A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Remind 101

Tool: Remind 101

One of the more daunting tasks in church ministry is good communication. So much of the church world is dependent on volunteers to come in and make things go. The reality is that these people have their own lives, and occasionally forget some of their commitments to their churches. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to instantly connect with a specific group of people to remind them of meetings coming up or service commitments, broadcast time change alerts, or post last minute cancelations, without worrying about whether or not they opened their email? There is! It’s called Remind 101.

Remind 101 is designed specifically for schools, but the applications are very useful for parish work.

Benefits:

  • Privacy – There is no exchange of phone numbers. Remind 101 sets you up with a dummy phone number that recipients see, and you never see their number. Also, texting is one way and only in groups. People will not be able to respond to your reminders. This is a huge benefit in the current safe environment climate we face.
  • Ease of use – Remind 101 is incredibly intuitive. Your recipients only have to read texts. Joining your group is as easy as sending a text. Management on your end is a snap and you can do it from your phone, tablet, or laptop/desktop. Beyond this, you can schedule your texts so you post your reminders at your convenience.
  • Multiple groups – Everyone in ministry works with more than one group. You can manage multiple groups from your one account. A history of your reminders is also kept so you know what was sent to who.
  • It’s free! – Enough said!

Applications:

  • Meeting reminders
  • Service work reminders
  • Schedule reminders for liturgy ministers such as lectors and servers
  • Time change alerts
  • Cancelation alerts due to bad weather

These are just a few possibilities. I’m sure you can think of more. My advice, give Remind 101 a test spin and see if you like it. No cost, no commitment. You truly have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by trying this out. Check out this video to learn more about Remind 101 in the classroom.

Click here if you cannot see the video below.

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Big Huge Labs – A Bunch of Cool Tools

Tool: Big Huge Labs

Big Huge Labs is a collection of online tools for creating all sorts of fun things for Catechetics… and Evangelization, too. My two favorites are the “Motivator” and the “Magazine Cover” creator. Here is an example of each:

Motivator

februariesYou’ve seen lots of Motivational Posters… and some De-Motivational Posters. Motivator provides a chance for you and your learners to fill the online world with uplifting motivational posters that proclaim the Reign of God, and gives examples of what it takes to see it, and to make it happen. Upload a photo, graphic, or scanned image, and supply the Title and Sub-Title. Then download the finished product for posting, printing or “PowerPoint”ing.

Here is a super quick tutorial:

Magazine Cover Creator

"Swimmer has a Vocation" Magazine CoverIf you are leading your learners through an exploration of their vocations, you may want to have them create a magazine cover describing their gifts and talents. Or, you may want to create them yourself as a surprise for them. They will find they do have unique gifts, and exploring them is one step in discerning what God is calling them to be and do.

Simply go to Magazine Cover Creator, upload a photo of your learner, follow the instructions and click create. You can download the finish magazine cover for posting, printing or “PowerPoint”ing.

Here is a super quick tutorial:

Don’t forget to play with the other available tools at Big Huge Labs, including Mosaic Maker, Photobooth, Movie Poster, FX, and more! You can upload photos… but don’t forget you can create other graphics using lots of other media, then upload them and create wonderful new ways of proclaiming the Story of the Reign of God!

Using Google Forms and Flubaroo

Flubaroo

Flubaroo is a really cool tool that can be used in conjunction with Google forms to self-correct forms/quizzes/questions which basically means less work for us teachers. However, having used Flubaroo in the classroom I found it had many more advantages. For starters, it allows flipped learning to occur at home and grades to be recorded.

Flipped learning is the new buzz word de jour in relation to pedagogical practice. If one types into the phrase into Google, one will find a myriad of resources. However, the following link offers a good description of the practice:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching

Ted Education features lots of flip lessons: and one can gain a lot of inspiration from these lessons and how they might adapt these ideas using Google Forms &Flubaroo to flip their lesson. (Please note TED Ed lesson do not use Google forms or Flubaroo)

I used both of these tools (Google forms and Flubaroo) when teaching the Good Samaritan parable to a group of first year students (12-13 years old). I chose a nice video version of this parable from YouTube.

