Thursday, April 6, 2017

Media Tech Assistants in Moore County

As I sat on a small fishing pier at a local farm pond, I noticed a couple of ducks land and begin to swim across from one side to another.  They looked so majestic as they glided across the calm water making it look effortless to the passer-by.  What you don't see from the duck is the hard working legs kicking underwater to keep it afloat.  This image is a perfect representation of our Digital Learning Initiatives here in Moore County.  From the community on-looker, the Digital Learning Showcase a couple weeks back looked amazing.  It was an exhibition of all of the hard work and creativity students had put into digital projects that allowed them to master the content while being engaged at the same time.  The teachers of those students worked with Digital Integration Facilitators (DIF's) to plan the lessons. These types of awesome lessons and many more are what is at stake with our budget crisis.  If the cuts proposed are made, the domino effect will subsequently take its toll on the level of learning and engagement that is taking place in our schools.

One of the positions the district is in danger of losing is the Media Tech Assistant.  Without a doubt, this position has been most valuable in the roll-out, collection and day-to-day maintenance of our Digital Learning Initiative.  I have seen the impact the Media Tech Assistants have on a daily basis for the last 4 years at North Moore High School.  Jenean Garner, Media Tech Assistant at North Moore High School and 28-year veteran of the Moore County School System, works tirelessly everyday so I am able to meet with teachers more and spend less time fixing mouse pads and wireless issues with the Chromebooks.  Because of Jenean Garner, our Media Specialist can work with students taking Sandhills Community College courses and teach them how to cite their sources for research papers.  Because of Jenean Garner, teachers can continue to teach with minimal disruption when there are technology issues.  Because of Jenean Garner, students have a go-to person when their Chromebook is not working.  Because of Jenean Garner, our turn-around time for Chromebook repairs has been drastically reduced.  Because of the Media Tech Assistants, our Digital Learning Initiative has been a success.

So while the public sees the duck gliding across the water, don't lose sight of the work being done that you can't see.

Tyler Callahan
Digital Integration Facilitator

Monday, April 3, 2017

What's Your Story?

   I am sure everyone here has heard the groans from students when told to "pick up their pencil and write/tell a story". Many kids have become reluctant writers and creative story tellers, but why? There is nothing scarier than a blank, white piece of lined paper staring you in the face when you know you have words to write. Often times we give our students specific tasks to write about, which leaves out the element of creativity. 
 About a year ago, I was able to attend a Lego conference in High Point, NC that completely changed my view on Legos in the classroom. I am not going to lie, I was a little skeptical about this whole "Lego thing" when I first arrived at the conference. Upon doing our first task of creating a duck with specific traits, I was immediately humbled at the difficulty to create such an object. My attention was hooked from that moment on!

   We began to discuss kits called Lego Story Starters. These kits were fascinating as you could use them for any subject area and virtually any grade level. I particularly like that these kits lent themselves more the ELA and Social Studies topics. With these kits students can build predictions, summaries, settings, mood, re-create scenes, etc. In addition, writing becomes a major component of these kits. Students can write a creative story about what they built, create a comic strip, or create an expository news report. The sky is the limit!

   After trying these kits out in a few classes, I was beginning to see excitement and enthusiasm on the kids faces. They were able to build according to the standard taught and explain their build in great detail down to the reasons certain colors were picked. When asked to write about their builds after, I honestly did not have one student not know what to write about. The scariness of the blank, white piece of paper was gone! I had a third grade teacher at Pinehurst Elementary School tell me that her student, we will call Jacob, wouldn't write more than a few words all year. After this activity he had a two paragraph story! 

   Lego story starters are a great tool to get your students engaged in an activity and reinforce the skills already taught. You can purchase the kits at the Lego Education store and I typically use one kit to four students. Let creativity and story telling come to life with the Lego Education Story Starter Kits! Happy building!

~Deanna Boesch

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Power of Twitter!

Do you often Google new ideas for your classroom, but you’re just not sure if they will work, or how to best manage the flow of the activity? Do you feel bored with the same lesson you’ve done for a particular standard and want a new idea? Enter the supportive and amazing educational world of Twitter!

Eight years ago, a DIF in my former county told me I really needed to be on Twitter. In my ignorance of what a powerful tool it could be to build my PLN, I declined, telling her I really didn’t need to know all the gossip being shared by strangers. And really, didn’t she realize how busy I was grading papers, writing lesson plans, and preparing for my students every day? I didn’t have time for Twitter!

Thankfully, I accepted her challenge to try it for 30 days, and since then, have been a part of one of the best educational networks in my career. I currently follow, learn from, and connect with over 1800 educators from around the world!

For those of you not familiar with Twitter, it is a social networking site that allows you to share ideas and thoughts in up to 140 characters with others around the world. The 140 character limit is perfect for educators since our time is valuable and we don’t very often wish to read long paragraphs of text. Ideas are short and to the point. You can also attach photos, short videos, and links as you share the wonderful things you are doing in your classroom!

Many of the technology integration ideas and tools I have come to love, I first learned about on Twitter. Teachers and others who work with kids on a daily basis share successes and difficulties which often allows me to hit the ground running, rather than tiptoeing in “will this work?” mode!

One of the best ways to dip your toes into the Twitter waters is to lurk during a scheduled “chat”. There are many weekly Twitter chats focused on various topics, grade levels, and/or subject areas. Those who participate engage in meaningful conversations similar to the EdCamp MCS recently held. The chats are organized by hashtag (#), so if you search a particular hashtag, you can see what everyone has shared. HERE is a calendar of many of the education chats being held. Pick one that seems interesting, get on Twitter at the appropriate time, and search the #tag to see all the great ideas being shared! You may even be drawn in and tweet out your own thoughts on the topic! Lurking in a Twitter chat is also a great way to find other educators with similar interests to follow. (Below is a screenshot taken during a chat.)


So, in an effort to introduce you to one of the best personal learning networks and some of the most awesome professional development you have experienced, I challenge you to join the educational side of Twitter (if you haven’t already). Just like my friend and colleague challenged me eight years ago, I ask you to give it a try for 30 days so you can see what a valuable learning tool it can be for you as an educator!

Your DIF can help you get started, and by “following” members of the DIF team (our Twitter handles are listed below), you’ll get a glimpse of many of the cool things happening in our schools right here in Moore County! Knocking down the walls of your classroom is a TWEET away! Give it a try!
twitter follow.jpg

DIF Twitter Handles
Deanna Boesch @deannaboesch
Kelly Priest @KRPriest
Beth Alderson @texteachBeth
TJ Martin @tmartin4726
Carrie Robledo @carrierobledo
Kim Collazo @kcollazo
Clint Rogers @clint_rogers21
Jill Snotherly @snotherlyj
Jilian Reynolds @JilianReynolds
Lee Ann Holmes @tlvfan
Will Herring @WillHerring16
Steve Johnson @edtechsteve
Moore County Digital @MCSDigital

Happy Tweeting ~ Kim

Friday, March 17, 2017

6th Grade Science Coding Infusion

Looking for a fun way to review the Layers of the Earth?

...Oh...did I mention infusing a little computer science too?

Over the past few weeks, Mrs. Yeager, from Southern Middle, and Mrs. Greer & Mrs. Clark, from West Pine Middle, have joined me in teaching students how to infuse a little coding into their science classrooms.  

Let's review the lesson steps so YOU may try this in your classrooms!

1.  Go to the following website:
2.  Click "login"
3.  Click "Allow"

This is where I explain the coding platform and tell the students that coders use two windows: the definitions window and the interactions window.  The definitions window is where the code is written and the interactions window will show mistakes in code after running the program.  If there are no errors, the code will run the program.

4.  Type the following code on the left side of the screen:
(circle 50 "solid" "red")

6.  Click "run" at the top left of the page     

A red circle should appear on the right side of the screen.  If it doesn't, have students analyze the code for errors.

7.  Now, type the following code on the left:
(overlay(circle 50 "solid" "red")              
             (circle 100 "solid" "orange"))

This should look like this after students click "run."

So, now that the students know the overlay code, they will need to figure out how to represent the four layers of the Earth.
* Hint:  The parentheses might be confusing.  The ONLY time there are double parentheses will be at the end of the entire code.  Therefore, the final solution would look like this:


If students want to explore further, have them click on "Documentation" and look up how to code tons of shapes and ideas!

 Happy Coding!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

DIF Team in Action

The Digital Integration Facilitators of Moore County are a team of fully licensed, former classroom teachers, that now serve as the technology specialists in the schools.  Our number one goal is to keep Moore County Students and staff at the forefront of educational changes.

We work closely with teachers and instructional staff to develop curriculum materials and lessons that are engaging and appropriately integrate the digital tools available at each school. Throughout the day, DIFs model lessons for teachers in all content areas, thus providing job embedded staff development and support for teachers.  We can also be seen providing staff development and training in small grade level or content area meetings, large group conference settings, and via online modules for learning.  We are responsible for training teachers on things from how to integrate an app into their classroom, digital citizenship practices, to the North Carolina Technology Competencies for Educators. We often troubleshoot when a technology issue occurs in the middle of instruction, so learning is not disrupted. It is our job to know the digital tools out there and assist school personnel in finding the tool to fit their teaching and learning needs.  

DIFs are responsible for the green screens, robotics, game design, 3D printing, and other projects our local students come home talking about. Many of the robots, drones, competition boards, virtual reality gear, and other various tech tools used by the DIF team were acquired by the team members through grants we wrote ourselves.  

Similar to classroom teachers, our day does not end when the bell rings, as after school robotics coaches, we are teaching young students how to code, invent, and problem solve.  The elementary and middle school DIFs are doing this at two schools, so we are pulling double duty.  The robotics showcases in the spring are organized and run by the DIF team.  This year, Moore County Schools will host the first ever regional showcase for middle school and elementary students.  

Have you heard about a five year old talking about building a house out of toothpicks to protect a little pig from the wolf, or a solar oven made out of cardboard to make a s’more, or perhaps constructing a robotic kicker that can ‘bowl’? This past summer, we designed the STEM Engineering Thread, to introduce the engineering and design process to students. We designed both robotics and non-robotics lessons that are aligned to the curriculum for each grade level K-5. The team plans on extending this thread into middle grades this summer.  Currently, in middle school students are using code in math class to design their own video games and this year we had a middle school team make it all the way to state in their first year of competition with FTC robots. At the high school level, we have students competing and winning at the state level and placing 9th at the national level in a cyber security competition, in the second year of the program.  

The DIF team is very busy and we do much more than chromebooks or apps.  This past week, 10 of our 12 DIFs presented at the state technology conference, North Carolina Technology in Education Society (NCTIES).  We presented on topics and practices that are in place right here in our schools every day, something our team is very proud of.  

Currently, the DIF team is working on this summer’s STEM camp.  This aviation themed camp promises to bring STEM education to life and make it very relevant for students. This self sustained annual camp is planned and carried out by the DIF team as well.  

If you are curious about what we do, please check out the Digital Learning Showcase at West Pine Elementary next Thursday, March 16, from 6-7 pm.  See for yourself what is at stake in Moore County and the great work our team is doing.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ian Mackey - The Man Behind the Machine

It was the Monday after Thanksgiving and I was returning back to work after being out with the birth of our daughter.  I walked into the North Moore Media Center and said good morning to Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Garner like any other Monday morning.  I checked my schedule and saw that we had a little less than 3 weeks before the Winter Warriors Robotics competition at Union Pines High School.  I walked into the North Moore Makerspace to see the progress that had been made to the robot since I left them with a pile of pieces 6 weeks earlier.  Much to my chagrin, the pieces were left almost exactly how I last seen them.  I began to panic until Mrs. Davis said she knew just the person I needed to get this robot built.

I found Ian Mackey at lunch that very day.  Ian is a Chevy truck loving, kayak paddling, robot building machine.  I showed Ian the Velocity Vortex video and he started almost immediately building our robot.  He was a leader on our team in the Engineering Design Process and led the North Moore Robotics team to a strong showing at both the in-county Union Pines Winter Warriors competition and the Regional Qualifier Competition at Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill.

He was a leader on our team in the Engineering Design Process and led the North Moore Robotics team to a strong showing at both the in-county Union Pines Winter Warriors competition and the Regional Qualifier Competition at Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill.  

Ian knew that we were behind other teams but that did not stop his creativity and positive attitude.  He led team meetings after school and on weekend build days.  Ian was always open to other ideas from team members.

Here is a short video of the warm-ups before the actual Winter Warriors event.  To get a true appreciation for how much work Ian did, the robot was a pile of pieces in a toolbox just 10 days earlier.  

I had a chance to sit down with Ian to ask him some questions about his time in the Robotics program.  This is what he had to say:

1.  What were the highlights of the Robotics season?  
I think the highlight of the season is at the end of the building stage when it turns into crunch time and you have to get a working robot.  I enjoy the pressure and tend to work well under it.  

2.  What would you have changed about the Robotics team?  
I would have like to have another builder as into it as I was to bounce some of my own ideas off of.  It would also have been nice if we could get some better materials to build with.  

3.  How did the Robotics team experience add to your skill-set as a student?  
I learned a lot about the programming and building the robot learned some good problem solving techniques.

4.  Tell me about your experiences in building, engineering, problem solving.  
I ran into a lot of problems in the building stage getting the motors to run without stripping the gears.  The claw on the end of the arm required a lot of guess and test.

5.  What kind of vision do you have for North Moore Robotics in the future?  
Well I hope they keep it going.  It's a good program and fun.  Not many clubs are as fun as the robotics.

6.  What are your plans for after high school? 
I plan to attend Randolph Community College for 2 years and complete a course for my future job.

7.  What was the most challenging thing about the Robotics program?
The most challenging part of building was the little bit of time I had to build a working robot.  We were in a big time crunch.  

8.  What was the easiest part of the Robotics season?
The easiest part of the season was the competition day it was more fun than anything.

9.  Anything else you want to mention....
I really recommend the robotics club if you like to build or tinker with stuff such as robots or machines.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

CyberPatriot IX Results - State Award Winners from Moore County Schools

CyberPatriot season IX is in the books for Union Pines High School team 10668, Syntax Error. The Navy JROTC team seen below navigated 4 rounds of competition, gathering awards and leaving other teams in their wake. Don’t let the friendly faces fool you, these are trained cyber fighters.

From left to right: Charlotte Craven, Eric Hutchison, Nick Mihalovich (Cpt), AJ Sanders, & Brendan Bemis. Not shown: Team 10668 Sponsors MGySgt Keith Dangerfield & Capt. John Ferguson, Coach Will Herring

What is CyberPatriot? CyberPatriot is an annual competition among civilian and JROTC, high school teams stretching five continents. It was created and is run by the Air Force Association in connection with Northrup Grumman and Cisco Systems. It tests student teams' ability to detect, deflect and prevent ongoing cyber attacks of various computer systems.

Student teams "play" through the cyber-breach scenarios created by AFA/NorthrupGrumman during marathon-like sessions, Saturdays throughout the fall and winter. Students have to possess great skill, teamwork, and tenacity to be successful in the competition.

“The competition puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services...” (CyberPatriot Website, February 26, 2017)


Syntax Error  scored well in the first two rounds of the international competition and earned an invitation to the “Gold Tier” end-of-season tournament. There, the team came in 2nd of all-service teams in North Carolina winning an award and advanced to the semi-final “Category” round of the end game.

Why we Compete and Your Group Should Too: CyberPatriot is fun! The live scoreboard and team nature of the events makes this program one to which students are drawn and compelled to help each other grow and succeed. Participants learn to work towards common goals, critical thinking, problem analysis, problem solving, leadership competencies, and that doesn’t even touch the future life and career skills that come from deeply understanding technology and cyber security. Through the game, students learn the underlying competencies that demystify an increasingly interconnected world and prepare them to thrive there.

“By participating in CyberPatriot, students are introduced to an exciting and lucrative career path. In addition to learning teamwork and organizational skills that set them apart in the STEM job market, Competitors benefit from direct tutelage by industry professionals that volunteer through the CyberPatriot Mentor Program.” (CyberPatriot Website, February 26, 2017)

What’s Next: Practices have already begun for CyberPatriot season X. The teams going back to basics, tearing down cpu towers to build the foundation for success in the fall. The success of team 10668 has drawn in new interest and UPHS looks to host more teams next year. Thanks to the ongoing support through grants from the Moore County Schools Public Education Foundation, UPHS will have the devices and funding to expand this opportunity to all of our students thinking about CyberSecurity and/or Computer Science careers.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Leading Bearcat Robotics: The Story of Breese Reagle

A Leader in Robotics

Mr. Breese Reagle is leading the way for Bearcat Robotics at Elise Middle School.  The 8th Grade Social Studies teacher was recently awarded a $2,800 grant from the Public Education Foundation ( to purchase six Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots to utilize in all classes and allow for the expansion of the robotics team.  His goal: provide more students at Elise with an opportunity to participate in robotics.

Interest in robotics at Elise has grown exponentially over the past few years as more students become exposed to the world of robotics.  This year Elise Middle had 138 out of approximately 200 students interested in joining the robotics team.  Due to the lack of robotics kits, many of these students would not get the opportunity to fully participate in the program. The additional robotics kits will provide these students with an opportunity to expand their learning at Elise through the robotics program; an opportunity that would not exist without the leadership of Mr. Reagle.    

Congratulations to Breese on receiving the robotics grant.  Your hard work and dedication to the students at Elise Middle is greatly appreciated!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Building a Foundation: AP Computer Science in Middle School

The Mobile Computer Science Principles Project (Mobile CSP) is funded by the National Science Foundation providing a broad and rigorous introduction to computer science while implementing App Inventor, a mobile programming language for Android devices.  Source Link

The course is based on the College Board's emerging Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles curriculum framework for introductory computer science...

...and yes...some of our Moore County Middle School Students at West Pine are participating in this exciting learning opportunity!

Thanks to a grant funded by the 
Public Education Foundation, West Pine Middle and Crain's Creek Middle Schools were able to purchase some Android devices, which are equipped to test student-created apps.  Students learn how to create apps by using the App Inventor Programming Language in addition to learning all about computer science concepts such as binary numbers, abstractions, algorithms, parity checking, low and high level programming languages, logic gates, etc...  

The West Pine Student Coding Club Members are the pioneers of this Advanced Placement trial program in middle school and are experiencing the exact same material presently being offered at Pinecrest High School.  These students now have a solid foundation, which will allow them an added boost of confidence when they experience the official AP Computer Science Course as high school students next year or whenever they choose to take the course.  

Crain's Creek Middle's 8th Grade Business CTE Classes will be creating apps in April.

Example Code:




The West Pine Middle Coding Club Members look forward to showcasing their very own apps at the Moore County Schools Digital Showcase coming up on March 16th at 6:00pm at West Pine Elementary School.