A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

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Crowdfunding with Crowdrise.com

crowdriseFrom time to time, it may be helpful for you to have an online fundraising tool at your disposal, outside of the main parish/school ways of soliciting funds. Parishes and schools have finance councils and boards in place to plan and oversee anticipated expenses. But what about legitimate needs that simply don’t fall under the umbrella of the parish or school?

Two examples come to mind. My best friend, a self-employed professional, was diagnosed with an aggressive and serious cancer. Although she had medical insurance, treatment meant she would lose all her income for about 9 months. Obviously, no one church could meet the financial needs of every person with this kind of medical challenge. She set up a fundraiser and quickly raised about $12,000, which allowed her to focus on her cancer treatment and not worry about her income. Her donors were from her very wide circle of professional associates, church friends, family of friends, and more. I’m happy to report that her last two checkups revealed no cancer, and that she is getting back to work, grateful for the love and support of her online community. Take a look at Linda’s fundraising page here.

img_0101In the second example, our parish recently welcomed a family of six legitimately resettled refugees from Africa. The family consists of a mother and father in their thirties and their four children under the age of 7. While they received assistance from the State Department and the agency resettling them, they still had many needs: clothing, bedding, transportation, car seats for the two youngest children, cleaning products, toiletries, a washer and dryer, and much more. Imagine not being able to speak English and having to provide for your family on minimum wage jobs, find child care, figure out how to get to the grocery store, etc. Fortunately, we discovered this family because they registered at the parish (all are Catholic) and walked – with all four children – to Mass every Sunday, several miles! Generous parishioners helped with translation and used items, but when we began an online fundraiser, we were able to raise an additional $2500 to help buy bicycles, cell phones, towels, bedding, kitchen supplies, a crib for the baby, and much more. While we feel good about being able to help, we feel BLESSED that God put us together with these lovely people, surrounding them with new friends and able to show them the mercy and care we value as God’s people. See our fundraising campaign here.

How does Crowdrise work?

Whether you are a private citizen or a non-profit organization, you can use Crowdrise to raise funds for your cause. Follow the directions carefully to set up the type of account you want. The good news is that if you make a mistake or get lost, the helpful support team is more than willing and able to troubleshoot mistakes. (I speak from experience.) Click here to see many other organizations, large and small, that have utilized Crowdrise and click here to see celebrity causes, just to get some ideas.

Be sure to link your Crowdrise account to one of the two money-handling agencies. You will need your bank account information to do this. The setup process includes step by step instructions on how to do this.

After you open a Crowdrise account, it’s time to create a fundraising campaign. Choose a name, a goal and create a description. Upload a compelling picture to go with your cause. Finalize your campaign and then be sure to test it to make sure someone can successfully donate before you share the link.

By default, Crowdrise prompts the donor to add on an extra donation to cover administrative costs. Otherwise, the receiving campaign (you) will pay a 3-5% fee. Be sure to let your donors know (in the description of the campaign) that they can choose to not pay that extra % by clicking on the option to just make the straight donation. You will then assume that cost, but the convenience of this tool is well worth it.

Once you have tested your campaign, share it in every possible social media site. Facebook and Twitter are integrated into the tool. You can also create a html widget to put on your website. Don’t forget the old-fashioned way of simply emailing the link out to your contacts.

Crowdrise makes accounting for your funds easy. There is also a way to send a thank you message to each donor as the funds are donated. If you receive a donation by check outside of Crowdrise, you can simply add it as an offline donation. You can choose to have your funds deposited to your bank account daily, weekly or monthly.

I think the best thing about Crowdrise is that it gives the individual a way to connect with others and easily raise money for a worthy cause. The feeling of being an instrument of grace and generosity is unsurpassed. What a great way to teach your students or co-ministers a creative way to meet the needs of the least of us, using the power of many people coming together under the inspiration and prompting of the Holy Spirit!

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The Gift of Pokémon GO

By Claudia McIvor, Digital Disciple Network Associate

August 28, 2016

 

pokemon 1The new mobile app augmented reality game, Pokémon GO, developed by Niantic, is such a phenomenon, it would seem irresponsible if I, as a digital disciple, did not give it a meaningful strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis before proposing it for adaptation in the evangelization arena. Like any new media tool, it’s helpful to spend time learning and then discerning, asking ourselves if this is a gift we want to unwrap or not.

