Fr. Joseph Hannon, SDB, Capstone Story

Fr. Joe Hannon, a religion teacher at St. Petersburg (FL) Catholic High School, decided if you can’t fight ’em, join ’em. He developed a way for students to put their cell phones to good use while in class.

While the school allows students to have cell phones, it bans the use of them during the school day. After attending a webinar by Sr. Caroline Cerveny of Digital Disciple Network on digital technologies that support the faith and educational development of teens, Fr. Joe began to think about a way for students to use cell phones and iPads for learning. He focused on a way for quiz questions to be posted on the classroom screen via the teacher’s computer and with each respondent getting feedback in terms of a correct or incorrect choice and also the entire class receiving a visual overview of how the entire class responded to the questions. This is known as online polling. In the end, he developed a guided and professional use of students’ cell phones program that won the endorsement of the school administration and the IT department.

He put it into practice and won enthusiastic support of students. He said he began his five daily religion classes by asking students to please take out their cell phones and leave them on top of their desks. “I then used a short slide presentation to show them how Poll Everywhere enables them to respond to review questions. The mechanics of using text messaging to respond to each question were very simple and the students needed no additional instructions.” He used true/false and multiple-choice options. Each student received feedback as to the correctness of their responses and the class results were displayed as the answers were texted in and recorded as correct or incorrect. “By mid-morning, classes entered the room and began asking if they could take the review quiz! The answer, of course, was ‘yes, and here’s how we do it.’”

He shared the results of the project at the Religion department meeting. His colleagues enthusiastically embraced it and wanted in.

“This was a great experience for me and an eye-opener,” he said. “It’s one thing to read about how appropriate use of technology can energize young people to learn; it’s another thing to be part of it and watch it unfold. In many ways, this small step forward crystalized for me what the DDBC Summer Session had enabled me to do – to move from reading about the digital revolution to jumping in and getting my feet wet!”