A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

ABCya

Toolset: ABCya.com

One of my favorite animation tools, xtranormal, is now defunct (but watch for a renewed animation environment at  nawmal, xtranormal‘s purchasing group). In fact, I’m finding that many favorites are disappearing as the excitement of online tools wanes, and companies look toward mobile app development to invest their time and resources. However, there are still online learning sites that provide easy tools for youngsters to create storytelling graphics while learning rudimentary media literacy skills. I was very pleased to see Joyce Donahue’s post about one animation tool called Wimeo. Since I like to built a repertoire of different tools to answer different needs, I continued to scour the web for easy animation tools for youngsters… and oldsters like myself.

Enter ABCya‘s suite of learning tools for the younger set. ABCya was developed by a teacher who created this wonderful site because, as a new teacher looking for online resources for children, he found himself “in a never ending labyrinth of sites for kids loaded with violence, nested links, difficult navigation, and subscription fees!”

ABCya is an online collection of educational games for the younger set. Two in particular caught my eye for creating.

Creed Word Cloud

A word cloud is a, well, cloud of words! A famous word cloud tool, Wordle, is the subject of an earlier post. ABCya has a simple version geared for youngsters. They click the empty screen to start, type or paste words into a box, and click the arrow on the bottom right to create the cloud. There you can set the number of words to be shown, filter out common words, and change the color, layout and font of the cloud. I played with it by copying a Creed from on online source, created the cloud, and noted the largest words, which occur most often. You can then save the cloud as a graphic to use in a PowerPoint, or even as a background for the animation you can create using the next tool:

 

Getting back to xtranormal (click here for my “sniff!“, my face drawn in ABCya’s Color, Draw & Paint, and imported as a background for a Make an Animation clip) I’ve found that the animation maker in ABCya has its own charm. It is really for the younger set, but I must admit I was engaged for quite some time playing with its features. It is really simple… and limited. But, between WORD CLOUDS FOR KIDS (or ABCya’s Color, Draw & Paint) and MAKE AN ANIMATION, your students can create creative animated gifs, the file type that can be played in any browser, and thus can readily be embedded in your parish or school website. If you need to turn an ABCya animation into a movie for inclusion in Animoto video creation, Moviemaker (Windows), iMovie (Mac), or to upload it to YouTube as I did above… you can convert the gif to a video file using the video converter tool at Online-Convert.com.

I took the word cloud above and made a gif that you can see by clicking here.

Here is a video tutorial of using Make an Animation to create my non-award winning Sniff gif.

 

If you like these suggestions, click the “Like” button.  Once you engage your students with these tools, come back and tell us about it.  We’d love to hear from you.

Symbaloo

Symbaloo

In the last few years, web browsers such as Chrome and Operating Systems such as Windows 8 have adopted visual displays that organize your content in a matrix of icons. Symbaloo, similarly, organizes your Web bookmarks in a matrix that they call a “webmix,” and allows you to organize your content by subject and to easily share your webmix publicly or privately. Links, newsfeeds, radio stations and widgets as well as searches can be part of your customized webmix. You can set Symbaloo as your computer homepage, and it’s easy to add to your webmix any time you are on your Internet browser.

Let’s take a look at how Symbaloo can be utilized in Education. First, be aware that Symbaloo already offers you access to webmixes created by educators. eTools for Education, for example, has compiled  74 icons linked to Web 2.0 resources for educators – everything from Edmodo to Storybird to Screencast-O-Matic to TED and much more. This entire collection can be added to a separate tab on your Symbaloo account with a few clicks.

Symbaloo 2

How could your Catholic school utilize Symbaloo? Could  your catechetical team benefit? What about your Youth Ministry program? While there are Catholic webmixes in the Symbaloo Gallery, this tool is so easy to use, a catechist or Youth Minister could easily create their own mix of reliable Catholic resources and share this mix with their team. It need not only contain Catholic resources. Take a look at the webmix created by Seton School:

Symbaloo 3

For another application, check out this webmix on Saints. Each link takes you to a website with more information about that particular saint. This could be a useful starting point for catechists to share with their students, a jumping off point for a project on the saints, or just suggested reading for your Catholic students over the summer months.

Symbaloo 4

If you are on the administrative end of things in your school or parish, Symbaloo can also be a helpful tool to organize online resources. Here is an example from Sioux City Diocese:

Symbaloo 5

For more great ideas or to learn more about Symbaloo for your catechetical setting, check out the official Symbaloo blog.

WuFoo

As someone who has worked as a consultant with churches to integrate technology into their ministries and now as the person responsible for communications within a parish, finding a good solution to online forms has been a difficult task. I’ve seen pdfs sent to recipients to be printed and returned; pdf forms that could be filled out online, but were difficult to construct; emails used to gather data and then used to create a spreadsheet; and templates for online forms that were limited and confusing. If this has been your experience too, then read on about a solution called WuFoo.

Owned by Survey Monkey, WuFoo allows you to build online forms that have a built-in, robust backend. The result is a browser based form, be it sign-up, availability, registration, survey, mailing list, contact, application, order, or invitation that is very user friendly and extremely easy to create.

