A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Archive for the ‘Collaborative’ Category

HootSuite

HootSuite (http://hootsuite.com/)  is a social media management tool. Although it was developed with businesses in mind, it certainly can be adapted to fit the needs of churches as well. If you are one of the pioneers in social media in your church and you are finding it just a little bit daunting to keep track of the Tweets, posts, blogs, shared photos and YouTube videos associated with your parish or congregation, HootSuite can help. I noticed that many prolific social media contributors were inserting links to a URL shortener with “ow.ly” in it, or the post itself came from @HootSuite. Curious, I investigated and spent last summer playing around with HootSuite, just getting used to the features. I have to say, it seems to be a great tool for ministry. In a single window, a free HootSuite account allows you to display up to five social network accounts (Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc.). In addition, you can have twenty tabs (a tab sorts your streams by content), and each tab can have up to ten streams (a stream can be a mention or a direct message, for example)  for content as it is updated. Hey, I just wrote this and I’m already confused, so let me make this simple. Instead of logging in and out of your various social networks, they are all organized in your HootSuite account  in one window, sorted by tabs. The beauty is that you can create one post and tell it to go to all or some of your social networks!  For example, I created tabs for my personal Facebook account, my parish Facebook account, my personal Twitter account and a Facebook group for technology in ministry that I belong to. I can send out one post to all of those sites at once. I can also click through my tabs to read the latest content for all those social networks as it arrives without the bother of having to sign in and out of those different accounts.

HootSuite is powerful and a bit complex, so give yourself time to learn the features and take advantage of its extensive help and tutorial menus. Some of the useful features I discovered include the ability to block or follow others,  features for teams working in a HootSuite account, ow.ly, the built-in  HootSuite URL shortener, and the Hootlet application, which allows you to post a link to any web site you happen to be visiting directly to your HootSuite network. The Hootlet applet can simply be dragged to your browser bookmark toolbar for easy access as you browse the web. HootSuite itself will save you time in your social networking ministry, and the Hootlet will amplify that savings!

I would be interested in hearing what you think about HootSuite and how you think it compares to other social networking management tools. Leave a comment if you wish to share!

TEDEd: Catechetical Possibilities

Recently TED video created TED-Ed videos.  I’d encourage you to watch the introductory video to learn more about this service.

Then go to the Ted-Ed Tour

TEDed Tour

In the Subject Category section you will find “Philosophy & Religion”.  Right now there is only ONE video here – Jackie Jenkins: Greeting the World in Peace.  Take a moment to (1) Watch the Video, then (2) Respond to the Quick Quiz, and explore the Think and Dig Deeper Sections.

When you click on “Get Involved“, you’ll notice that you can nominate yourself or nominate another.  TED-Ed will review the request and get back to you.  I’d love to see some of our wonderful and talented religious educators create short lessons like these either for our children, RCIA Candidates, or even around the theme of New Evangelization.

Think for a moment – What could you create for your audience that would excite and interest them to learn more about their faith?  What presence could we bring as Catholics to this wonderful Internet world?  TED-Ed is here to assist you!

Jackie Jenkins: Meeting the World in Peace

Getting involved is fairly easy.  Just click on Get Involved.  Here you can nominate yourself or another.  Or you can suggest a lesson that you feel would be helpful in the catechetical area.

If you’re thinking of something and wondering if others may be interested, you may start the conversation here.  We’d love to hear about what you are considering or would like to see presented on TEDEd.

Finding and Following on Twitter

The power of Twitter is two-fold:  the people and the information.  First, you can find and connect with others who share your interests, developing appropriate online relationships with peers.  By contributing and “listening,”  you can become part of a professional or ministry network.  Second, through your newsfeed or by searching for specific #hashtags, you can stay on top of news and trends in any particular interest or industry.  This is especially true for niche interests, like Catholic ministry or catechesis! 

So the best way for beginners to leverage their Twitter account is in their list of who they are “following.”  The most recent tweets of people you follow will show up in your news feed.  The more people you follow, and the better their content, the more useful Twitter will be for you.  How do you find such folks? (more…)

Audioboo

Audioboo is a podcasting tool you can use with your smartphone or iPad. Currently, iPhone, iPad, Android and Nokia support Audioboo. If you have ever wished you could record and share a student’s voice, a message, a lesson, an interview or even your own thoughts and reflections, you will find that those dreams can come true with Audioboo!

The Audioboo web site is the place to start.

Click here to go to Audioboo

 http://audioboo.fm/

Audioboo couldn’t be simpler. First, download the app to your phone. Make a recording. You can also associate a digital image on your phone with the recording. You have sharing options at that point, but one way to access this music file is to email the audioboo to yourself. When you link to the boo from your email on your home computer, you will be taken to the file on the Audioboo web site on your browser. From there, you have several options. You can Tweet the link, Like it on Facebook, email the link or embed the boo on your website. You can even import the file as a podcast into your iTunes account. Once in iTunes, you can copy the mp3 to your computer and, since it is your original work, you can then attach it and share it with others.

