Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a fourth year teacher working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 3 class using iPads to engage and motivate learners and improve student achievement. This blog documents my teaching journey and my learning processes with iPads in the classroom. I've proud of having been a member of the inaugural Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy(MDTA) program and last year a Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher (MIT) and Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir teacher.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Exploring Seesaw

As part of my involvement with the Towards Transformation program, over the last few weeks I've been using the app Seesaw with my learners.  Seesaw is an app on my learners iPads and I use a web browser to access the material they have uploaded.   Because my class is not quite 1:1 with iPads yet, learners scan a QR code each time they want to upload some work and then select their name.

Initially we had a few small teething problems as learners forgot to log out and the next learner scanned the work without checking but I turned this into a teachable moment and explained the importance of always logging out.  The learners are enjoying being able to review their work so far this year as well as read the comments that I leave for them after each piece of work.

I have moderation set for each piece of work - this is great as I know which pieces I haven't looked at and can immediately see the next steps for learners that haven't quite mastered a strategy or concept that I have been teaching.  Seesaw also has the ability to share students works with their parents also, something we will be doing in Room 30 very shortly - they will also be able to leave comments as well as see what we are doing in class each day.


For me, there are some real benefits with using Seesaw.  These include:
  • Notifications if I forget to approve work
  • The ability for learners to record their voice from within the program - we have been publishing writing but learners also read their story too
  • The ability to add video as well as images.  We have been sharing to the camera roll and then uploading from there.
  • Being able to comment on my learners work and my learners receive a notification when they log in that they have new comments.
  • The ability to share work with each learners parents.
  • The ease with which learners can login and publish their work - we went over this in class a few times and all learners were confident within days.
I'm really looking forward to exploring Seesaw further over the coming weeks and sharing the learning that we are doing in class with our parents/whanau.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

iPad Tools

Recently in my classroom I've been using a terrific Accessibility feature on the iPad, to help those learners who are lower in reading.  Often I include extensive instructions on particularly my Explain Everything activities to ensure learners remember what they are suppose to do after when they are working independently.  I have in the past used soundbites (using an app called Quickvoice) but I was reminded recently about the "speak" function where learners are able to highlight a piece of text and the iPad will read it to them.

To enable this function on the iPad, go to your Settings.  Under the 'General' option, choose Accessibility.  At the bottom of the first box, select "Speech" and enable the top option "Speak Selection".


My learners used this function within Explain Everything.  They simply highlight the piece of text they are unsure of and select "speak".  The text will be read to them and they know exactly what my instructions said.  NB:  In Explain Everything, the text cannot be locked down if you are wanting to use the speak function - I do occasionally forget this but my learners know to just unlock the text to use this function.




Monday, 20 February 2017

New Challenges ... Towards Transformation

This year I'm lucky enough to be part of a group of five teachers at Lynmore School receiving professional development as part of Apple's Towards Transformation project.

Last week we had our first session and as always its great to be shown different things and also reminded of tools and different ways these tools can be used.  As always, this blog post documents my learning from the session but also includes things I was already aware of but that my readers may benefit from.


Some of the iPad tools that were discussed during our session:

  • Speech - accessed by going to the Settings, General, Accessibility and turning on "Speak Select" which is under Speech.  You are able to adjust the speaking rate - I have moved mine more towards the turtle so the speech is slower for my learners.  This allows you to highlight a word or piece of text on the iPad and select "speak" and the word/text will be read to you.  Great for learners who struggle to read your instructions in Explain Everything!
  • Slide over - use this to move between two different apps - slide from the right of the screen and select the second app you'd like to have appear
  • Edit photos on your iPad by selecting "Edit" and "Markup" allows you to add text to your photos, highlight or notate or even add drawings to emphasise a point - this is great to allow learners to photograph some materials and then document what they are doing (particularly in maths).
Some of the iPad apps which were discussed during our first session:
  • Seesaw - a digital portfolio which integrates well with the iPads.  This allows students to share work with the teacher, allows parent access as well as for the teacher to send work to a group/individual student.  For me personally, I have found that I'm not able to send my Explain Everything projects via this portal at this stage, however its great for learners to screenshot or upload a video of their work and I get a feed of which work needs checking (and approving). Learners in my space scan a QR code (all catered for within the app) and select their name to sign in to send me their work.  I'm excited to try this out, particularly given the parent access that is available for each child.
  • Grafio 3 Lite - a great brainstorming app which allows for the import of pictures.  Learners are easily able to draw shapes and add words as they brainstorm their ideas.  Importantly, they are able to export their brainstorm as an image which can be inserted into other apps if required.  They are also able to send me their brainstorm via the Seesaw portfolio so I can provide feedback to them.
To finish our first session with our Apple facilitator, we discussed how a writing lesson could be progressed, from the brainstorm (using Grafio 3 Lite, through to the writing (using Pages or Google Docs) and into publishing/presenting (using a suggested app called Over).  I really liked this idea and intend to implement the process this week, using Explain Everything (rather than Over) for the publishing stage - this is because my learners are still exploring Explain Everything and I want to give them as many opportunities to do this before introducing many other apps to them.  Watch this space to see the results of these lessons!


