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.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Subtraction .... with Explain Everything!

One of the many things I find so amazing about the Explain Everything app is you can do so much with it - limited only by the ability to "dream up" ideas!  We've moved onto subtraction in maths and last weekend I was trying to come up with something more engaging that writing problems on the board or taking three bears away from five bears.  Hoping for inspiration I grabbed a coffee and some cookies to inspire me ... and another Explain Everything project was born!  What if I had five cookies and Cookie Monster stole two of them?  How many would I have left?

I created a multi slide project with the first slide containing both the visuals and an audio explanation of how to complete each slide.  We watched this slide as a whole class at the beginning of the first lesson and then completed some of the follow up equations, again as a whole class - having the iPad airplay to the Apple TV ensured everyone could see! The rewindable nature of the "teaching" slide ensured students could go back to this during the week.


Oh, and after students master subtraction from 5, what comes next?  Fish of course!


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Sharing our learning on PENN

It was Class 20's termly turn for PENN this week.  When we discussed an idea earlier in the term Michelle and I both thought that the song Brave by Sara Bareilles featuring the line "Say what you want to say" was appropriate given our strong focus on Oral Language.  The class really enjoyed putting the movie together and seeing themselves on the news yesterday!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Sharing my journey with others

Yesterday I had the opportunity to join Dorothy in facilitating a professional development day for the teachers at Omokoroa School in Tauranga, centred on the use of Google Apps in Education.

It was amazing to see such enthusiasm for the ideas we shared and assist these teachers in up-skilling in the use of Google Apps including Docs, Drive, Spreadsheets, Forms and Sites and share my amazing journey to date.

After lunch we split into two, with Dorothy conducting a session specific to Chromebooks and I facilitated a session on the use of iPads and shared how we used Google Drive, Teacher Dashboard and Explain Everything in our day to day program.

I feel extremely privileged to be part of the MDTA program, working in a school that is proud to be a digital learning environment, and having opportunities such as today to share my successes so that others can benefit.  As a result of some of the questions that I was asked today, I plan to create further screen casts to continue to showcase the systems and learning that happens in Class 20 - watch this space!! Today really emphasised that others want to share in the learning that I'm doing, which in itself is a further motivation for me on this amazing journey!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Learning from each other ... and hearing it happen!

In maths today we were working on counting backwards from 20.  Having worked with a group for fifteen minutes, it became apparent that some learners had a stronger understanding than others.  I decided to try something a little different - pairing the learners up!  The students were using an Explain Everything project to move the numbers into order (backwards from 20) and I requested that they use their voice as they did it.

Bradley completed this example independently and I could play back his recording and see that he had a strong understanding.

Next, I had Bradley and Casshuis work together - this is the result.  They each were working on their own iPads but sitting next to each other as they worked.   Its great to be able to hear both voices and see the learning which was happening.  At one stage when they had completed the countdown once, Bradley tells Casshuis "You have to do it again, because I'm doing it again" and helps him move all the numbers back to the top so he can repeat the learning.  Together, they completed the countdown five times!  I'm super excited about how this activity went - definitely something to be used again!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Explain Everything to extend our Integrated Learning

Our integrated learning theme is "Working Smarter not Harder" based around equipment in the kitchen which makes things easier to do.  On Thursday we planned our first cooking session with the class but wanted to unpack this learning by introducing the vocabulary of the equipment we would use.

We started the session by showing all the equipment we would use (waffle iron, measuring cups, mixing bowl, apron etc) and we provided labels for each item to scaffold the learning.  We decided to have learners use Explain Everything to take a photo of each piece of equipment and then rather than simply photograph the label, they would use their stylus to label their photos in Explain Everything.  The results were extremely impressive and it was great to see the engagement of the learners as they completed this task.

Unfortunately some learners learn the concept of saving the hard way - when they accidentally deleted their work before saving it - this reinforced to Michelle and I the importance of going over this step with the learners.   Many of our Explain Everything projects to date have been templates shared with them so they were easier to save as the file name was already completed.  As a result of this I will create a screencast as a reference for learners to reinforce the saving process.

After cooking (and eating) the waffles, as a follow up, learners were asked to add to their Explain Everything photos with an additional slide.  The instructions were to draw a picture of cooking waffles or the equipment that was used and talk about their photo as they did it.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The power of 'the voice' with Explain Everything

The learners being able to record their voice is a very powerful feature of Explain Everything.  As a teacher we can 'replay' their learning through Teacher Dashboard, and this can assist with identifying any gaps in their learning.

Yesterday for writing, a group of learners used Explain Everything to write their story.  They used their stylus and started with a lined page - I created the lines and set it as the background on a blank Explain Everything page, using Teacher Dashboard to share this with all learners.   The focus was on crafting their own story, based on what they did over the long weekend - we shared our weekend activities first with our peers and then as a whole class.  On the whiteboard, we documented just some key words from their ideas next to each child's photo.  At the teaching table, the learners came up with their own sentences and we worked on identifying high frequency words and sounds within a word.  

Once the writing was completed, learners read their story and recorded this using the iPad.  While this session was guided with the learners, it opens the way for the learners to create a story independently, recording high frequency words and known sounds in a word before reading and recording their story so we are able to hear and compare their oral language with their writing - powerful!

Digital Learning

As part of her involvement in the Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher (MIT) programme, Michelle was interviewed by Spark (formerly Telecom) about the digital learning happening in Class 20.  This interview was followed up with a film crew visiting the classroom and filming our learners - this finished product showcases some of the Class 20 learners using Explain Everything

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Google Sites

At Pt England School we use Google Sites in order to make the learning visible to both students and whanau.  This is extremely well used in the senior school and I've been keen to see what was possible in the junior area.

As always, after talking to Michelle, we decided to try 'small' and scaffold the students well to give it the maximum chance of success.  I created a page with a small selection of reading options for students to select from when they have completed their guided reading and follow up activity.  It includes links to Explain Everything files for the students to download onto their device and work on independently. I had to redraft the options however, as when we tested it, the larger Explain Everything files (with embedded video clips) were not easily downloaded to the devices and would have caused confusion for the learners.

We are now ready to roll out the page to the students.  I have placed a link on their iPad dashboard so they land right onto the page - the first step in scaffolding.  It is our hope that in future weeks students will be able to navigate our whole class site and we will be able to use the site for other curriculum areas.

In order to assist with the scaffolding, I have also created a "how to" video to support the students if they forget how to download the files.