Crowdsourcing Catechesis

Shortly after the NCCL conference last month I sent out the following tweet:

This prompted a nice exchange with a few people about whether a crowdsourced project would be eligible for the USCCB’s Conformity Review process. Scanning through the conformity resources available on the USCCB web site, I don’t see anything that would disqualify such a a project from the review process.

But what would a crowdsourced catechetical project look like? How would it be accomplished?

What is Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is a process by which individual tasks in a larger project are divided between many participants. Individuals do small pieces of the whole so that a large project can be accomplished with a little effort on the part of lots of people.

Wikipedia is the best example of a crowdcoursed project. No individual could have written all the content contained in Wikipedia. But by allowing lots of individuals to contribute their expertise to the project, Wikipedia was able to collect and organize vast quantities of information in a relatively short amount of time — while remaining nearly as accurate as more traditional encyclopedias.

What About Catechesis?

So to go back to the original question: what would a crowdsourced catechetical project look like?

Leaving aside the question of an entire catechetical program or textbook series (which I think is possible), publishers could crowdsource supplemental materials — such as parental guides or extra activities — for a specific curriculum. A simple wiki-style web site could be set up and login credentials given to catechists, DREs, or teachers who are using the publisher’s materials. They could then collaborate by

  • identifying — based on their experiences using the curriculum — what supplemental materials are needed;
  • outlining the scope of the individual supplements;
  • writing the text of the supplements themselves, which could then be formatted by the publisher and posted to their web site as free PDF downloads.

With an editor assigned to oversee and guide the process by acting as a facilitator, a publisher could effectively outsource the creation of simple supplements without a huge investment in time or resources.

So are there any publishers out there willing to tackle such a project? I don’t know. But I’ll be keeping an eye out!

Photo by James Cridland/FlickrCC

The Spiritual Role of the Principal

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with some of the new principals in our diocese as part of their ongoing formation. I talked briefly about the spiritual role that principals play in Catholic schools and what it means to be a spiritual leader.

This seems an important topic to me because, while principals may receive training in management, curriculum, and finances in their education programs, very few get formed in what it means to work in a specifically Catholic educational setting.

There is any number of topics that we could have talked about, but I distilled them into five points:

  1. The primary job of a Catholic school — and therefore the primary responsibility of the principal — is to build disciples for Christ. Everything else is secondary.
  2. Principals must encourage parents to assume their role as the primary catechists of their children. Parents cannot outsource religious instruction to schools or PSR programs. For better or for worse, children will follow their parents’ example.
  3. Principals are responsible for the spiritual formation of their staffs. This means more than just the occasional diocesan formation class; it means forming them through prayer, retreats, and spiritual reading, and inviting them to participate in the faith.
  4. As part of their oversight of curriculum, principals must ensure that the catechetical textbooks and materials used in their school conform to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
  5. Finally, principals must be an example of joyful faith and holiness to their staff, faculty, and students.

Admittedly this is a tall order! But, as spiritual leaders acting on behalf of their pastors and the Church, principals are responsible in assuring that our schools are not just placing of academic learning, but places where the faith is nurtured and students can become the saints they are called to be.