Thursday, June 30, 2011

tech tools in ministry: writeboard, kindle and snapz pro

Over the last 6 months, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about and then putting to use in ministry, a number of new tech tools;

  • writeboard for worship planning
  • kindle for speaking
  • snapzpro for teaching

For those interested, here’s a run down …

Writeboard for worship planning. At Uniting College over this year, we’ve made changes to our worship, by inviting students to form a team with a couple of lecturers and together, over a semester, share together in the planning and leading of worship. The hope is that this is part of creating a safe space in which people can grow in their worship leading skills, take some risks and try some new things.

However the students who formed around me this semester were geographically spread. Getting together physically to plan was going to be impossible. So I tried using writeboard, which is simply a white-board in cyberspace.  Two weeks out I would place up the lectionary texts and over a week, people would scrawl their thoughts. One week out I would suggest a theme that I thought was emerging from the scrawl. I would place it on a new writeboard along with the standard parts of worship – call to worship, thanks, confession, Scripture reading, engaging the word, response, communion, prayers for others, benediction – and over the week, folk would offer to take a segment and write their initial ideas.

Writeboard allows you to make multiple versions, plus make comments on each version. So there was lots of to and fro, and a run sheet that would go through multiple iterations, as people making comments back and forth. 

Then after the event, I’d create a third writeboard, on which people would reflect on what had gone well, what could have gone better and what questions it had raised for them about worship and ministry.

The upshot was a genuine sense of collaboration in worship, some real creativity, shared by people who would otherwise have not been able to meet or participate, all thanks to a piece of technology.

Kindle for speaking. I was over in Melbourne speaking last week. When walking into a new group, I generally go with my speaking notes, but an awareness that a change of tack might be needed. After my first session, I realised that my next session was going to need a different approach. Which was fine, because I had some notes on my computer. But no access to a printer. Then I remembered that I’d read somewhere that a Kindle could take PDF’s. So a quick export of my computerised speaking notes to PDF, dropped onto my Kindle and presto – I have notes.

Feedback was mixed. Some thought I was just a fancy tech show off. Others commented that it made my presentation cleaner – no printed notes to discard.

Snapzpro for distance teaching. In February I was talking distance learning with Tim Bulkeley. He shared his opinion that students at distance don’t want a class-room lecture repeated. Nor do they want a great slab of lecture notes written out in full. He suggested a 20 minute summary, to lay alongside some notes and readings. At a similar time, Jonny Baker mentioned Snapzpro, a computer programme that captures whatever is on your screen, saving it as a video file. The added bonus, it embeds audio. This meant that I could speak to my Keynote presentation and have it all rolled into one video.

So I offered 6 of our distance students the chance to engage in an online version of my on-site class – Reading cultures. Each week I would send them a PDF of my lecture notes. Plus I used Snapzpro to record my voice, over the top of my Keynote presentation, summarising in about 20 minutes the lecture. Where I would offer a group activity in a face to face class, I would ask the distance student to pause the video and do the exercise themselves. Then I would show them onscreen what the class had come up with, so giving folk at distance a sense of being part of a wider learning community. Here is one example.

space and place in reading cultures from steve taylor on Vimeo.

The class on Reading Cultures involved a group project and I suggested the distance group have a go at becoming a group by distance. Much to my delight, at the end of the course, they sent me their assignment, in the same genre that I had provided them with lecture notes, as an embedded video file, with sound. Here’s part 1 (of 3).

Motville UC Festival of Lights Presentation Part 1 from Mike Wardrop on Vimeo.

Overall, it’s been a more efficient, and enjoyable way to teach at distance. It really suits my style of teaching, which is fairly interactive and seems to promote a greater sense of connection – with me and with the class, than I have previously sensed from distance learning.

Posted by steve at 09:34 PM


  1. we should share tech notes sometime. I’ve been using snapz pro for years, and I’d never heard of whiteboard…

    Comment by craig — June 30, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

  2. err… writeboard. the uniting leaders site might be helpful too.

    Comment by craig — June 30, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

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