First, let me say that yes, I do play the game. I am not a Pokémon GO expert, but I have real life experience. I am not young. I am in my sixties, but I have a playful heart and an inquisitive spirit. The older I get, the harder it is to find experiences that enchant and charm. Pokémon GO has become one of those experiences. I play it alone and I play it with my young adult children. Quite frankly, I can’t wait for the right moment to suggest this tool for use at my parish staff meeting. Maybe this article will help! For a good overview of how to play the game, click here.

Years ago, a GPS enabled game called Geocaching was invented. Similar to Pokémon GO, an app gives the gamer directions to previously hidden real or virtual “caches” or hidden containers. The gamer’s task is to use the app and a GPS-enabled device to navigate to these hidden caches. The fun is in the hunt! In most cases, finding a cache meant you simply signed the log and then replaced the cache for others to find. Geocaching was readily used by youth, adults, and outdoorspeople, and then adapted for educational technology. Read more about one school that adapted geocaching as part of their technology/computer curriculum here.

Similar to the cautions raised on the Geocaching web site, there is an inherent danger in walking about in the real world to play Pokémon GO. Yes, you do have to be alert and careful of where you are walking, who you are with and follow basic safety rules. Does Pokémon GO put people in danger, or does it give them an opportunity to make safe decisions about interacting in the outside environment? Your comfort level with risk may determine your answer. Read the “Safe Play” section of Niantic’s TOS statement to learn more.

Another caution about Pokémon GO is the inherent privacy issues of users who create accounts. Niantic has posted an Account Maintenance and Guideline update stating that the game only, and ever has, had access to the users basic Google information, not full information. Read the statement here.

Read the full Terms of Service Statement for Pokémon GO here. Naturally, we are concerned about our children. The TOS clearly state the restriction of this app to children aged 13 and older. The consent of the parent is required for the use of the game by children under the age of 13. Non consent will result in the account being terminated. Parents can also terminate the account of a child by submitting a request to Niantic.

Basically, parents are meant to give guidance and set boundaries for safe play in Pokémon GO, similar to any other children’s game or use of media. Our aim is to raise good digital citizens, and gaming is becoming an unavoidable opportunity for parents to teach their children the principles of kindness, courtesy, fair play, safety and boundary setting. To me, that’s a good thing: the teachable moment.

pokemon 2Another teachable moment in the game is to recognize that Niantic is in business for profit and that Pokémon GO offers in-app purchases. Highly engaging games will tempt users to drop a few dollars to progress more quickly, to buy extra items, or to replenish missing pokéballs when you run out at the most inopportune moment – like when a rare Vulpix suddenly appears in your path. Better to have that conversation with your child well before he/she gets in that situation so you don’t find unexpected charges on your credit card!

Having discussed some of the weaknesses/threats of Pokémon GO, let’s take a look at how the game might provide opportunities for catechesis, evangelization, community-building, hospitality, and meaningful interaction. Below is a selection of recent articles specifically about using Pokémon GO in a church setting. As you will see, there are many opportunities for outreach, hospitality, and evangelization if a parish is willing to think outside the box.

Christianity TodayThe Best Way for Churches to ‘Capitalize’ on Pokémon GO? Play it. This article makes some insightful points: are you seeing people on your church steps playing the game? Welcome them in! Remember that gamers may have had past negative experiences with church and that gaming has positive, community-building effects. After all, players must abide by rules, pay attention to the details around them, and cooperate to achieve a goal.

Catholic HeraldChurches swept up in Pokemon GO craze. “… nature of the game is driving swarms of players to unsuspecting churches, businesses and other landmarks. But as it grows in popularity, priests, youth groups and others are quickly finding opportunities to evangelise young people.” Talking to youth, opening the doors to young people, and taking advantage of this cultural phenomenon are all addressed in this article.

Episcopal News ServiceEpiscopal Churches go for Pokémon GO. This article praises the way Pokémon GO is bringing people out of isolation and into interaction with one another. It asks the very important question, “How shall we respond?” to the crowds of visitors. One strategy suggested was to install a cell phone charging station in the parish hall! Not only is this article positive in its tone, it also offers many practical suggestions for churches to use.