I copied and pasted this YouTube link into the description box of a Google Form and instructed my students to watch the video and then answer the questions that followed for homework. My students really liked this type of assignment for homework as from their point of view it required a lot less writing than normal. They liked the fact that they got to watch a cartoon clip for homework but that learning was now being turned into a game in that they had questions to answer! It wasn’t just passive viewing.

From my point of view, I had a way of measuring whether or not learning was taking place. I found that the use of an AV helped the weaker kids in the classroom and learning was enhanced. One point for consideration for any teacher considering to use this as a more engaging and meaningful way of doing homework is you have to find out if everyone has internet access or not. If students don’t have internet access, you might bring students to the computer lab and complete this assignment either as a class activity or a class test, it doesn’t necessarily have to be used as a homework assignment.

Google forms used in conjunction with Flubaroo can be used to flip a lesson. Flipping a lesson can be the precursor to more deep and meaningful learning.

You can watch this video to see how to create a Google form.

Give it to students to complete. I normally embed the Google Form into the class blog.

Here is an example of the Google form that I used.

Here is another example that I used with a second year group.

It is important that the teacher completes that assignment also so their submission will act as the answer key. Once the assignment is completed, open up your Google form and click on the responses tab. This will open up a spreadsheet of the students’ answers. You should also be able to see your submission and once you have install Flubaroo, you will identify this as the answer key against which all other submissions will be graded against.

Installing Flubaroo

You can also watch how to install and use Flubaroo on the following YouTube.

Alternatively, you could print out the these instructions.

Once installed, the Flubaroo tab should always appear across the top of every new spreadsheet document of responses. Click Flubaroo and it will ask you to identify the answer key to grade all other submissions against. This will be the teacher’s own submission. Click on this and hey presto, you’re done! It will give you back your students’ grades as a percentage. Magic!

I found the use of Google forms and Flubaroo an effective way to introduce flipped learning into my classroom. Everybody has heard of the old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, I wished someone would coin a truism for the use of an effective video clip in that it impacts on us visually, aurally and emotionally. By using Google forms and Flubaroo, the workload is reduced and learning is enhanced.

What’s Smore?

No!  We’re not scouts making s’mores – Graham crackers with melted marshmallows and chocolate over an open fire.  We could be educators, ministers, catechists or any minister creating interesting and exciting electronic flyers that grab and catch others attention.

smore-1

How?  Check out a great web tool called SMORE.

See how easy it is to use by viewing the Smore Video.  Scroll down to the middle of the page and click on the “A Cupcake Story Video.”

smore-2

How could you use this tool in your ministry?

Having a Family Dinner, check this out:

smore-3

Announcing a Night of Worship, here is a creative invite:

smore-4

If you just want to see what others are doing, come to the website and scan through the variety of creations.  Here’s one about the Follet Digital Reader:

smore-5

Jeff Herb has said the following about the tool – Smore will let you quickly, easily, and efficiently create flyers using an incredibly simple drag and drop and WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editor.  The site gives you some pre-defined templates to work from (which are totally customizable, just a starting point). 

More importantly – your flyers will look great on any device.  Also, if you want to print your flyer and distribute the old fashioned way – that option is also available to you.

Would love to hear from you how you are using this wonderful tool.  Come back to share the link of your wonderful creation. If you found this post to be of interest to you, click the “Like” button.

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.

SignUpGenius

Tool: SignUpGenius

Volunteer sign-up and organization: the burden of any ministry within any church. Recruiting, availability, scheduling, rescheduling, phone calling, and follow-up phone calling eat up a lot of valuable time. Wouldn’t it be easier to create a sign-up sheet online and email parishioners to volunteer rather than try to track them down at mass or by phone? The truth is there are a number of online tools that allow you to do this such as SignUpGenius.

 SignUpGenius

SignUpGenius is a free service, which, of course, means online ads. The ads are provided through Google, and any questionable advertising is filtered out, which is important if you plan on using this tool with teens. An ad free version is available for a small fee.

