hamlet's Blackberry, subtitled A Practical Philosophy for building a Good Life in the Digital Age," author William Powers raises the serious question of the effects of being too connected. Does over-connection lead to chaos rather than clarity? Do our students fear "being alone"? Why is it so difficult for many people of all ages to disconnect? There is another question, also raised by Nicholas Carr in "The Shallows," of whether or not our increasing dependence on digital technology is harming our ability to think, to read deeply.

As Catholic school educators, we are committed to nurturing the spiritual as well as the academic in the lives of our students. If they are less able to focus on the present moment because of being "constantly connected" through a variety of media, how will they come to know the God who dwells within them and in all of creation?

Pope Benedict XVI in his 2009 message on World Communication Day, urged young people to "bring the witness of their faith to the digital world." He reminded us that, if used creatively and correctly, new technologies can help people meet the human longing to connect with others and share the search for goodness, beauty and truth. That search is at the heart of our mission as educators. We need to take the long view and maintained a balanced perspective, even as we face the challenges of change in this digital age.