Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Posts tagged ‘RSS’

Google Tools Knowledge

Google Earth

Entry to Google Earth

When you’re looking for FREE tools, Google provides several options.  Take a moment to learn about the 57 Useful Google Tools You’ve Never Heard Of! Yes, Google has broadened its Internet horizon.  It is not just a search engine!

Google Tools can be an important part of every catechist’s tool kit. All you need is a computer with Internet access in your parish, school, or home.  Often we would like to have our students go beyond what they have learned in the classroom. Or maybe we would like to ENHANCE a class session with technology.

Together, let’s begin a conversation of how we might use or how we have used a Google Tool in catechesis.  This week let’s look at two Google Tools – Reader and Google Earth!

1.      Reader : Use what you learned about RSS Feeds! With RCIA candidates who want to learn more about their faith, demonstrate how they can ADD a subscription for a topic like “Catholic”.  Show them a “Add A Subscription” feature.  Go through the list and talk about how to locate and find “Quality” Catholic blogs.  You may find the USCCB statement, Your Family and Cyberspace helpful to refer to.  This document is a reminder of how we need to carefully choose Catholic content that is web published.

2.      Google Earth : Start with a visit to Google Earth for Educators.  When you are ready, click on the Download link.  To learn more about using Google Earth, go to Build Google Earth Skills.  There is a self-paced tutorial that will provide a great overview of what you are able to do with the Google Earth Tool.  Now let’s think of how to apply this tool while we are teaching our religion classes.

Google Earth for Educators

Let’s consider how we could use this tool during Lent when a pilgrimage to the Holy Land would be most desired.  After you have downloaded the Google Earth app to your computer, load Google Earth on your computer.

a)     In your layers section of Google earth, click on the following (Roads, 3-D Buildings, Ocean, and Gallery):

Google Earth Layers
Layers section of Google Earth

b) In the Search “Fly To” Field type “Jerusalem”

Search for Jerusalem

The "Search" Fly to area

c) Once you have arrived in Jerusalem, Israel hover your mouse over the “Google Earth Community logo ( i ) to locate the “Jerusalem Pool of Siloam (Traditional ) Location.  A window with a photo, links, and a brief explanation will be shown.

Going to the Pool of Siloam (Traditional)

Pool of Siloam (Traditional)

Visiting the Pool of Siloam

d) Then click on the “Category – Footsteps of Jesus” .  You will be taken to the Footsteps of Jesus website.

Footsteps of Jesus Website

The Footsteps of Jesus web page

d) Once you are here, you can click on the locations.  A photo and brief description will show on your screen.

Jerusalem Visiting Bethany
Visiting Bethany

So now you have a virtual trip to the Holy Land.  Of course, you could just go the Sacred Destinations website.  However, by integrating Google Earth into the lesson, we can get the feeling of what it is like to go from your home city to the city of Jerusalem in Israel.

I would love to hear from my readers how you have been using any of the Google tools in your catechetical ministries.  They are FREE.  Only requiring access to a computer or a smart phone with internet access.  (Yes Google Earth is an iPhone App).

I am looking forward to hearing from you!  We are the pioneers leading the way for others.  It is our sharing with one another that will help each one of us learn new ways to integrate technology into our catechetical ministries.

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

RSS Feeds: Save Time and Organize Great Content

Welcome to our guest blogger – Joyce Donahue  

Joyce Donahue

Joyce Donahue

For many people, RSS feeds are a mystery. You see the ubiquitous orange-and-white box logo all over the internet, but unless you know the real benefits of feeds, they may simply represent another time-consuming complicated thing to learn about that you tell yourself you will deal with “someday”.  Actually, they are pretty easy to use.  Best of all, they can help you organize frequently updated web  content to keep you in the know.

An RSS feed is, simply defined, a way to notify you that something has been added or changed on a website. Once you subscribe to a site’s feed, you receive alerts whenever new posts, events, or photos are added so that you don’t have to keep coming back to check to see what’s new – thus saving you time and trouble and reminding you to visit new content. A great basic explanation of RSS feeds can be found here .

The RSS video will show you how subscribing to feeds in Google Reader works.

Why should you follow web pages using a feed? One of the most useful is the blog feed.  A strategy often recommended to help begin a blog is to start following other people’s blogs and adding occasional comments, so that you learn the protocols of blogging.  In addition, following blogs, newsfeeds, photo streams, or websites is a great way to keep up with new information and ideas, interesting news, and to be exposed to a variety of opinions about topics of interest. There are many great sites – on ministry, catechesis, teaching techniques, technology, and much more.  I personally follow about 180 feeds at the moment. (Thankfully, they don’t all post new content every day!)

So, how do you follow a feed?  Look first on any web page for the orange and white box indicating an RSS feed. If you don’t see that, look for the initials “RSS.”  Click on it to subscribe. Normally, you are given a choice to subscribe via an email or by using a reader.  When you are just beginning to follow feeds, you may wish to subscribe by email.  However, if you find yourself following a number of feeds, a feed reader, such as Newsgator, Page Flakes, RSS Owl or Google Reader allows you to organize them all into one place and even to create folders to arrange them by categories.  Since I regularly use the Google Reader, which is one of the most versatile and easy to use, let me explain how I use it.

Google Reader requires that you first have a free Gmail account, which is connected to Google.  You can find out how to do that here .   Once you have a Gmail account, log in and you should see Google Reader as one of your options on your account page. If not, go to the Google Reader page to download it.  You may want to check this page to see a thorough description of how it works.

Once you have the Reader, visit the page you wish to follow.   If you see the orange and white RSS box or the word RSS, click. Follow the screen prompts, choose Google, then Google Reader. If you do not see an RSS indicator, simply copy the URL from the address bar of your browser, open Google Reader, and on the upper left choose “Add Subscription” and paste in the URL, then hit “enter.”  You will see a notification indicating you have subscribed to the feed if a feed can be created.

RSS Subscriptions

RSS Subscriptions

Your subscriptions will be listed on the lower left. Click on the name of the feed to open it in the reading pane. Scan the titles of the post in the list and click to view a preview of the content.  Often you will be prompted to jump to the full version on the original web page to read more. To organize your subscriptions, you can click on the lower left, the words at the bottom “Manage Subscriptions.” A second page will appear where you can rename, unsubscribe, create folders and more.  You can also make some adjustments, such as changing which folder a feed appears in, from the bar above the reading pane.  Once you create a folder structure, you can keep similar feeds together, under such headings as news, catechesis, liturgy, entertainment, hobbies, etc.   Google Reader also allows you to tag selected feed stories as favorites.

That sounds easy, right? Want to be prompted to check the Google Reader for new content daily?  If you are using IE 7 or above, or Firefox, which have tabbed browsing, simply create a new tab and go to the Google Reader, then add that tab to your browser as a permanent home page (click “Tools” on your browser toolbar, then “Options” and add the URL of the Google Reader to your existing homepage, separated by a semicolon.  That way, each time you open your browser, a tab for the Google Reader will open and you can see by a number in parentheses on the tab how many new items there are to be checked. Your items of interest are right there whenever there is an update – ready whenever you have a few minutes to check on them – and you won’t miss the great new stuff that content providers on your favorite sites have added.

Come visit Liturgy and Catechesis Shall Kiss, Joyce Donahue’s blog on the intersection of liturgy, catechesis and culture.

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!

Share This

Share This

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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