Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Posts tagged ‘Blog’

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:

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 –  The other represents another elementary educator in a regular classroom –  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 

Religion Classroom Blogging


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.

Blogging Knowledge

What is a blog?  Laura Turner recently said, A blog (a blend of the term “web log”) is a type of website or part of a website.  One person usually maintains Blogs with regular entries.  Entries are typically displayed in chronological order.  Typically a blog is a combination of personal diary and a commentary guide to other information on the web.  A blog is usually a one page website, often with embedded gadgets or widgets.

What I feel is missing in Turner’s description, is that a blog is about entering into a conversation with your audience.  It is to involve a two-way conversation between yourself (the blogger) and those who are reading your blog.  If you want a one-way conversation, that is a traditional website that simply shares information with others and does not engage the participant in the overall conversation.  The conversation allows the blog to be part of the social media environment that surrounds us today.

So what do we need to know about blogging in ministry?  Blogging is a form of social media and getting involved with social media is encouraged by our Bishops.  Check out:

Bishops Urged to Embrace Social Media in Order to Effectively Evangelize ‘Digital Continent’ and the recent Catholic News Service article by Cindy Wooden – The printed word: Meeting looks at challenges for Catholic press.

You’re reading a blog now, that is focused on meeting the need of a specific audience – ministers who are interested in integrating technology into their catechetical or parish ministries.  When I explore Catholic blogs, I have discovered two resources – 2009 Catholic Blog Awards and the Catholic Blog Directory.

As you begin to think about writing a blog, I encourage you to choose several blogs from these resources and identify what folks are writing about.  Try to determine the intended audience and the mission of the blog.  Is it clear?  What do you like about the blog?  What would you improve?  Will your blog be a duplication of what another is doing or will it be unique?

You have probably discovered that there are excellent blogs, mediocre blogs, and awful blogs!  Why – Anyone can publish today.  We all have different skills! So, if you are going to start a blog – be clear about why and who you are serving!  Once you are clear about who and what you are writing about, then I suggest the following steps:

  1. Decide on who your audience will be.
  2. What will you communicate to this audience?  Is this blog to inform? teach? engage others in learning more about their faith? Other?
  3. How often will you post a blog page? Once a week?  Daily? Monthly?  Other?
  4. Briefly outline the first five blog posts, if possible outline what you will write about for the first quarter of the year.  Remember in starting a blog, you are making a commitment to starting a conversation with your audience!
  5. Invite a few friends or colleagues to be part of the beginning of this blog.  Share your thoughts and ideas with them.  Ask them to give you feedback as you continue to develop the blog.
  6. If possible, invite someone to read your posts before they are published online.  This way you can “polish” the text to make sure it has good grammar, correct spelling, and great information for your readers.
  7. When you’re ready, then choose your blog tools!
  8. Once you have chosen your tool, you’re ready to post your thoughts and reflections.  Remember to complete your profile with your photo and background information.  Your readers want to meet you and know something about you.

Now I mention blog tools, as what you are going to create involves more than just adding text to your post.  Check out the 10 Free Blogging Tools I Just Can’t Live Without by  Susan Gunelius. There are wonderful suggestions here as sometimes you will need photo’s and at other times you will need to edit photo’s.

To learn what others are saying about the blog tool you might choose for your blog, visit Forbes Blog Tools to become more familiar with the following tools: WordPress, Blogger, Blogsome, Movable Type, Textpattern, B2evolution, Live Journal, MSN Spaces, Squarespace, Typepad, and Yahoo 360.  I’m using WordPress and you may enjoy using any one of these tools or others that you may discover.  Choose what you are comfortable with and find easy to use.  We each have personal preferences for why we use the tool we are using!

If you will be blogging with children, you may want to consider:

Class BlogMeister – Class Blogmeister is a online classroom blogging tool provided free of subscription or purchase charge by The Landmark Project, a consulting firm providing information and services for educator and education agencies..

EduBlogs – Free blogs for teachers, researchers, librarians and other educational professionals

KidBlog – This site is designed for elementary and middle school teachers who want to provide each student with their own, unique blog. Kidblog’s simple, yet powerful tools allow students to publish posts and participate in discussions within a secure classroom blogging community. Teachers maintain complete control over student blogs.

BlogEasy – BlogEasy offers free blog hosting, which is a free web page publishing and syndication service that allows users to quickly share information, such as news, reviews, blogs, journals, weblogs,

In the following articles, you will find some helpful points to keep in mind when blogging in the classroom:

How to Create a Blog for Your Classroom from – Here you will find some great suggestions of how to use a blog with a group of students.

What You Would Like To Know About Student Blogging -Here you will find answers to questions asked during a Blogging Workshop.  Very helpful hints here!

Blogs on Educational Blogging – Here you can review a variety of blogs to see how others are using a blog in an educational setting with students. As you see what other educators are doing with their students with a blog, use your imagination to see what you may create and implement with your students.

Weblogg-ed – Weblogg-ed, maintained by Will Richardson, blogevangelist and Supervisor of Instructional Technology and Communications at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, NJ. This site is dedicated to discussions and reflections on the use of Weblogs, wikis, RSS, audiocasts and other Read/Write Web related technologies in the K-12 realm, technologies that are transforming classrooms around the world.

What I discovered about blogging, is that when you feel ready, jump in with both feet.  You will learn by doing!  I am also inviting those who are using a blog as a learning tool with their students or RCIA groups to share their stories as a visiting blogger via ACyberPilgrim blog.

When you review the results of the online survey –What Technologies Do I Need to Learn This 2011 year – you will notice that our competencies in this area range from little or no experience to being comfortable.  I would encourage those who are comfortable in any of the identified areas to consider being catalysts in their own parish programs.  Many of us need to be mentored into using the tools of the 21st Century.  Thank you to all who took time to complete the survey!

Next week, you will hear from Carmen Cayon, Director of Faith Formation and Evangelization and Coordinator of Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at Incarnation Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida.  Come back to visit to hear what Carmen will share with us about using a blog in the RCIA program.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s post.  Your comments and questions about blogging are most welcome!  If you are currently implementing a blog in your ministry, please share your link and a brief story about your blog in the comments.

Please share this blog information with others!  When you click on the “Share” button at the bottom of this page, you can forward this page information via email, FaceBook, or a Tweet!  If you “like” this post, click on the “Like” button that follows this post.  Remember, blogging is an interactive medium!  Let’s read and share!

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Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

What technologies for 2011?

Today’s minister is challenged to be skilled in today’s communications technologies!  You can be a catechist, a Catholic School Religion Teacher, Principal, Director of Religious Education, Parish Catechetical Leader, RCIA Director, Youth Minister, Pastor, or any of the ministers that are important to today’s parish life.  However, you live in the 21st Century!  And 21st Century Skills are key to your being relevant today!

So did any of your New Year’s resolutions include learning new technology skills?  If yes, great!  If not, you may want to consider adding to your resolutions list!

Whiteboard and Student

Whiteboard Activity

Realistically, you may never use all of the technologies I will outline for you.  However, you need to be knowledgeable in the following technologies and how the technology could be/might be used in your ministry:

  1. Blogging Knowledge
  2. Online Collaboration & Communication Tools
  3. Database Skills
  4. Google Earth Knowledge
  5. Google Tools Knowledge
  6. IM knowledge
  7. Interactive White Board skills (Eg., Mimeo, SmartBoard, Promethium, and others)
  8. Mobile and Handheld Computing
  9. Presentation Tools
  10. RSS feeds
  11. Social Bookmarking Knowledge
  12. Social Networking Knowledge
  13. Spreadsheets Skills
  14. Video and Podcasting – especially Digital Storytelling
  15. Virtual Worlds
  16. Web Resources in content area
  17. Web Searching skills
  18. Web2.0 Tools
  19. Website design and management skills
  20. Wiki Knowledge

Over the next twenty plus weeks, I will outline for you resources, suggestions, and more for you about each of the technologies.  Remember that “blogging” is about entering into a conversation.  I invite you as readers of this blog, to enter into the sharing of the resources and thoughts and ideas you may have about any of these areas. In this audience, there are already “pioneers” who are integrating many of these technologies into their ministries.  I invite you to share your story, your links so that others may learn from you.

You may also want to quickly assess, where you are at in these skill areas.  Go to – What Technologies Do I Need to Learn This 2011 Year survey.  What is so good to see is that those who have already responded, there are some who are very comfortable with these skills, some moderately comfortable, and others who say “Thanks for putting this survey together—it’s nice to answer questions that show me how much I’d like to learn!” (Anonymous)

What Technologies

What Technologies?

I trust you will enjoy this series!  Many of us may feel like Digital Immigrants.  However, just as it is possible to learn a new language, it is possible to learn and be part of this evolving and growing Digital World.

Please share this blog information with others!  When you click on the “Share” button at the bottom of this page, you can forward this page information via email, FaceBook, or a Tweet!

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Remember, there are many ways to learn these new skills.  The following are just a few:

  • Ask your sons/daughters, nieces/nephews to mentor you.
  • Invite your Youth Minister and the youth of the parish to create a parish mentor program for catechists and parish ministers who would like to learn more about technology.
  • Follow blog articles and create a Personal Learning Network (PLN) of websites where you can learn more about technology.
  • Attend conferences like INTERACTIVE CONNECTIONS, where you can gather with other ministry folks to learn more about technology in ministry
  • Locate YouTube videos to learn how to use a new technology
  • When you attend a Diocesan Resource Day or National Catechetical conference, choose ONE Technology workshop
  • Any other suggestions?  How do you learn new technology skills?

In this wonderful 2011 year, may your resolution to learn new technology skills, bring you closer to blending our wonderful message of hope and love in face-to-face sharing as well as enhancing what you do with digital communications!

Next Week – Blogging Knowledge

Photo Credit: Photography by Cerveny (c) 2010.

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