Audioboo is a great way to use smart phones in education. Drawing on the creativity and energy of your students, have them design a short podcast that shares their knowldge on a given topic. Students can also use their built-in smart phone cameras to take photos to go with each boo podcast. Once the whole class has created their boos, upload them to your class web site for visiting parents or other students to hear.

Here’s an example from Catholic Elements, a podcasting ministry, that demonstrates how effective even a short podcast can be.

Our faith is full of the sounds of bells calling the faithful, sung and spoken prayers, and lovely sacred music. The spoken witness of a believer is one of the most powerful tools of evangelization. Perhaps you have a gifted speaker in your parish and want to create podcasts for parishioners to hear them teaching. Recently, two of our choir soloists sang Panis Angelicus at Mass. My iPhone captured the moment with the help of Audioboo! I was able to share the music on our parish Facebook page and email the link to the soloists, who were delighted. Have a listen:

Take the time to learn Audioboo, and the possiblities for using this podcasting tool in your catechetical ministry will quickly become evident! How have you tried Audioboo? Leave a comment so we can hear about it.

Evernote

Tool: Evernote

Ever have issues organizing your research for projects or presentations? It can be a monumental task to compile quotes from web pages, videos, images, and documents and organize them. Often we find ourselves bouncing from folder to folder where we have saved our information, or we use a lot of paper and ink printing out full pages for tiny snippets of text. Evernote is an online tool that lets you save all these different media forms in one location and access and share them from several platforms and devices. Here’s the best part: it’s free! You can purchase a Premium package for $5 a month or $45 a year for additional storage, options, and security. Check out this video for a quick introduction:

 

So what are the ministry applications? If you have a presentation to make, Evernote provides not only the means for you to arrange your notes and media clips, but if you clip something from a web page, the address is also included so you can reference your research. This is a very important aspect as we should model solid ethical practices in our work.

How about the Religious Education classroom? Check out how this school’s students use Evernote:

 

Here are a couple of applications for Youth Ministry:

Mission Trips Often parishes will ask mission trip participants to report on what the experience was like. Evernote provides you a central location to load and save pictures, video, information about the location and notes about what was learned and experienced by multiple contributors from multiple devices. Once the group returns, they can get together and produce a presentation based on all the information they collected during their project. If you’re hesitant to use social networking as a way to give parents and other parishioners real-time updates on the mission trip, Evernote provides a great way to collect memories for teens to record and show when they get home.

Group Projects One way to make learning more engaging is to add elements of collaboration and discovery. If students can work together to research a topic for a presentation, such as a particular saint, they are more apt to show interest in the subject and retain the information as opposed to being lectured to. Evernote can be utilized by a small group to collect and organize its research that can later be turned into a presentation using something like PowerPoint or Prezi.

Organizing thoughts, information, and media can sometimes be challenging. Evernote provides a great way to keep everything in one spot yet accessible from anywhere.

GoToMeeting

Tool: GoToMeeting

How many of us in ministry have had trouble scheduling meetings because of conflicting calendars, had to miss meetings because of personal conflicts, or had meetings cancelled because of bad weather? Of course, the answer is all of us, so what can we do about it? One solution is GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting is a web conferencing tool that allows you to host an online meeting with up to 25 people. The company also has an additional product called GoToWebinar that allows you create your own webinar for up to 1,000 people. The convenient aspect to this setup is you can attend a meeting or webinar not only from your computer but also from a tablet or smartphone.

Curious to explore the GoToMeeting experience? They allow you to have a 30 day free trial. After that, there is a fee to host meetings or webinars, but the cost can be offset by savings in utilities and supplies you might normally need to pay for to prepare for a face to face meeting. Meeting participants attend for free and do not have to join anything. Once you schedule a meeting, an email is sent out to participants with a link to join the meeting at its designated day and time. All they have to do is click the link, enter the provided code and their email address for verification, and voila! They are ready to go. Watch this video to see GoToMeeting in action.

Some of the main features that GoToMeeting provides are as follows:

  • a video option to see people’s faces
  • on screen texting to attendees
  • the ability to show the screen of the presenter to all participants
  • the ability to switch presenters during the meeting
  • sharing of keyboard and mouse control with other attendees
  • the capability for recording the meeting or webinar for other people to view later

So how can web conferencing help in ministry? First and foremost with committee meetings. As previously stated, we all have had issues scheduling a meeting or had to miss one due to a last minute conflict or had bad weather cancel a meeting. As long as you have a laptop and Internet access, these hurdles can be overcome. A few months ago, for example, my wife’s car was in the shop and she needed a ride to the doctor’s office for a check-up. I had a meeting scheduled for 15 minutes before her appointment. I was able to drop her off and sit in the parking lot and attend the meeting on my smartphone.

