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 2 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.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Oral Language .... to the fore!

Earlier this week I participated in a school wide Professional Development session led by Dr Jannie van Hees, around creating a Conversational Classroom - something Michelle and I are focused on doing with our 1:1 iPad trial.

Today we had two instances where this conversation was extremely rich, and to me it showed how far the students have already come!  Firstly, we have having some major school building developments occurring around the school and as part of these developments two of our classrooms are being lifted, and moved to another section of the school.  This process enthralled the students when we took them out to see a classroom up on hydraulics, waiting to be moved via truck later tonight.  Using a photographic lead in to encourage students to think about what was happening, we used the pair/share technique to have all students actively thinking and sharing their ideas before taking the students (with their iPads of course, so they could take their own photographs!) out to view the building site!

On returning to our classroom, the following class story was constructed:
The hydraulics pushed the classroom up!  Now the trailer can fit underneath.

Later in the day, during a maths session learning the number "after", students were extremely keen to use video (rather than a photo) to document their learning, particularly when they were encouraged to use their oral language skills to explain what they were doing.  This sample from Phoenix, is one of her first attempts at using video to document her learning, and shows how comfortable the students are becoming with Oral Language and their iPads.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Expanding on our story ....

As part of our whole class writing this week we used the school playground as the motivation.  We started with a whole class brainstorm using this picture:

On Tuesday we created our initial story.  The story began with:
 "We like to play on the playground."
We encourage the students to build on this initial sentence to make it better.  This is how the story evolved as the children added to it:
"We like to play on the playground, with our friends."
"We like to play on the playground, with our friends, in the sun."
"We like to play on the playground, with our friends, in the sunshine."
"We like to play on the playground, with our friends, in the sun's rays."

On Wednesday (while I was at university) Michelle revisited the sentence with the students and they recorded a song version of their story:

The suns rays from Team 1 PES on Vimeo.
On Thursday, with Michelle away in a meeting, we revisited the story with the purpose of re-crafting a more interesting beginning of the story.  During our "days of the week" session we talked about now being in the season of "autumn" and we used this as the basis of our new start.  I gifted the students:
"On a summer's day, we like to play on the playground, with our friends, in the sun's rays."
Then I asked the students are we in summer?  No, they said, we were in autumn, so our story became:
"On an autumn's day, we like to play on the playground, with our friends, in the sun's rays."
But, we weren't finished yet ... one of our delightful children wanted to make a change and so our final story for the week became:
"On an autumn's day, with leaves falling down, we like to play on the playground, with our friends, in the sun's rays."

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Nice to be missed ....

Every Wednesday I spend the day with MDTA at the Auckland University extending my learning with digital technologies and revisiting the previous weeks lectures through a tutorial session.  While my class are getting used to me being away on a Wednesday, I still miss not being in the classroom.  This week I received this video mid-morning:

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Constant reflecting and adapting ....

As part of the 1:1 trial of iPads in the classroom we're constantly reflecting and adapting to try new things and improve the way we are doing things! In the last week we've discovered the many advantages of Teacher Dashboard and scoping projects to individual students - one of the great things is it automatically files it with the students name as part of the file which prevents our 5 year olds saving their work in the wrong place or overwriting "master files!" Today as an extension to writing, I suggested that we have the students write their names, using Explain Everything when they have finished their story. This gives them a purposeful activity to complete, which is one of their writing goals and keeps them engaged while we have small groups at the teaching table. We saw so much engagement with this today that we're going to continue and make it a routine in the classroom! One of the questions Michelle and I discussed in depth last week was students writing using pen and paper, rather than going straight to the iPad, which is one of our long term goals. While we can see the benefit of writing directly on the iPad, we both feel in these early stages we need to scaffold the process using pen and paper where the students are not able to "quickly erase" their work before we can see it (which many of them have already seen they can do on the iPad). The other drawback of the iPad is the size of the screen - already we are seeing with students writing their name that they use most of the available space for just a couple of words - this will of course change in time and with scaffolding and modelling! Once again we continue to use Explain Everything as our app of choice - today Michelle took a session where students did a self portrait! The computers in the classroom are no longer the "drawcard" - our students just love their iPads! (Luisa gets the credit for this artwork!)

Friday, 14 March 2014

Even more uses for EE ....

Having an unexpected block of time today, as a class we focused on learning to write our own names! I decided to use Explain Everything for this as it gave the students another opportunity for them to use their stylus and those students that have only started in the last week haven't had the opportunity to do that! Using each students' place card as a prompt, students opened a blank EE document and copied their name. Those more confident students did this without using the prompt card, and for those that required additional scaffolding, I wrote their name and had them copy first over the top of my letters (in a different colour) and then underneath. We've uploaded samples of students names to their Google Drives so we have a record of where they are at during their first few weeks of school with writing their name and can monitor their progress!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Scaffolding reading activities

The importance of scaffolding activities in small groups has been confirmed after reviewing the work students completed on reading Explain Everything (EE) projects over the last week. While students are completing the activity, we want to encourage them to talk about what they are doing and their learning as they work on the activities. The recording function within this app allows for this and records not only their voice but what they are doing within the app. Today at the teaching table, following a guided reading session I was able to work through a project with Atlanta and Ilaisaane and give them guidance as they completed the project. This will set them up for tomorrow when they will be asked to repeat this activity independently.

Also today we made another discovery with this app - with the students being logged into their own Google accounts we are able to export their EE movies directly to their Google Drive - this will then show in our Teacher Dashboard and is a much more direct way of capturing students work than what we have been using! Michelle and I are always learning and trying new things, seeing what is possible and arriving at what we find to be the most time efficient (and user friendly for 5 year olds) way to do things.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Learn ... Create ... Share ... our first PENN video

Huge excitement in Class 20 today with our first class video appearing on PENN (Pt England News Network)!  Our topic was the alphabet, combined with finding our way around Pt England school.  The premise for the movie was developed just over two weeks ago, as we recognised that with swimming last week we'd have minimal time for filming!

I've never used iMovie before and didn't fully understand what it was capable of until I started - and I made some mistakes along the way (but that's when even more learning happened!)  The movie was filmed on the iPad (first lesson - hold the iPad horizontally when recording a video!) and completed in combination with Book Creator so the students have a book to read on their iPads to reinforce their alphabet learning (and remind them of this movie experience).

I tried to scaffold the students really well around movie making and the need to listen to directions, wait for the "action" command, and that sometimes we needed a second take .. or a third take ... or even a fourth, to get it right!

Check out Class 20's video - I'm sure we'll be watching it again in the classroom! Can you pick the scene that they loved filming the most?

Friday, 7 March 2014

Our first visitors ....

This week we had our first outside visitors to the classroom (visitors are a regular occurrence at Pt England).  The visitors were particularly keen to capture our iPad instructions display, where we have step by step visual instructions for our learners for each app that we introduce.  During today's visit we had students on KidPix on the eMacs, students completing reading activities on Explain Everything, and two guided reading sessions with the teachers using the PM eCollection.  We also had some students taking a photo of their reading activity and using AirPlay to display this on the class TV.