Huffington PostWhat To Do If Your Church Is A Hub For Pokémon GO. Huffington Post is the USA Today of online media. Check out this article for short, to the point ideas and lots of digital images showing practical ways to welcome gamers and invite them to engage with your church.

Christian Post Church and MinistryChurches Are Using Pokémon Go as Evangelism Tool to Catch Them All, Says Hunter Frederick. Public relations expert Frederick shares ideas for meeting youth where they are, not where we’d like them to be, using Pokémon GO.

United Methodist ChurchPokémon Goes to Church. This online article offers some do’s and don’ts to churches as they see the opportunities of many gaming visitors. There is also advice on how to remove your site from the game if you wish not to be listed as a PokéStop.

Church Marketing SucksPokémon GO: Sending People to Your Church. This blog article (yes it’s a blog – you can tell by the name of the site) gives a quick recap of how the game works, the phenomenon of sending gamers to places they would otherwise never go, and links to other articles, tips, and a video about how some churches are responding that’s hilarious. Here’s my favorite hint (I know, many of you will not know what it means, but some will!) “We’re activating a lure every weekday at 12 pm, and this Sunday at 10:30 am (hppc.org/attend). Let us know what you catch!”

The Wardrobe Door8 WAYS CHURCHES CAN CAPITALIZE ON POKEMON GO. Starting with a promotional video, this article then offers a series of very practical and helpful suggestions for churches that want to make their campus welcoming to gamers. My favorite is to offer drawings for free Pokémon gifts!

The Washington PostCome for Jigglypuff, stay for Jesus: Church in the age of Pokémon Go. This article has some great ideas for boundary-setting, meeting the challenges with humor, and seeing the big picture when your church is a PokéStop.

Pokévangelization WebinarPokévangelization- an opportunity to connect in a new way- by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This hour long video primer is a very comprehensive overview of the history of the game from 1995 through present. It carefully presents the opportunities as well as the threats of using Pokémon GO in church settings. Guest presenters include a risk/loss specialist with advice for balancing being a welcoming parish and liability issues.  “You might never find a Pikachu, but I promise you this – Search for Jesus and you’ll find Him every time. Let #PokemonGO. Go #FindGod.”  (Tweet from Bishop David Ricken displayed in this article.)

pokemon 3It is absolutely clear that the Pokémon GO phenomenon is a valuable opportunity for churches to reach out to a much-missed population of millennials, and to evaluate their own ability to be flexible and responsive to evangelization opportunities. After only a month in existence, the media, churches and leaders are paying attention, writing, and considering the many opportunities that this game brings. As many of the above resources mention, it is most important to be aware of all facets of the game in order to manage the opportunities as well as the risks. I absolutely encourage parish staffs to be aware of Pokémon GO if their church is a PokéStop, and to consider how this, as well as the inevitable future variations of augmented reality games, might be a gift they do, indeed, want to unwrap.

Additional  Resources

Many of the suggestions in the articles reviewed above show publicity, including images. Images that you, as a Pokémon trainer, take on your phone/camera are free to use and share. The Niantic blog specifically states: “We have a few exciting updates to share. We’ve added a new Camera feature that enables Trainers to take photographs of their wild Pokémon encounters. Now you can take a photo of Squirtle next to that scenic lake or Ivysaur hanging out by the park. The photos will be saved to your phone’s camera roll to share with whomever you’d like. We can’t wait to see the varied environments in which trainers will find wild Pokémon.

Here are a few more resources to check for Pokémon GO images.

 Free Pokémon Clip Art (By definition, clip art is free to use without attribution): http://www.picgifs.com/clip-art/pokemon/

Copyright free Pokémon images on Pixabay.com: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/?q=Pokemon&image_type=&cat=&min_width=&min_height=

Google Image Search Advanced Mode will yield some images that are free to use. Check each image. Attribution may be required.

This article is part of the training materials used in Digital Discipleship Boot Camp (DDBC). For more information about training in technology applied to ministry settings, please visit our website, http://ddbcformation.org.

Parallel Bible App for iPhone

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.

 

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?

 

 

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.