SignUpGenius provides themed templates, including ones specifically for churches, that can be customized with images and logos allowing the user to create content with a WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”) interface. Sign-up formatting is flexible offering traditional sign-ups; non-date specific forms for ongoing lists; and options for RSVPs, limited or unlimited quantities and comment fields.

As the administrator of the sign-up pages, you can opt for password protection, limit page access to particular groups, and offer a name only option for people nervous about providing their email addresses. SignUpGenius does not sell or distribute email addresses to third parties. In addition you have the ability to use bulk email for easy communication through a saved address book that can be exported to Excel. You can also defer management of any list to another user for the times you want to distribute responsibility to other people plus other helpful administrative tools.

On the user side, SignUpGenius pages can be integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest along with calendars such as Outlook, iCal, and Google. Volunteers can also receive automated email reminders and text reminders as well as edit and swap with other users for schedule changes.

Check out this video to see how easy SignUpGenius is to use:

 

 

So in which ways can a church use SignUpGenius? Whenever you need people to volunteer for a ministry, such as reading at mass; organize what people are bringing to a gathering, such as a potluck dinner; schedule people for any reason throughout the year, such as cantors for mass or snacks for religious ed. classes; or track donations desired and given for an event, such as a mission trip.

Churches depend heavily on volunteers for many aspects of everyday parish life. Trying to recruit and organize those people can be a taxing chore. SignUpGenius can help ease the load of some of your ministerial duties.

HP MagCloud

A few years ago when I was snooping around the school where I teach (trying to pick up new ed tech tips) I happened upon a middle school technology class that had just finished up a project using HP MagCloud. The students had taken digital images, used these images to create a PDF file using Microsoft Publisher, uploaded the PDF to MagCloud and, within about a week, each had a four-page, magazine-quality brochure of their work. The finished products were colorful and attractive, and each one cost only about $1.00! In the learning process for this project, each student had to apply lessons of artistic design, planning, digital photography skills, document conversion and of course curriculum content to create these mini magazine. I made a mental note to myself to try out MagCloud myself one day.

MagCloud is a free application. The site has tons of tips to get you started on this multi-step learning process, and examples to browse for inspiration. The hardest part of the whole process is understanding that you have to do the preliminary set-up and creation of the PDF document before you send it to MagCloud for publication. You as a teacher or catechist will want to have a good grasp of this sequence and of the tools necessary before you help your students, of course. But it is possible that your class could also divide up the steps under your supervision to make this a more collaborative project. For example, students or small groups could each be responsible for

  1. Deciding on a theme for the magazine
  2. Taking or selecting digital images that illustrate the theme, editing them as necessary
  3. Being responsible for the layout and design in your desktop publishing tool
  4. Proofing the work (students will learn about bleeds and trim areas!)
  5. Uploading the finished product and deciding how to distribute, sell or ship it
  6. Critiquing the final product when it arrives

As important as it is to encourage the learning process in our faith, sometimes it’s just nice to have a finished product, too. Being able to analyze and critique a finished product also allows us to reflect further on what we have learned and applied. Our faith is much about storytelling in the sense of passing on our wisdom and being able to see the new world into which we are born with eyes of faith. I believe encouraging students to tell the story of their faith, use images that speak to them, and create a finished product to share with others can be an empowering experience for them and one that will help them develop into better tellers of the story of our faith. I took this belief to heart this year when I decided to create a photo collage of a ministry that is dear to my heart, our Other-Abled Ministry. This ministry is for adults with special needs and for their caretakers. We meet monthly for Mass, a meal and faith sharing. As you can imagine, we had hundreds of digital images from the last year. The previous year, I created a movie. This year, I decided to use HP MagCloud. I made a 12 page magazine using the process described above. The magazine contains photos of our good times together last year, and I ordered enough for each family to have one and then some leftover to put in our church narthex for others to see. Take a look at the digital edition here. It was a very do-able weekend project. Although I did this project solo, I firmly believe that with middle to high-school aged students, a catechist could successfully engage students in the process as well.

 

What faith story do your students have to tell? Are they involved in service projects? Do they find images of God in nature? Is their community precious to them?  Could HP MagCloud be the vehicle that they could use to share their faith with others?