Friday, July 29, 2011

Intercom Website Reviews

My June website reviews for the ever awesome Intercom (subscribe today!!!)

The official website of the Catholic Bishops has been revamped and is well worth visiting and bookmarking if you have not done so already. The site is very user friendly and easy to navigate which is useful as the site contains a huge amount of information and resources. Use the tabs at the top of the page to navigate the main sections of the site; news, features, publications, multimedia and the calendar. The multimedia section is excellent and contains audio and video files on important developments in the Catholic Church which are hosted on YouTube and therefore easily shared on social media and parish website. Particularly noteworthy are the new resources on the New Missal, including videos and resources from the National Centre for Liturgy.

The new Vatican news website is an excellent website featuring rich audio-visual media that can be easily shared on social networks. According to the Vatican, the website was ultimately created to ‘dialogue with the world.’ The site aims to gather news from all parts of the Catholic world and make it easy to absorb and discuss it. Since ‘dialogue’ is the ground of the modern communication revolution, this new site is bound to please the online Catholic community. The site also appears to have embraced a recurring criticism of previous Vatican websites that they tended to be quite drab. The site is colourful and contains content that changes quickly, surely a sign that the Vatican is embracing the fast paced, information hungry Internet. It includes Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter integration, streaming video, blogs, and a full archive of media. And mobile fans need not worry: everything on the site is fully accessible through iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. the news portal will offer live-streaming of papal events, audio clips from the Vatican Radio, pictures from the newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and printed transcripts of papal homilies, statements and speeches. Each of the Vatican media represented on the portal, including the Vatican Television Centre and the Vatican press office and information service, will retain their independent websites.
While the portal will initially offer two languages, English and Italian, the Vatican plans to add German, French, Spanish and Portuguese versions to the website over time. The Vatican may also add a search function and a distinct link to the Vatican homepage.  And yes, I am jealous of the fact the Pope has an iPad :)

The website of the Pontifical Council for the Laity was updated recently and now is split into four main sections-associations and movements, youth, women, and the Church and Sport. The website is a good source of resources for those who would like to know more about the role of the laity in the Church. The site has yet to embrace the design of more modern sites but is worth taking the time to navigate and see what is available.

Lastly for those who have embrace Twitter make sure to follow the Intercom magazine @IntercomJournal and give your feedback on content as well as what you would like to see included in future features!

The Great Isaiah Scroll

Photo of the Great Isaiah Scroll (well chapters Chapters 58:6–65:4) Photo Credit

The Isaiah manuscript A is one of seven scrolls discovered in Qumran in 1947. In subsequent years some 950 scrolls, most of them fragmentary, were found in this region. Of these, 200 are biblical (i.e. Old Testament) and represent all the books of the Bible, many in numerous copies, except the Books of Esther and Nehemiah.

This is the largest and best preserved scroll, and the only biblical book that survived in its entirety. The 54 columns contain all 66 chapters, without a marked division between what modern scholarship regards as First and Second Isaiah. The scroll is one of the oldest Dead Sea Scrolls.

The full scroll available to view on the Israel Museum website and is well worth taking the time to download. Apart from just dribbling over it showing my true nerdiness, I'm also using it in my classes on Isaiah and in a more general was, to demonstrate how an ancient scroll would have been used.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blog Roll

I've finally got around to tiding up my Blog Roll, some Wordpress users have got even fancier (yes James McGrath, I'm talking about you and your lovely and have moved to Patheos which has a gorgeous layout and well worth a look in its own right. Some discontinued blogs have gone, though I just can't seem to let go of Hebrew Tattoos even though it has been over a year since the last post.

I've added Ken Brown's C.Orthodoxy which I've been following for a while but never added. Check out the great review of the new Harry Potter film. I've also managed to find another woman out there, Suzanne McCarthy on Suzanne's Bookshelf-worthy winner of the June 2011 Top Biblioblogs. Have a look at their list of biblioblogs and the Reference library for more great bloggers!

Let me know if you've any more recommendations (or can find any more broken links!)

Your Christmas Gifts sorted

Finally, proof that I do more that post cartoons on my blog-the book I wrote as part of my postdoctoral research in the Milltown Institute and which was funded by the Irish Jesuits (no longer can I confuse people by saying I’m a Jesuit postdoctoral student. Yes women can get funding too....). Publishing your first book is weird. I can’t think of any academic terminology that better sums the experience up, so I’m going to stick with “weird” for the time being. Having your work out there for people to read and comment on without you sitting over their shoulder explaining yourself has to be one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done (and I’ve tried to teach sexual ethics to the fifth years). I was ridiculously lucky to get a contract with Continuum (who are now owned by Bloomsbury, so I can legitimately say that myself and J.K. Rowling share the same publisher) who were very patient with all my spelling mistakes and my naive idea that it was a good call to publish something with English, Classical Arabic, Hebrew and Greek in it. English all the way in the next one I swear...

So give a kid a break and buy a copy for friends, family, co-workers....the dog...just once they don’t actually read it. If you want a copy for review (nice things only!) please feel free to email me or Continuum. The preview is available on Google Books and the blurb below

This book offers a welcome solution to the growing need for a common language in interfaith dialogue; particularly between the three Abrahamic faiths in our modern pluralistic society. The book suggests that the names given to God in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Qur’an, could be the very foundations and building blocks for a common language between the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths. On both a formal interfaith level, as well as between everyday followers of each doctrine, this book facilitates a more fruitful and universal understanding and respect of each sacred text; exploring both the commonalities and differences between each theology and their individual receptions.
In a practical application of the methodologies of comparative theology, Maire Byrne shows that the titles, names and epithets given to God in the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam contribute towards similar images of God in each case, and elucidates the importance of this for providing a viable starting point for interfaith dialogue.
Lordie, I've come over all American on my self-promotion, next thing will be business cards ;)

Using Word (Tag) Clouds in Teaching

I've been playing about word (or tag) clouds and teaching for a while now. My problem is that when I'm brainstorming with my students, I never know quite what to do with the results in terms of saving them for future lessons or for something that students can refer back to in their own time, for example when I use them with creative writing and ideas for an essay or story. My writing is the pits and words in a list like a word document don't ever seem to cut the creative mustard, so I've been hunting for an alternative.

While Word Clouds are not the answer to all the problems in life, they are a good start and something I'm going to try and use a bit more in class as an experiment. I use Wordle as a tool to create them but try to use others such as Taxedo, Tagcrowd, and Worditut. A word or tag cloud is simply a weighted list a visual representation for text data, typically used to depict tags on websites, or to visualise free form text. It's good to use to put together group work-for example if students are reviewing the Genesis creation accounts, you can see from the size of the word on your word cloud, the frequency it occurs in feedback.

Word Cloud for this website created on Wordle. Not sure why it looks like a hairdryer though...

Word Cloud of Exodus 15:1-18 created on Wordle.

And the Book of Jonah-I used this with some of my postgraduate students last semester when we were looking at the distribution of the divine names in the text.

Do remember that you have to set up Java to get the site to work properly and that you need to take a screen shot of the Word Cloud and crop it in a programme like Paint to save it as a png file you can work with. Most sites have a "help" section that guides you through the dumb questions :)

For more information on word clouds in education, have a look at research from Bath University (they have an excellent comparison of some of the top sites to save you the finger work), Box of Tricks (with great practical examples of use in a classroom) and more on Wordle in teaching with lots of samples. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lest I get too serious....

These all came from emails so if anyone wants to get cross about copyright infringements holla!

Website Reviews

A selection of website reviews reprinted with kind permission from the ever awesome Intercom. First published in June 2011.

The website for the Eucharistic Congress 2012 is fully up and running and if you have not viewed it for a while it is worth checking back to see how it has been updated. There is a countdown clock and the latest news now works on RSS feeds so you can easily be updated with the most up to date information. There are more videos (including Fr. Kevin Doran’s interview on EWTN regarding the preparations for the Congress) and an excellent event guide where you can search the events by each diocese. Registration for pilgrims to attend the conference opens in June and the website offers very accessible information on the different types of accommodation available, travel arrangements and information on the various programmes of Congress Week. There is also information on the Theological Symposium to be held in Maynooth, the speakers of Congress Week and an excellent “FAQ” section. The Congress Prayer and Hymn are illustrated with excellent videos and make sure to sign up for information and the e-zine. The website really contributes to both informing the public of the preparations involved in the Congress, and to raising interest and excitement in this special event.

Preparations for World Youth Day 2011 are well under way and information can be found on the official website. The website gives plenty of colourful information on the preparations in Madrid and worldwide for the event in August. The multimedia section is particulary useful, with videos, audio clips and photographs of everything from the WYD Hymn, to the stations of the Cross, to a day in the life of the diocese preparing for the influx of pilgrims. The site, taking its target audience into account, makes full use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter(@madrid11_en), XT3 and Flickr which makes for a fun and exuberant website with lots of information to explore. The website also gives the current location of the WYD Cross and Icon as it makes its own journey to the Madrid and the handy “ABC Guide” to WYD covers all practicalities that a pilgrim or an interested party may require.

Resources from Spiritfest 2011

As usual I'm playing catch up with everything I need to share! I've posted my Powerpoint and Handouts from the workshop I gave for Spiritfest 2011 in the Armagh Diocese on July 2nd. The event was a a three day festival of prayer in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress in 2012. International keynote speakers such as Fr Lawrence Freeman and Monica Brown were joined by Bishop Richard Clarke, Rev Ruth Patterson, Fr Paschal McDonnell and Professor Eamon Conway. I really njoyed the one day I attended-I got to a presentation on contemplative meditation given by Lawrence Freeman. I deliberately went to something different and was pleased with what we talked about, though it also reiterated for me the importance of knowing the time limits of your workshop or session and keeping to them! An hour on an uncomfortable chair helped me connect with my students no end! He also talked about meditation with children, the theory of which I enjoyed, but am a little skepical about the practice! Maybe I'll be brave enough to try it next year. For more info on Laurence's work have a look here.

Praying the Psalms

Praying the Psalms

The YouTube of Zucchero and Andre Bocelli singing "Miserere" or Psalm 52