A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Archive for the ‘Evangelization’ Category

Using tools to teach as Jesus Did – QR codes

by Kellie De Leo, Director of Faith Formation, St. Bartholomew Church, Long Beach, CA
ddbc
Digital Disciple Network Associate



You have seen them around, these little boxes that have black and white blotches in them. They are on cereal boxes, magazines, our condiments, and much more. But what are they? They are called QR Codes; meaning quick response.

According to Wikipedia, a QR code is ” a specific matrix bar code (qror two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR bar code readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL, or other data. “The “QR” is derived from “Quick Response”, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

So, you are probably saying to yourself, these are for advertising, they have nothing to do with ministry. Wrong! I like to think of these as “little jewels” because they can be used easily, without much effort, while opening up a whole new world for us to engage our learners, our parishioners or visitors to our church campus.

When Jesus walked the earth, he taught and engaged His followers using items that were relevant to them and they knew about. This still holds true for us today. QR codes can be qr1one of these tools we can use to engage our audiences on a variety of levels.
QR codes are easy to create and use. All you need is a laptop/desktop, tablet, or smartphone, a QR Code generator and QR code reader. To create a QR code, I usually use my laptop or desktop, but if you are more comfortable on a tablet or smartphone you can create a QR code with them. There are several free QR Code generators and readers to choose from. You can even choose a color, and add an image to them now.

Once you select a generator, all you do is add the URL for the item you want people to see and it will automatically generate your QR code. Then you can download it and put it where you want to use it. Your audience then can scan the QR to reveal your message. To scan a QR code you will need a QR Code scanner which can be downloaded to tablets and smartphones free.

The possibilities are endless for the uses of QR codes. I would like to share 10 ways you can use QR codes in ministry:

1. God Created Me – Find out more about me! Have the children type in some things they qr2like to generate a code, then have their picture on card that says “God Created Me.” Scan the code to learn more about me.

2. Find out more about where Jesus walked. Take a map of where Jesus walked and create a QR code that has a video of that area showing where Jesus would have preached, or walked.

3. Learn about Saints, ten commandments, etc. – To learn more about Saints, you can have posters up around the room, then a sheet of questions that they would have to find out from scanning the QR code. This could be the same for the ten commandments, beatitudes, corporal works of mercy.

4. Learning prayers – To help children learn their prayers you could have them decipher the code to see what line comes next in the prayer or what word. Another way is to help qr3them see what words they missed.

5. Create Advent Calendar, or Walk through Lent

6. Scavenger Hunt – Have children find the clues and then decipher the code which could be topic of discussion or bible verse.

7. Tour of the Church – place QR codes around your parish that tell what the various items are. You could have a video to describe it or written words. Example – place it next to the baptismal font, stations of the cross, pews, statues, outside the parish that tells about your parish, etc.

8. Bulletin Boards – Have your audience learn more about a certain topic.
Example – thisqr4 year’s catechetical theme is “Prayer.” You could have an image, then below the image a QR code descripting the prayer. Your bulletin board could say: Can you name the different prayer styles?

9. QR Stations for self-directed learning: Creating QR stations. Have stations set up around the room on a specific topic. The students scan the QR code to reveal the task and the students must work together to get the task complete.

10. Review – Send a note home telling families what you learned in class this week. It can say: Dear Families, this week in class we learned that Jesus created everything, including me. Here are a few resources you might want to explore with your child of the next week. Then have the QR code that has a couple of different resources for them to review. It could be something for them to read together or a video, or song.



Adobe Voice

Tool: Adobe Voice

The bad news: Adobe Voice is an iPad only tool for digital storytelling.

The good news: Adobe Voice is an elegant, easy, and powerful tool for digital storytelling. And it is free.

While I typically shy away from recommending apps that are platform dependent, this one is too good to keep secret. Check out what Catholic author Jessie Bazan created at http://voice.adobe.com/v/IP5c8-3×845 using Adobe Voice.

If Dr. David Walsh is correct in saying, “Whoever tells the stories defines the culture,” and if we want to tell the Story of the Reign of God… and teach our learners to do so as well… I cannot think of a better tool than Adobe Voice, given its simplicity and effectiveness.

Adobe provides searchable libraries for photos, music, and icon-like graphics; and different structures to walk you and your learners through the process of planning and constructing different types of stories (like mini-storyboarding). You supply the story, the narrative, the text, and your own photos. Adobe Voice then puts it all together in video format and allows you to share your story in a number of ways, including saving the video to your iPad to further expand your sharing options.

Basically, you log into your free Adobe account and then:

  1. choose a type of story to tell, from a narrative to an invitation
  2. pick a design theme, which comes with background music (but you can change the tune)
  3. create a slide
  4. add text, photo or icon
  5. hold down a record button as you narrate a slide, then play it and re-record if you like
  6. repeat

Finally, you share the video in a number ways ways, now including saving it to your iPad where you have more options of sharing it. Plus, you can use other iPad video editing tools, like iMovie, to enhance the video further.

I created the following video off the cuff and in just a few minutes. Imagine what you and your learners can do with some foresight and planning.

 

I suggest downloading Adobe Voice from the iTunes store and trying it out. It will surely beat watching the dry tutorial I’ve created for you below in case you don’t have an iPad… yet.

