[OK, not really very much to do with visuals, but the use of technology in a Christian Children’s program]
One of the new things we tried out at CLANkidz this year was the use of live txting to get feedback and responses from children during the week. This worked very well so here is what we did…
1 – get a proper system, don’t try doing this with a spare phone:
We approached Sanctus Media to provide this for us. Which means that users can send texts to a 5 digit number with a keyword then their message. These messages were collated on a web site for us so we log onto that, review the responses coming in and output these to either powerpoint or a text file. Messages can be deleted or archived, additional keywords can be added, etc. A very easy interface to access and use, by the end of the week we found ourselves using the text file output more than the powerpoint one, and then simply pasting it into a new song in our Easy Worship software. This presented each text on its own screen at a nice large size making it easy for us at the back to skip around a little if there were lots of answers the same or to stop if it was going on too long – just a bit more flexable.
2 – build it into the program, not waiting for responses as they come in:
We started with an item in the program where you ask the audience a question, they instantly respond and the speaker waited for the responses to appear on the screen. The system can can deal with this, you log into the web page (I used a Vodafone pay as you go modem to access because it was the only true pay-as-you-go I could find), look for the responses you are interested in and keep reloading the page, messages will be visible as they arrive. When you think you have them all (or enough) export to powerpoint, open it and make it live on the screen(s).
So, while this CAN be done quickly there are a number of steps and it does take some time. Also, while we are all very familiure with texting and expect messages to arrive instantly it doesn’t always work that way especially when everyone is in the same location so using the same mobile cell. Lastly, especially relevant when used in children’s work, children will want to see their messages on screen and WILL complain if you don’t show it because it came in too late.
So, I think it would be much better to post the question, do something and come back to view the responses at least 5-10 minutes later. This way everything is still live but there is more flexibility built in if anything slows the process down
3 – ask serious program related questions
OK, we had a week long program to play with so started the week asking things like “what’s the best thing to eat in St Andrews” (it came close between doughnuts and fish and chips), but the advantage of having more serious questions later in the week was that we could use those responces not only live, but also in the video and feedback to other organisers. It also gave us a very good way of judging what level of understanding people had without having to go around with a roving mic to get responses – and even then there would be less people able to respond and only if they were confident with a mic being presented to them.
4 – non-program usage
Because we had this system available we came up with a couple of other uses for it. The first was to ask parents for their comments and feedback to the team by adding an additional keyword. The second was to help with debrief and feedback from team after the event by using another keyword that only team members text to.
5 – be careful about getting people to know the number
When Gordon was first introducing the concept of texting the 5digit number at the start of the week he came up with a silly little tune for a jingle. This got really annoying by only half way through the week but eventually became a joke – put a little more thought than we did into this. It worked very well for remembering the number by setting it to a tune but have a good tune!
A very useful system to add to any program for adults or children. It was a good way of communicating for some people and was much better than having say a roaming mic. It meant more people could be included, added a bit of novelty and technology to the event and was very kid friendly.