I really was inspired by the first session and can't wait for our second session next week.  It is great to be given new ideas (and reminded of tools) and to think about the ways I can explore these in my classroom.  As always, I use iPads in my classroom to make learning engaging and inspire the best from my learners.  Just as my learners are always learning, so am I - I'm excited to continue to evolve my pedagogy and can't wait to continue my own learning journey!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Congratulations .... You're an Apple Teacher!

Earlier today I completed the iPad requirements to become an Apple Teacher.  Having used iPads in my classroom for over three years now, it was great to cement the knowledge I have acquired.  As always, in working through the requirements I picked up more tips for using the iPads and got some great ideas for use in my own classroom.

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I'd encourage others to undertake the Apple Teacher program and I definitely intend to further my education by completing the Mac requirements shortly.


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

New Year .... New Challenges


2017 marks a new challenge in my teaching career!  It was extremely hard to say farewell to Pt England School, having had such an amazing start to my teaching career, but the need to move away from Auckland, to more affordable housing (and less traffic) was strong.  In less than a week, school will start in my new classroom, at Lynmore School in the beautiful city of Rotorua.

I'll again be working with iPads and I look forward to using the teaching pedagogies that I have developed over the last three years in my new classroom as well as continue to innovate and try out new things in order to make learning exciting and engaging for my learners.


Over the last few weeks I've been transforming my teaching space and moving into my new classroom.  It is exciting to take a blank canvas and transform it into a learning space that will inspire and motivate my learners (although time consuming too!)   Here is just a small snapshot into my classroom - I can't wait to add to the 'blank walls' as my learners start creating!







Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Manaiakalani Film Festival 2016

Earlier this month I once again contributed a movie to the annual Manaiakalani Film Festival.   With slightly older learners this year I asked for their ideas and tried to incorporate them all into the movie - no mean feat given they had SO many ideas.

Over the last few years I have come to realise it is really important to do three things:

  • Plan REALLY well, including a full list of all screen shots (really handy as you can film out of order)
  • Always film MORE footage than you think you will need - definitely the case this year but that way there is little need to refilm (and try to get things exactly as they were on the day)
  • Allow more TIME than you think you need for editing - it always takes longer!  Movies this year were due in week 8 and I organised to film in week 2, which was way earlier than most.  This gave me six weeks to work on editing (and it took nearly that long)
The opportunity of the Film Festival for my learners is amazing.  I have some learners that I taught back in Year 1 so they knew that they would have the opportunity to dress up and get into their roles.  For me, I try to make the experience enjoyable and different for my learners.  They all get the opportunity to dress up and become the character.  I also try to add the fantasy and "wow" moments by using the green screen room.  This ensures that learners (who don't see the movie until it is on the big screen) don't really know what to expect.  

So, without further ado, my Manaiakalani Film Festival entry for 2016 ... see what happens when its not "Just Another Day!"


Monday, 21 November 2016

My Spark Manaiakalani Inquiry Review

Its hard to believe its been a year since I began my inquiry but today was our last meeting at Spark HQ to reflect on the progress we have made.  As part of this, we recorded our presentation, with additional commentary on our overall thoughts on learner shift as well as personal learning.

The "Thinglink" below provides links to all aspects on my inquiry:



The opportunity to be a Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher for 2016 was amazing and I've grown professionally as a result.  Its been a privilege to join the other teachers involved this year (particularly given the Manaiakalani Outreach teachers were also involved) and I've thoroughly enjoyed following their inquiry progress and presenting with them all this year.

I look forward to continuing my inquiry journey into 2017 and have shared all my resources publicly so that other teachers (and learners) are able to also benefit.

Finally, a huge thanks to the Spark Foundation and Manaiakalani Trust for the opportunity.  Their generous support continues to open up opportunities for both learners, teachers and the wider community.

Presenting at ULearn 2016

Monday, 31 October 2016

Sharing gems and collaborating on the problem solving

Image result for collaborationToday in our inquiry groups we had an opportunity to share some gems from our inquiry as well as discuss things we might be struggling with and brainstorm some ideas.  It was an amazing session and we had teachers from different areas and year levels to contribute to the discussion.  Some of the things we discussed and shared included:


  • Samoan Proverb: ‘Ia teu le VĂ¥’ Va is the space between, the between-ness, not empty space, not space that separates but space that relates, that holds separate entities and things together in the unity-in all, the space that is context, giving meaning to things. A well known Samoan expression is ‘Ia teu le va’, cherish/nurse/care for the va, the relationships. This is crucial in communal cultures that value group, unity, and more than the individual person/creature/ thing in terms of group, in terms of va, relationships.” Albert Wendt - respecting the same between us and the learner or group of learners and keeping this at the forefront of our practice, particularly when dealing with difficult situations
  • creating a culture for your space - as well as creating this culture, make sure the learners feel ownership of the culture and also you, as the teacher, take ownership of the culture also.  Reaffirm the culture frequently
  • ensure the learners know why they are doing an activity/task a certain way - at times you need to explicitly teach it, or teach the 'why' behind it
  • feedback is important but needs to be manageable and sustainable - one suggestion was to give written feedback fortnightly on a cycle, to support the verbal/oral feedback in the classroom
  • understand your learners and use extrinsic motivators (eg Class Dojo) to achieve desired behaviours - where possible make these visible but as unobtrusive as possible

While some of the things we discussed today seem "obvious" its great to hear other teachers' opinions  and hear some new ways of doing things to try in my own classroom.  Its great to have an opportunity to discuss things openly, particularly at a time of the year which can be more difficult and time pressures continue to intrude.



