Apps, the Internet, and the Future of Catechesis

Over at the Digital Catechesis network the question was asked whether, as the price of devices such as the Kindle and iPad comes down, catechetical programs will make the shift to e-books.

I’ll admit that, while I can see the benefits of such technologies, I’m skeptical about whether our parishes and schools should make a concerted drive towards adopting them. My response read, in part:

On the practical side, I fear that moving to e-books will limit access to those on the other side of the “digital divide,” at least in the short term. Do we risk further widening the gap between parishes that have the means for a robust, technologically-enhanced catechetical program and those that don’t? I think there is a social justice question there that merits some thought.

I’m even more skeptical about moving towards an app-driven environment. For background, read the debate over on Wired about who is responsible for the death of the web. Even given Rob Beschizza’s important correction to the data in the article, there doesn’t seem to be any dispute that more people are moving away from the web to access information and turning towards applications on hand-held devices.

And while apps can be good for content creators by taking out the middleman (be it the printer who prints the magazine or the cable company that carries the television program), I’m not convinced that it will be good for consumers, especially the poor, since it just compounds the cost of access.

If catechetical programs do move in this direction, who will be expected to foot the bill? Will parishes loan or give devices to students? Will such devices   just get added to the start-of-year supply list? Will this end up leaving anyone behind?