Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Curricular Coding Infusion

According to Emily Hayden, "Learning code requires thinking and encourages curiosity" (2016). It is a form of engineering with planning, problem solving, and tons of trial and error.   Coding even offers that "gaming" or "level up" feeling when the finished product executes correctly.  Teachers will often hear those delightful words shouted aloud -"I got it!" and "It works!"  

Additionally, "Computer-related jobs are expected to grow at the faster-than-average rate of 12 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for these professionals in 2015 was $81,430, which was more than two times the average for all occupations.  This figure has been increasing!

So, how do we make coding more accessible to students?

The answer is by infusing the curriculum with coding!

Mr. Thomas' 7th grade math students, at Crain's Creek Middle School, enjoyed putting their knowledge of complimentary and supplementary angles to the test today while infusing a little Python Coding.  The programming even progressed to include a little introduction to artificial intelligence! 

Using the website Trinket, students started with a basic code, which drew a 90 degree angle.  

This was the code:

from turtle import *

turtle1 = Turtle( )


Then, they were asked to write a program, which drew a 40 degree angle.

Students tried different coding combinations.  The first thought was to simply change the 90 to a 40.  Using the Desmos Angles Site in conjunction with their coding attempts, they soon discovered that this did not work.  Students realized that they needed to think of their initial line as 180 degrees 
(a straight line).

Students' hands flew in the air as they realized many different iterations, which achieved the desired outcome.

Some examples included:

from turtle import *

turtle1 = Turtle( )


from turtle import *

turtle1 = Turtle( )


from turtle import *
turtle1 = Turtle( )

Then, students experimented with a "magic function machine" code, which allowed them to choose any angle they wanted and the computer would draw it automatically.

Students realize that functions in coding made the code easier and involved less typing!

This is the start to understanding abstraction
a very important term in computer science!


Finally, students experimented with a little "artificial intelligence."

If you would like to test out this code, please click HERE and have fun!

Happy Coding!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Google Comes to Town

There was a buzz in the air at New Century Middle School on Thursday, February 15th.  Some might think students were still jittery from a candy-heart sugar high.  While that may have had a little to do with it, the real show was in Mr. Clothier's Art classroom.  Dr. Susan Jinks, a Career and Technical Education teacher at New Century, signed up for a demonstration of the Google Expedition Pioneer Program.  Students were able to check out the latest in Augmented Reality using Asus Zenfone devices attached to selfie-sticks.

What is Augmented Reality?  If you have ever used a Snapchat filter to put Puppy ears on your profile picture, you have used Augmented Reality(AR).  AR uses live digital images layered over your view of the real world.  In the picture below, students were viewing the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) through the camera on the device.

The different tours visited today included Forces of Nature, The Solar System, Ancient Rome, Ecosystem of a Coral Reef, World War I, DNA and RNA.  Students were able to navigate all angles of objects that were super-imposed on their view of the classroom.  Some students even went as far as getting on the floor to see the underside of objects.  Below, two students tried to get a better view of the underside of an octopus from the Coral Reef Ecosystem tour.

The video below is from Google's YouTube page and shows what the kids today were able to experience.  Google Expeditions is a great way for teachers to bring the world into the classroom and expose students to things they may not have a chance to experience otherwise.  

The Google Expedition Pioneer app is still in Beta so it is not available in app stores.  A list of the available tours can be found here.

If you are interested in bringing this type of experience to your school, sign up here.

Tyler Callahan

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Elementary DIF's take a trip to the Virginia Children's Engineering Convention

   A week ago the elementary Digital Integration Facilitators (DIF's) of Moore County were fortunate enough to attend the Virginia Children's Engineering Convention (VCEC) in Roanoke, Virginia. The conference celebrated the innovative ideas in regards to STEM and offered a variety of sessions on tools to use in the engineering classroom. We gathered many new resources and various ideas on how to better integrate STEM education into the everyday classroom.

   In Moore County, we are already doing a lot of STEM practices and education in the K-12 classroom. We have developed an engineering thread that perfectly aligns with teachers' pacing guides K-8, and many teachers appreciate the impact this type of learning has on their students. Many of the K-5 educators in Moore County, have branched out to seek other STEM activities to do with their students. As a DIF, that is what you strive for! We want our teachers to be vested in this type of learning, see the value, and start adopting these practices on their own. 

On May 4, beginning teachers will have an opportunity to visit our robotics showcase at Pinecrest High School and see STEM education at its finest. In addition, we also will host a digital learning showcase at Vass-Lakeview Elementary School on March 15 from 6-7:30pm. It is because of terrific conferences such as the VCEC that Moore County continues to pave the way for STEM education. I know the DIF's are eager to try out their newly acquired material from the conference and share with their fellow teachers.

~Deanna Boesch

What STEM education looks like in Mrs. DeMestre's 5th Grade Class

   STEM education and engineering are a growing area for elementary classrooms. Many schools and districts across the United States are adopting a STEM program and are encouraging the development of STEM skills. At Pinehurst Elementary School, in Moore County, Mrs. DeMestre is a 5th grade teacher that has fully adopted the use of STEM education! She uses STEM/engineering to enhance her students' understanding of various concepts. If you are wanting to adopt a STEM program in your classroom, check out the responses of Mrs. DeMestre and her students.
   Introducing the engineering design process and letting your kids learn through play and experimentation can be scary at first. It is an entirely different approach to teaching. Below are some responses from Mrs. DeMestre and her students on how they handle this challenge!

