A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Archive for the ‘Images’ Category

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:

IMG_3570

Genesis 1:29
God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed,
which is on the surface of the earth…”

 

FullSizeRender

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.

 

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?

ABCya

Toolset: ABCya.com

One of my favorite animation tools, xtranormal, is now defunct (but watch for a renewed animation environment at  nawmal, xtranormal‘s purchasing group). In fact, I’m finding that many favorites are disappearing as the excitement of online tools wanes, and companies look toward mobile app development to invest their time and resources. However, there are still online learning sites that provide easy tools for youngsters to create storytelling graphics while learning rudimentary media literacy skills. I was very pleased to see Joyce Donahue’s post about one animation tool called Wimeo. Since I like to built a repertoire of different tools to answer different needs, I continued to scour the web for easy animation tools for youngsters… and oldsters like myself.

Enter ABCya‘s suite of learning tools for the younger set. ABCya was developed by a teacher who created this wonderful site because, as a new teacher looking for online resources for children, he found himself “in a never ending labyrinth of sites for kids loaded with violence, nested links, difficult navigation, and subscription fees!”

ABCya is an online collection of educational games for the younger set. Two in particular caught my eye for creating.

Creed Word Cloud

A word cloud is a, well, cloud of words! A famous word cloud tool, Wordle, is the subject of an earlier post. ABCya has a simple version geared for youngsters. They click the empty screen to start, type or paste words into a box, and click the arrow on the bottom right to create the cloud. There you can set the number of words to be shown, filter out common words, and change the color, layout and font of the cloud. I played with it by copying a Creed from on online source, created the cloud, and noted the largest words, which occur most often. You can then save the cloud as a graphic to use in a PowerPoint, or even as a background for the animation you can create using the next tool:

 

Getting back to xtranormal (click here for my “sniff!“, my face drawn in ABCya’s Color, Draw & Paint, and imported as a background for a Make an Animation clip) I’ve found that the animation maker in ABCya has its own charm. It is really for the younger set, but I must admit I was engaged for quite some time playing with its features. It is really simple… and limited. But, between WORD CLOUDS FOR KIDS (or ABCya’s Color, Draw & Paint) and MAKE AN ANIMATION, your students can create creative animated gifs, the file type that can be played in any browser, and thus can readily be embedded in your parish or school website. If you need to turn an ABCya animation into a movie for inclusion in Animoto video creation, Moviemaker (Windows), iMovie (Mac), or to upload it to YouTube as I did above… you can convert the gif to a video file using the video converter tool at Online-Convert.com.

I took the word cloud above and made a gif that you can see by clicking here.

Here is a video tutorial of using Make an Animation to create my non-award winning Sniff gif.

 

If you like these suggestions, click the “Like” button.  Once you engage your students with these tools, come back and tell us about it.  We’d love to hear from you.

Creating Text Conversations

Here’s a quick and fun tool for getting attention in a classroom:  a SMS Generator.  It’s a website that allows you to create text conversations, and then save it for future reference with a link or by embedding it in a website.

sms-generator

This type of graphic could be a great way to introduce a topic.  For example, if your lesson features the classic parable about the Prodigal Son, you could work up a chat like this one:

prodigal-brothers

Present it to the group, either by projecting onto a screen if you have web access (wall screen or even a mobile device) or by printing a copy and hanging it up.  Without mentioning the actual Scripture, ask the students to read the chat and figure out what they can about it.  After hearing their ideas, ask someone them to read the story that inspired the chat:  Luke 15:11-32.  Revisit the discussion to see how the students’ perception of the chat – as well as the parable- changed.

The SMS Generator can also be a way for students to unpack the Scripture.   Pair up the students and give them each a character from the parable; for instance, Dad/ Older Son, Dad/Younger Son, Older Son/Servant, etc.  Ask each pair to create a chat between their two characters, based on the text they just read.  If you have internet access in the classroom, they can create and save the chat online and send you the link. If you don’t have internet access in the classroom, have the students use your example as the model to write out their chat, and you can enter them online later, or you can assign this as homework.

You can post these on the church Facebook page, a class blog, send the links home in a parent email, or even save a jpg to use in the church bulletin or print out for a class bulletin board.  Be sure you know what any acronyms mean before sharing a chat, though.  Try this list to decipher any that come up.  (Fair warning that some of the explanations are not suitable for children or church situations, so please use it only for your own personal development!)

sms-acronym

Whether you use the SMS Generator to create chats based on Bible characters, saints, or even the Pope and your Pastor (!), and especially given the popularity of texting among kids as young as 10, this exercise will be a great way to grab their attention on almost any topic, just by changing the “characters” involved!

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?

WeGather

Tool: WeGather

Answer this question: What is the #1 goal of any church? Answer: To build community. To help in this mission, there are many wonderful tools available through the Internet to share information and socialize. But perhaps with all those different tools, you feel a bit overwhelmed. One ministry group communicates on Facebook, another on Google Plus, and yet another through Yahoo! Groups. For some people, it can get very confusing trying to remember which group is where, especially if you are the organizer of many ministry teams and events. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a tool that allowed you to organize your entire parish’s social groups and ministries, sent email from centralized lists, shared a single calendar that filters events based on group, and allowed your parishioners to socialize online in a safe and secure environment? Wouldn’t it be even better if it were free? Guess what? There is such a tool! It’s called WeGather.

WeGather

WeGather was developed by Liturgical Publications, Inc. (LPi), who are well known for their production and distribution of church bulletins. Over the last few years, LPi has developed web tools specifically for parishes including website templates and online giving. WeGather is their answer to social networking that meets the needs and concerns of a church community.

Liturgical Publications, Inc.

Here are the main features:

  • Provides a safe, secure environment – A church administrator approves all membership requests so only authorized people have access to the site. Secondary administrators can be given access to maintain particular groups and ministries.
  • Centralizes email lists for easy updating and distributing information.
  • Organizes ministries and committees by “groups.” Only members of each group can see information specifically for them but can be shared publicly (any authorized site member) if desired.
  • Provides a centralized calendar of events. Information shown on the calendar can either be group specific or shared publicly.
  • Allows members to easily post and share documents, photos, and videos specific to each group or publicly.
  • Provides members the ability to create their profiles and control which information is available to fellow parishioners.

Again, the core system of WeGather is free but does offer some optional “modules” available on a monthly subscription basis:

  • Online giving via WeShare, LPi’s online giving and event registration program. WeShare can easily be integrated with WeGather.
  • Service Opportunities-promote your volunteer needs where members can easily sign up for volunteer opportunities of interest
  • Additional Storage for documents and media

So, why use WeGather over other online tools?

  • A clean, professional look that is easy to navigate for the casual computer user.
  • A web based tool specifically designed for churches.
  • The privacy of each parish and its members is strictly maintained. No information is sold or given to third parties of any kind.
  • LPi working to build additional modules to plug into WeGather.

WeGather is a very powerful –and absolutely free –communication tool for any church and its members. If you are part of a parish that is looking to organize all of its online ministry outreach and communication in one place, check out WeGather and feel free to leave a comment on how it works for your church.

Photofunia

Tool: Photofunia

Photofunia is an online tool for uploading photos, and putting them in fun and/or elegant settings. Here is an example of a still.

My Spouse

Original Photo

My Spouse in a Heart

Photo made special with Photofunia

and an example of a moving picture… a “gif” created in Photofunia. You may need to click on the photo to launch its own window and give it motion.

Steamed Up Spouse

Photo enhanced and given motion by Photofunia

Imagine creating a class yearbook with photos of your students… that they supply… and you find a Photofunia effect to match their personalities! The Photofunia app for mobile devices can be found here. With an Android, iPad, iPhone, etc. you can snap a picture of your student… or of your students’ work, and apply the great Photofunia effects right then and there.

Here is a quick demo of the online version:

If you believe that you can now create a fun, odd, or engaging picture out of your own photos – click the “Like” button.  Once you create something to engage your students, come back and tell us about it.  We’d love to hear from you.