Michael Redfearn believes technology can be put to better use in Catholic schools. CNS photo/Karen Callaway

Educator wants to increase ethical use of technology in classrooms

By 
  • May 1, 2014

Michael Redfearn is on a mission to make technology a bigger part of the Catholic classroom.

“There has been an explosion in, I would say, the past 10 years at least and it just keeps increasing exponentially in terms of social media and the hardware as well, the mobile technology,” said Redfearn, 57. “Right now I don’t think we are at the point where we should be in education ... but we are getting there in terms of students starting to leverage mobile technology, like phones, for education.”

That’s why the recently retired Redfearn, who spent the last seven years of his career in education as a technology consultant with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, launched Michael Redfearn Consulting about four months ago.

Through his company Redfearn has been facilitating presentations for students, teachers, trustees, parents and administrators seeking to highlight the value of technology and inspire those involved in education to embrace it.

Redfearn, through his one-hour presentations which cost $300 plus $50 for every additional hour, is seeking to teach others how much of an asset technology can be to education when used with Catholic social justice teachings.

And using technology in this way is not hard, said Redfearn.

“Technology should be used to promote the dignity of the human person,” he said. “Students should treat one another respectfully on the Internet. Cyberbullying is a real problem in schools and that is why I am getting called now to go into schools to talk to students about using this technology ethically.”

He cited things like tweeting about school events, social justice initiatives and even words of encouragement for local sports teams as positive messages which are in line with Catholic teachings.

Regardless of how simple or obvious it may seem to use technology in this way, Redfearn said that’s not what students are typically doing.

“They’re not used to using technology to spread these messages,” he said. “They’re used to using it to hang out with buddies.”

It’s something Redfearn has been trying to implement dating back to his days with the Waterloo Catholic board. In 2009 he spearheaded a document for the Catholic Curriculum Corporation Central and Western Region called The Ethical and Responsible Use of Educational Technology which was intended for Grades 7 to 12.

Redfearn estimates that only about 20 to 30 per cent of students in Ontario are using technology for an ethical educational purpose. But he has hope for the not-too- distant future.

“More and more students are using social media for educational purposes (but) it is not widespread,” not yet at least, said Redfearn.

Despite having already made presentations in the Waterloo and Huron-Perth Catholic school boards, Redfearn said the process is moving slowly.

“What is still happening is administrators, they’re too busy, teachers, they’re too busy ... so there is no time to deal with this other stuff that students are already using the rest of the day outside of their school,” said Redfearn, who having taught in the classroom for 21 years sympathizes with this challenge.

He said he believes integrating technology into the classroom has been a slow process, to a degree due to fear.

“It is driven by this fear and emphasis around security,” he said. “That was one of my frustrations as a technology consultant. I wanted to get students to use this technology and teachers to use this technology and embrace it overnight almost but it just doesn’t happen (like that) in education systems.”

To learn more visit www.sites.google.com/site/michaelredfearnconsulting.

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