A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

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Catholic Words & Games App

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.

FlashCardHeader

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.

altarcruets

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.

Canva – Free Online Graphics Creator for Social Media and More

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?

Wideo: Make Simple, Free Animated Videos Online

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:

Fakebook: Learning to Help Holy Friends Connect

What if you and your class could set up your own private social network for Jesus and the Saints?  Assign students to study the biography of a character from the Bible and create a social media profile based on what they read?  There  is a way – using Fakebook, a web tool from ClassTools.net.

You can watch the tutorial video to see how it works:

When you arrive on the site you can begin immediately to create a new profile – but it can be helpful first to check the link to the gallery to see examples. You can click on the Religion category to see what is already there.  There is already a Jesus profile that notes his religious views are “Catholic.”

SaintCeciliaprofile

First, create the profile, including at least one post and one friend, then go to the menu on the right and save it, using the disk icon.  The page will ask for a password so you can come back and edit your creation, and it will give you a unique URL for your profile.  Here is one I created in the free version for Saint Cecilia.  Only the person who creates the profile can edit the profile or add new posts. Interaction between profiles requires both creators to log in and interact.

The free version has lots of adware, so be warned not to click on buttons that say “Download Program” (which lead to a place to download unwanted programs). A premium version of ClassTools.net , which could be used in the classroom and has no adware, is also available. which enables you to create a Twitter-like interface as well.  Price for a 6-month membership is roughly $21. This seems like great fun – and a way to include various characters, storylines, etc. and get them to interact. Could be a very creative learning tool for learning what ministers in the liturgy do, having various saints and historical figures interact, etc.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

ScreenChomp for iPad

ScreenChomp from TechSmith Corporation is an easy-to-use screencast app for the iPad that allows a parish leader, teacher or catechist to create a lesson plan, a set of directions, a learning module or more, as a simple video which can then be shared on a Facebook page or emailed as a link.  The interface is actually a recordable whiteboard, with an option for background. Once video is created, students or parents can then view it on ScreenChomp.com.  The instructional video on the TechSmith site even suggests this can be used by students themselves to share homework help, so that opens possibilities for collaboration.

Great features include the ability to draw while you are recording your verbal instructions, using a variety of colors and widths of marker, to erase, to set a picture background which can be drawn on. You can scroll the background, and even to push the picture off the screen so that the blank whiteboard surface appears – then scroll it back.  Simple one-touch controls and user-friendly drawing tools make this a great option.  The ability to connect with DropBox means you can add backgrounds from another source, or even attach a PDF.

Here is the Quick Demo video from YouTube:

From the time I started on my first project to when it was completed and ready to share in under an hour, I found this app really easy and fun to use. I was easily able to add a background picture I already had on my laptop through the DropBox connection and then record voice instructions for a lesson plan.  After I emailed my link, I was even able to download the video to my laptop and later to post it on YouTube.  (You can see it here)

ScreenChomp is pretty simple and has lots of potential.  Think what this might do as a way to send parents a prayer resource or activity, or a method for the catechist to keep in contact by sharing what is being done in the faith formation sessions. You could even put in a background, play some recorded music underneath as you narrate a prayer meditation that catechists could use in class, or that you could share via your social network.  (That might just be my next project.)

If you find this post useful,  please  click “Like”  – and share this with others in ministry.  Be sure to add your comments on how you have used or think you might use ScreenChomp in your ministry.