Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

What to Avoid in Social Media

As I was reading “Mistakes to Avoid in Social Media” my mind was adapting this article to ministry language.

We are often encouraged to get involved with social media in our catechetical and parish ministries.  Many of our colleagues are blogging, facebook-ing, twitter-ing and more!  Some with a great deal of success and others struggling to leverage the power of social media.  Allow me to reinterpret  what Dawn Papandrea shares in her post.  Here are the top seven things that others are doing wrong.  Here is where you want to do right.  Wonderful suggestions for your success!

1. Boycotting social media

If you’ve avoided setting up a Facebook page or a Twitter profile for your ministry, using the excuse that social media is a passing fad, it’s time to join the crowd.  These platforms, and others such as Google+, are here to stay (or at least they’re here until the next big thing comes along), and they’re where your families and students are spending a lot of time.

2. Expecting immediate results

Sorry, but you can’t assume that once you announce to the world that you’re on Facebook, you’ll have all sorts of followers. Social media is all about brand awareness – in ministry terms – it is about creating relationships through technology, engaging your families and students, and building a community–and that takes time!

3. Sounding like a commercial

People will lose interest in your stream pretty quickly if you use your pages to promote, promote, promote. Instead, think of what value you can give to your audience. Perhaps it’s a Scripture quote for the day, or a tip for daily prayer, or inviting Scripture faith-sharing during Advent or Lent.  Once you become a trusted authority, people will stay connected, and you’ll come up on their wall, twitter post or other digital locations. I recently heard about a parish priest who invited those who were interested to be involved in a 10-week Scripture reflection.  200 participants joined him!

4. Not engaging or responding

If you aren’t actively conversing with your network, you’re wasting your time. Make it a point to answer questions about your ministry, or address issues, in a timely manner. Even something as simple as sending out a happy birthday message to your users will let them know you care about them.

5. Letting an intern run your social media

Don’t pass the responsibility of your social media efforts off to someone else, unless you’re sure that person is a good representative of your ministry. While it’s true that social media can take up time, it’s vital that it’s done properly.

6. Being all business, all the time

As relationships develop, it’s great to let your hair down. Let your clients get to know the person who cares about them. For example, many companies on Twitter make it a point to use an employee’s photo, instead of the company logo.  Do you hide who you are with those awful looking digital faceless avatars? A photo of you adds the personal touch!

7. Not targeting the right people

When you’re starting up your pages, it’s great to add your friends and family, to get your numbers up. Ultimately, though, you want to attract your target ministry market. Do this by letting your families know that you’re on social sites. Add the links to your email signature and to your business cards. Put up a poster in your office. And give people an incentive to connect, by offering something of value, like a contest or discount coupon.

Remember to pay attention to your diocesan guidelines regarding your relationship with minors in a social network environment.  Every diocese offers suggestions.  Check out to see how the Diocese of St. Petersburg offers guidance in this area of Social Media.

By avoiding these social media mistakes, you’ll reach more new people, and strengthen relationships with your existing families. And those are results that you’re sure to “like.”

What is the most helpful point for you in this post?  Would love to hear your comments or click on the “like” button if this post is helpful to you!

Engage Parents Through a Blog Site

One of my favorite training websites is hosted by SimpleK12Team!  Just recently they highlighted how a blog could be used to engage parents.

Does this sound familiar?  “Are you tired of the ‘bottomless backpack’ and the mysterious, vanishing handouts? You hand students papers to give to their parents, and they’re never seen again.”

Their suggestion – set up a class blog!

Find out how to engage parents through a blog here:

http://www.youtube.com/simplek12team#p/u/20/TPzy5Rcga04

Of course, there are many ways you can use a blog in your religion classroom.  For example, parents love to see their child’s work that they do in your class.  With a blog, you have a great medium to display and show off students work for all their parents to see.  If you’re projects are created using traditional methods (e.g., paper and crayons), here’s where you can involve the youth group to help scan and prepare the class work so that it can be in a digital format.

Most children in the home environment, use a computer or a tablet (iPad, etc).  There are apps like Animoto (free), Drawing Pad, Screen Chomp and others that students can use to create a project.  When they have completed their task, they can email the link (or embed code) to you.  You can then add this information to the class special project page.  This assignment can be described on your blog and parents can direct their child to work on this project.

Would love to hear from you how YOU are using a blog to communicate with your parents!  I invite you to share your story here!

I have two examples to share with you.  One represents a music teacher – http://mrsmcivorsmusicblog.blogspot.com.  The other represents another elementary educator in a regular classroom –  http://carsonsbrighteyedbears.blogspot.com.  As you review these examples, note how each teacher provides brief and helpful information to their parents.

Remember to click the “Like” button, if you learned something today!

Trouble viewing on YouTube? Try viewing on Vimeo 

The Times – They are a Changing!

This wonderful term “New Media” – what do we do with it?  The world around us is changing.  And as this world changes, we need to begin to explore who we will bring on board to assist us in our parishes and dioceses so that we can integrate these wonderful digital tools into evangelization, catechesis, and communication ministries.

Photo of Thomas Sanjurjo

Thomas Sanjurjo

I’d like to introduce you to Thomas Sanjurjo, who recently joined the team/staff at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Florida.  What is important to note, is that he is their first Electronic Outreach Director.  I met him recently at a Sunday liturgy.  After Mass we chatted in the parish hall over coffee.  I left the conversation with Tom with a sense that this parish portrays a model of what it means to be an emerging 21st Century Parish.

Nativity Catholic Church

Why is he important to this parish?  We are now in the midst of an ever evolving Digital Culture that has its own language and tools.  Many of us often feel that we are strangers on the edge observing a world that is both exciting and terrifying.

If I were a missionary in a foreign land, initially I would feel intimidated by not knowing the new language or culture.  Even though I would desire to share the Gospel with others, they would not understand me.  I might possibly offend them, not knowing how important it is to only shake hands at our first meeting instead of giving a warm hug.

Missionaries today are trained in both the language and culture of the country and people they will serve. By the time they arrive in their new and foreign land, they already speak the language and know the fine points of what is acceptable or not in the culture.

So, if we stop to think about the Digital Culture surrounding us. It is a new language and a new culture!  Who is teaching us the language and the ways of this ever evolving culture?

Yes, a professional like an Electronic Outreach Director will not only do ministry via the parish website, Facebook page and more, he/she will also be responsible for training the staff and even parishioners.  After all this Digital Culture affects all of us!  This parish now has an in residence mentor whose job it is to be involved in electronic outreach.

Tom’s description offers an excellent model of a 21st Century minister who is focused on being a Digital Disciple.  He is to be a catalyst in his parish to bring others onboard with being 21st Century ministers and parishioners.  He shared this model of what he is currently doing in the parish:

Electronic Outreach Director Model

Yes, he will be responsible for the daily feeds and updates of the parish FaceBook page, developing and coordinating the parish blog, uploading the Sunday homily to Sunday Mass Podcast, and training his staff and parishioners, and more.  His ministry is just beginning.  It will be a delight to hear more about his ministry in the future.

I’m sure that there are other positions being created at the parish or diocesan level.  If you are aware of these new positions, I invite you take a moment to introduce us to the new position and who is serving in this role.  Let’s share in how we are becoming a 21st Century church!

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

Have You Heard of Google+ ?

Will G+ be a better option than FB? Who knows right now!

If you’ve noticed news about Google+, it is just around the corner from being launched!  What is Google+? A means for social networking with your friends and colleagues!  Is it different from Facebook?  Of course!  So, it is probably worth checking out.

Rich Jennings, ComputerWorld blogger, is able to send you invites to join the Plus Project Circle.  Check out his article ” Get a Google+ invite here: join Plus project circle.”

Brad West, a nearby blogger who lives in Palm Coast, FL, recently caught my eye with his published eBook titled “The Connected Church” which is available through Barnes and Noble (Nooks and Nook apps) as well as Amazon (Kindle and Kindle apps).  I’ve been following his blog since I read his book.  His July 15, 2011 post “What is Google+ And Can It Benefit Catholic Parishes”  offers ways a Catholic parish could use this tool.

To learn more about this NEW tool, check out these Google+ videos:

Of course, if you like this article, click the “Like” button, share this post with a friend, or add a comment to engage in the conversation.  Questions are welcomed!

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

Religion Classroom Blogging

Blog

So, you have a good idea of what it is like to create a blog! You’re ready now to do something with your students. Where will you start?

I love this Edutopia article by Helen Echlin – Digital Discussion: Take Your Class to the Internet (or How to set up a blog in your classroom).

However, you’ll notice that the suggestions are not specifically for religion teachers. Yet, are there ideas that inspire us to figure out what we could do in a religion classroom with a blog? Of course – YES! We can adapt and use many of these ideas in our religion classrooms. There are many BEST PRACTICES in other subject areas. Read on and let your imagination be inspired to adapt these ideas so that they will “fit” your religion classroom.

Let’s begin this conversation of what could we do with a blog in the religion classroom! As I share some thoughts, I invite you to contribute your suggestions via the comments section. Following are some suggestions for blogging with your students:

  • It is important to have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Check here for a AUP Model. Remember, schools have been involved with technology for several years. Look at their best practices and adapt the language to fit your faith-based organization. The school office in your diocese may have a model format that is already being used in the schools.
  • Introduce “blogging” to your class group. If you are working with 8th graders, refer back to the Constructing Constructiveness: A Sample Blogging Lesson Plan note in the article. Revise this so that it fits your class. Remember, a wheel was invented “once” and since then it is constantly improved upon to fit the vehicle it is on. Same with blogging ideas, learn to see how Best Practices in other subject areas can quickly and easily be adapted to fit your class situation. If you are working with other grade levels, how could you adapt this lesson plan to fit your class?
  • Liturgical Seasons. Check out the online Liturgical Calendar for 2011 or the explanation of the Liturgical Seasons.  Set up the blog so that you are inviting students to blog about the current liturgical season. What does it mean for them? What happens in the parish during this time? Invite your students to take digital photos that show how this liturgical season is celebrated in the parish. Perhaps they would like to talk about one saint of the week (especially in Ordinary time) that they have learned something about. Write a very short article for them about the season and then ask specific questions that you would like them to respond to.
  • Saints: Set-up a page for each student. Invite them to identify the saint they are named after and to write a short article about the life of this saint. Invite students (you may want to assign students) to comment about each other’s saints. What did they learn about this saint? What is important about their lives that inspires us today?
  • Church Leadership: In order to help your students understand the various levels of Church leadership we have in the Catholic Church, you may want to focus on church leadership/membership in the Catholic Church. Here you can cover – Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Monsignors, Priests, Religious, Laity. Here is where you can direct your students to a variety of websites from the Vatican, Your Diocese, and Parish to locate the information you are inviting them to research. For links you would like your students to use, here is where you may want to use a “social bookmarking” website (More about Social Bookmarking in a future article). Create the group of links you would like your students to use for this assignment. It will save them time and direct them to good Catholic websites that are credible, reliable, and non-biased.

These are just a few suggestions for a class blog activity. As you learn more about blogs and engage your students in blogging experiences, we look forward to hearing your stories about what is working and even what may not have worked in your class setting.

Blog Poll


Online Collaboration & Communication Tools

I’m back to my desk after being very involved in the Interactive Connections Conference that was held in Orlando, Florida last week. In the near future I will share more about the conference.

Overall most of us have been involved in collaboration and communication while teaching or in our ministry endeavors. The Webster Dictionary states that collaboration involves- to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor. Yes, we do collaborate in so many ways! We love seeing each other and meeting face-to-face!

However, what is “new” for us is to be able to collaborate with others in an online environment. Most of us are unfamiliar with how to do this or may think that this option is beyond our budget. Some of us will come to this option with the mindset that – collaborating face-to-face (F2F) is better! So, we will not even have the desire to try the online option.

I would encourage the “Pioneers” in our midst to be the catalysts in their communities to engage others in online collaboration. The options are many! Most of the options are FREE. Check out Sean Aun’s article, Work Together: 60+ Collaborative Tools for Groups for suggested tools.

OnLine Collaboration

OnLine Collaboration

I will highlight some of the tools that Sean refers to and others that I’ve used successfully with other collaborators. I would invite those who have used any of the collaborative tools mentioned in Sean’s article (or any other tools) with success to share their stories with us.

Here are a few options for you to consider…

Doodle –  A collaborative way to coordinate groups for identifying a date/time for a meeting. All can easily collaborate to find the best date possible.

Google Docs – Here is the place to collaborate with others using word processing, spreadsheets, form building, presentation and date storage tools. How can these tools be used?

  • Documents – Invite your students to use Google documents to write a short essay. Show them how to share the document with you. You can add your comments and grade the reflection. Students can choose to create a digital portfolio of their work.
  • Spreadsheets – Invite a team of students to create a spreadsheet where they are sharing information with one another.
  • Presentations – Invite a team of students to create a prayerful reflection that is shared in class.
  • Use Google Docs to build a form with a text box (or text boxes) that correspond to question(s) you want students to respond to after class at home. Invite your students to input their thoughts into the form. This application automatically incorporates the feedback into a spreadsheet. Next class, have the printed spreadsheet in hand or show via your computer and LCD projector and open up a discussion based on what students have shared.

The gift of Google Docs is that students can work from the comfort of their home computers and collaborate creating their document at various times or at the same time of the day.

Blogs – Yes a blog is a collaborative tool! As a teacher you can focus on writing a weekly question, comment, or assignment where students are expected to comment and collaborate with each other in this virtual space. A blog can be a private or an open space for the students. You choose!

Glogster.Edu Simply put, a Glog is a kind of poster – fully designed by yourself! As a tool, a student can be creative using text, images, music and video. Think about a Who is Jesus exercise! To use in the faith-classroom, I would engage junior high students. What allows this tool to be collaborative is that others may comment on the Glog. Here is an opportunity for students to engage in a digital activity as well as to respond to other students.

John Kuglin sees presentation as another critical part of 21st century learning. It doesn’t matter what field you’re going into, you’ve got to be able to collect, organize, and pull your thoughts together—typically with a team—and then present those thoughts in a way that is understandable to other people. Collaboration and presentation are absolutely tied together.

I so appreciate what Andrew Marcinek has shared – One of our best resources as learners is our ability to connect. We can connect like never before and have the opportunity to engage with others from around the world on a daily basis. If we can learn anything from the web 2.0 generation it is that the ability to share and learn from each other is limitless.

With the many tools that are now available to us, it just takes time to explore and to see what works best for us. Here is another list of tools that you may find helpful.

Once you have used a tool for a project, come back and share your story. Many of us would love to hear what you are finding to be helpful to you in your ministry.

Encountering a Virtual Mystagogy

Welcome to our guest blogger, Carmen Cayon!

Carmen Cayon

Carmen Cayon

This year I began a new position as Director of Faith Formation and Evangelization. As I gathered the RCIA team I introduced our blog site; Incarnation Catholic RCIA as a tool we could use to better communicate with each other and with our catechumens.

Our Core Team consists of “Digital Immigrants” and the challenge: how to sell these catechists on the value of a blog site. As I reflected on this challenge, I realized that I am part of the problem. I allow my own fears and bias’ to affect the way I think about blogs. Therefore, part of my work has to be to surround myself with digital natives, those whose way of thinking is not impacted by the same fears that I hold for the new frontier our Holy Father calls the “digital continent”.

Areas that I believe our RCIA blog will help our parish:

  • Fosters friendships through continuing dialogue
  • Cultivates a sense of community by getting to know each other’s needs better
  • Provides a way to communicate our mission as Catholics through continuing catechesis
  • Inspires us with the “big picture” by providing a place to post and dialogue about how God communicates his love for us through visible signs.
  • Deepens the Catholic identity experience through links to other valid Catholic sites

 

Being around “Digital Natives” helps me see that the digital continent can be holy ground. We must confront our fears, assess our own biases, and learn from those who have an openness and flexibility toward a new way of being there for one another.

Am I suggesting that we throw out the old ways of communicating; ie, physically gathering each week, emails, sending cards or notes in the mail….absolutely not! Most of our RCIA participants are used to the new way of being community – they “Skype” with their peers regularly, use their cell phones for everything from checking the time to sending instant images of a moment in their day. For this generation, their world is much more interactive that mine was. As noted by Bishop Ron Herzog, USCCB Communication Committee, in his address to the Catholic Bishops at the November 2010 Assembly, “We have to be enculturated. It’s more than just learning how to create a Facebook account. It’s learning how to think, live and embrace life on the Digital Continent.”

This is a new kind of evangelization that our Church is calling us to, we must not ignore it!

RCIA Core Team

RCIA Core Team

Carmen Cayon is the Director of Faith Formation and Evangelization at Incarnation Catholic Church, Tampa, Florida.

Next Week – Online Collaboration & Communication Tools

Photo Credit: Photography by Cayon (c) 2010.

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