A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Posts tagged ‘social media’

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.

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Fakebook: Learning to Help Holy Friends Connect

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

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

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

SaintCeciliaprofile

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

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

 

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!