Posts

644 – Five Below Cables

WELSTech is back with the final installment of our Atomic Habits book discussion as well as an interview about cyber security training for children. Martin and Sallie make their last picks of 2020, and we learn about captioning video calls. The beautiful Christmas concert from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary closes this last podcast before Christmas, and we send our best wishes to WELSTech listeners for a joyous celebration of our Savior’s birth.

The discussion

Make It Satisfying – Just in time to apply to the new year, Martin and Sallie finish their book discussion of Atomic Habits by James Clear with a look at the 4th law and taking your habits from good to great.

Join us in January for our next book discussion of The Post-Quarantine Church by Thom Rainer.

The interview

Security education – MLC second-career staff ministry student Mike Tracy shares his experience in cyber security training, and, in particular, his thoughts on training children about information security.

Picks of the week

Ministry resource

How to Add Closed Captions to a Video Call

Community feedback

WELS now

Creating digital side doors featuring Pastor Peter Hagen and the Raised with Jesus podcast from the December Forward in Christ magazine.

Enjoy the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Christmas concert.

Next time

2020 is drawing to a close, and that means it’s time to look back at some of our favorite WELSTech moments of the year.

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643 – Mind Candy

Tune in to this week’s WELSTech for a great discussion of the 3rd Law of Atomic Habits. Stay tuned in for a little bit of Elon, Van Gogh, virtual team building, and hymn previews plus lots more WELSTech goodness to enhance your public and personal ministry efforts!

The discussion

Reduce friction – Martin and Sallie return to the book discussion of James Clear’s Atomic Habits, this week focusing on the 3rd Law, Make It Easy (chapters 11-14).  Sallie even has a (short) chat with the author!

Picks of the week

Ministry resource

In the Facebook group WELS Educators During COVID-19 and Beyond, Lori Ehlke (St Paul’s, Onalaska, WI) shared an art tutorial video titled Van Gogh Nativity. Check out her YouTube channel for more – Ehlke Art.

Community feedback

WELS now

Christian Worship Hymn Preview

Next time

We wrap up our discussion of Atomic Habits (chapter 15 to the end) and chat with Mike Tracy about cyber security training for schools.

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641 – Make It Attractive

This week on WELSTech we share the story of one school’s largely digital rebranding efforts that gave them community recognition and a large enrollment increase. We also have more from our Atomic Habits book discussion, a couple of great picks of the week, free early childhood education resources and more!

The interview

Rebranding for Outreach – Brian Polfer serves on the Board of Education at Carlsbad Christian Academy, the school ministry of Beautiful Saviour Lutheran Church, Carlsbad, CA. He joins Martin and Sallie to share details of the steps they took to more than quadruple their school enrollment this year – from changing the school name to Google and Facebook advertising to a mobile-friendly website and more.

The discussion

Temptation Bundling – Martin and Sallie explore the second law of Atomic Habits by James Clear, which adds temptation (incentive) bundling to habit stacking (chapters 8-10).

Picks of the week

Ministry resource

Christmas Event Planning Amid COVID-19 from Church Tech Today

Community feedback

WELS now

ChristLight Sunday School at Home is extended through Winter and Spring!

Pastor Donn Dobberstein, Administrator of WELS Discipleship, shares thoughts on the program.

Next time

Edtech with Rachel Feld and Jason Schmidt!

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639 – Make It Obvious

Tune in for 52 minutes of WELSTech goodness including great tips on habit forming as well as special guest insight into the tech behind world mission work. There’s also recycling tips for old devices, Bible commentary discounts, church WordPress themes, and the perfect YouTube channel for budding videographers.

The discussion

Implementation and stacking – Martin and Sallie continue their book discussion of Atomic Habits by James Clear, looking at starting new habits, motivation, and the secret of self-control (chapters 4-7).

The interview

Pastor Paul Nitz recently returned from 25+ years of service as missionary to God’s people in Malawi and central Africa. Hear about his new role in World Missions and the tech that makes it all happen!

BONUS: Check out Pastor Nitz’s OneNote template for meetings for ideas on how templates can improve your work processes. Pastor Nitz writes, “I create the template in Excel and paste it in. I always choose to put in a page color to make the tables pop out. That, for me, takes care of the one thing about OneNote I really DON’T like, the huge colorless blank canvass effect.”

Picks of the week

Ministry resource

James Clear’s 3-2-1 Thursday newsletter

Community feedback

WordPress Themes for Churches – Google group discussion

WELS now

Looking for the perfect Pastor Appreciation gift? Visit Northwestern Publishing House for 25% off Bible Commentaries through October 15.

Next time

Video ministry and Atomic Habits – Make It Attractive (chapters 8-10)

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637 – Atomic Habits

This week, WELSTech starts fresh for the 2020-21 podcast season with a revised show lineup, a great interview on 21st century catechism, a new book discussion, and a couple of hardware picks of the week. There’s also community discussions around Instagram for ministry, Google for Education application requirements, and document camera recommendations. We cap it off with a celebration of 100 years of Campus Ministry!

The discussion

Back to the books – Martin and Sallie kickoff a new book discussion of Atomic Habits by James Clear with a look at the mathematics of compounding tiny changes over time to reach the tipping point and benefit from the exponential “power of latent potential.”

The interview

Catechism instruction – Pastor Paul Waldschmidt from Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, WI recently taught a summer course at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary titled Educational Technology for the Catechism Classroom. He chats with Martin and Sallie about the methods and tools he implemented in order to foster the 4Cs identified as 21st century skills – create, communicate, collaborate, and critical thinking – in his classroom.

Picks of the week

Ministry resource

Atomic Habits free resources

Community feedback

WELS now

WELS Campus Ministries celebrates their 100 year anniversary

Next time

We talk edtech with a pair of guest hosts – Rachel Feld and Jason Schmidt!

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You Got This

630 – Productivity That Lasts

WELSTech Summer has arrived with an abbreviated show format and a break from pandemic discussions this week. We’re talking productivity, including tips to stay productive long term. A new Googly podcast, wired internet solutions, progressive web apps, online lesson planning tools, and an awesome song are all part of the conversation. Press play now!

The interview and discussion:

You Got ThisProductive summer ahead – Martin and Sallie kick off the WELSTech Summer with a discussion of a recent blog post titled 7 Rules for Staying Productive Long-Term. The conversation also includes ideas for cleaning up your digital footprint this summer.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured videos/online course:

Is He Worthy? by the Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas

Next time:

We kick off our summer interview series on pandemic ministry

Get involved:

The State of Chromebooks in the Office

It is no secret that Chromebooks rule the one-to-one computing space in classrooms across WELS. I don’t have exact numbers but anecdotal observations suggest that those schools who are committed to putting computers on classroom desks have gone the route of Chromebooks or have plans to do so. And it isn’t too hard to see why. They are fairly inexpensive, easy to configure with central management tools, and fast to load and operate. Yes, you still see “traditional” Windows computers and also iPads, but by volume the numbers aren’t even close.

But what about the church or school office. At least in my visits, I rarely see faculty and staff with Chromebooks as their primary computing device. The reasons for that are also obvious, or at least they used to be. Chromebooks have very little storage, they don’t allow the installation of “traditional” office type applications like Microsoft Word and Outlook, and they don’t function well if “offline” mode, so an internet connection is a must.

Those “we can’t use a Chromebook in the office because…” reasons have pretty much evaporated! Microsoft has made their Office apps web accessible. So if you get a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet from someone you can now open it, even on a Chromebook. On top of that, modern Chromebooks now allow the installation of Android apps, so you essentially get “apps” that provide Office, or many other installable programs, which improve their usability and offline capabilities.

