Tag Archive for: education

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:

  • In the market for a SMART Board? Check out ShopWELS vendor InfoCor
  • Daily video devotions from Peace in North Mankato, MN

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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: