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.

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, 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 

Sunday, 19 August 2018

#SYD17 - One Year On

Just over one year ago, I embarked on my journey to become a Google Certified Innovator.  My innovation focused on personalised learning and how to make this accessible to all educators. 

As part of my amazing journey, I spent three days at the Google offices in Sydney, and over this time my innovation evolved and transformed as we were challenged to think outside the square and think big to make it the best that it could be.  While in Sydney I reconnected with some colleagues from the past as well as made some new friends from around the world.  My group was wonderfully coached by Justine Driver (a fellow kiwi) and I left Sydney inspired, motivated, exhilarated and with a brain full of ideas, wonderings and possibilities for the year ahead.  

I was lucky enough to get a mentor that understood my reasons for wanting to inspire others to use personalised learning in their classroom and who has challenged and supported me over the past twelve months with a passion for personalised learning that matches my own.  I had the pleasure of working with Fiona Grant in my first years of teaching, in the Manakalani Cluster in Auckland but over the past twelve months have had the opportunity to get to know her even better as well as lean on her for support, encouragement, advice and guidance - she really has been the best mentor I could have hoped to get.

As the twelve months comes to a close, my project is ready to launch and provide ideas and resources for teachers to use personalisation in their classroom.    The website is now live and over the next few months I am looking to promote this across New Zealand and encourage teachers to participate and become part of a community that shares resources in order to save teachers time and makes the most of personalised learning for their tamariki.

As I look forward to the future and reflect on the past twelve months, it was a privilege to be accepted as a Google Certified Innovator.  I met an amazing group of passionate educators from around the world and made connections with I hope will last a lifetime.  GCEs are a unique group of educators - they are passionate about education and about helping others.  I see this each year at the GAFE summits and through the local GEG group which I am a member of.  I look forward to being more active in the GEG group over the coming years and inspiring even more innovative teachers to apply for the opportunity of a lifetime - to be a Google Certified Educator.  To the Google Education team, Suan and the team in the Sydney office, my coach Justine and all the coaches of #SYD17, my mentor Fiona, and all those that have supported me on this journey - thank you for the experience of a lifetime!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Auckland GAFE Summit 2018 Ignite Session

To Auckland GAFE Summit finishes with four Ignite sessions, each 5 minutes each.

Dorothy Burt - Creativity Empowers Learning
A few things have been assigned to the bin - so its now an exciting time! Once again we are exploring equity and students having access to all they need to learn.  How have we lost the ideas that worked 60 years ago?  Create and be creative - it might look different with robots and coding but the messages are still the same.  We can't go from our planning to the child's mind .... for the most part, the rewrites need to address those learners that need slightly longer - by applying and creating.  It can get noisy and messy - but its empowering!  Think and plan outside of our comfort zone.  Engage, then empower using creativity.   Plan for opportunities to be creative - free up time and empower students to create more - hook through active participation!

Anthony Speranza - Hope about what is possible
Change is hard but necessary in our job.  What makes a good learner?  We are experts as teachers and we understand how learning occurs but is it happening?  Is the teacher the one in control in the classroom? How can you change it?  Why do children want to 'check out' of school?  We should be encouraging learning and engage learners in school.  What is the 'seduction' of technology?  Unpacking the why could help us engage and motivate those learners. 

Learners need:

  • content
  • motivation
  • skills
This requires us as teachers to take risks and be vulnerable!  If learners need to take risks then good teachers and leaders should also take risks.  We need to create an environment where they are comfortable to take risks.  Leaders need to grow a culture where teachers feel they can take risks.

When will the extraordinary become ordinary?

Dorothy Apelu - Supporting students to become better writers using blogs
Blogs enable a history of a child's learning for future teachers.  Three focus areas;

  • engaging contexts - that matter!
  • writing strategies - from other teachers and schools that had success
  • blog posts 
Blog posts enable learners to share their learning but the value of face to face is also important - sharing across schools or classes.  Authentic audiences can be other students in the class or old teachers - getting more feedback!  Posts were shared with a local MP, who responded! This also showed that students could see they could have an impact.

Stuart Kelly - In the Classroom I am ......

  • aptitude
  • attitude
  • altitude
  • storyteller
  • explorer
  • collaborator
  • advocate
  • performer
I am .... teacher ... learner .... you!  WE!

What a great couple of days, connecting, networking, learning and exploring.  Thanks to the #EdTechTeam for the opportunity!

GAFE Day 2 Sessions

Session 8:  My Space: Within and beyond the classroom walls - James Hopkins

Where do you store your positive feedback to review when things are tough?

How are learners currently accessing learning in my classroom?

Consider ..... how do you learn best?  Often hard to put yourself in the role of the learner but here are mine ...
  • Hands on activities - doing not listening
  • Coffee!
  • Good lighting
  • Time to think about things
  • Colleagues to work with
  • Research or opportunities to unpack research
  • Not too hot

Collaborative Placement - as a group, find the commonalities of our group by looking to see what is in the middle.  If its a bigger group ... three to four in common would be a commonality.  The things that come from the centre are the main ideas important to most in the classroom.

Online learning spaces are becoming more frequent - many options are available to create these including Google Sites. Google Classroom, Weebly, Slides and Hapara Teacher Dashboard.  Make sure it fits the needs of the learners.  Many online spaces are available to look at and use as a base for creating yours.  

GAFE 2018 Day 2 sessions

Session Five:  Data Visualization and Infographics - Patrick Green

A great way to display data in a way that makes it much easier understand a concept.

Elements of Design:
  • Colour
  • Font
  • Shape
Principals of Design:
  • Contrast
  • Alignment
  • Repetition
  • Proximity

Tips and Tricks for Google Draw:

  • Zoom into a specific area of your Google Draw by clicking on the Zoom button and drawing a square around where you'd like to zoom
  • Put notes/ideas outside the parameters of your Draw so they won't display but are available if you need them - e.g. colour swatches; fonts; images

Session Six:  GEG NZ - Fiona Grant & Justine Driver

It was great to support Fiona and Justine introduce GEG NZ.   If you haven't joined the GEG NZ Google+ group, you can do so here.

GEG NZ support educators in a number of ways:
  • Spotlights
  • Smackdowns
  • Student Learner summits
  • Sparkshop
  • Socialising
  • Study Groups
Session Seven:  Driving change and agendas of innovation forward in your school

Link to resources

Ensure parents understand the time and effort we spend keeping them informed - important they understand they are vital to the process

Upskill yourself first using the Google Certifications

Does what you do give the right picture - are you seen as 'so out there' that people won't want to follow?  Approach the early adopters first and have them share back.   Swing the motivation in your favour.  Start from the early adopters - you will need to give the laggers individual attention, but leave these till last.

Start with ideas such as:
  • Techie breakies
  • Consider how to use staff meetings, PLTs and professional development
  • Build expertise in students to be able to assist both students and teachers

Innovation consistently links back to the SAMR model - in order to build staff capacity ensure you forge new habits and embed and guide thinking through:
  • have an 'open door'
  • be present at key moments
  • guide thinking
  • influence decisions - 
  • scaffold the process

Ensure you understand the WHY before the unpack the HOW.

This will provide:
  • immediate purpose
  • which will drive motivation
  • which will lead to passion
  • which will foster ownership

Think about three priorities rather than a multitude of ideas and visions - do three things well rather than dabble in just a few things.