OK. What about the storage thing? No longer an issue either. Chromebooks come with more and more storage, or SD/USB drives to do it as well. However, with the popularity of cloud storage, local storage is less and less an issue. I have a traditional computer with 500 gigabytes of storage. I hardly use any of it since the benefits of keeping things online outweigh having things “offline.”

What about connectivity requirements of Chromebooks? What if you are on a plane or someplace where the internet isn’t. While those internet dark spots are fewer and farther between, Chromebooks and their apps now do a much better job of allowing offline access to applications and files you deem important.

One other objection to Chromebooks in the office is that most of the available hardware just isn’t as well built and easy to use as “real” computers.  I’m writing this on a Chromebook, a $299 Chromebook from Acer, the R11. I’m impressed. While an 11 inch screen wouldn’t be the first choice for this fifty-something eyes, it is actually pleasant to look at, a touch screen, flips over to use in tablet mode, and it’s resolution is more than sufficient for any tasks I’ve tried on it. In addition, it comes with a built in HDMI port for easy connection to an external monitor.

While this isn’t an article about the R11, I do have to say it is a very nice piece of computing hardware. It has two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), an SD card slot, and audio jack. But perhaps the best parts of the R11 are the input tools, the keyboard and trackpad. Awesome…especially for a device that is $299. The keyboard keys have nice “travel”, is full size, and have a nice texture to them. If I have one complaint, it’s that they aren’t backlit. The trackpad is a nice size, smooth and very responsive. There are a number of configurations available including Intel versions. I’m using the slower Celeron version, but find it perfectly usable.

I’m sold. I think in most office situations, Chromebooks are viable, and in some cases preferable. They are more secure, great battery life and of course, cheaper. There are of course certain use cases that might be more challenges. I can think of serious video editing, perhaps even page layout, although there are online options for both, plus the option for Android apps. Your mileage may vary, but I think it’s worth a try. The upsides are worth the look.

 

Related resources

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My Favorite Productivity Tip!

Rarely do productivity tips have such an impact on my life as one I picked up years ago from reading David Allen’s excellent book “Getting Things Done.” And rarely do tips I implement stick with me this long. But the tip I call “waiting for” is one I think so highly of, that today I elevate to a ministry resource. It is one of the handiest time stewardship tools I have, and I have found it invaluable in getting projects unstuck, helping co-workers/volunteers and me stay “on task”, and in general one of the only tips I’ve ever found that improves my mental health. It’s easy. Here is how it works…

Every time you ask somebody to do something (answer a question, complete a task, provide feedback, you name it), note in some kind of capture system (electronic or analog):

  1. what you asked/expect,
  2. of whom you asked it, and
  3. when you made the request.

So for instance, I ask one of my staff to email me their budget request for next year. I note the who, the what and the when of that encounter. Then at the end of each week, or more often as I have time, I review this “waiting for” list to clean up those “delegations” that have been completed, or take the opportunity to remind somebody of something I’m still waiting for.

My brain doesn’t have to try and remember the who, what and when. It just has to know I’ve captured it and will be able to review those things to circle back if necessary. One of my biggest sources of stress was always trying to remember not only when I made such a request, but even IF I had. I can’t tell you how many projects have become “unstuck” because I simply was able to return to a key moment that a request was made and others are in a holding pattern until something gets done. That “something” is now concrete, not just a fading memory that my brain churns and worries over unnecessarily.

The question I bet your asking, and perhaps the most enjoyable part of the tip, at least for me anyway is, where do you capture this stuff? Where is this magical “waiting for” list? Well that depends. For me, I’d say 90% of all the items on my list are captured within email. I like to use email because it is “in writing.” Perhaps more for my own sanity than anything else. I have to be clear, can use bulleted text, and can ultimately search it if necessary. What I’m “waiting for” isn’t always a return email, but that’s OK. I do have a record of the request at the very least, which, guess what…has the recipient, the time sent and the request itself in the body of the email. Perfect.

The mechanics of doing this in email is the point of my quick screencast below. But to whet your appetite, it’s super easy. By simply cc’ing yourself you can automate the tucking away of said email for future reference without you having to do anything more than hit send. See the video below for how to set this up in either Outlook or Gmail. It can easily be done in other email clients as well.

If it’s not an email, perhaps a verbal conversation (of all things!), a voicemail left, a post it note left on a desk, an instant message or text message, there are a myriad of options. If it’s digital at all, I use OneNote. I simply have a Notebook with a tab called “Waiting For”. I can take pictures with my phone, copy and paste text, even drag a voice mail. I can also jot down the relevant info with my finger on the phone app version. Sometimes I just leave a voice memo for myself right in OneNote. It is a super tool for this kind of stuff. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of OneNote, but any tool like this would serve you well (Apple Notes, Evernote, Google Keep, etc.). The key is to have as few “inboxes” as possible. For me I have my “waiting for” list in one email folder and one OneNote section. Anything beyond that would get a little complicated.

That is not to say that you couldn’t do this with pen and paper either. The trick is that it needs to be easy and always with you. For years, before I transitioned to the smartphone/OneNote approach, I used a wallet from David Allen called the TriFold Notetaker. Unfortunately it isn’t made anymore. However, for guys, any wallet with a small pad of paper and pen will do. Ladies, same thing. Just find a small notebook as your “capture” device. Then once you have those notes (remember who, what, when), you need a place to store those and then go through the contents each week to review all the week’s “waiting for” items. A file folder would work, but make sure it’s in plain site.

If you’d like to learn more about this “waiting for” list concept, just do a quick Google search on “getting things done waiting for list” and you’ll get hundreds of approaches as examples. You’ll find what works best for you. The important part of this “ministry resource” is to start capturing those “waiting for” items, keep stuff moving forward and comfort your brain that you’ve got things “under control!”

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Cloud Storage

Knowledge workers like our pastors, teachers, and staff ministers deal with “documents” pretty much everyday. They write sermons and Bible studies. They prepare reports and craft lesson plans. They write, collaborate and share. It’s just part of what they do. What they also do is try to keep all those documents organized, available and findable. Many would suggest that is no easy task.

Thankfully document management has come a long way these past few years due in no small part to cloud storage tools like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox and Box.com. If you haven’t considered bringing one of these tools into your workflow, you may want to reconsider. They offer many benefits, but also a few gotchas you should be aware of.

Benefits

  1. When using most cloud storage solutions you will have the ability to synchronize your files from device to device as well as online. Often we have workflows that include more than one device, perhaps a computer or tablet as well as a smartphone. There may even be occasions when you are away from your own devices and have to use a public one or someone else’s. No problem. Just log in to your cloud services and there are all your files.
  2. Most cloud services offer file “versioning.” With this feature collaboration on documents is safer because you can always revive a former version if something goes wrong. Even if you don’t collaborate with others, it is helpful to be able to go back through your own historical versions.
  3. Cloud services mean you may not have to spend the extra money on larger hard drives. Chances are you have many files you don’t need day to day, but may need “some day.” There is no reason to have those stored on a local hard drive. Just leave them on the cloud service, but don’t sync them. Cloud services have much better back up technologies than you do. Then when you need the file, simply sync or download it.
  4. As mentioned in number three backups are done for you. Companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple have server farms that are redundant and are designed to make sure you aren’t going to lose your files. That doesn’t mean you should have only the online copy of your files. It’s a good idea to occasionally make local copies of all the files you really can’t afford to lose. Invest in a cheap external hard drive and put a reminder on your calendar each month to update your copies.
  5. Finally, the cost of cloud storage is getting cheaper and cheaper. Competition is good and as the major cloud storage providers duke it out, the consumer enjoys very reasonable rates. Last year CNET wrote up a nice run down of the major providers and their prices.

Gotchas

Of course there are a few things you should be aware of when considering a cloud storage digital lifestyle.

  1. Be aware that someone else is holding your files so you need to trust your provider. While it’s unlikely that the major providers listed earlier will go under, there are other providers that have. Make sure you can fall back to your own copies of the files you know you will really need. Choose your service wisely.
  2. You need a stable and fairly fast internet connection. Clearly cloud based storage solutions assume you have pretty consistent access to the cloud. If you sync your files, you do have an advantage that allows offline access (another benefit not mentioned in the previous section), but if you have a need for a file that exists only in the cloud and you don’t have access to the cloud when you need it…well, that’s a problem.
  3. One thing that is often misunderstood about cloud storage solutions is that they are not replacements for backups. Most cloud syncing features only “synchronize” files. That means that if you change a file in a way you didn’t intend or accidently delete it, that will be synced too. There are cloud “backup” solutions out there like Backblaze and Carbonite. Keep in mind that they serve different purposes.

There are other benefits and gotchas, but those are more related to the actual service you choose. For instance, if you choose Apple iCloud, you can’t sync those files to a Windows machine or device. There are file size limits, and compatibility issues, etc. Just take time in picking a solution. Live with it for a few months to truly understand the goods and the bads. Then make a longer term commitment. Personally I use Google Drive and pay $2/month for 100 gigabytes for my personal files. That seems to be plenty for my usage, and Google seems to play pretty well on all systems and devices I use. Check out my brief screencast below for some of the features I find most valuable. Your mileage may vary.

In general I would recommend that knowledge workers and their organizations have more to gain than lose by using cloud services. They are mature and can greatly increase everybody’s productivity.

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17 Tips for Staying Productive

Every so often I come across a blog post that is just worth a read and re-read on a regular basis. One of those for me is one called 17 Tips for Staying Productive in Ministry by Pastor Rick Warren. There is nothing genius about any of the tips. It’s not super in depth on any one point or provide neat step by steps on calendar management or anything like that. These tips are just that. Short, useful, common sense oriented, easy to remember tips that have helped me quite a bit, and I think they can help anybody who has a lot of things to do…especially related to ministry. I encourage you to read the whole article, but here are my top five:

  1. Put your plans on paper. Write out what you want to accomplish. Spell it out. Dawson Trotman said, ”Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” If I can say it and I can write it down, then it’s clear. If I haven’t written it down, then it’s vague. A lot of us go around with anxiety which is this free-floating, vague fear that I’m not getting it all accomplished. Just the very fact of putting it down, a lot of times, gives credence and relief to your mind and you’re able to focus on it.
  2. Remind yourself of the benefits of completing the job. Jesus did this. The Bible says in Hebrews, that Jesus endured the cross because He looked to the joy beyond it. He looked beyond the cross and saw the result of it.
  3. Do a small part of it right now. In other words, Get started. Do a small part of it right now. Don’t stall. Take it a bite at a time and give it five minutes.
  4. Know your energy patterns and take advantage of peak times. Some of you are morning people. Some of you are night people. Have you learned that at some points in the day, you are brighter than at other times? You’re more alert, you have more energy. There are times when you’re habitually at your best. The only people who are at their best all the time are mediocre people.
  5. Enlist a partner. If you’ve got a big task and it’s up to you, you’ll probably procrastinate. But if you’ve got somebody else and can say, “We’re going to meet and get this thing going”, you’re more likely to get it done.

As I said, these are just a few of my favorites. I’ve found all 17 to be useful at one time or another.

Related resources

Over the years we’ve talked a lot about productivity resources on the WELSTech Podcast. So I won’t relist them here, but recently we discussed the “Bullet Journal” which fits nicely with these tips, as well as a series of reviews of the excellent book by Matt Perman entitled “What’s Best Next: How The Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.” Check those out as a good place to start on your productivity journey.

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