WuFoo

You begin in the form builder where most of the work is drag and drop. Having a rough sketch of what you want the form to look like will help you in this process. With its automatic backend building, as you add rules for a cleaner look, WuFoo will let you know if something is not working. This is very helpful if you have a complex form such as an availability form with lots of dates or a new parishioner form. You can give it a customized look with its themes and the ability to include your parish logo. You cam embed the form with codes WuFoo provides. You can accept payments. WuFoo can even set up notifications to be sent by email to the user and anyone who needs to be informed once the form has been completed. Moreover, if you need to compile your data into a spreadsheet, WuFoo allows you to import everything into an Excel document all at once.

So if I’m telling you about this tool, it is supposed to be free. The trial of three forms is free. To go beyond that, there is a monthly/annual fee. For most churches, you are looking at $15 – $30 a month depending on the choice of plan. What you will save in paper and labor alone will offset the cost. The parish I work at started using WuFoo less than a year ago. Currently we have forms for new parishioner registration, cantor and musician availability, lector availability, server availability, facility/room requests, IT service requests, and vacation/personal time requests. We have plans to continue to grow our use including registration for our intergenerational faith formation program.

If you are looking for a one-stop site to meet all of your online form building needs, give WuFoo a try!

30 Hands - Logo

If you have an iPhone, iPad or an iPod Touch you now can download a FREE app called 30 Hands Mobile. Why? 30hands Mobile is a fun storytelling app that allows students, teachers and anyone with creativity to easily create stories or presentation based on photos, images or slides using a smartphone or tablet.

If you are wondering what you can do with this app, check out the Storyboarding Exercise.  Here you will find an overview of how to begin using the app. Very easy and simple to use.

Jonathan Wylie’s 30 Hands Mobile Tutorial gives you a full overview of how to use the app.

Here are a few suggestions for using the APP with your students.

  • First, find out which students have access to an iPhone or an iPad.
  • Send an email to their parents to ask them if their student could bring the iPhone or IPad to your class (tell them which date).
  • Once the parent says “Yes”, send then an email with the name of the APP “30 Hands” and the iTunes link.  Ask them to download the app so that it will be available for the class project.
  • Assign the students to work in groups (this way a student who may not have an iPhone can be part of a group to create a video).
  • Choose a Theme for the video, for example: A Scripture Story, Story about their Confirmation Name, or….
  • When working in the groups, involve all students in creating a storyboard.  Distribute a copy of a storyboard  that you can find at Printable Paper
  • Invite the group to create a storyboard.  You may want them to view this video “How To Create a Storyboard for Your Video”
  • Once the storyboard is completed, review the story and offer suggestions.
  • Once approved then students can work on taking the needed photos, drawing images that will later be photographed and added to the Photo Roll.
  • Have the students view the 30 Hands Mobile Tutorial.  This can be done in class, or you can email (or text) the URL to your students/families for them to view before they come to class.
  • When all the images are ready, add them to the project and add the sound (audio or music)
  • Once the video is completed, you can show in class or add to your class blog, ask your parish webmaster to add to the parish website, or email the links to the families to view.

Example

Here is an example of a video that was created after the Dedication of the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Imagine taking students to visit their parish church or the diocesan cathedral and inviting them to tell the story of this church, what they learned during their visit.

Here is an example – http://30hands.ipresentonline.com/members/ccerveny/presentations/3690-cathedral-of-st-jude-the-apostle/details

You will discover that using this app is very easy to use.  In addition you will also discover that this service provides an option for creating an online learning environment with your students.  I’d encourage you to check it out!

Go to 30 Hands  where you will discover an easy-to-use interface that allows teachers/catechists  to quickly create course outlines then drag and drop multimedia content into the course and organize by topic, unit, theme, module, project team or learning style.  Students always have quick access to the materials they need and teachers can quickly change the course structure as needed.

I hope that you will try the mobile app, as it is one of the easiest I’ve used to create a video.  Come back to tell us how you are using the 30 Hands Mobile App or the course service.  We’d love to hear your story.

Wideo is a free, fun online tool for making animated videos online that can be easily shared.  Users sign up to create simple short videos using animated elements with either recorded voice narration or music and text.   Here is one of their short promotional videos, created using the tool:

Wideo provides tutorials on their website, but also has a great YouTube channel for users to learn how to create effective videos.  the Wideo.co Learn Space has 12 instructional videos to teach users how to use different elements of animation. Clicking on “Explore” on the main Wideo website takes you to a group of reusable videos created by others that you can edit.  Any existing Wideo can be edited, or you can start from scratch and create your own.   When you create a video, you can upload it directly to your account on YouTube, which may take some time, or download it directly (for a fee.)

When using the editor to create a video, tip windows pop up along the side to help with each element. You can add music, upload your own images and sound files. I found that once I got started, the site was pretty intuitive to use.  It took me about 90 minutes to create my first presentation video. Although I know I could spend much more time watching tutorials and learning the fine points, this does not seem like a bad first effort as a simple presentation.  The only issue I have is that the site automatically chooses which screen will be the cover image.

