A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

I recently attended an ecumenical conference (e-Formation 2015) at which the focus was technology applied to faith formation. The energy was positive, the workshops inspiring and the best practices illuminating. Of all the tips and tricks and apps I discovered, Parallel Bible was one of my favorites. This app combines the best of visual social media, (think Instagram), with a search function to help you find a relevant Bible verse that describes your very human experience.

CaptureParallel Bible uses the World English Bible, an updated form of the American Standard Version.  While not the version approved for Catholic liturgical use, it is certainly acceptable to use various translations for personal prayer and devotional reading, and the developers of Parallel Bible App have done us a service by providing this public domain, copyright free web version of Scripture.

How does the Parallel Bible App work? After creating your free account, you simply post your own digital images and match them up to a related Bible verse. You can search verses by OT or NT book, theme, keyword or reference. Once your image and verse are posted, others who follow you can comment, fave and share. You can scroll through the images that others have posted, as well. Parallel Bible is rated for age 12 and up. At present, it is free and ad free.

How can this be used in a faith formation setting? How many years have we been hearing people say that Catholics don’t know their Bible? Of course we do, and here’s an opportunity for you and your catechetical students to demonstrate it. Here are just two examples:

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Genesis 1:29
God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed,
which is on the surface of the earth…”

 

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Psalm 18:2
“Yahweh is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer;
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge…”

Using this app for a catechetical assignment could inspire your students to see the world around them with eyes of faith, and build awareness of and familiarity with Bible verses. As comfortable as young people are with Instagram, they should have no trouble with Parallel Bible, as it works in a very similar way. Sharing faith on one’s mobile device is a distinctly 21st Century way to evangelize!

Here are a couple of ideas:

Choose a Bible Verse. Have your students find an image in their everyday lives  to illustrate it. Have them upload these to Parallel Bible to share with one another and the world. Have your students comment on one another’s interpretation of the verse.
or…
Start with an image of the statuary in your church. Send your students on a Scriptural hunt to find a Bible verse that expresses that image. Share them on Parallel Bible.

While these ideas could also be carried out on Instagram, the unique feature of Parallel Bible is the integration of an online community of believers. Your students will grow in their understanding that they have much in common with Christians around the world who have also experienced the presence of God in their lives.

 

Moovly

Tool: Moovly

moovly logo (501x199)Ready for another free animated movie/storytelling creation tool? At this point, I don’t think it is necessary to expound on the merits of using this type of tool. You wouldn’t be following this blog if you needed convincing. So, let’s get right into the details of another great animated  movie maker called Moovly.

Just like any other free version of software, it is limited in what you can do as compared to their paid subscriptions, but what is offered in the gratis version is quite impressive. Here’s what you get:

  • 10 minutes of movie length (most free version of other companies give you 2 – 5 minutes for free)
  • Ability to create an unlimited number of videos, but only 1 at a time
  • Resolution is standard definition at 480p. For HD, you need to subcribe to a paid plan.
  • A library of animated graphics, including the “Doodle Marker” – the hand and marker animation that can write and draw
  • Ability to upload your own pictures, sounds, and voice overs
  • Ability to export your creations to YouTube and Facebook
  • An opportunity to earn free credits to purchase things like background music

Just like an of these animators, it takes time to get used to the editor and get good at creating videos. Moovly is quite intuative and pretty easy to learn. check out the video below to see how Moovly works. Please share your creations with us!

 

Click here if you cannot see the video below.

 

 

Adobe Voice

Tool: Adobe Voice

The bad news: Adobe Voice is an iPad only tool for digital storytelling.

The good news: Adobe Voice is an elegant, easy, and powerful tool for digital storytelling. And it is free.

While I typically shy away from recommending apps that are platform dependent, this one is too good to keep secret. Check out what Catholic author Jessie Bazan created at http://voice.adobe.com/v/IP5c8-3×845 using Adobe Voice.

If Dr. David Walsh is correct in saying, “Whoever tells the stories defines the culture,” and if we want to tell the Story of the Reign of God… and teach our learners to do so as well… I cannot think of a better tool than Adobe Voice, given its simplicity and effectiveness.

Adobe provides searchable libraries for photos, music, and icon-like graphics; and different structures to walk you and your learners through the process of planning and constructing different types of stories (like mini-storyboarding). You supply the story, the narrative, the text, and your own photos. Adobe Voice then puts it all together in video format and allows you to share your story in a number of ways, including saving the video to your iPad to further expand your sharing options.

Basically, you log into your free Adobe account and then:

  1. choose a type of story to tell, from a narrative to an invitation
  2. pick a design theme, which comes with background music (but you can change the tune)
  3. create a slide
  4. add text, photo or icon
  5. hold down a record button as you narrate a slide, then play it and re-record if you like
  6. repeat

Finally, you share the video in a number ways ways, now including saving it to your iPad where you have more options of sharing it. Plus, you can use other iPad video editing tools, like iMovie, to enhance the video further.

