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Computer Science Fundamentals For Grades K-5

In today’s education space, it’s hard to have a discussion without the acronym STEM or STEAM being injected. And whichever side of the debate you fall on – including Arts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics grouping, or not – all would agree that an emphasis on teaching students the basics of programming across all grade levels is moving toward broad adoption by schools. Challenges to adoption are introduced, particularly at lower elementary levels, where teachers already span multiple disciplines and may not have confidence to teach areas with heavy technical emphasis.

Code.org recently released a new K-5 Computer Science curriculum to help with this need. The Computer Science Fundamentals Courses A-F includes interactive graphical lessons in the Blocky coding environment, an offshoot of MIT’s popular Scratch environment. Lessons start with pre-readers manipulating arrow icons to build a set of commands which moves a popular Angry Bird character to pounce on the enemy Pig character. In the process, kids are improving critical thinking skills and learning coding concepts such as algorithms (a fancy word for instructions), sequencing, conditionals, and functions.

But the curriculum is not all about online lessons. There are a long list of “unplugged” activities for teaching these same concepts. From planting a seed to binary bracelets to songwriting, the unplugged activities are geared to get students out of their seats and using coding skills in concrete ways. The entire curriculum, included detailed lesson plans for the unplugged activities, is available in this 350 page PDF document.

Code.org doesn’t stop there, however. The most exciting piece of the puzzle for teachers is the excellent professional development resources available for those who want to learn to teach computer science with this curriculum. They offer free one day workshops for K-5 teachers which …

‘provide an intro to computer science, pedagogy, overview of the online curriculum, teacher dashboard, and strategies for teaching “unplugged” classroom activities’

If you cannot make it to a workshop, they offer the same concepts in an online self-paced course. Teachers not only learn the basics of Computer Science, but they also get to test drive the online programming modules that the students will experience. And, if your enquiring mind is wondering, yes, there are Angry Birds for teachers too!!

What better way to STEAM into the new school year than with the free resources from Code.org.

Code Studio: Kid tested, teacher approved

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512 – De-Stressing Presentations

WELSTech concludes our summer long focus on Ministry Resources with a toolkit for all of you who do presentations. Who doesn’t anymore? Take the stress out of the technology and focus on your content with these helpful tools and tips. Plus, Martin shares his video creation tool of choice, and Sallie fumbles a title, yet again!

The discussion:

On the road with confidence – Presentations can be stressful enough without concerns of projection, sound, and internet access. Martin shares the contents of his Portable Presentation Toolkit in our final Ministry Resource of Summer 2017.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured video:

New on the WELSTech Product Demos YouTube Playlist is Green Screen by DoInk App Enables Creation of Green Screen Effects on iPad & iPhone.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 513 – September is a month for meetings as WELSTech returns to our regular schedule. Release date: Wednesday, September 6.

Get involved:

506 – Robot Ministry

This week on WELSTech Sallie shares the details of a robotics camp she and Kevin ran last week. Chromebook tips and classroom screen sharing round out a show focused on education…and ministry.

The discussion:

iBot, uBot, mBot – Sallie shares her recent Robot Camp experience and how the format can be replicated in church or school settings.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured video:

This week we feature one of the most popular videos ever from Your Time of Grace – 4 Tips For Reading Your Bible – on the WELSTech Instructional playlist on YouTube.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 507 – Martin is up to bat in the summer ministry resources series. Tune in. It’s sure to be a tech home run for your ministry! Release date: Wednesday, July 26.

Get involved:

Robot Camp

Recently my husband and I hosted a Robot Camp – 5 nights and 8 young men entering 6-9 grade, each with an mBot robot building kit and a computer for programming the mBot. The kids who attended learned about the inner workings of robots – things like electromagnetism in motors and echolocation in distance sensors. They built their robots then spent the remainder of the week learning coding so their robots could do tricks. The concepts taught and methods used could be duplicated in school, after-school or camp settings throughout our synod.

The students arrived with varying degrees of programming knowledge and experience, so to get started, we used the free printable Coding a LEGO maze resource (without LEGOs) from the Research Parent site. It’s a great “unplugged” way to introduce coding concepts including if statements and loops.

After that warm-up, we moved on to coding in mBlock. mBlock is based on the popular graphical coding language Scratch. What differentiates mBlock from Scratch is the addition of Robot commands to control LED lights, sound, movement, distance sensing and line following. mBlock commands are transmitted to the robot via a USB cable included with the robot.

Visit the mBlock download page to install the free software. Besides using mBlock on PC, Mac and Linux computers, there is also a mobile app and a Chrome browser version of the software which is in beta. If you need help, check out the Getting Started with mBlock guide.

Coding concepts we covered during the week included ….

  • If-then-else statements
  • Loops
  • Variables
  • Random numbers
  • Custom blocks, a.k.a. subroutines

With those tools in their arsenal, the students were able to create all types of programs for their robots, including …

  • Sounds – police siren and ice cream truck
  • Songs – including Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and the Star Wars Imperial March
  • Lights
  • Speed
  • Turns
  • Line sensor
  • Multiple programs with press of a button
  • Obstacle avoidance
  • Mazes – required precise speed, distance and turns
  • BattleBot arena – avoid collisions and stay in the arena the longest

We shopped around a bit and found the mBots at Monoprice.com for $69.99. At that price point, they proved to be a great option for teaching robotics basics as well as introducing coding concepts.

mBot Robot Kit – One Robot Per Child

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487 – A Family Friendly Internet

Tune in to WELSTech this week for Sallie’s show and tell of a recent parent talk she led covering positive uses of the Internet for kids and families. You’ll also learn about an opportunity to host a theater showing of the new Martin Luther movie from WELS and be inspired for Lent by Martin’s ministry resource.

