BY Ryan McDougall | June 21 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1 - tech

Church embraces tech to boost Catholic teacher numbers

New app and website launched to form Catholic teachers and address shortages

The Church in Scotland has embraced new technology in an effort to boost Catholic teacher numbers.

Earlier this month, Dunkeld Diocese launched Teaching is Believing, an app and website which focuses on formation of Catholic teachers as well as providing news and information for those thinking about a career in teaching.

The embrace of technology has been welcomed by the Church nationally and by Catholic teachers in Scotland.

 

Teacher shortage

In 2016, the Archbishop of Glasgow and president of the Scottish Catholic Education Service Philip Tartaglia said the urgent need for more Catholic teachers in Scotland will have ‘significant consequences’ if left unanswered.

Since then, a number of schemes have been introduced to tackle the problem, including the Scottish-Government backed Catholic Teacher’s Certificate in Religious Education for post-graduate students.

At the beginning of this year, Canon Tom Shields, parish priest of St Fillan’s Church and vicar episcopal for education in Dunkeld, enlisted the help of parishioner Ola Molon, a graphic designer and web developer, to create the Teaching is Believing app and website.

Canon Shields said: “I think what the site offers is an introduction. It helps connect people.

“It’s about the formation of new teachers in Catholic schools, and also supports our existing teachers too.”

He added: “A lot of high school students do think about teaching, but somehow that connection is often lost after they leave school.

“Often people will go to university to do something different and go into different jobs, but they may still be thinking about going into teaching eventually. This website can hopefully help people stay connected.

“As people move through their lives they change jobs and perspectives. We want to try and catch people in these transitional periods and the internet is the best way to do that these days.”

 

Wider Scotland

Although the website and app are focused on Dunkeld Diocese, Canon Shields said he hopes it can be of use to others in Scotland who may be considering Catholic teaching and that it can address the shortage of teachers in Catholic schools.

“There shouldn’t be a shortage of teachers in Catholic schools. We’re trying to make this connection to grab people who are maybe drifting about and have thought about coming back to us,” he said.

Ms Molon believes the website and app’s colourful and inviting style will make for a more inviting experience for users.

She said: “When I was creating the site I also made sure it was visually appealing, colourful and less text-based as we thought that might attract the younger audience as well.”

 

Inspirational

Senior officials within Catholic education have welcomed the launch of the site and app. Lisa Pierotti, chair of the Catholic Headteachers Association for Scotland (CHAS) and headteacher of St Paul’s High School, Glasgow, said the site is ‘very informative.’

She added: “It is extremely useful to have so many pages and wide-ranging topics all in one area. The calendar and the advice pages are particularly helpful and I have no doubt it will be well-used by colleagues and parishioners across the country.

“We are always looking for inspirational ideas to help promote the wonderful teaching vocation and I am sure many other dioceses will follow this lead.”

 

Digital methods

Deacon John Smith of St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese is a teacher at Holyrood High School in the capital.

He said: “One of the best ways to attract people is for them to hear testimonies from teachers, and that can easily be done online and on social media.

“People are more likely to listen to those who actually do the job. Such digital methods play an important role and are just one part of the wider picture to attract teachers.”

 

Reaching out

Dr Maciej Zurawski is creator of the Catholic App, which was introduced in Scotland in 2016 and allows parishioners to find Mass times in two dioceses in Scotland. He said the teaching app can reach people that other methods can’t.

Dr Zurawski said: “Some schools struggle to appoint Catholic teachers and that may suggest that other, more creative, digital methods are required to engage young people to take up this vocation.

“For example, videos can be used for teacher testimonies, so they can tell viewers their story about the fulfilment they have as Catholic teachers. That’s what Canon Shields has done so well with the new website.”

“My own experience of launching the Catholic App here in the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh and the Diocese of Motherwell, is that technology in this space can help in a variety of ways.

“For example, it can help keep people updated about events, their time and location, and navigate them there.

“It can also help with Faith formation, sharing news and spiritual readings in an accessible format on the go.”

 

Spreading the Gospel

Fr Thomas Magill, vicar episcopal of education for Motherwell Diocese, said ‘modern technology is a wonderful tool to use for the proclamation of the Gospel to every type of audience.’

A spokesperson for the Scottish Bishops’ Conference said the Church ‘continues to seek out new and innovative ways to bring the joy of the Gospel to society, particularly to young people,’ adding: “Teaching is Believing is a helpful tool which reaches out to those who may be considering a vocation in Catholic education.

“It also lends itself as a useful resource for existing teachers and staff, offering advice and support on personal and spiritual development.”

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