1.) What does STEM/Engineering in your classroom look like?
"Chaos... in the absolute best sense of the word! Among the inevitable clutter of supplies and building materials, it looks like collaboration and critical thinking at its finest. Students are engaged in small group conversations aimed at tackling challenges and finding creative solutions." 

2.) What do you and your kids like most about STEM/Engineering in the classroom?
"What I love most about STEM in our classroom is the innovation. I am always impressed by the variety of approaches to reach a common goal." 
   Even though there are the inevitable challenges that come with providing this type of education in your classroom, there are also sweet rewards. Not only are students engaged and focused on the task, but STEM challenges foster the use of higher order thinking and application skills. As educators we always want our students to learn, but to enjoy the process of learning. Mrs. DeMestre's 5th graders have fully endorsed the use of STEM/engineering in their classroom. One student reports, "I love building things and being challenged." Another student says that, "STEM challenges teach us to look at a problem in a different way." "You can be creative", and "having to build on a budget because we get to do math" are only some of the many positive responses to this type of learning. 

3.) Do STEM/Engineering lessons enhance your students understanding of concepts taught? If so, how?
"STEM lessons definitely enhance students' understand of concepts taught. Each phase of the engineering process requires students to dig deeper and apply what they know. One of the most powerful aspects of the lesson is the "Improve" segment, when students are asked to make revisions for improvement." 

4.) Would you recommend to other teachers the use of STEM in their classroom? If so, why?
"Absolutely! STEM is an opportunity for failures and feats to be equally valued. In our classroom we say, "Mistakes are expected, respected, inspected and corrected." Celebrating failure is critical in our endeavor to grow risk-takers." 

5.) What is your favorite memory of a STEM/Engineering lesson in your class?
"It is impossible to choose just one favorite memory... LEGO Story Starters are always a huge hit! I love being able to incorporate STEM into our Social Studies curriculum. We use the LEGO Story Starter kits to design scenes depicting major causes of the American Revolution."

With STEM education the opportunities are endless! We are producing independent, inquiring, and critical thinking minds that will expand our future as a nation. The process can be messy and it requires an all hands on deck approach; however, your students and school with reap the benefits of providing this type of learning environment.

~Deanna Boesch

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

FLL Rookie Experience Reflection and Tips

Four years into our robotics experience in Moore County Schools, Clint Rogers and I decided to take our robotics game to the next level.  We picked one of our schools to go into this new experience with and we both came away learning a lot. We didn’t realize exactly how much time and effort this new commitment would require, but given the opportunity we would participate in First League League every season that it’s offered.

What is FLL?
First Lego League is an international robotics competition for students from grades fourth through eighth, but it is so much more than robots.  This competition is made up of 3 distinctive parts in which students are judged: Project, Robot Game, and Core Values.
During the course of the season, students research a topic, develop a plan, and present their project to an outside party.  This year’s theme was Hydrodynamics - so everything was centered around water.  Students collaborated with field experts and university professors before deciding on a course of action and coming up with the topic they wanted.  Once they decided on their project they had to come up with entertaining ways to present it to judges (song, skit, ect).

The robot game has a challenge board with several challenges and each challenge is worth a set amount of points.  Student have 2 ½ minutes to execute as many of the challenges as possible.  They compete in 3 rounds and they keep the best score out of the 3 rounds.   Students are also judged on how well they have modified their EV3 robot in order to perform the tasks in the robot design category.

Core Values is portion of the competition where teams show they can work together and value each other’s input.  During this event, students are given a task or a challenge that they must work together to solve and they are judged on how they teamwork.  **Below you can see we played reverse musical chairs as a practice exercise - students had to try to work together to get ALL team members on fewer and fewer chairs each round.  

Teams aren't just judged at an FLL competition in the four judging spaces, they are watched throughout the competition day by judges to see if they are showing gracious professionalism, sharing what they have learned with other teams, and displaying an understanding that learning is more important than winning. Below you’ll find a picture of the pit where teams are staged in between events. Bring snacks! There is plenty of downtime.

How is it different than what Moore County is doing with robotics?
At the elementary level we have a county and regional competition.  This competition consists of four, twenty minute  rounds of programming and EV3 robot to navigate a board/path for points using various sensors.  The challenge is that students have not seen these boards before.  

How do I get started with FLL?
First you need a team of no more than 10 students and you need to register your team nationally.  You can do that here. This comes with an annual team registration fee of $225. The field kit (which is different each year to coincide with the theme) costs $75 plus shipping. Then you will need to build a board so your team can practice - instructions here. This summer you will need to order your lego pieces for practice - they did not release this year until August 29.  Then in mid October, register for a qualifying tournament- cost is $75.

Rookie Tips and things we learned this year:
  • Programming with cables on a computer is most dependable. It is do-able on a chromebook but the software is much more robust on a computer.  
  • Having a reliable parent volunteer is a MUST and a requirement to compete
  • Each team member needs to be knowledgeable about the robot and program as well as the project - you never know which team member will get asked questions.
  • Collaboration with other coaches that have FLL experience proved to be very valuable.

Neither of our teams walked away this season with any awards but “What we discover is more important than what we win” (this being one of the eight core values that your team should remember). If you are considering diving into FLL next season and have questions, please reach out to us and we will be happy to help you!

Kelly Priest  - kpriest@ncmcs.org  
Clint Rogers - crogers@ncmcs.org