Ever have a Religious Ed. class canceled for bad weather? Schedule a meeting and send an invite out to your teens. They can learn in the safety of their own home. Take it one step further and plan a class through GoToMeeting. Invite parents to attend as well if you wish. It’s one night they don’t have to drive their teen to class and you might be amazed how much you save in supplies, such as paper and printing.

Do you have a program suffering from poor attendance? Try creating a webinar. People can attend it live online, and you can record it so others who can’t make the presentation can view it later. It’s a great way to run an “Ask the Pastor” series because you can control which submitted questions are seen by participants and also have options for polls and surveys.

As someone who has been doing ministry in various forums for over 20 years, I understand that as ministers we generally prefer to meet face-to-face for the sake of community building. The reality is that is not always possible and at times not even desired. GoToMeeting gives you a great tool to solve these issues.

Check out how the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is utilizing GoToWebinar

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.

Doodle: Easy Scheduling

Tool: Doodle

If you are looking for a FREE online tool to “poll” your meeting attendees to see which day and time is best for them, then DOODLE is a tool you will want to explore.  Dave Johnson provides a wonderful overview about the Doodle tool – Free online tool makes scheduling a breeze post.

Need a quick overview of HOW TO USE THIS TOOL?  This video gives a great overview –

If you are interested in learning more about the Mobile Doodle, check out the Apple store.

How could you use this tool in your ministry?

  • Use with your committee members to determine the best day/time to meet.
  • Schedule meeting times with parents either in small groups, individually, or all parents (say for a Sacramental prep general meeting)
  • Schedule the best time/day for your catechists to meet.

If this post is helpful to you, remember to click on the “like” button.  If you have any other suggestions for how you are using the tool, please share in the comment section of this page.

Thank you for visiting Catechesis 2.0!

Geocaching

Tool: Geocaching

Geocaching is a world-wide treasure-hunting game played by five million people. If you are looking for a way to extend your catechetical curriculum outside of the classroom, this may be the tool for you. Players create a free online account and then participate in hiding, seeking and discovering one another’s caches using GPS enabled devices. Many smart phones now have GPS capability, or you can buy a hand-held GPS device for your students to share. A cache can be as simple as a notebook and pencil in a plastic bag or as complex as a fishing tackle box filled with “swag,” or collectable trading items. There are even “virtual caches” that are not physical objects, but a set of coordinates that lead to a place of interest.

There are a number of apps available for geocachers, all designed to make this family-friendly hobby more portable on whatever mobile device you prefer: iPhone or Android.

Education Idea: Geocaching utilizes collaboration and problem solving skills and can be applied to almost any curriculum area. Use it in conjuntion with a geography lesson. First, teach about latitude and longitude. Then take your students into the field with a GPS device to find a hidden cache. Use it as an extension of your social studies curriculum. Choose areas of the world in which significant events are happening. Engage students in setting up a virtual cache for these locations. Students will have to compose descriptions of that part of the world as part of the data entered when the cache is created.

Ministry Idea: Wondering how you can adapt geocaching for youth ministry or your catechetical classroom? Look at this example of a geocaching adventure lesson plan, visiting pilgrimage sites in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Our faith is connected to real people and real places all over the world. Use geocaching to help your students discover these connections can enliven their faith in a way that speaks a language they understand – the language of technology! Geocaching is definitely an “outside the box” Web 2.0 tool, but one that has the potential to engage students and families in hands-on discovery and catechesis.

Blogger

Tool: Blogger

Blogger is for blogging, which is an art form in and of itself, deserving of a full exploration beyond the scope of a Web 2.0 primer.

However, Blogger can also be used as a simple learning platform. Instead of posting the diary/journal type entries, called posts, that a blogger would post, you can post prayers, reflection question, stories, content, and announcements. You can also easily embed graphic images, including photos, and video. Finally, you can post from a computer, or from your email. Each post can be its own lesson, tutorial, retreat or demonstration.

Readers, or participants can engage in simple conversation using the comment box under each post. You can also give the special email address connected with a blog (or lesson, or book-read, or reflection, whatever you want to call it) to others who can help author the content.

We used Blogger at the 2012 NCCL Tech Boot Camp, and many people posted using the email account. However, when folks tried to create their own accounts, we ran into an odd difficulty. Apparently Blogger (owned by Google), saw a lot of account creations coming from one location. We are guessing they thought we were hackers, and shut down the projects. This will not happen when you create your account, and follow the tutorial at http://nccltechbootcamp.blogspot.com (Blogspot is another domain name owned by Blogger). Learn Blogger, and dream of how you can easily create an online environment for collaborative learning!

Here is a screen snapshot of the tutorial on using Blogger as a learning environment, hosted by Blogger itself!

If you believe that you can now create a Blogger with Blogger, and use it for online reflections, learning or teaching – click the “Like” button.  Once you create something to engage your learners or colleagues, come back and tell us about it.  We’d love to hear from you.