Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Can We Help You?

How Can We Help You??

Last week, Eric Sheninger came through Moore County for a very brief visit but his message is something that has stuck.  Sheninger is an award winning educator and author that is passionate about digital leadership and learning.  He was an administrator in New Jersey that totally transformed his school and student performance with the transition to digital learning.  The key for his success was that technology was used in relevant ways and his teachers had to provide evidence that it was impacting learning.

In Moore County, we have an opportunity to do so much, and the ability to integrate technology into classrooms in ways that can impact student learning at every grade level. Our ultimate goal needs to be to refine classroom instruction by changing the way we think about learning and teaching.  Today’s students don’t learn the same way we adults did as students.  They learn best through project based learning, collaboration, and media.  

Project based learning is a type of learning made up of rigorous projects that are infused throughout with technology. This can transfer into any content or curriculum area and you are only limited by your imagination.  Aren’t 1:1 yet? No problem, the DIF team can help you figure out a way to make it work.  Sometimes we can take a project you have done in the past and tweak it a little bit to make it engaging and meaningful for the student.  The goal is that the content is supported by the technology, not the other way around. In the world we live in today, students like instant feedback, it happens all the time on social media.  They also like to collaborate with their peers. One of the ways they could do that is in collaborative groups as they take part in one of the STEM Projects that takes them through the Engineering and Design Process. Another way students can collaborate and get their voices heard is through blogging. Students love to be creators of media through blogging, music, or videos.  When they become creators instead of consumers, they take ownership and growth can occur.  These types of projects can be seen all over MCS: students are creating newscasts, mini movies, and commercials.

Time for a self assessment:
Edutopia Blogger, Mary Beth Hertz, defines 4 levels  of classroom technology integration in her blog “What Does ‘Technology Integration’ Mean” https://goo.gl/7Ypgt:

  1. Sparse: Technology is rarely used or available. Students rarely use technology to complete assignments or projects.
  2. Basic: Technology is used or available occasionally/often in a lab rather than a classroom.  Students are comfortable with one or two tools and sometimes use these tools to create projects that show understanding of the content.
  3. Comfortable: Technology is used in the classroom on a fairly regular basis. Students are comfortable with a variety of tools and often use these tools to create projects that show understanding of content.
  4. Seamless: Students employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of the content.  

My question for you, is what level are you, and how can a DIF get you to the next level?

This summer the DIF team grew! We added more elementary DIFs so that every school could have ‘more hands on deck’ and more opportunities would be available to integrate tech into classrooms.  Our team of now twelve DIFs, are all former classroom teachers that want to help current teachers find ways to engage students and promote digital integration into the curriculum.  Just reach out to us whenever you need support with digital tools in your classroom.  Unsure of who your DIF is? Click HERE.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Teacher Feature - Emily Kafka

Everyone has one or two teachers that really standout and go the extra mile to help make a difference in their education.  Emily Kafka is going to be that teacher for many seniors that will graduate from North Moore this spring. After graduating from North Moore, Mrs. Kafka attended Campbell University and returned to teach Social Studies.  She is very active in the school and community.  I sat down with her to ask her a few questions about her experiences in education.  

Q: How long have you been in the school system
        3 years (starting my 4th)

Q: What were some of your earliest lessons that incorporated technology?
        The 1-1 Initiative was launched second semester of my first year of teaching, making the incorporation of technology a great deal easier. One of the first in-depth technology related assignments I incorporated was the  Everfi Financial Literacy lesson (sponsored by BB&T). The Everfi website allows students to complete activity based modules (at their own pace) based on curriculum objectives. Examples include; savings, bankings, credit scores, taxes, and insurance. I also incorporated review lessons with the help of Kahoot and found interactive websites for a great deal of my social studies objectives (PBS, History Channel, and the Bill of Rights Institute are just a few websites that have wonderful resources). 
Q: Where do you start when you’re planning a lesson?
        I start my lesson planning considering not only the ultimate outcome/purpose of the lesson but also the best way to engage and encourage active learning. It seems cliché but I want the kids to enjoy the material as much as possible; therefore, I try to incorporate as many activities in a lesson as possible. I typically mull over the overarching theme of the lesson and then do some online research with the hopes of finding an entertaining activity (whether online or not) that allows the students to put into practice or consider more in-depth the concept I am trying to teach them. 

Q: What’s one of your favorite lessons that you really enjoy teaching? What makes it your favorite?
        My favorite lesson to teach is my introductory lesson to Economics. I have my students play the game "Life." We play with an "Economic" spin in that students receive jobs, salaries, and homes. Every pay day they not only receive their salary, they also have to pay bills (including power, mortgage, internet, cell phone and more) all of which we discuss prior to the game. Each time a team has children; their monthly bills increase. They keep track of their checking account and consider how their job choices, home choices, and more effect their money supply. The game is really entertaining and the students truly enjoy it; however, it also teaches them about scarcity, resources, needs, wants, and many more economic concepts. I like to do this lesson in the beginning so that we can refer back to it during many of our economic lessons. 

Q: You’re involved in so many things at North Moore and Moore County Schools. Volleyball, Beta Club, teaching Twilight School, teaching classes all day, etc. How do you do it?
        I suppose I am capable of doing it all (and it seems like a lot listed out like that) because I truly enjoy where I work, it feels like home and the faculty are family. I am a firm believer that North Moore High School is the best place to teach and when you love where you work it doesn't seem like work. I take each day as it comes and am fortunate to work with so many great people that are constantly willing to lend a hand whenever needed. 

These are just a few of the things that make Mrs. Kafka a leader in Moore County Schools.  She is smart, student-centered, motivated and has a good sense of humor.  The teaching profession and the students of Moore County need more like Mrs. Kafka.  

Tyler Callahan

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Saving Sam: Kicking off the Engineering Thread in Moore County

Sam the Snake is in DEEP trouble.  While boating on the lake, a strong wave crashed through and capsized his boat.  Sam can't swim, but luckily he was able to climb on top of the boat.  But unfortunately for old Sam, while he frantically searched for his life preserver he realized it was under his capsized boat....

The materials students (and teachers) use- Sam (gummy worm), life preserver (Gummy life saver), a boat (cup), and 2 paper clips (one for each partner)
I saved Sam!
Over the past few weeks, the Digital Integration Facilitator (DIF) team has been busily working to introduce the engineering process to our K-5 students through the Saving Sam activity, where students are paired up, each given a paper clip, and asked to save Sam with several constraints- Sam can't touch the water, you can't STAB poor Sam, and you must retrieve the life preserver and put it on Sam's body using ONLY 2 paper clips.

The engineering process has become a focal point in Moore County Schools, as we've worked to create an engineering thread that weaves throughout our science and math pacing guides in grades K-5.  Our overall purpose is to introduce the engineering process to students, focus on critical thinking and problem-solving skills, develop students who understand that failed attempts are natural parts of any learning process, and demystify the term "engineer" so that it is accessible to all students regardless of background, race, or gender.

The lessons are designed as mini, 2-3 day projects.  In an effort to bring our rich robotics program into more classrooms, each grade level has an engineering project that involves robotics as well as one that utilize more traditional materials (such as gummy works and paper clips!).  All engineering projects are housed in Google Slides and are shared freely with any that would like to utilize them:

Kindergarten:    Huff and Puff Engineering          Dashing Through Obstacles
1st Grade:          Shadow Engineering                    Dash to 100!
2nd Grade:         Too Hot!                                       Robot Bowling
3rd Grade:          Eggbert                                        Marshmallow Catapult
4th Grade:          Spaghetti Tower Challenge          Animal Adaptations
5th Grade:          Hot Diggity Dog House               Human Body Tour

We look forward to working with our students and teachers to bring the engineering process to all, this year and beyond!  Thank you to all the teachers and DIFs that are working hard to provide these opportunities for our students!

-Steve Johnson