A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Archive for July, 2012

Pinterest for Ministry

Pinterest, the popular newcomer to social networking that focuses on images and allows you to create interest-based “boards” is a great tool for sharing visual links to catechetical ideas, images, videos, projects and more and more.  Basically a virtual bulletin board on which you can pin any web link  that has an image associated with it, it is a favored site of crafters and art-lovers, but there are a great many Catholic boards to be found, as well as boards associated with technology  ideas.  Some major Catholic organizations and publishers such as the Diocese of Cleveland and  Our Sunday Visitor have boards as well.

The search function at the upper left enables you to find virtually any topic. To see how catechists and Catholic home schoolers are using Pinterest, simply put “Religious Ed” into the search box.  Searching for “catechesis” gets another series of results. Some catechists use Pinterest to bookmark and share craft and teaching ideas.  This sample of a Religious Education board is a great inspiration piece.

Religious Education Board

As you can see, this catechist includes crafts, recipes, seasonal items, lesson ideas and more.  What’s more, exploring pins on a board like this will connect you with other sources of catechetical ideas.

Since the age-requirement for Pinterest is 13, like Facebook and other social networks, it is more likely a catechist of children would use it to connect with parents or other catechists.  A board for a parish program, for instance, could be a great place to pin resource ideas for catechists and parents in the program, including links to helpful videos and articles.

Pinterest can also be a source for images and bookmarks to great items for obvious catechetical themes, such as Eucharist , Saints or Sacraments. Since Pinterest is a public space which includes many people who are not Catholic, it is necessary to sort and filter posts for appropriateness  and Catholicity of some items, but it is likely that usage will continue to grow and more Catholics will pin their favorite links to boards for you to discover and share.

How do you use Pinterest? Are there more ways a religious educator can make use of it?  Please add your ideas in the comments.

 

 

 

 

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Jing – Screen Capture Tool from TechSmith

Jing is a free, versatile and simple screen capture tool that “lives” on your desktop – ready to capture anything on your screen, from images to video clips.  That makes it a great tool for sharing snapshots of web pages, marking up those images, creating scrapbooks, and more.   Jing, which you can find here,  allows you to do many things – including creating up to a 5-minute video which can be saved to the free Screencast account that you set up when you first use Jing – or to your computer’s hard drive.  You can view a brief “overview video” on the Jing page, which talks about some of the features.

When you download and first open Jing, it will create a yellow-circle “sun” desktop widget that your can move wherever you want to on your desktop. It remains visible above your browser for instant accessibility.  You can access the ability to create a screen or video capture at any time by simply mousing over the yellow circle and choosing one of the smaller circle on the lower left to activate the cross-hairs that define your capture.  Here is one of the better tutorials on how to use some of Jing’s  basic features .

Note that he mentions you can  also edit images and videos further by using another TechSmith product,  SnagIt (not free.)

How can Jing help in a catechetical setting?  Parish leaders, teachers and catechists can use it to create short videos to show parents how to register online for a program,  or to show  how to navigate a particular website.  It can be used to create a scrapbook of  resources that can be posted on a web page or document that can be emailed.  Teachers and students can use it to share their work – because it makes screen-shots simple and editable.   Take a look at TechSmith’s testimonial page for educators for even more ideas.

I personally use Jing regularly to capture and instantly crop images, especially those that don’t readily respond to a right-click “save image as” command.   I sometimes mark them up or edit them as well through the tool.  It’s simple and it’s always at the top of my computer screen.  If you have comments or ideas for how to use this great free tool, please comment below.

Poll Everywhere

Tool: Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is a web based text polling tool that can be used by any ministry. When you make a poll, choose which type of question you want to ask: multiple choice or free response with any text reply. Then have your audience text in their answers. Results can be viewed in real time as responses are coming in. If you have people concerned about texting fees or are not comfortable with texting, Poll Everywhere provides a voting link that can be distributed via email, Twitter, or placed on a web page. This option allows people to respond in a regular web browser through a smartphone or computer at no cost to them. All responses can be instantly combined.

