Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a teacher and leader of digital learning, working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 1/2 class using Play Based Learning (PBL) and 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.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Couch PD - New Seesaw feature - Multiple Page Feature

A wet and cold Sunday morning in Rotorua provided the perfect opportunity to catch up on some Professional Development that I missed earlier this week about a great new Seesaw feature.

I use Seesaw with my learners frequently, particularly to showcase the great learning that occurs daily by Learning Through Play.  Often I use the activity feature to show the learners understanding of different strategy's or concepts that we have been learning.  One of the things with using this feature was that you could only include one page - that all changes from now and I'm excited to start creating (and have my learners create) using multiple pages!

The PD session showcased how to launch the multiple pages and what would happen from a student and teachers perspective when it was launched (from either the drawing, upload or photo option)!  I think this will be great to capture the learning in the playground also as I often upload directly to Seesaw while I'm observing the learning through play.

I've updated my own iPad to the new version as well as the class iPads and am off to create my first activity, for learners to show what we have been learning in geometry last week around using directional language to give directions!

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Couch PD - More Hive Summits

This weekend I had the opportunity to catch up on some Professional Development which I had "snoozed"* in my email over the past fortnight.

The presenter I watched today was Lisa Johnson - someone I already followed on Twitter and had heard speak previously.   This session was on productivity, something we all struggle with from time to time.  The key messages from the session were:

  • There is no “One Size Fits All” for Productivity 
  • Being mindful of balance is key 
  • To get started, you need to identify goals It’s important to notice that macro goals are composed of micro goals 
    •  Ask yourself: 
      •  What do you want to do more of? 
      •  What do you want to do less of? 
      •  What do you want to finish? 
      •  What do you want to do better?
  • Visually tracking habits helps to stay on track
  • Failure is small mistakes repeated daily 
  • Determine your “Value Buckets” 
    • Choose the three values that are the most important and relevant to you  
  • We live in an era of a lot of distractions - try to minimise these by setting time aside to get through your to-do list
  • A “Brain Dump” can help to be efficient 
  • Being mindful and realistic with your time will help you to be successful 
  • Know what you value -  It is easy to goal-set and to work toward a goal if you have identified what you’re working towards 
  • Recognize that time with your family is your most important time 
  • Email is an inefficient tool - find a system to address sending/receiving emails

* the snooze feature of Gmail is a feature I used frequently to ensure that emails or work that I can't deal with till a later date is removed from my inbox and pops back up on the selected day for me to action!

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Couch PD: Hive Summit Day 1 - 3

This weekend I've chosen to partake in some professional development from the comfort of my couch.   Over the next 14 days the Hive Summit continues and if the first two days are any indication I'm going to enjoy listening to the speakers.

The first presenter on Day 1 was Angela Maiers - a visionary who is passionate about #youmatter!  While the sketch notes for the session are extremely powerful, the messages that related with me are:

  • Every human has a ​need​ to feel like they matter and are extremely important
  • We are the face of influence for our students; it’s crucial we notice them - you can do this by simply greeting them at the door each day.
  • Everyone has a voice that MUST be heard! There is no ego in feeling like YOU MATTER!
  • The first and last 20 seconds you spend with a human are the most impactful
  • Kids don’t see problems and think, “Who’s going to solve that? - A child’s default is action “We can change the world...”

  • The second Hive Day presenter was Michael Matera - the innovator behind the Hive Summit who talked about gamification in learning (not something that I found as useful). 

    As I was about to close this blog post I received the email with the Day 3 speaker.  Casey Bell was inspiring.  Her main points include:

    • Dynamic learning requires teachers to deliver instruction in a non-static way - be different and unafraid to change things up
    • Student-centered learning provides teachers with opportunities to be effective
    • Beyond the Bell: learning does not end when the bell rings
    • Beyond the Grade Level/Subject Area: our content is not the only content-- technology provides access for anyone to be an expert on anything
    • Beyond the Walls: global connectedness can provide our students with authentic audiences
    • Beyond the Tools: access to NEW tools allows our students to do NEW things

    I'm excited about the learning to come over the coming days!

    Friday, 19 July 2019

    Seesaw Ambasssador

    Earlier this week I completed my Seesaw Ambassador training for another year!  I really enjoy using Seesaw particularly as a platform for sharing the learning happening in the classroom with whanau.


    Additionally this year I've started using the Seesaw Activity Library more extensively and contributed with my own activities.  While still using Explain Everything, the Seesaw activities tend to be able to be completed during one lesson and provide opportunities for students to practise different skills quickly.  They are just as interactive (particularly with the new features added) as using Explain Everything and students don't need to be shown how to upload to Seesaw.

    The above example is an activity created earlier today to practise skip counting to solve multiplication problems.  I look forward to continuing to use Seesaw in the classroom over the coming months!

    Wednesday, 5 June 2019

    Reflection on Kaurihohore School Visit - Class Learning Journal

    This blog post is the first in a series which will document my thoughts about what I observed and the changes I'd like to try in my own Play Based Learning Classroom as a result.  In order to really document and reflect, I'm choosing to focus on one aspect per blog post which provides an opportunity for me to not only document what was seen and its effectiveness but also unpack how I'd like to imitate or innovate what was seen in my classroom.  This blog post focuses on the Class Learning Journal.

    This was an A3 size pad with 50 - 60 pages, spiral bound and quite sturdy. The journal was available for the class to look at anytime and stored by the teaching station.  Over the morning, several students took the opportunity to look back through the journal and review something the class had looked at. 

    Early on in the day, the whole class gathered on the mat and added to the journal.  Firstly, they reviewed the learning from yesterday (about snails) and the teacher prompted them to remember what the pointy bits at the front of the snails were called (they had discovered that they were called tentacles).   After reviewing the picture and words which were added yesterday, they moved onto the journal entry for today.   One question that was posed yesterday was the relationship between snails and worms and the teacher had a child appropriate video for viewing today which showed this.  The conversation, lead at first by the teacher, asked where else the students had seen tentacles.   The discussion turned to an octopus which has 8 tentacles and a question was posed "where is the mouth of the octopus".  The group talked to a "talking buddy" with their ideas and then shared back into the journal with the teacher writing, "The mouth of an octopus is ...." and noting down the ideas shared by the students.   She admitted to not knowing the answer and left this as an un-answered question (learning for tomorrow?).    As the session (approx 10 minutes) drew to a close, it was clear that some students still wanted to share, so while many went off to where they wanted to play, the teacher said she would stay behind if anyone wanted to share - several students took this opportunity.

    During the discussion, the teacher encouraged students to not put their hand up but rather to "look for a gap" when they wanted to say something - if they struggled to find a gap, they could put their thumbs up to show they had something to share and were struggling to find the gap (this way the teacher could support them!)

    This session had a variety of learning opportunities through:
    • reviewing the previous days learning
    • multimedia - video to explain new learning (using You Tube)
    • buddy sharing to hear what your buddy thinks and share back with them
    • modelling of writing questions and ideas into the learning journal (students see their ideas valued and captured)
    • photos to provide a visual link for the students

    After this great session, I looked back through the learning journal so far and noted:
    • All items were dated
    • There was a great variety of learning showcased through the journal - a variety of questions posed (and answered, or suggestions given); photos of the students learning with words added e.g. collaboration, friendship, perseverance; student art which was glued in and shared; photos of animals or things with questions and discussions around (following on from interests of students)

    So What Now for My PBL Classroom:
    I think the journal is great and something we could do as a whole class to start the day (except on Hui days) as a great way to extend thinking, encourage conversations and buddy sharing (oral language) as well as document some of the great learning, key competencies and extend discussions and thinking of the students.   

    I will need to carefully scaffold the sessions and ensure they are not too long (5 - 10 minutes at most) and model and show the use of buddy's to share.   It will be important to include a range of different experiences to cater for the class and also to include photos of the students so they feel part of the process.  I feel it will be easiest to start with photos of play in action (with appropriate language) as this will help reinforce the key competencies that are most needed with my class and then move onto investigating and posing questions that come from interests.

    With a digital hat on I'd like to photo each day's session and place it on Seesaw to allow parents to see what we are discussing in class and provide an opportunity for them to hear from their child the learning they have been doing and encourage that home/school partnership and further the learning for students at home.

    Wednesday, 17 April 2019

    Auckland Summit - Day 2

    The last two sessions for the day.

    Extension Magic - Nick Major

    An action packed session with lots of great ideas and features.  This post showcases a few of my favourites or ones that I'd like to explore and use.

    Download the Educators guide to Wakelet here

    Full notes from the session are here.

    Auckland Summit - Playgrounds

    A new feature of the Auckland Summit is the Playground session.  This is an hour of short presentations on a range of topics.  This blog post is a summary of them.