SlideShark

As mobile devices and One-to-One initiatives become more mainstream in schools, you may be searching for ways to have an easy, interactive interface between content that catechists have prepared and student reception and viewing of that content. SlideShark is a tool that can help if you are moving in that direction. SlideShark allows you, the catechist, teacher or youth minister, to upload a PowerPoint presentation from your home PC to your iPad, broadcast your presentation to multiple recipients who have iOS devices (iPads or iPhones) and then share that presentation for later on-demand viewing. SlideShark preserves all the fonts, animations and other features  for your viewing audience. If your audience does not have access to iPad or iPhone, they can still view the presentation from their home computer via a link. No home computer? Then these would be the students who are required to attend your presentation live!

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There are several account options, with the entry level being a free account allowing 100 MB of PPT downloads. Advanced features such as broadcasting require a fee. At the time this post was written, however, a free trial of the broadcast feature was being offered. Check the web site to see if that free trial has been extended.

How can we use this tool for catechesis? Several possibilities come to mind.

Having trouble assembling all the busy teens of your parish for one confirmation presentation? Create your PPT on your home or work computer, upload it to SlideShark, and broadcast it for those who can attend the session. Make the link available to all confirmandi to review. SlideShark even lets you track your attendees so you can verify who has viewed your presentation.

Or maybe you just want to have a convenient, hand-held display of your PowerPoint presentation to show people as they exit church through the narthex. No need to lug out the screen and projector.  Just upload your PowerPoint presentation to SlideShark and display it on your iPad. Here’s an example of just such a presentation. Click on the image below to be taken to the presentation on SlideShark.

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For older students who have mastered PowerPoint, SlideShark can be an effective tool to share their presentations with the rest of the class.

Remember: not all students will have iPads, so provide other options for viewing if this is the case.

SoundCloud

Call me an auditory learner, I guess, since I seem to be drawn to tools like VoiceThread,  Audioboo and now SoundCloud. As online podcasting tools become more popular, more user-friendly and more connected, it becomes more of a challenge for catechists to integrate them into their faith formation settings. SoundCloud is a great example of a podcasting tool that is so easy to use, you can figure it out intuitively and with very little effort. What is SoundCloud?  It’s a tool to hear and share the world’s sounds. SoundCloud allows users to upload original audio files, such as recordings of voice or music made on their mobile devices, and easily compile and share them on social media. SoundCloud even has features for educators and recorded lectures from Harvard, Yale and BBC Radio. Teachers can use SoundCloud in the classroom to record student reports (think radio broadcast on a topic researched and presented, recorded and shared with others in the school community) or they can even record their own lectures to share with students who were absent!

SoundCloud Screen Shot 2

To get started with SoundCloud, just open a free account from your computer. I recommend you also install the mobile app on your iPad, iPhone, or Android device. Because this is a cloud-based tool, your sounds will be accessible from both your computer and your mobile device. If you make a recording with your mobile device, you have the option of trimming it, naming it, and associating a digital image with it before you save it. Once a sound is saved, you can push it to Facebook Twitter, Foursquare or post it on Blogger or WordPress. The SoundCloud website has more information, tutorials, feature guides, information for educators, and much more.

Because sounds are not (usually) visual, it is interesting how SoundCloud displays its audio podcasts. Not only do you see an attractive waveform, you also can see timed comments (look for the little profile pictures along the bottom of the waveform) that indicate someone has made a comment on your sound! This is great feedback for the creator of the sound and makes an attractive visual element, as well.

Just about anything that can be used for educational purposes can be adapted for catechetical and ministerial purposes, IMHO. Here is a great example of how SoundCloud is already being used in ministry. I simply put the word “Catholic” into the SoundCloud search box and found a series of podcasts  from a 2013 Catholic Student Spring Leadership Day.

And here is a podcast of my pastor’s homily from Sunday, March 3, 2013. We were celebrating the First Scrutiny at this Mass, so the homily is based on John’s story of the woman at the well. Once uploaded to SoundCloud, our parish digital discipleship ministry then posted the link on our parish Facebook page to reach an even wider audience.

Once you find sounds that you like, you can opt to follow them. One great advantage of SoundCloud is also its storage limit. Individual free accounts are allowed to create 120 minutes of uploads/sounds per year with no time restrictions on how long a single podcast can be. Premium packages are also available for between about $40 a year to $80 per month. (Prices are given in Euros, so allow for conversion rates)

Whether you are a catechist or a preacher, a gifted speaker or a 21st Century digital evangelist, SoundCloud can make creating and sharing your message easy. If you already use SoundCloud, I’d love to connect with you and see what you have posted. Please leave your comment below.