A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Mail Chimp

Mail Chimp

Oh, how I love Mail Chimp!  Do you know that the most effective way to reach groups of people is still email? Better than Facebook, better than Twitter; if you want to get the word out about a specific event or topic, it is best to simply send an email. Yet we all know that emails can be wordy, uninteresting, and get lost in people’s in-boxes. Mail Chimp may be the solution for you and your faith community.

Disclaimer: Mail Chimp really isn’t, strictly speaking, a Web 2.0 tool. It is one-way communication, not collaborative like may of the tools listed on this blog. But I find it to be a fantastic supportive tool to enhance the catechetical experience, so I really wanted to share it with you. I’m hoping it passes our editorial team’s discerning eye, and that you find it useful as well.

Here’s the problem: you have a group of students and parents who need to receive information from you, the catechist or school  administrator. You want your weekly or monthly communication to be visually attractive, but also to have space for text: schedules of upcoming events, for example. Maybe you want to include some images of the students engaged in your catechetical classrooms. Oh – and of course you want to also include a brilliantly-written reflection on the Gospel of the week. You’d like to have a blog, but you have no way of guaranteeing that your parents will access your blog. So you decide to go with email. However, regular email doesn’t really grab people. How can you make YOUR emails something that parents look forward to receiving?

First, set up a FREE Mail Chimp (MC) account. Your next step is to make a email list. Be sure to read the rules and regulations so that you understand what you are and are not allowed to do using this tool.  Mail Chimp requires that your list is compiled from people who opt-in, so I suggest you make this part of your registration process for faith formation in the parish. Next, import that list to your Mail Chimp account. Now you are ready to go. Each time you compose an outgoing message, you create what MC calls a “Campaign.” You can use one of the templates provided by Mail Chimp or create your own. If you have basic knowledge of editing functions such as adding text, importing images, and photo editing, you can easily create a customized e-bulletin in minutes. Mail Chimp walks you through each step and when all the components are verified, you launch your campaign.

Check out the “Look what you can do” inspiration page to see how Mail Chimp is used:

MC 6Example of Mail Chimp

Some of the features I love about Mail Chimp are:

  • It saves your template for future use
  • It can be customized – you can add your logo
  • Social icons are integrated so readers can easily jump to the parish Facebook Page or Twitter feed
  • Many templates are mobile-device friendly
  • It gives wonderful stats on the percentage of campaigns that are opened and read
  • People can opt out of receiving the emails, and you will see who opts out and who will need to be mailed a hard copy of the information
  • There is a “test” feature that allows you to see exactly how your campaign will appear before you launch it

 

For a free web tool that allows you to email groups, this is a great option.

Here are some examples of how Mail Chimp could be used in catechetical settings:

  • Announce registration for your program, class or event to your classroom or parish
  • Set up a Mail Chimp for your parents. Send schedules, last minute changes, images of your students, and homework assignments throughout the year.
  • Ask your students to help you compose the next campaign. Choose a theme, such as “What we learned in the last unit,” or “The Sacrament of Reconciliation.” Use the campaign to display student learning. Have the students contribute all of the content. If you are working with an older group, allow them to construct the campaign with supervision.
  • Use Mail Chimp as an administrative tool for your catechists. Set up two campaigns per year: one with the schedule of classes and church holidays; one with professional development opportunities for your catechists to explore, such as diocesan certification, online retreats or classes, webinars, etc.

We would probably all rather be in the classroom working with the students, but the reality is, there are administrative tasks that must be handled. I believe Mail Chimp could make our lives a lot easier, don’t you?

 

 

Looking for acanva ad simple, versatile editor for creating unique Facebook or Google+ cover pictures, Twitter headers, PowerPoint slides, website elements, posters, business cards, photo collages, invitations or other custom visuals for ministry? Canva.com is your one-stop answer.

When our diocesan website coordinators first recommended we use Canva to create the scrolling banners for our agency pages on our new website , it didn’t take long to create things we could use, in the form of custom dimension graphics. In fact, I think I completed my first one in about 20 minutes. Now, after about 6 months of frequent use, I can knock one out in about half that time.

Canva front page view

Canva front page view

Canva, which is currently in beta mode,  allows you to choose a background, an image, text – in a variety of fonts and sizes, and to manipulate transparency, cropping and other visual elements within  your chosen size. You simply create – and publish the link  – and your graphic will open a dialog box to save to your computer.  At this time, it only works in Chrome,  so you need to use that browser, rather than Internet Explorer or another choice.

I admit that at first my tendency was to create pretty simple, one-dimensional items. But Canva, unlike most online utilities, cares about how you use it. Every week, the Canva people send an email from with a new hands-on tutorial to learn one new graphics-handling skill.

Why is Canva so great? Because pretty much anyone can use it – and you can either use their custom layouts or photos, or upload your own. Canva offers a good choice of free backgrounds and photos, but also offers elements for which they will charge you (only one dollar) for using. So far, I have made lots of great things using the free elements and my own uploads, such as this simple seasonal Facebook cover shown below reduced from original size, using a copyright-free graphic.

He is Risen!

 

 

 

You can also add text to existing photos for social media posting, as I did here (right):  I dont always see my shadow... OK, this was done back in February and, lest we forget, it WAS a terrible winter!  Certainly this could be used for any social media or blog post for which you want to create a unique custom graphic.  Choose and upload your photo, select “Social Media Post” as your size, choose a font and add text to create your visual message.

Mark your calendar for June 5th!

To the left is one of our recent webpage banners, using a simple background, a shape,  photos and text – all of which are easy to manipulate and customize to create eye-catching promotional pieces for any event.  The possibilities for design are many – and the learning curve for making this is not prohibitive for busy people.

One of my more serious recent efforts was for a custom Facebook cover referencing a scripture quote that has particular meaning for me as a cantor and church musician.  (Shown below, left).  I began by choosing “Facebook Cover” from the pre-loaded sizes,  located and uploaded a copyright-free graphic from Morguefile.com and custom cropped it, adjusted transparency and added my text.  For the praise of his glory

This is just the beginning of what I think I will be doing with Canva. I have recently learned through the tutorials how to find and use the “shapes” menu, and I will certainly be making more graphics for social media, our website, my blog and for presentations. I could also see this being used to create infographics (using a custom size, or graphic elements for use in the parish bulletin.  What great ways can you think of to use Canva for your 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:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 617 other followers