Monday, December 4, 2017

First Bits and Bytes - Creating and Coding Circuits with Arduino

The 4th graders at Southern Pines Elementary School are learning about series and parallel circuits.  Have you ever wondered what it would be like if your holiday lights were designed using a series circuit?  Each time a light malfunctioned, your entire strand of lights would go out!  
That would not be very good!

These students enjoyed a lesson with the Arduino Uno mini computer system, circuit building, 
and coding!

They created both series and parallel circuits and then wrote code using the Codebender App to make their LED lights blink in a certain pattern.  


How to use a breadboard Video

How to install and use the Codebender App Video

Lesson Plan

Lesson Handouts

Journal Tasks

Printable Breadboard for Circuit Creation

Advanced Blink Code for 4 LEDs

Arduino Kit Link


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Visual Design in HS World History

OCTOBER Spotlighting Moore

3d Printing in History Class?

Yes! The problem has always been the same with teaching history, right? How do we make something come alive for students that has been dead for decades, centuries, or in the case of world history, millennia? Ms. Murphy and I hoped that visual design software and 3D printers might span that gap making history “tangible”.  We were willing to gamble the increased time spent studying the ancient world would pay off when they see all future learning through the lens of a builder and engineer.


Our software of choice was a web-based app called TinkerCad. It is a great, lightweight, and Chromebook ready (MCS are 1:1 Chromebooks in 5-12th). It is integrated with Google SSO as well as other social providers, meaning it is just that much easier to go from 0 to 60 with TinkerCad in your classroom. It has a menu of “getting started” type tutorials we used to get the kids to figure out the basics of computer-aided design.


We co-taught part of most Thursdays during the first 9 weeks of school.
Week One: Introduction, objectives explained, rubric discussed, and Wonder of the Ancient World (WoW) assigned to groups. With the class size, we were working with, we decided to add an “eighth” WoW to make the groups more manageable (The Great Wall of China). The second half of class was unstructured to allow groups to research the function/purpose, dimensions, era, and location of their assigned WoW.
Week Two: Groups presented their Slides and answered questions from the audience. They were expected to demonstrate an understanding of the purpose and the people that built the assigned WoW.
Week Three: Student groups were taken through two, TinkerCad lessons on shape manipulation in the visual design interface. Students were asked to reflect on their work from the perspective of the Engineering Design Process. They were provided butcher paper, and rulers, calculators to figure the scale for their design to meet our 3D printer’s size.
Week Four: Design day 1. Students went through tutorials about using the ruler, workplane, and alignment tools. Then began designing their structures. Ms. Murphy and I circulated to talk about how to work within a group effectively and troubleshoot any software problems.
Week Five: Design Day 2. Students were given time to complete their structures and export their .stl files for printing.
Week Six: Presentation prep. Students were informed of the expectations for their final presentation. While I was busy putting the 3d printer through its workout around the clock, students went back to their Slides from Week 2, modified historical content to express their increased knowledge, as well as additional information about the design and group work components of their work.
Week Six: Minimal class time allowed for groups to determine responsibilities for the upcoming assembly play day.
Week Seven: Assembly Play Day. I delivered the printed parts, the students assembled them, painted them and added other elements to make the creation more engaging to the audience.
Week Eight: Presentations! I’ll let the students do the talking here! Make sure to note the higher order thinking going on to put this all together.
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.34.55 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.35.00 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.35.06 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.35.11 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.35.15 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.35.20 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.35.28 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.35.32 PM.png


Next nine weeks students will select and defend their own ideas for a more modern wonder of the world. We will expand this out to include anything from the locomotive to the Gutenberg Press… as long as they can defend WHY it is a Wonder of the World!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mrs. Perkins Supports Literacy with Virtual Reality

Mrs. Perkins Supports Literacy with Virtual Reality

I was pumped when Mrs. Perkins, an 8th Grade English Language Arts teacher at New Century Middle School, reached out to me about the possibility of using Virtual Reality headsets in her classroom.  With the popularity of VR headsets on the rise in the past 3 years, finding ways to effectively incorporate them into classroom instruction is something new to me so I was going to need some help.  Mrs. Perkins and I sat down during her planning period and figured out how we could use VR headsets to support a book study her class is doing.  The book "Inside Out & Back Again" is an award winning book about a ten year old girl's refugee experience during the Vietnam War era and how her family was forced to flee as Saigon fell.  

Mrs. Perkins had the idea of wanting students to view different settings and places mentioned throughout the book, as well as places that would provide relevance for students.  Mrs. Perkins and I decided on six different places for students to visit.  
  1. A farm in Vietnam
  2. Museum of Ho Chi Minh Trail
  3. Ho Chi Minh at night
  4. Galang Refugee Camp in Indonesia
  5. War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh
  6. Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC

Using the Google Street View application, students were able navigate places thousands of miles away.  The instant relevance could be seen when all of the students were talking about different places that were represented in the book.  Students could be heard around the room saying things like,  "Now I see what Ha (main character in the book) was talking about." 

The best part about the lesson was what Mrs. Perkins had the students do afterwards.  Mrs. Perkins had students write a short reflection about how the things they saw today in the VR headsets related to their book study they had been doing.  

Books have the unique ability to allow you travel the world.  The technology available today lets students compare their mental images with actual images submitted by people from all over the world.  

You can follow Mrs. Perkins on Twitter to see all of the other cool things she is doing in her classroom.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

STEM Community Leaders in MCS

If you've been following this blog or our Twitter feed (@MCSDigital), you've undoubtedly noticed a heavy emphasis on STEM learning in MCS.  From K-12 robotics to Cyber Patriot to science kits to STEM Camp to engineering lessons and everything in between- STEM concepts have swept through the district at a blistering pace, supported by our DIF team and our teachers.

Another major support system for this revolution in our schools is a group most folks likely have no idea even exist- our STEM Community Leaders group- a group that has been meeting to help promote and sustain STEM learning in Moore County Schools for more than 5 years!

This is a dynamic group of important stakeholders in our county- including local and regional business leaders, community organization leaders, parents, School Board members, Foundation members, as well as MCS curriculum and senior staff.  Here is a list of the groups and businesses whose members/representatives have been involved:

The Public Education Foundation of Moore County
Moore County Partners in Progress
Burroughs Wellcome Fund
Duke Energy
The Palmer Foundation
Mebane Foundation
Kiwanis Club of the Sandhills
Sandhills Rotary Club
NC Realtors Association
Smithsonian Science Education Center
NC Inquiry Collaborative Network (NCICN)
North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center
Moore County Airport
First Tee of the Sandhills
Woodmen of the Wild
The Pilot
C.A.L.L. (Community Assisting Language Learners)

What impact does this group have on Moore County Schools students and teachers?
The impact this group has had has been deep and far-reaching.  They are a source of advisory ideas as well as financial backing.  3 years ago, a large STEM grant from the Mebane Foundation was expiring.  This grant planted many of the seeds of STEM within Moore County Schools and when it ended we were faced with a problem- how to sustain and grow these vital STEM initiatives after the grant funds had expired.

In order to solve this problem, the Public Education Foundation (PEF) offered the opportunity to create a separate "STEM Bucket" for grants and donations to flow into in order to sustain our growth.  The members of the STEM Community Leaders then worked hard to obtain grants and donations in order to build a "bridge to sustainability" for all of our STEM programs in the district. 

The results of this work were extremely impressive.  This group was able to raise over $75,000 over the course of the 2015-2016 school year in order to sustain our programs and allow us to build a self-sustaining funding model (our STEM Camp tuition goes directly to support all of these programs in MCS).  In addition, generous grants and donations continue to be facilitated by this group in order to add "fuel to the fire" as well as cover student scholarships to STEM Camp for those families who are unable to pay.  Keep in mind, this is all in addition to the targeted grants that the Public Ed Foundation have utilized to spark interest in STEM across the district.

In short, we could not be the leaders in STEM that we are in Moore County without this dedicated group who many people may not know about (and therefore be able to recognize and thank!).   If you are ever in contact with members of any of the above organizations, please tell them thank you for their support of engaged student learning in MCS!!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Creation and Collaboration Transformation

Technology tools like Seesaw and Flipgrid provide a space for students to record their own voices to share their thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions.  But in a crowded classroom, how can you drown out the background noise?  Sheila Self, Reading Interventionist at Carthage Elementary School has just the solution.  In her classroom, Mrs. Self has created a designated recording studio area made with storage cubes and foam.  Check this out!

To make this recording studio, start with a collapsible fabric storage cube (12.8in x 12.8in x 15in)  

Insert foam acoustic panels (1in x 12in X 12in) into the bottom and 2 sides of the storage cube.

A wire book stand in the bottom of the cube holds the iPad.  

To prevent background noise while recording, Mrs. Self added a brightly colored retro handset that plugs into the headphone jack.

(Advice from Mrs. Self: It is not necessary to have both the foam acoustic panels and the handset for noise-free recording. It works either way but the handset offers less background noise.)   

In Seesaw, students take a photo of the pages they want to record for fluency then record their reading.  According to Mrs. Self, any recording done with the retro handset has a better sound quality and it gets the students excited about recording and doing their best reading.  Using the phone handset reminds the student that their reading should sound just like they were talking to someone on the phone.  The directions from Seesaw are posted at the recording station so students can refer to it for recording.

In addition to using Seesaw, Mrs. Self has recently started using Flipgrid to amplify student voice.  For more information about Flipgrid and how you can use this in your classroom, check out this awesome blog post from STEM teacher extraordinaire Kim Collazo.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Join the MCS Robotics Wave at our Regional Competition

    The robotics initiative in Moore County has exploded and developed into something truly fantastic for students. In just four years, we have grown to having a robotics team in every single school in Moore County; yes,! Every year our county holds two robotics competitions, one for elementary and one for middle school. Schools from around the county come to participate and it is a great day of learning, engineering, and fun! 

Last year was our first attempt at holding a regional competition and inviting other school districts to participate. Schools from Scotland County were in attendance and it proved to be an exciting competition among the students. Due to the fact that we had a significant amount of interest last year, we are hoping other districts will join in on the robotics adventure this year. 

    Every year, MCS has a theme that surrounds the robotics competitions and all events are based off of it. This year the theme will be, "Oh, the Places You'll Lego", and elementary students will design robotics boards based off of a book and middle school will compete in book inspired events. We are very excited about this years' theme and tying literacy into the mix. On October 20, at the regional technology meeting in Raeford, we will be sharing information about our upcoming competitions and inviting all districts to attend. We would love to see all new and familiar faces this year!! Come join the fun and be a part of something great!

Check our website for updates and information:

Regional Elementary Robotics Competition          
May 5, 2018 from 8am-12pm
Pinecrest High School Gymnasium
250 Voit Gilmore Lane
Southern Pines, NC 28387

Regional Middle School Robotics Competition
May 19, 2018 from 8am-12pm
Pinecrest High School Gymnasium
250 Voit Gilmore Lane
Southern Pines, NC 28387

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

First Bits and Bytes - Coding Adventures in Elementary School

All of the third grade teachers at Southern Pines Elementary School are excited that their students are learning how to code!

Mrs. Sheats, Mrs. Shoemaker, Mrs. Croft-Lashley, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Kohut, and Mrs. Pairmore have been participating in a rotation station where their students learn basic pseudocode and then apply that knowledge to actual computer programming languages!

It all started with CodeMonkey - A video-game activity where students learn pseudocode, a type of slang coding language, which allows a cartoon monkey to catch a banana.

Pseudocode Example:

Real computer programmers use pseudocode all the time when they are planning out their programs.

We decided to act this out using real rulers and multiplication to write some of our own pseudocode.


Then, students enjoyed the CodeMonkey Program!


This was only the beginning...

Students moved on to creating rectangles with turtle in Python!

Students automatically made a connection between the angles from CodeMonkey and the angles in their Python Code!

Students became problem solvers by learning about bugs!  Ava, a third grader, said, "There are so many bugs in my code I need to call an exterminator!"

They even helped their peers think things through!

The adventure continued with coding shapes on an imaginary number line using the Racket Programming Language and the platform!

All video games have an imaginary coordinate plane behind them.  Third graders are beginning to understand the concept of a number line.  How would a rectangle look on a number line?

While coding with Racket, students learned that the order of their numbers represented the position of the shape on a number line.

The computer science endeavor continues with learning about binary numbers, algorithms, loops, the parts of a computer, and the basics of computer science using the children's book: 

... and on to 4th grade too!

Happy Coding!