 

Of course, as a catechist, there are many uses for Adobe Voice. You can create prayers to begin class, upload presentations to YouTube for a flipped classroom experience, or create an invitation to the parish festival… uploaded to Facebook. Since you can insert your own photos into a slide, you can even export a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation, and turn it into a video with narration and music. What other ideas are you hatching for Adobe Voice that will help you and your learners to tell your faith story, the story of your parish… and indeed the Story of the Reign of God?

join.me

Budget. Return on investment. Value. Frequency of use. Ah, those pesky but necessary terms that help churches determine whether to make a purchase. The fact is, when investing in technology, these are very real things to think about. This is why finding solutions that may not be super feature rich, yet meet your needs, and are affordable (or even free) can help make these leaps of faith easier on the digestion.

The ability to offer online meetings is definitely one of those options that churches would like have but balk at it because of cost and how little it may be used. Fear not! There is an option that gives some of the benefits of GoToMeeting but at the cost of Skype (that’s free, by the way). It’s called join.me.

online meetingjoin.me is built by LogMeIn who connects millions of people to their devices, data, and apps every day. Their basic plan, which is free, offers you the ability to connect 10 people to a meeting, plus these features:

  • Mobile apps – works with iOS and Android.
  • Screen sharing – show your desktop to participants.
  • File transfer – send files to each other during the meeting.
  • Internet calling – connect through Voice over IP.
  • Share control – can give control of organizer’s screen to others, one person at a time.

For an annual bill of less than $13 a month, you get some nice extras:

  • Up to 250 participants
  • Unlimited audio – free international calls and meeting access via phone.
  • Share a window – choose a window to share, and keep the rest private. All alerts, email notifications, and third-party chats will be hidden.
  • Presenter swap – let someone else show his/her screen and become the presenter. Works with PC, Mac, or iPad.
  • Meeting lock – control who sees your screen.
  • Annotation – everyone can mark up the screen. As the presenter, you can take a snapshot of the screen for your records and clear the screen to start fresh again.
  • Record your meeting – record audio and visual and store it in LogMeIn’s cloud, Cubby.

If you want to have online meetings or have staff, committee members, parents, or teens attend an in-person meeting they might have otherwise missed, join.me is a great option for parishes looking for a simple needs solution or are limited by their budget. Nervous about trying it? Liturgical Publications, Inc. uses it for their online meetings across the country. Give it a try!

Digital Storytelling with 30 Hands Mobile App

30 Hands - Logo

If you have an iPhone, iPad or an iPod Touch you now can download a FREE app called 30 Hands Mobile. Why? 30hands Mobile is a fun storytelling app that allows students, teachers and anyone with creativity to easily create stories or presentation based on photos, images or slides using a smartphone or tablet.

If you are wondering what you can do with this app, check out the Storyboarding Exercise.  Here you will find an overview of how to begin using the app. Very easy and simple to use.

Jonathan Wylie’s 30 Hands Mobile Tutorial gives you a full overview of how to use the app.

Here are a few suggestions for using the APP with your students.

  • First, find out which students have access to an iPhone or an iPad.
  • Send an email to their parents to ask them if their student could bring the iPhone or IPad to your class (tell them which date).
  • Once the parent says “Yes”, send then an email with the name of the APP “30 Hands” and the iTunes link.  Ask them to download the app so that it will be available for the class project.
  • Assign the students to work in groups (this way a student who may not have an iPhone can be part of a group to create a video).
  • Choose a Theme for the video, for example: A Scripture Story, Story about their Confirmation Name, or….
  • When working in the groups, involve all students in creating a storyboard.  Distribute a copy of a storyboard  that you can find at Printable Paper
  • Invite the group to create a storyboard.  You may want them to view this video “How To Create a Storyboard for Your Video”
  • Once the storyboard is completed, review the story and offer suggestions.
  • Once approved then students can work on taking the needed photos, drawing images that will later be photographed and added to the Photo Roll.
  • Have the students view the 30 Hands Mobile Tutorial.  This can be done in class, or you can email (or text) the URL to your students/families for them to view before they come to class.
  • When all the images are ready, add them to the project and add the sound (audio or music)
  • Once the video is completed, you can show in class or add to your class blog, ask your parish webmaster to add to the parish website, or email the links to the families to view.

Example

Here is an example of a video that was created after the Dedication of the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Imagine taking students to visit their parish church or the diocesan cathedral and inviting them to tell the story of this church, what they learned during their visit.

Here is an example – http://30hands.ipresentonline.com/members/ccerveny/presentations/3690-cathedral-of-st-jude-the-apostle/details

You will discover that using this app is very easy to use.  In addition you will also discover that this service provides an option for creating an online learning environment with your students.  I’d encourage you to check it out!

Go to 30 Hands  where you will discover an easy-to-use interface that allows teachers/catechists  to quickly create course outlines then drag and drop multimedia content into the course and organize by topic, unit, theme, module, project team or learning style.  Students always have quick access to the materials they need and teachers can quickly change the course structure as needed.

I hope that you will try the mobile app, as it is one of the easiest I’ve used to create a video.  Come back to tell us how you are using the 30 Hands Mobile App or the course service.  We’d love to hear your story.

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!

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?

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.

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!