    Literacy with Google - Toni Westcott

    Some inspiring ideas and ways to use literacy in the classroom.  I really enjoyed this 12 minutes - some ideas I need to adapt for my learners:

    • Language feature example (with photos)
    • Narrative shared writing examples - using Google Slides so students can look back and review
    • Pick a path books (or quizzes) 

    Amazing Race with Google Earth - Rachel Duckworth

    A great way to create an activity which is cross-curricular and engaging for students.  Link to session notes:

    Lego - Problem Solving - Aorere College Students

    A fun interactive session racing other teachers to make bridges or towers - unfortunately my tower fell down before the photo so this photo doesn't really do it justice.

    Hemingway App

    Copy text into this great app and have your writing analysed and see what improvements could me made to your writing.

    Auckland Summit - Ignite Closing session

    As the first day draws to a close, we finished with an Ignite session.

    What did you create today?   So far today, I have created 3 blog posts full of notes and inspiring ideas to share with others.


    Suan shared all his grand plans following his badly broken arm eight weeks ago.

    Some things take time to recover.  Take time to get better.  Be the best version of you.

    How are you creating these four things with your students?

    Tuesday, 16 April 2019

    Day 1 @ the Auckland Summit

    Session 1:  HyperDocs - Lisa Highfill

    Notes from this session available here.  HyperDocs are a way to create engaging lessons with a variety of multimedia.  

    Our first task was to explore Google Maps and find our 'happy place'.  These instructions show you how to share a map with your class.    There were some wonderful places noted on our map and this is one way to have students explore their environment, ask questions and make wonderings.

    I particularly like the website where teachers are freely sharing their HyperDocs with other teachers.

    For my age group, I'm excited to explore the work of Nadine Gilkison who teaches at my age level and be inspired.

    Things to Explore Later:
    Book Bentos

    Session 2:  Screencasts: Learning & Reflection Anytime Anywhere - Anthony Speranza

    This session uses Screencastify to create a digital recording of computer screen output in video format.  

    Before starting your screencast you need to think about:
    • background noise or moving things on your desk - this can be picked up by the microphone
    • use a web camera to showcase the classroom
    • an app that supports whiteboard style teaching
    • manage your background noise as much as possible

    Screencasting allows for blended learning, which can be a mix of face to face and online learning - it may be online in the classroom so the teacher is also available - it can maximise the face to face time with the students.

    Things to consider with Screencasting:
    • Have a purpose in mind
    • Plan what you are going to say 
    • Be mindful of visual distractions - do you want your audience to listen or watch or both?
    • Start by keeping it short and to the point - particularly for your students
    • Be mindful of confidential tabs or whatever else you have open on your computer screen
    • Think about the lighting around you
    • Students will respond better if it is something you have created

    These are some tips from Screencastify and from EdTechTeam


    Sketch.io - to draw as you are screencasting
    AWW board - a web white board

    GAFE Summit Day 1 Keynote - Time to Wonder

    Once again I'm at Aorere College for this years Google Summit.   This year I'll be presenting two sessions with a colleague, on Explain Everything and Seesaw.  It is great to networking with old friends and catching up with fellow Googlers from #SYD19.  I'm excited for a day filled with ideas and Googliness :)

    Today's opening Keynote is entitled Time to Wonder by Lisa Highfill. 

    Time to Wonder

    Have you ever been embarrassed by your good ideas?  Or too scared to share them with others?  Fear of putting your ideas out there?  Time to do something with them.
    "The value of an idea lies in using it" - Thomas Edison
    Lessons should attempt to accomplish this kind of learning.  How do you create an environment for good ideas to grow?

    How do you inspire curiosity?  
    "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. - Albert Einstein
    Use the internet to inspire learners - find movies or images that are powerful and inspire curiosity.  Multimedia text sets are a way for learners to lead their own learning and explore a range of media resources.   This allows the teacher to move away from being the holder of all knowledge. 

    A question is the most powerful force in the world.  How can you inspire your students to ask more questions and wonder more about what they are seeing?

    We are the architect to learning experiments in the classroom.  How can we build agency and 'get out of the way of the learning.'  How can we build dynamic lessons that build curiosity?  Hyperdocs are a way to giving students ways to learn in the smart package.  Give your students voice and choice to hand in their project. 

    'Sketchquoting' - a way to making note of all the things that resonate from a piece of text - a great way to analyse a piece of text and remember the important parts.

    The ultimate goal of any classroom is to have engaged, inspired, thinking, creating, empowered, connected learners.

    An inspiring keynote to start the day - resources discussed during the session are available here:

    Digital Ideas and Books to explore

    Answer Garden
    Book:  Make Just One Change - Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions
    Dan Rothstein & Luz Santana