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.

Sometimes Simple Does the Trick!

Integrating technology does not always have to involve elaborate projects which include robots, green screens, and LEGOs (although those are incredibly awesome!). Sometimes something simple can bring out just as much synthesis, creativity, and critical thinking! As long as the students are doing the creating, learning abounds! One site that provides very simple creative ideas and templates is provides hundreds of lesson plans, student interactives, mobile apps, calendar activities, and printouts. Each of these types of activities can be browsed by keyword, grade level, learning objective, and/or theme. The lessons and activities are available from the Kindergarten level all the way up to twelfth grade. The interactives (templates that walk students through the creation process) are user-friendly and, with a little imagination, can be adapted to anything being learned or practiced in the curriculum! Projects on the site can be saved, printed, screen captured, or emailed, making sharing on Seesaw, a blog, a website, Google Classroom, Padlet, or any other global site easy!

Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking!

Why not try the Cube Creator? This interactive template allows students to build a cube demonstrating their knowledge of characters/people, mysteries, story elements, or they can choose the generic template for whatever they’d like to share (science or social studies concepts perhaps!). Each cube comes with a pdf planning template for students to organize their ideas prior to the creation process.

Cube creator.PNG
Bio cube.PNG

Or how about letting your kids design a book jacket/cover to assess how well they understood the plot of a story or to dress up a story of their own? The Book Cover Creator template allows students to choose from various designs. They then use text tools, background tools, and drawing tools to demonstrate their creativity! This template is very basic, and no, there is no uploading of clipart or photos, but it allows students to easily create a product. Students are prompted to “Print” their book cover when finished. Because many of our students don’t have access to a printer on their Chromebooks or classroom computers, in the Print pop up, students can “Save as PDF” or “Save to Google Drive” rather than selecting a printer. Sharing with the teacher then becomes easy, and printing can occur if desired.

Book Cover Creator 1.PNGBook Cover Creator 2.PNG

Although there are tons of other cool interactives I hope you’ll check out like the Comic Creator, Compare and Contrast Map, Post Card Creator, and Trading Card Creator, ReadWriteThink also has a simple Webbing Tool that allows students to organize their ideas using flexible rearranging options. For many of these one page tools, students can also be taught how to take a screenshot of their final product, saving it as a picture file, which can easily be uploaded to numerous places!

Webbing Tool 1.PNGWebbing Tool 2.PNG

Are these tools basic? Yes! Are they effective ways to allow your students to create content rather than just consume? Yes! Do they provide a little something different when you are looking to assess your students’ understanding? Yes! Please take a few minutes to browse all that has to offer and allow your students to create! Your DIF can help you brainstorm ideas or be there to assist your students during the creation process, don’t hesitate to ask!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Robotics in Mustang Country

The Robotics team at North Moore High School officially kicked off their season last month with a preliminary, intra-county match held at Union Pines in their Auxiliary Gym.  Moore County Schools "Winter Warriors" FTC Competition showcased the new Velocity Vortex game board.

The "Mustang Maniacs" competed against teams from Union Pines, Pinecrest, New Century Middle and West Pine Middle.  After the 14 Alliance Matches, the top two teams (West Pine Middle and Union Pines) each chose a partnering team to join forces with for the final match of the afternoon.  The West Pine Middle team chose the Mustang Maniacs to join them in the finals.

In the final match of the afternoon, the WPM team and Mustang Maniacs came up just short.  The day was nothing short of a learning experience for all involved.  Our next Robotics Competition will be January 28th at Trinity School of Durham.

Tyler Callahan
Follow me on Twitter @STEM_TC
Digital Integration Facilitator
North Moore High School
Community Learning Center at Pinckney Academy

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A salute to our Public Education Foundation

It takes a village. That’s one of the cliches that you hear a lot in the education field. But it rings true. A student's success in school is directly correlated to the hard work and dedication of a number of people.

One of the most supportive groups that we have in Moore County Schools who has an enormous hand in the education of our students is the Public Education Foundation (PEF). Led by President Andrew Lyons, this passionate group of up to 25 members has awarded over $250,000 to enrich classrooms in Moore County Schools for over 30 years. From robots and drones to musical instruments and sustainable school gardens, our PEF has funded a variety of educational projects. Whenever we see something pricey that we would like to integrate into the classroom but we’re unable to secure the funding, the first thing we think of is applying for a grant from the Public Education Foundation and so should every educator in Moore County Schools.

I highly recommend pursuing a grant through the PEF if you are interested in adding something to your classroom to facilitate creative and engaging learning experiences. Anyone from our Digital Integration Facilitator team would be more than happy to help teachers with the application process or preparing for their interview. And the turnaround time is amazing! If your project is approved, you will have your funding within the next two weeks! Click here to apply for funding.

Along with projects that are embedded in our daily curriculum, the PEF has played a vital role in two major events in Moore County Schools. First is our annual summer STEM Camp. Their financial assistance has helped bridge the gap to a sustainable camp for our rising third through eighth grade students. They were also generous enough to provide scholarships last year for students to attend STEM camp who may not have been able to attend otherwise. And secondly our elementary robotics showcase as well as our middle and high school robotics competition would not be possible without the support of the PEF. Many of the robots our students program as well as the fields they use during the competitions have been awarded from grants through the PEF.

Please come out and support our Public Education Foundation! The “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?” event is sponsored by the PEF. Admission is free and the excitement is unbelievable. I hope to see you at the Pinecrest Auditorium on Thursday, January 19th at 6:30 pm. Come early to see some robotic demonstrations that were made possible by funding through the PEF. Another wonderful opportunity to support our PEF is the ShamRock ‘N Roll Road Race on Saturday, March 11th. They offer a 1 Mile Fun Run, 5k run/walk and a 10k run/walk. All proceeds go towards the PEF. There is also a competition that the PEF funds to encourage the support of our local schools. The top 3 schools with the highest percentage of participation earn a cash prize! Click here to register.

We would like to send a HUGE thank you to everyone in the Public Education Foundation for their continued support of our students. We truly appreciate all of the opportunities that you have made possible for so many children.

-Clint Rogers

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Team Travels to NCCAT

Admittedly, when Steve Johnson approached the DIF team about traveling to NCCAT for a week of group planning and professional development, I was unsure as to what to expect.  In my eleven years of teaching in the state of North Carolina, I had only just heard about NCCAT for the first time last year.  

The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching has two campus locations, Cullowhee and Ocracoke.  The program began in Cullowhee in 1986 and expanded to the east coast in 2007 with the addition of the Ocracoke campus.  NCCAT’s purpose is to allow teachers to renew their love and enthusiasm for their profession by providing a space for teachers to grow professionally.  The sessions are all about a week long and are completely free for teachers to take part in.  While at NCCAT, you will stay in comfy dorm-like private rooms and eat some of the most delicious food ever, as all of your meals are also provided.  The staff are most helpful, professional, and knowledgeable.

The Digital Integration Facilitators had some pretty lofty things on the agenda to complete while at NCCAT.  We were able to use their planning rooms to draft plans for the 2017 STEM Camp, Robotics Program planning at all age levels, added to the engineering thread we have implemented for elementary grades by adding middle school engineering projects, and collaborated within grade level groups to come up with other projects and ideas for extending engineering and STEM into all levels of Moore County Schools.  Pretty exciting stuff to be on the lookout for in a classroom near you! I would say we all came away re-charged and excited about things to come in Moore County.

If you are interested in checking out NCCAT for yourself visit their website to see their offerings, click here. There are scholarships available to educators that need help paying for substitutes as well.