The discussion:

Discerning hearts – Parental (and teacher) responsibilities in the digital age are like never in history with many streams of digital media available at the fingertips of our children. Sallie shares resources from a recent presentation on Positive Uses of the Internet for Kids & Families to assist with teaching children to have discerning hearts.

News in tech:

Amazon’s massive AWS outage was caused by human error

WELS now:

Host a Screening of “A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy”

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Featured video:

The newest addition on the WELSTech Product Demos YouTube playlist is MaKey MaKey – An Invention Kit for Everyone.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 488 – In the next installment of the WELSTech Social Media for Ministry series, we look at social photo sites Flickr & Google Photos. Release date: Wednesday, March 15.

Get involved:

478 – 2017: Focus on Ministry Resources

WELSTech starts the new year with a resolution — more and better ministry resources! We kick of the new year with a Bible reading plan and morning routine resources. Join us for 2017 as we find intersections between technology and ministry.

The discussion:

WELSTechversary – Martin and Sallie discuss the milestone 9th anniversary of the weekly WELSTech podcast and share plans for in-depth Ministry Resource posts in 2017.

The interview:

Sphero, my hero – Mark Meyer, Technology Director at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School in Greenvile, WI, shares his experience introducing coding at the grade school level using Code.org and Sphero, a small robot which lets students have a ball!

WELS now:

New Interactive Faith webcasts start February 1 at 6 pm and 8 pm CST

  • Led by Rev. Randy Hunter from St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Madison, WI
  • A study on enriching marriages. Couples will have the opportunity to build their marriage on the gospel of Jesus through the study entitled “Mysterious Marriage.” This study will examine how the gospel gives you the power to be married and how marriage gives you a way to show the gospel.

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Featured video:

Watch Immanuel is a Thankful Church!, shared by Mark Meyer and the newest addition to the WELSTech “Likes” list on Vimeo.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 479 – Martin and Sallie take a deep dive into using YouTube for ministry. Release date: Wednesday, December 11.

Get involved:

471 – 200 Pixels

We’ve arrived at another community feedback week on WELSTech, and the sites and resources shared are functional, friendly, free, and favorable for furtherance of ministry. 😀 Sallie’s coding Minecraft sheep to produce diamonds, Martin’s scanning historic photos with his smart phone, and WELS has a new youth ministry resource worth checking out. Listen & learn!

The discussion:

Tab-palooza – Sallie’s loaded up a whopping 27 tabs of WELSTech goodness for this week’s WELSTech community feedback discussion. From G Suite tricks and updates to ministry tech ideas for the upcoming Advent and Christmas season to a tool for creating virtual reality scenes, there’s something for everyone!

News in tech:

WhatsApp Video Calling

WELS now:

Forward in Christ archive

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

New Youth Ministry Resource AvailableOrder from NPH

Featured video:

Learn more about the Transformed program for Youth Ministry by watching Pastor Jon Enter’s 2016 Youth Rally Transformed Workshop, the newest addition on the WELSTech “Likes” list on Vimeo.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 472 – We’re giving thanks WELSTech-style as we talk with Pastor Andrew Schroer, author of 364 Days of Thanksgiving. Release date: Wednesday, November 23.

Get involved:

468 – Coding Literacy with Jason

Tune in for a coding in education discussion on this week’s WELSTech. Jason Schmidt guest hosts with Martin and Sallie as we look at the trends detailed in the NMC K-12 Horizon Report 2016, and how the adoption of computational thinking across the curriculum might look in our WELS classrooms.

The discussion:

Coding as a Literacy – Jason Schmidt makes his 2016-17 season debut on WELSTech, bringing his own brand of sunshine to the edtech discussion space. Today we look at the New Media Consortium K-12 Horizon Report 2016 and specifically the short-term trend of coding as a literacy.

News in tech:

WELS now:

There’s still time to participate, but these events are ending this week:

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Free Bible Images for Advent and Christmas

Featured video:

We celebrate the 499th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation with this week’s music video, A Mighty Fortress is Our God by Koine, from the WELSTech Music YouTube playlist.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 469 – Staff Minister Dan Schoeffel joins the conversation to share information on Internet addictions. Release date: Wednesday, November 2.

Get involved:

446 – Rainy Days with the SRCTC

Tune in to WELSTech this week for edtech sunshine in the form of SRCTC Jason Schmidt. The discussion topic covers a variety of outdoor and rainy day tech ideas for educators including geocaching, astronomy and coding. This show also includes excited news for Chromebook users, summer training opportunities and a site for purchasing low-priced smartphones and tablets.

The discussion:

Rainy dayEeekk, a rat! – Martin and Sallie are joined by WELSTech’s SRCTC (Semi-Regular Classroom Technology Correspondent) Jason Schmidt, Tech Coordinator in the Bennington Public School District in the Omaha, NE area, for a discussion of outdoor and rainy day tech projects for the classroom.

News in tech:

Android apps, coming to a Chromebook near you

WELS now:

Picks of the week:

Featured video:

Enjoy this fun MLC Day video from Lakeside Lutheran High School, a new addition to the WELSTech Promo playlist.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 447 – Martin and Sallie broadcast from the CMM with a preview of several upcoming summer series. Release date: Wednesday, June 1

Get involved: