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534 – #trackhopper

This week on WELSTech, we finish off our month-long focus on professional development by talking to Jason Schmidt about his approach to conferences, advanced degrees and helping others “sharpen” their tech skills.

The discussion:

Formal education – Just back from the Future of Education Technology Conference 2018 in an unknown destination, semi-regular education co-host Jason Schmidt shares his thoughts on certifications and advanced degrees as well as church and school financial support of staff professional development. He also shares his favorite “shiny” tech he observed at the conference – the Sharper Origin, a hand-held CNC machine (video).

News in tech:

WELS now:

  • Interactive Faith online Bible Study – Isaiah: God confronts and comforts his people – Pastor Daniel Habben from St. John’s, Antigua leads the study on Wednesday’s now through February 7 at 6 pm and 8 pm (central).
  • Mark your calendars for WELS Education, Technology, and Leadership Summit – June 25-27, 2019 at Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, WI – Sign up for information

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

MathCounts – Middle-school Math competition, club and video competition

Community feedback:

Daily video devotions from Peace in North Mankato, MN are reaching 2,000+ subscribers. tune in on Facebook (facebook.com/PeaceDevotions) or at peacedevotions.com.

Featured video:

This week’s WELSTech double feature kicks off with a sample instructional video from our Ministry Resource discussion – MathCounts Mini #77 – More Counting Using Cases.

And, new on the WELSTech Vimeo “Likes” List is WELS Year in Review.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 535 – The February WELSTech focus on training volunteers kicks off with a discussion of worship projection and an interview with Kristen Tetteh from Proclaim software. Release date: Thursday, February 8.

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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525 – Student Privacy

Rachel Feld guest hosts this week’s WELSTech as we take a deep dive into student privacy and FERPA. There are concerts and Apple/Microsoft news and rolling robots along with a good dose of common sense in this week’s episode as well. Plus we learn about “Mobiles in Ministry” from the One Latin America mission field.

The discussion:

Protecting Students – As our month-long focus on digital security wraps up, Martin Luther College Professor and WELSTech semi-regular classroom technology correspondent Rachel Feld shares information on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and its impact on schools.

WELS now:

News in tech:

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Common Sense Education

Community feedback:

Featured video:

Learn about Student Privacy 101: FERPA for Parents and Students on the WELSTech Presentation/Teaching Videos playlist.

 Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 526 – Tune in as Martin and Sallie talk about planning for the new year using awesome tech tools. Release date: Wednesday, December 6.

Get involved:

Common Sense Education

WELSTech-ers may recall a past Ministry Resource post on Common Sense Media, a site which features reviews and recommendations on all types of media which is directed at children including movies, books, TV, games, apps, and websites. It’s a great resource to share with parents, and can be very useful at this time of year especially as they shop for appropriate media-centric gifts for their children.

Education reviews

Common Sense Education is another site which is produced by the same organization and geared specifically toward educators. Once again, they provide ratings and reviews of children’s media, but this time the focus is on edtech websites and apps that are organized by grade level and subject matter. Search criteria can even be narrowed by price, so the frugal educator can easily identify free resources. For each tool listed, the Common Sense ranking as well as teacher submitted ranking is displayed. Each tool includes a description and overview of what it teaches as well as suggested lessons and activities plus standards supported.

Digital Citizenship Curriculum

Digital citizenship curriculum

Another offering from Common Sense Education is their K-12 digital citizenship curriculum. The curriculum covers the following topics:

  • Internet Safety
  • Privacy & Security
  • Relationships & Communication
  • Cyberbullying & Digital Drama
  • Digital Footprint & Reputation
  • Self-Image & Identity
  • Information Literacy
  • Creative Credit & Copyright

As demonstrated in this sample lesson, each lesson includes a downloadable lesson guide as well as student activities and a family tip sheet. There are also downloadable videos and video discussion guides. And if that isn’t enough, there are student games and interactives, student badges, classroom posters, toolkits, and more!

Professional development

Common Sense Education also offers a variety of professional development to assist teachers.

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521 – Reformation 500!

Video month concludes on WELSTech in style with guest host Jason Schmidt and a celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, including great ministry resources for the occasion. Jason does a deep dive on his school district’s use of WeVideo, something any Chromebook enabled school might be interested in.

The discussion:

Student video production – Jason Schmidt, a long-time WELSTech friend, shares the hosting responsibilities on this edtech focused show as we discuss video creation in the classroom – content, software, pricing, and more.

News in tech:

WELS now:

  • Interactive Faith online Bible Study – Luther’s Lasting Impact – Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Prof. Joel Otto leads the study on Wednesday’s now through November 8 at 6 pm and 8 pm (central).
  • Join the conversation at the Gospel Outreach with Media (gowm.org) online conference, now through November 13

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Reformation Resources Roundup

Community feedback:

Featured video:

500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a door. 500 years later, Lutheran leaders from the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference developed a new set of 95 theses for the 21st century.

Also, tune in for the archived Reformation 500 service at Martin Luther College (service folder).

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 522 – The November WELSTech security focus kicks off with a discussion on password safety. Release date: Wednesday, November 8.

Get involved:

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.

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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