Sunday, 9 October 2016

ULearn Opening Showcase

It was great to present with my fellow Class OnAir teachers Matt Goodwin and Nicola Wells, sharing about Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir.  It was somewhat nerve-wracking that the slides for our presentation automatically advanced every 20 seconds, so timing was definitely everything!




Friday, 7 October 2016

ULearn 2016 Day 3


The final day and the sun comes out!  That will make walking between sessions so much easier :)



SESSION 6: iPads are HOT Tools!  Emilie O'Keefe and Casey Patuawa

Google Classroom - great to monitor who is doing their work and who isn't allowing for more accountability

Puppet Pals - ability to make their own puppet or use a photo of themselves and record voiceover as you move your puppets

Drawing pad/Draw and Tell - can draw as well as voice over
Odd one out task - which is the odd one out and why?  What can you do with these numbers?

Book Creator - create an inquiry presentation on a topic - gives learners ownership that they are an author

piZap - photography app; very similar to PicCollage but without the adverts - create a photo mosaic from photos that they have taken, add words to describe and then share to blog.  Would be great for this term when we are doing science experiments

Writing planning idea to scaffold ideas - describe a setting - use a picture and describe it with words around the outside.

Give learners "iExplore" time so they can explore the app - share back how they used it and what they found?  You can then fill in the gaps of what is necessary to use the app.

SESSION 7:  Dynamic Digital Technologies for Narrative Assessments - Diana Wilkes & Kyle Hattie

Narratives are written by the learning coaches (teacher) for the learners and shared on their blogs.  Different tools are used to craft these narratives.  The school is exploring having their learners write their own narratives using a standard format.

BreakOutEdu - a fun way of problem solving  -  a great way to check understanding on concepts and build on collaboration in the classroom.  Need multiple locks and clues.

EdPuzzle - possibly great for teachers - have questions throughout the video so that learners need to leave comments or answer questions about the videos

NearPOD - learners all use a PIN to enter the presentation - teacher drives how fast you move through, when teacher moves to the next slide, the learners device moves along with you

Comic Life - great for creating comics and creative posters/pages

Movenote - video in the side and presentation on the right

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CLOSING KEYNOTE:  Karen Spencer - Beyond the echo chamber:  The extraordinary possibilities of a networked profession (@virtuallykaren)

"Weave the aho and the ideas together to achieve success."  Praxis makes perfect  -  exploring ideas and putting them into practice.  All the professional learning of today is driven by teachers - collaboration!  Teachers make the biggest difference in the lives of our learners.  Consider your conversations in terms of immediate value, potential value and applied value.  Of even more importance, think about the realised value (this can't be determined until we have talked to our learners), and the reframing value (changing an approach based on the feedback from our learners).  No single person has a monopoly on good ideas - this just reinforces the need for collaboration.
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Methods Matter!

Karen shared three main ideas with us:

Find the Urgency - which is the area that YOUR learners need the most?
Hold our ideas lightly.  There is no solution - plan carefully before you introduce anything.  Teachers are constantly redesigning to find solutions to educational problems - it is therefore necessary that our time is spent on the most important things.  The NZ Curriculum is a great resource to help prioritise and identify ares of need.  Spend time trying to understand where the vision is already in evidence and where changes could be made so that the learners feel it more strongly.

Image result for holding a match

See the story behind the data - listen to your learners, gather the voice/stories of your learners and treat them like a piece of art.  Bring the different viewpoints in order to look for what is really going on with the learners and where we can spend our time most usefully.

Embrace discomfort - we only see things through our own interpretations (or bias) and these guide our actions.  Part of being a modern educator is being comfortable with having our own bias' exposed and discussed.  There is often a pressure to conform through a fear of looking different.    What can we achieve if we embrace discomfort or include our devils advocate voice?  It is OK to have different views.  Our role is to look at how professional learning conversations allow people to safely air their views in ways that celebrate diversity and help people check the assumptions that are driving their actions.

What does the research say?  Look for evidence that your innovation is working - is it making a difference for your learners?  After all, we are teaching to make a difference in their lives of our learners - education doesn't change the world, education changes people and its people that change the world!


OTHER LEARNING:
As always happens, talking to other teachers can be really inspiring.  These are a few other ideas that I'd like to explore after talking to other teachers during the breaks:
Swift Playground - a coding environment that can be used on iPads as iOS10 and above
Ant Word Profiler - a freeware tool for profiling the vocabulary level and complexity of texts.
Discover first tweet  -  a tool to find your first ever tweet.


Would a great three days of Professional Development and I'm looking forward to taking some of the inspiring ideas back into my classroom - thanks to CORE Education and all the presenters, and also to Manaiakalani for the great opportunity!