Wednesday, May 31, 2017

School Year in Review: 2016-17 Edition

As the school year winds down and summer plans begin to take form, I want to take a few minutes and reflect on some of the great things that have happened this year.
Engineering Thread

  • Before students returned in August, teachers were beginning to prep for the upcoming year.  Teacher leaders in Moore County met with Curriculum Specialists to develop our Engineering Thread in K-5 classrooms.
  • Early in the school year, our high school CyberPatriot Teams began the qualifying rounds for the State and National rounds of the competition that puts students in the place of newly hired IT professionals managing the network of small local businesses.  One Union Pines CyberPatriot team received a State award for advancing to the 3rd Round.  
Winter Warriors
  • Before Christmas break, our middle and high school FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics teams competed in a local warm-up called Winter Warriors.  This event was hosted by Union Pines High School and was a great measuring stick for future FTC events.  Robotics teams were able to practice their robots and programming on the actual Velocity Vortex playing field they would eventually see at Trinity High School in Durham, NC in January.  
  • In January, the DIF team traveled east to Ocracoke for a Team Planning Session at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching.  While we were there we planned out our Spring activities (digital learning showcase, NCTIES presentations, elementary and middle school robotics events, STEM Camp).  
FTC Robotics
  • On January 28th, Moore County Schools took 7 FTC Teams to Trinity High School of Durham and Chapel Hill to compete at a Regional Qualifier event.  Our teams were pitted against 15 other teams from around the state in an attempt to qualify for the State level Robotics Competition.  
  • In March, the North Carolina Technology In Education Society (NCTIES) had its annual conference in Raleigh at the Convention Center.  This is always a great learning experience as we get to meet with colleagues to share ideas about how to effectively use technology and digital tools in the classroom.  It is worth noting this year that 8 DIF's presented at NCTIES on topics like Coding in Middle School Math, Sustainable STEM Camps, our Elementary Engineering Thread and using the app SeeSaw in Elementary Schools to create portfolios.  
Digital Learning Showcase
  • In March, our students and teachers had an opportunity to show the community the great things they are doing in their classrooms with digital tools.  We had our 3rd annual Digital Learning Showcase at West Pine Elementary.  Teachers, students, parents and community members were invited to check out things like 3D printed fidget tools, custom built cell phone applications, programmed drones, play-dough pianos and robotic Lego arms.  
Elementary Robotics Showcase

  • A few weeks ago, May 12th, we held our 3rd Elementary Robotics Showcase at Pinecrest High School.  The event has grown tremendously since our fist elementary robotics event held at Sandhills Farmlife in 2015.  Students had to navigate terrains that depicted different cities around the United States but programming for different turns and objectives throughout the unknown landscapes.  We also opened up our Elementary Robotics Showcase to other districts in our Region with Scotland County sending several teams the following day on Saturday.  
Middle School Robotics Competition
  • The following Friday, May 19th, we had our 2nd Middle School Robotics Competition.  This year's competition provided opportunities for students to program robots to throw a football, pull a weighted sled, measure area of a building and traverse terrain with various obstacles.  The middle school event was opened up to other schools in our region the following day as Scotland County schools brought 5 teams to the Saturday event.  
STEM Camp and Advanced Robotics Camp
  • STEM Camp will be our next big thing in the district.  This year's STEM Camp will be held at New Century Middle School.  There are two, 1-week camps (June 19-22 and June 26-29).  This year we are partnering with the Moore County Airport to have an Aviation Theme culminating with the opportunity for campers to fly for free at the conclusion of camp on each Thursday.  STEM Camp filled up at a record pace this year with over 280 applicants in the first week.  
  • This year is a first for our Advanced Robotics Camp (ARC).  This camp will run during the first week simultaneously with our June 19-22 STEM Camp and will focus on preparing students for the FTC Robotics use in secondary schools.  The ARC is open to rising 8-10 grade students and still has a few open spots.  If you are interested in attending the Advanced Robotics camp please email me at
As we wind down (or wind up) for summer, it should not go unnoticed that our schools are in a dire financial situation.  With the cuts that have been proposed, these events listed above will certainly be affected in some fashion.  The support staff that makes things like this possible are vital in sustaining them.  I feel like the people that will read this article already know about the great things teachers and students are doing in the district.  My hope is that this article reaches those that do not know about all of the great things Moore County Schools students are achieving.  My hope is that at least one person reads this article and thinks "We have to fully fund our schools".  My hope is that people realize that Moore County children are our greatest investment.  So I ask of you, share this article with others so the hard work our teachers, students and support staff get the notoriety they deserve.  Share this article so we can let the community know what our students are capable of when they are funded.  Share this article to be part of the solution.  

Tyler Callahan
Digital Integration Facilitator

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Soaring to New Heights!

From the military, to farming, movie sets, and even the Super Bowl halftime performance, drones are on the rise, and the sky’s the limit for teaching STEM skills with these unmanned aerial vehicles.  This year, thanks to Randolph Electric’s Bright Ideas Grant, students from Westmoore Elementary and Highfalls Elementary have had the opportunity to program, fly, and most importantly, learn, with Parrot “Airborne” drones.
Up and Away in Math!

Ratios and Proportions took on new meaning for sixth graders at Westmoore Elementary.  Working in small groups, students worked through four different stations, measuring the distance from point A to point B at each stop.  After finding the distance, students flew their drones from point A to point B, and used a stopwatch to find the time that their drone made it to point B.  Using their distance and time calculations, students were able to determine the speed of their drone.  Now when students think about ratio and proportions, and the formula for finding speed, they can reflect on this hands-on learning experience!

Flight School

Students from Mrs. Pfiefer’s 4th-grade class at Highfalls met once a week for a month to participate in “Flight School”.  In Flight School, these students learned about current and future uses for drones, discussed drone safety, learned how to code using the Tynker curriculum, and then finally they were able to program and fly their drones!
Carson Phillips showing students how to program the drone to fly.
Carson Phillips, a fourth grader in Mrs. Pfiefer’s class, demonstrated his drone programming skills at the 2017 MCS Elementary Digital Learning Showcase and at Highfalls Elementary’s Family STEM Night.  He describes his experience with flying drones, “At first, I thought the drones were going to be hard to program, but after working with the Tynker app and the website, it wasn’t so hard.   I really like the cool tricks you can do with the drones, like programming it to flip forward or backward.  At the Showcase, I was able to teach other students how to program the drones using the app, that was really cool and really easy!  And at the Family STEM Night, I was able to write the code to fly my drone through a basketball goal!”

So what does this fourth grader hope to do next with drones?  Carson explains, “I think it would be cool if there could be a drone competition like we have the robotics competition.  We could have courses set up like we do for the EV3 robots and we could program our drones to fly around the courses!”

Carson just might be onto something with his idea for a drone competition!  This summer, students participating in MCS STEM Camp will be using their engineering skills to build drone obstacle courses to fly their drones through!

As you can see, flying drones impacts student engagement, communication, collaboration, and other important classroom components. Students are engaged, motivated, and inspired to learn in ways that no other technology will allow.

To see more pictures and videos of drones in action, follow me on Twitter @carrierobledo


Monday, May 15, 2017

Give Them Choices

Not all students think alike. Not all student create alike. Mrs. Hayes at Pinecrest High School decided to give her students choices for a final unit project. These students could choose to utilize parts of the Makerspace or other resources at home or school. This project was done with students of all ability levels. She reserved about 30 minutes of class time to allow students some exploration time in the Makerspace. Students were shown how to use the green screen, 3D printer, Tinkercad and sound engineering. This is an excellent example of how the Makerspace can be used at the high school level.

Let's Create and Write About It

Sometimes it is difficult to get students to write. Writing flows much easier for most students if they are invested personally in the process. In these projects we were able to tie the Engineering Design Process, student creations and writing together with an end product of a complete essay. What we found in the process of this project is that students are excited to write about their creation.

We followed the following process and students wrote about each step.

Image use from this source.

Step 1: Define the Problem (Introduction paragraph to essay): Teachers present a problem that needs to be solved in a very general form. 
Step 2: Plan the Solution (Paragraph in the essay):  This is the brainstorming phase. Students use graph paper to sketch out their design.
Step 3: Make a Model (Paragraph in the essay): Students use a program such as Tinkercad to design their idea.
Step 4: Test the Model (Paragraph in the essay): 3D models are printed and students check for accuracy.
Step 5: Reflect and Redesign (Closing Paragraph in essay): Students reflect on what should be changed in the design. What worked and what did not work? 

Fidget Toy Designed by a student at Pinecrest High School

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Traci Keith - A Teacher's Teacher

Some people were born to be educators. You can tell the moment you step into their classroom that the students who have the privilege of being in this room are in for an amazing year. There are lots of teachers that come to mind when I think of natural-born educators, one of which is Traci Keith, a fifth grade teacher at Cameron Elementary School. She has all the things a principal would look for in an exceptional teacher. She’s creative, passionate, knowledgeable, and her students love her! She creates a learning environment where her students are set up for success. A lesson that stands out for me is when her class participated in a novel study and the setting of the story was a cafe. Guess what the students walked into the first day of the novel study…...a cafe. Yep, she decorated her entire classroom like a cafe. You’ll find Miss Keith doing things like this all the time to get her students excited about their learning. Another amazing learning opportunity that Miss Keith created was when her students were studying the industrial revolution. This may not come across as the most engaging unit of study as a student, so Miss Keith and I collaborated on a project where her students would bring the inventions from the industrial revolution to life using and our 3D printer!

Students were assigned an invention that is associated with the industrial revolution, they had to research this creation and explain how it made life easier for people during this time frame. Once this was completed, students hoped on their Chromebooks and created a model of their invention using the Tinkercad website. What better way could a teacher bring their lesson to life than to have her students actually re-create the inventions that they are studying! Then, once her students completed their models, we printed them with our Dremel 3D printer! Take a look at some of their models:

Paddle boat



I always enjoy picking the brain of teachers who I look up to, so that I can hopefully take something back from them and add it to my toolbox. Take a look at what Miss Keith shared with me when I sat down to interview her and hopefully you’ll be able to take something from this phenomenal teacher:

Question: What allows you to be able to take risks with your students?
Answer: I think I take these risks because sometimes when students do things they’ve always done in the past, it’s boring and it becomes monotonous. If I take a risk and do something new with them, it becomes a learning process for both of us where I learn to be a better teacher and they learn to be a more creative learner or think more critically.

Q: How would you describe your teaching style?
A: The best way to describe it would be flexible because of the fact that every day is different and every learning style is different. You can plan as many avenues as possible but there will always be outcomes that happen that you can’t predict so you have to be ready to change at the drop of a hat.

Q: Where do you start when you are planning a lesson that includes technology?
A: For me, it starts with what I would do if I didn’t have technology and then how I can turn those things into digital pieces. For example, in vocabulary in reading instead of having them make vocabulary flashcards they used digital flashcards using Quizlet. Also, a lot of project-based learning is easier because there are more options in the digital world. It adheres to what the students like because they’re living in a world of technology.

Q: What are some of your favorite technology tools that are your “go to” tools for digital integration?
A: I use a lot. I can assign the vocabulary words and then they practice those words in a number of different ways. I like Google Classroom because I can post different types of assignments and they all get turned into the same place. I can assign anything from Google Slide projects, to webquests, to Classworks reading or just give them link to check out when we’re studying a content specific area.

Q: You’re an inspiration to many people, including myself, what inspires you?
A: I think our whole staff here at Cameron because we have a staff that has tons of different teaching styles and they all make their specific teaching styles work for them. And they all have the best interest of their students in mind which inspires me to think outside of the box because what’s really important is what they learn and how they learn it. And the students, of course because honestly there’s nothing better than completing an assignment or project and seeing the light bulb go off and they finally get it.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a teacher?
A: Having fun with the kids. The best part about my job is being able to experience things with them and see their reactions when they learn something new. While lots of the things we do in class, I may have done before, they are brand new for my students so it creates a new experience for all of us and a bonding experience that helps us form relationships that last for years to come.

It truly is a pleasure to work with teachers like Miss Keith. She's always looking for ways to make the learning meaningful for her students. She has a fantastic rapport with her students and her colleagues. Thank you Miss Keith for everything that you do for your students at Cameron Elementary School.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Flipgrid is Flipping Awesome!

Sometimes a technology tool comes along that you know will drastically change the way kids collaborate, create, and communicate! I feel this way about Google Classroom (well all the Google Apps for Education, actually) and Seesaw, and now I am adding Flipgrid to that prestigious list.

“Flipgrid is a video discussion community for your classroom that supercharges your students’ voices. You add the topics, your students respond with short videos, and everyone engages!” (Flipgrid website)


Like Seesaw, Flipgrid is extremely user-friendly for both the teacher and the students. Because the video responses are limited to a minute and a half, students are able to practice being concise and articulate, while teachers don’t feel overwhelmed viewing the responses from an entire class. Flipgrid allows all students, especially those who struggle with expressing themselves via written language, the opportunity to share ideas, thoughts, and newly gained knowledge. Also, Flipgrid is able to be used on all modern browsers, desktop, Chromebook, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

How many times have you spent hours leaving penned comments and suggestions on students’ written work only to have them immediately shove the paper into their desks or backpacks (or better yet, the trash can)! Today’s students rely on visual and auditory messages to gain meaning in their lives. Think about Snapchat, Instagram, and the other social networking platforms that they use profusely throughout the day. As a teacher, Flipgrid can be used as a powerful formative assessment tool, allowing you to provide meaningful feedback using a modality today’s students desire.

Because students are able to view each other’s responses, Flipgrid is also a great way for our kids to practice digital citizenship, critical thinking, and gain new insight, understanding, and perspective (something sorely needed these days). In the teacher dashboard you have the ability to allow students to comment on each other’s responses or just allow viewing. Flipgrid also makes it easy to help our students become global learners through their global connection portal!


Flipgrid is an awesome tool for all grade levels and all subject areas. Math teachers are using it to have students explain their problem solving, ELA teachers are using it for global book discussions, science teachers are having students describe their lab findings, music teachers are having students share short performances, the possibilities are endless! This week at Southern Pines Elementary, several 3rd grade teachers used Nearpod lessons to teach students about the differences between saltwater and freshwater ecosystems. Then they had their students choose three things they wanted to share from their notes (Venn Diagrams) using Flipgrid.


The students used their Chromebooks and the entire class was finished recording within five or six minutes. The teachers now have rich formative information they can use to plan tomorrow’s follow up lesson, the class has a collection of interesting facts, and the students enjoyed quickly sharing what they had learned. You can visit the grid HERE.

kohut flipgrid.PNG

I encourage you to give Flipgrid a try! If you are on Twitter @flipgrid is developing an enormous, energetic following. Make sure you check out the #flipgridfever hashtag to get amazing ideas on how other teachers are using this awesome tool! You can also check out a new grid HERE they’ve created where teachers (even you!) can add new ideas throughout the month of May!

Your DIF will be happy to get you started or model a lesson using Flipgrid, just ask!

Here’s to trying new things to empower our kids!


Monday, May 1, 2017

My Mail Has Moved....Now What?!?!

Tips for navigating the Google Migration
Moore County Schools merged staff email over spring break into Gmail, a move that will save the county thousands of dollars.  A major plus in the move is that the district does not have to worry about email going down if the servers go down locally, like what happened during Hurricane Matthew this fall.  Gmail also provides us with a more secure email than we had with Outlook.  Let’s talk about some differences so you will be able to navigate Gmail a little better:

Gmail Looks Different
Gmail looks different than Outlook in that our former email allowed you to see emails as individual messages.  Gmail groups messages into conversations, which groups emails together in a thread.  This feature can be turned off in settings if you prefer to see individual messages by clicking on the gear - settings - conversation view off.  The stars in Gmail are simply a way for you to denote that a message was important, but we have discovered that it is a great way of keeping up with whether or not you have replied to an email or not, since there is no visual in your inbox that allows you to do that.  You can mark an email as important with either the little pentagon or star next to the message so it will be easy to find later.

If you liked the split screen in Outlook where you could preview a message on one side and see your entire inbox on another, that is available in gmail too! The vertical split will allow it to look just like Outlook!
Personalize Your Mailbox
You can customize the background of your Gmail mailbox by clicking on the gear- settings- theme.  You can choose one of the themes Google has available or you can upload your own picture to really make it personal.  You can also add a signature line and change the font for your emails in settings under the General tab.  Just make sure you save all of the changes you make by scrolling to the bottom of the page and hitting the save button.

Where Did Your Folders from Outlook Go?
If you are wondering how everything is organized now that the merge is complete, you can go to the gear- settings- labels and see all of the labels you have in Gmail.  This is what Gmail calls folders.  You can move the order, you can also clean up your folders if you would like or mute or hide them so they don’t show up (that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, they are just hidden from view).  
Once your labels are all set up you can file or even filter your emails to go into the label you want.  You can set up filters to automatically delete messages or send them to a specific folder.  This is a great way to keep your mailbox current.  

Archive or Delete?
If you archive your Gmail instead of deleting it, it will no longer be in your inbox but you can find it again later.  If you delete your email, it will stay in your Trash for 30 days, then will be gone forever.  Outlook would make you delete everything twice.  

Looking for a Specific Email?
If you search within your mailbox, you can find an email by searching based on location, sender, subject, key-words, attachment titles, or date.

To create or edit your contacts list, go to or you can click where it says mail right under the Moore apps icon, and switch it to contacts.  You may need to clean up some of your contacts.  You can take out and contacts because those no longer exist and when you type in someone’s name to send them a message or share something with them in another Google app, it will get pretty confusing or frustrating.  To add a contact click the little person with a + and add a contact, then you can sort your contacts into groups.  This is an easy way to send mail to an entire list of people instead of typing in each individual name.  
.org or .net - Check Your Phone
There has been a lot of confusion about .org or .net, it is .org. Make sure you are logged into Gmail with your .org email so that you can continue to get your emails! Moore County Schools Technology department knows this is confusing but since .org has been our email for so long, having us change it on our logins is much easier than changing all of our contact information to be .net.  

There is a lot you can do with Gmail that you couldn’t do with Outlook.  It will just take some getting used to, your DIF is more than happy to help you learn how to use this tool.