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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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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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502 – Be Internet Awesome

WELSTech 502 is packed with awesomeness in the form of a new digital citizenship effort from Google for middle- and upper-elementary children. Plus, Sallie has graphic organizer templates, and Martin has helpful gesture shortcuts for Windows 10. Community feedback and a mission update round out the show.

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The discussion:

Interland Flyby – Martin and Sallie look at a new release from Google, Be Internet Awesome, that boasts a curriculum and kid-friendly video game which can be used to teach all aspects of digital citizenship.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured video:

From the WELSTech “Likes” list on Vimeo, watch the Summer update from our Latin American outreach efforts through Academia Cristo.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 503 – Martin shares ideas on using iPads for ministry. Release date: Wednesday, June 28.

Get involved:

Teaching Digital Citizenship

Google recently announced a free online resource geared toward middle- to upper-elementary aged children called Be Internet Awesome. The online game, Interland, as well as supporting curriculum resources, are intended to teach kids to be smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave online.

To make the most of the Internet, kids need to be prepared to make smart decisions. Be Internet Awesome teaches kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.

Application/audience

The resources available on the Be Internet Awesome are suitable for use in both the elementary classroom as well as at home. Teachers may want to spend some of their summer prep time reviewing the Be Internet Awesome Curriculum which has been given the ISTE Seal of Alignment. The materials center around five fundamental topics:

  • Share with Care (Be Internet Smart)
  • Don’t Fall for Fake (Be Internet Alert)
  • Secure Your Secrets (Be Internet Strong)
  • It’s Cool to Be Kind (Be Internet Kind)
  • When in Doubt, Talk It Out (Be Internet Brave)

Additional resources for schools allow easy integration of Interland on school Chromebooks as well as in Google Classroom. There are posters and certificates and badges available as well.

Parents may want to download the Be Internet Awesome Pledge and make a family commitment to practicing safe digital citizenship.

Related resources

Check out these short video introductions to Be Internet Awesome and Interlands.

Overview

Interland Tour

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Common Sense Media

In today’s digital age, guiding children’s use of the many flavors of media available to them can be a daunting task. Not only are there challenges knowing enough about the many apps, websites, movies, and books, but it can sometimes be a pretty large hurdle to simply find appropriate media to consider.

CommonSenseMedia.org can help. The first few sentences of the mission of Common Sense Media give site visitors an idea of what to expect on the site.

Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

Application/audience

As the mission statement suggests, Common Sense Media is great for parents and teachers. In church and school settings, it would certainly be appropriate to share the site with anyone who has responsibilities involving children up to age 18. This includes Lutheran school teachers, but also may be helpful for those who lead after school care and Sunday school. The digital citizenship curriculum available from the site can be adopted by schools and has units for use in grades K-12.

Church and school communication can be used to encourage parents to explore the resources available on the site. For example, consider newsletter or bulletin blurbs pointing to Common Sense Media when movies of interest are released, reminding parents to consider the age recommendations and areas of concern identified in the posted movie review.

Watch this brief video tour of CommonSenseMedia.org to learn more about the resources available on the site.

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Free Bible Images

Teachers of all flavors recognize the importance of having just the right image to support the lesson they are preparing. And the fact that cameras are a rather recent invention in relation to the full historic timeline limits the ability to do a quick Internet search and find the perfect photo for every lesson. This is especially true when it comes to images from Bible times, and it makes FreeBibleImages.org a highly recommended ministry resource.

Application/audience

The site name is self-explanatory. It exists to share all types of images of the Bible for my favorite price … FREE!! The image sets have a variety of copyrights associated with them, from public domain to creative commons by attribution and non-commercial to copyright retained and only accessible for education purposes, so read carefully and take steps to comply. It’s well worth the effort as most are provided in two aspect ratios – 4:3 and 16:9 – and in Powerpoint, Keynote, PDF and JPG formats. Something to fit all those flavors of teachers mentioned earlier!

I prepared a quick overview video to orient you to the site offerings. I’d welcome comments on how you use Free Bible Images in your ministry setting!

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Jeopardy for Church and School

Teachers are always looking for positive ways to engage their students in the learning process. In addition, team game play can be a great fellowship activity for any group – all church events, teens, etc. At JeopardyLabs.com, users can create free Jeopardy games using their own question banks. The games are accessible from any device, including tablets and smartphones.

Application/audience

JeopardyLab games can be created for all types of Q&A sessions including review of catechism lessons, Sunday school materials or any school subject. It is also appropriate for a fun team game at church fellowship events. Check out these samples:

Related resources

Another option for creating Jeopardy games is with a PowerPoint or Google Slides template.

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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.

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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:

473 – Makerspaces

This week on WELSTech, our inner-nerdiness comes out as Rachel Feld joins the edtech conversation for a look at the popular trend, Makerspaces. Martin shares info on several affordable options in the Internet of Things realm, there’s WELS music for the Christmas season available, as well as a special Pinterest board full of ideas for Advent.

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The discussion:

Design, create, iterate – It’s education week on WELSTech! Martin and Sallie are joined by Rachel Feld, 1st and 2nd grade teacher from Bethany in Kenosha, WI, and the topic du jour is Makerspaces. The New Media Consortium Horizon Report 2016 K-12 Edition (p. 36-37) identified Makerspaces as an important development in K-12 education technology. Find out why and hear ideas about adding a makerspace to your school.

News in tech:

Google Home

WELS now:

WELS Seasonal Radio

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Check out Rachel’s Advent board on Pinterest

Featured video:

The newest addition on the WELSTech Presentation/Teaching YouTube playlist is Get Going with Your School Maker Faire.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 474 – Prof. Bill Pekrul, Director of Public Relations at Martin Luther College, joins Martin and Sallie to talk about church and school promotion. Release date: Wednesday, December 7.

Image information:

The feature image used on this post is courtesy of Flickr user 5chw4r7z and is licensed for reuse and modification under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0. We modified the image by cropping to our standard feature image size.

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464 – Rachel to the Rescue

This week on WELSTech, Martin is joined by teacher Rachel Feld, who makes her debut as WELSTech’s newest guest host. They talk edtech, particularly in the Apple space, and share news of Yahoo’s recent security breach, plus picks and a Reformation resource sure to thrill elementary educators.

Play

The discussion:

Goodbye and hello – After 8 years of guest hosting on WELSTech, Gail Potratz, Technology Director at Emanuel in New London, WI, has laid down her microphone to make room for others. Fortunately for our WELSTech community, Martin, and Sallie, we have a new “semi-regular classroom technology correspondent” to introduce, Rachel Feld, 1st and 2nd grade teacher from Bethany in Kenosha, WI. This week we get to know Rachel and learn more about iPads in her classroom.

News in tech:

What Consumers Need to Know About Yahoo Security Breach

WELS now:

Martin Luther College Speaker’s Bureau

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Reformation Flannelgraph

Featured video:

Brand new on the WELSTech Product Demo YouTube playlist is the Bloomz Overview video.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 465 – Join Martin and Sallie for a discussion on privacy. Release date: Wednesday, October 5.

Get involved: