Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FaithConenct Website Review-for Second Level Teachers

Review of FaithConnect website for second level RE teachers in Ireland as published in the ever brilliant Intercom :)

The FaithConnect website is an interactive website for second level Senior Cycle non-exam Religious Education which was developed by a team from Mater Dei and Veritas, lead by Enda Donlon and Orla Walsh. The website centres on the ‘Search for Meaning’ segment of the curriculum framework for the subject, and the topic is presented in three separate sections that can be used with Transition Year, Fifth Year and/or Sixth Year students. These sections are A) Searching, B) Symbol and C) Religious Faith – a response to life’s search for meaning. One section is ample to make up an entire Senior Cycle Module or a full TY RE programme.

FaithConnect is an interactive website so each student needs to have their own personal account and an individual computer in front of them to use this resource successfully. A student licence provides access to the FaithConnect body of content, a personal profile page, online workbook, journal and blog (an option that the teacher must turn on). This licence is valid for the school year and the website can be accessed as many times as a student wishes from any computer. Student work can be downloaded and saved at the end of the year. For every 25 student licences purchased a school is entitled to receive a complimentary teacher licence (minimum purchase of 10 is required). This features all the management tools and support they will need to use this resource with your class. It is easy to set up and use. The teacher site also includes access to the virtual staffroom where teacher can ‘connect’ with other teachers to discuss and share ideas. The price for the school year is €10.00 per student per section.

Each theme is presented in three sections that are divided into three stages, for example Section A is “Searching” and is split into “The Search for Meaning in Today’s World”, “Sources for Meaningless” and “Questioning as part of the Search for Meaning”. Each section has three set Outcomes for the students to complete and it is here that the pedagogical benefits can shine.

Outcome One is presented in a creative web format that will enable the students to complete an online workbook, journal and blog. For students who are so familiar with these forms of communication and self expression in a more secular setting, it is fantastic to see these media being used to aid their religious and spiritual growth. This outcome also contains a variety of interactive content, which includes online texts, images, streamed videos and “just for fun” exercises. There are also lots of links to external websites for more information and additional material for debate.

Outcome Two empowers the students to take responsibility for the content explored in the first outcome of each section. This is achieved by students creating digital resources that may be shared with their own school community and uploaded to the FaithConnect website for use with the FaithConnect online community. The students develop their filming, editing, and production skills within this section, as well as expanding their own individual understanding of the importance of the search for meaning in their lives.

Outcome Three is parish based and proves that a good online resource does not mean that you are stuck in front of a glowing computer screen all day. This section requires the students to choose a specific topic from the sections studied and then to connect with people in their local area in order to explore how such an issue has affected, impacted upon, or transformed these people’s lives in various ways. The interview is recorded and uploaded to FaithConnect as a podcast.

In addition to these sections, there are also a number of features and resources which enhance the interactive learning experience for students and teachers. Each student can create their own “Profile”, working in much the same way as a social networking site such as Facebook. “Moments of Prayer” invite students to take time out of their day, either alone, or within their own class group, to establish an online prayer routine. There is a huge library of prayers that both teachers and pupils can use. The Words of Wisdom section contains inspirational and motivational quotations which can serve as a link between different sections, or allowing the student to engage at a more thoughtful level with the material discussed. There is also a workbook and a blog, where students can answer specific questions relating to the outcomes above. The student Journal is an online resource whereby they can record their thoughts and answers in relation to the different outcomes. Very usefully, teachers can view these journal entries and leave comments for the students.

For further information please contact Ailís Travers.

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