Poll Everywhere allows you to post as many polls as you want for free. The cost is dependent on group size. A group of 40 respondents or fewer is free. Audiences beyond this size have monthly fees but no contracts and come with some amenities that give you extra control of the content of responses. You can upgrade and downgrade whenever you want.

Text polling is a fun way for any audience to participate in your presentation and in turn helps them to stay engaged. This concept is extremely helpful in youth ministry. One way to use text polling is for the ever necessary ice breaker. You could provide a series of silly or thought provoking questions to help get to know the people in your group. Another way is to use text polling to ask trivia to test your students’ knowledge of their religion or past content from classes. Since the free version is anonymous and ungraded, no one will feel inadequate or dumb, yet you can get a sense of the level of retention in your group.

One final idea is to use poll texting for asking questions that people might not feel answering out loud. Here’s an example: When I worked in retreat ministry, one activity we liked to do was to ask questions about how people agreed or disagreed with topics concerning Church teachings, personal beliefs, and how one lives out his/her faith. Predictably some teens would get right into the discussion with zeal whereas others shied away for multiple reasons. The response yielded a small sample of what a few individuals thought without ever really knowing the feelings of the group as a whole. Using this tool can help provide a voice to those who might not speak up. An additional benefit is you are using gadgets that teens are engaged with all the time. This will make your class more fun and comfortable, which always benefits a religious education class.

If you do use Poll Everywhere sometime soon, please come back and leave a comment to let us know what the experience was like. Check out this video to get a sense of how Poll Everywhere works in a church setting.

Dropbox

It’s Independence Day in the USA and I can’t think of a better Web 2.0 tool to celebrate freedom than Dropbox! Freedom from multiple file versions! Freedom from thumb drives! Freedom from disorganization! Dropbox is an online storage and file sharing application that can help simplify your life is so many ways and give you the freedom to maximize your productivity on the computer, especially when sharing files with others.

This brief introductory video will explain the basics:

Start by creating a Dropbox (cloud-based) account at  www.dropbox.com. It’s free and you receive 2 GB of storage just by joining. Be sure to also install the Dropbox Desktop Application. Any files you drag into the desktop application will be automatically synced with your cloud-based Dropbox account. If you install the app on any other device (iPad, your laptop, your iPhone, etc.), all your files will be accessible to you from any of those devices, too.

Once you have your folders and files in order in Dropbox, you can invite others to share the folders. For every person you invite and who installs Dropbox themselves, you will receive extra free storage.

If you work in committees, Dropbox allows all the committee members to share the same central document, spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation without having to email the files back and forth. If you need to send large movie or photo files to others and want to bypass the hassle of being bounced back by the email server because the attachment is too big, Dropbox can help. Large files take a few minutes to load, but then are readily available to others who share the folder in which they reside.  Can’t find the minutes from the last church committee meeting? Put them in Dropbox and they will be there when you need them, accessible from any computer with Internet access.

Dropbox accepts nearly every type of file format and no formatting changes are made to your files when they are in Dropbox: a Word document remains a Word document; an Excel spreadsheet remains an Excel Spreadsheet.

Finally, Dropbox is not ad suported as many Web 2.0 tools are. They have such a great product, and the Dropbox creators hope people who find it useful will upgrade to a paid account. However, 2 GB of storage is plenty to play around with and give you a feel for whether Dropbox can solve your storage and collaboration needs before you need to make that decision.

Here’s what a teacher says about Dropbox:

“Our students are either in the computer lab or using the netbook cart. They very rarely are able to get the same computer twice, so having access to “cloud computing” on school computers help immensely. Many of my students have lost flash drives or have had them go bad due to wear and tear. Unfortunately, several students have lost research papers because of their device or operator error. Drop Box will allow them to open their work regardless of which computer they have been assigned to use. Also, if they forget or lose their flash drive (today’s equivalent to the dog ate my homework), they will still have access to their work and be able to turn it in.” (Jeannie J.) http://teachweb2.wikispaces.com/Dropbox

Whether you use Dropbox with students, parish committee members, or for your own personal use, it’s a great tool and one that every catechist and parish minister should have in their personal technology toolbox! If you use Dropbox, tell us how you find it helpful by adding a comment to this blog post.