There are certainly many other potential uses for Wideo – some of them involving collaboration with students.  For instance, students can work together to develop a Wideo during class time, using the free, downloadable storyboard tool.  We know that technology availability varies from program to program, but that does not preclude the use of an online tool like this.  If there is internet access during the session, the video can be created during class. If not, the catechist, or a team of older students working out side of class, could create the video and download it to a desktop (using a tool like the YouTube Downloader) for showing during class at a later time.  

Here is Wideo’s own collection of ideas for use in the classroom, many of these adaptable to the catechetical session:

Remind 101

Tool: Remind 101

One of the more daunting tasks in church ministry is good communication. So much of the church world is dependent on volunteers to come in and make things go. The reality is that these people have their own lives, and occasionally forget some of their commitments to their churches. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to instantly connect with a specific group of people to remind them of meetings coming up or service commitments, broadcast time change alerts, or post last minute cancelations, without worrying about whether or not they opened their email? There is! It’s called Remind 101.

Remind 101 is designed specifically for schools, but the applications are very useful for parish work.

Benefits:

  • Privacy – There is no exchange of phone numbers. Remind 101 sets you up with a dummy phone number that recipients see, and you never see their number. Also, texting is one way and only in groups. People will not be able to respond to your reminders. This is a huge benefit in the current safe environment climate we face.
  • Ease of use – Remind 101 is incredibly intuitive. Your recipients only have to read texts. Joining your group is as easy as sending a text. Management on your end is a snap and you can do it from your phone, tablet, or laptop/desktop. Beyond this, you can schedule your texts so you post your reminders at your convenience.
  • Multiple groups – Everyone in ministry works with more than one group. You can manage multiple groups from your one account. A history of your reminders is also kept so you know what was sent to who.
  • It’s free! – Enough said!

Applications:

  • Meeting reminders
  • Service work reminders
  • Schedule reminders for liturgy ministers such as lectors and servers
  • Time change alerts
  • Cancelation alerts due to bad weather

These are just a few possibilities. I’m sure you can think of more. My advice, give Remind 101 a test spin and see if you like it. No cost, no commitment. You truly have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by trying this out. Check out this video to learn more about Remind 101 in the classroom.

Click here if you cannot see the video below.

ForAllRubrics

ForAllRubrics-1

What is a rubric? It is a way to assess the learning of an individual who may be a participant, a volunteer, or a professional in your ministry training and formation.  To become a competent catechist, youth minister, RCIA leader, or any other minister there are various skills and learning objectives that one needs to demonstrate in their ministry.  The challenge of a mentor or a coach is to engage others in learning what they need to know for their ministry and to be able to communicate to them if their skills are “poor to excellent” or “novice to expert” or any other continuum.  To learn more about rubrics, you may wish to read DePaul’s Teaching Commons blog “What Are Rubrics

Those of us, who are trainers, look for tools that will assist us with the task of giving feedback.  I recently discovered ForAllRubrics.  I tried it, and I like it!  It is easy to use, and it allows me to give concrete feedback to a trainee quickly and easily. As needed, a face to face meeting or phone conversation can be a follow-up. If I were working with students in a classroom, there is an option to engage their parents in the conversation.

Of course it is FREE!

To learn more about this tool, you can visit Karen Jeffrey’s blog ForAllRubrics How To: Setting Up Your Roster  - Where she walks you through the basic steps of setting up your class roster.  When you set-up a rubric, I found it easy to do and there are plenty of examples, but not faith-based examples.

The ForAllRubrics Short Tutorial video, gives you a brief overview of the tool.

So in ministry, what could you use this tool for? Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation: Look at the Confirmation Guidelines for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.  If you were a Confirmation Catechist, what type of a rubric could you create that would reflect these guidelines?  What five (5), ten (10), or maybe (15) faith objectives are relevant that could be represented in a continuum from say “novice to faith-filled” or any other meaningful continuum.  As you engage with your confirmandi, you can share your assessment with your confirmandi several times during your Confirmation preparation quickly and easily.
  2. Children’s RCIA Catechist:  If you are a Parish Catechetical Leader and coordinate the Children’s RCIA group.  One of your responsibilities is to engage the children’s RCIA catechists in a formation process.  Perhaps you use the Six Skills that Every Children’s Catechist Must Have as the basis of your formation experiences.  So your training classes are finished and those attending the sessions know what needs to be done to be a good catechist.  But what are you observing in their interactions with those they are teaching and how are you sharing your observations? Perhaps a rubric that uses the six skills that you have highlighted as important would provide the concrete feedback that you need to affirm or to encourage further growth in becoming a wonderful and competent catechist.

I’m sure that as you explore and use this tool, you will find a variety of ways that it can be used.  I am inviting you to come back to share your story.  After all, the wheel was invented once, and since then, we have been improving it in so many ways.  Looking forward to hearing from you in the near future!

© Cerveny

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