I created the following video off the cuff and in just a few minutes. Imagine what you and your learners can do with some foresight and planning.

 

I suggest downloading Adobe Voice from the iTunes store and trying it out. It will surely beat watching the dry tutorial I’ve created for you below in case you don’t have an iPad… yet.

 

Of course, as a catechist, there are many uses for Adobe Voice. You can create prayers to begin class, upload presentations to YouTube for a flipped classroom experience, or create an invitation to the parish festival… uploaded to Facebook. Since you can insert your own photos into a slide, you can even export a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation, and turn it into a video with narration and music. What other ideas are you hatching for Adobe Voice that will help you and your learners to tell your faith story, the story of your parish… and indeed the Story of the Reign of God?

It’s here! Brand new on iTunes and ready in the Google Play store in about another week: the Catholic Words & Games app is a great way kids of all ages can learn Catholic vocabulary words while visually identifying objects they see in church, from the Advent wreath to a zucchetto. It combines high-quality graphics and sound with video game-play to help make learning fun on iPad, iPhone or Android tablet/phone.

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The app, first of its kind, was created by Dan Gonzalez of Agnus, LLC, who also created The Mass Explained app. It has 5 play modes to teach the names of items kids will see in church:

  • Flash Cards (in several modes, with definitions and real-world pictures available for each object)
  • Memory Match (tap and match pairs of “cards” for up to 4 players -in levels from 4 to 48 items per game)
  • Spell It (with Scrabble-style tiles – from 8-40 items per game)
  • Tap It (choose the correct graphic when the name is read) 10 – 30 items per game)
  • Name Match (drag and drop the “card” next to its correct name, from 10-50 items per game)

Each game also has options to play for time, accuracy and fun (not scored) – so there are plenty of ways to play, which means it will keep players interested for quite a while. This video will give you an idea how it works.

This is the electronic version of a physical flash-card game which  Gonzalez created originally as a printable for his own children, and which has become quite popular among home-schooling parents. The possibilities for use of the app version at home, on the go, in the classroom are only limited by the imagination. Catechists and teachers can make use of Catholic Words & Games on whatever devices are available, with kids taking turns, or playing in small groups – or even project the games and let kids play in teams or in some modes in a “bee” format.

Name-Match-Header

This high-quality and attractive app features instant feedback, verbal, visual and musical, musical themes for each version of the game, along with Gonzalez’s signature bright and beautiful graphic representations of liturgical objects. These are bright, clear and simple enough to represent the objects. The addition of the definitions, which feature photos of the objects as found in the real world will help kids make the connections to what they see in Church.

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I have been living with Catholic Words & Games on my iPad for several months, participating in beta testing and (disclaimer) assisting with the liturgical definitions, and I have to say, it’s fun for people of any age. I have had several adults try it and they, too, found it quite engaging. I have high hopes for this being well-used by families and in the catechetical classroom. This is the wave of the future, connecting media and functions familiar to most children to catechetical content.

Cost of the iOS app is $4.99.  Android users can sign up to be notified when it is available in the Google Play Store.

join.me

Budget. Return on investment. Value. Frequency of use. Ah, those pesky but necessary terms that help churches determine whether to make a purchase. The fact is, when investing in technology, these are very real things to think about. This is why finding solutions that may not be super feature rich, yet meet your needs, and are affordable (or even free) can help make these leaps of faith easier on the digestion.

The ability to offer online meetings is definitely one of those options that churches would like have but balk at it because of cost and how little it may be used. Fear not! There is an option that gives some of the benefits of GoToMeeting but at the cost of Skype (that’s free, by the way). It’s called join.me.

online meetingjoin.me is built by LogMeIn who connects millions of people to their devices, data, and apps every day. Their basic plan, which is free, offers you the ability to connect 10 people to a meeting, plus these features:

  • Mobile apps – works with iOS and Android.
  • Screen sharing – show your desktop to participants.
  • File transfer – send files to each other during the meeting.
  • Internet calling – connect through Voice over IP.
  • Share control – can give control of organizer’s screen to others, one person at a time.

For an annual bill of less than $13 a month, you get some nice extras:

  • Up to 250 participants
  • Unlimited audio – free international calls and meeting access via phone.
  • Share a window – choose a window to share, and keep the rest private. All alerts, email notifications, and third-party chats will be hidden.
  • Presenter swap – let someone else show his/her screen and become the presenter. Works with PC, Mac, or iPad.
  • Meeting lock – control who sees your screen.
  • Annotation – everyone can mark up the screen. As the presenter, you can take a snapshot of the screen for your records and clear the screen to start fresh again.
  • Record your meeting – record audio and visual and store it in LogMeIn’s cloud, Cubby.

If you want to have online meetings or have staff, committee members, parents, or teens attend an in-person meeting they might have otherwise missed, join.me is a great option for parishes looking for a simple needs solution or are limited by their budget. Nervous about trying it? Liturgical Publications, Inc. uses it for their online meetings across the country. Give it a try!

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?

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