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.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Exploring the Samsung Magic

It was wonderful to be part of a MDTA visit to the showroom at Samsung.  As part of this great opportunity we were given an introduction to some of their amazing products - the curved TV had to be seen to be believed!!!  The products featured in the showroom included the televisions as well as kitchen and laundry appliances - the fridge with the clever door which opened a secret compartment was amazing!

The curved screen television had a terrific picture!

We had the opportunity to "play" with a Samsung tablet and have the experts share some of the great features.  I was particularly taken with the way you can connect your phone to your tablet and access the phone via your tablet (even if the phone was in a different room!)  It was great for me personally to explore the android version of Explain Everything and see that the functionality is very similar to the iOS version.  The picture quality on the tablet was definitely impressive!

Learning from the experts

Samsung shared information with us about their worldwide company and the divisions they have, and how they are constantly researching and developing to update their products.  We had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.

MDTAs with Samsung staff in the Samsung showroom

After a scrumptious lunch which Samsung provided for us, we enjoyed a Skype session (on a 75" screen!) with the developer of Trailblazer - a Google Chrome app which we have been given access to - which helps us create search paths when we search using Google.  It will be great to try out this tool in the coming weeks.

The Skype session

Samsung provided us with an amazing experience and I certainly left with a huge "wish list" - top of my list is the Samsung Galaxy s5 smartphone, which will actually survive if you drop it in water! Definitely on my to be purchased sometime soon list!  Thanks to Samsung for making us so welcome and sharing your amazing technology with us!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The week in review

Its been a super busy week, dominated by the filming for our class Manaiakalani Film Festival movie!  It took all day to capture the content we needed and the editing process has only just begun!  I didn't realise how tiring the day would be.  Despite being extremely well planned some things you just can't plan for - the child that has "nerves" and needs comfort and hugs to encourage them to give it a try; the children who are just so happy that they can't do an unhappy face; a scene with five actors and actresses where they don't all do it 'right' at the same time!  That is where the editing is going to have to be clever!  BUT, despite all the small issues that arose, all my learners had fun and all were involved!  In fact, on Thursday morning (the day after filming) all I heard was "can we film again today Mrs Belt!"  A sure sign they enjoyed the experience.

On Thursday we wrote about our filming experience in the green room - that is one of the things I love about our planning - we are flexible enough to latch onto things that happen which provide exciting motivation for our writing.  This week for instance, we've written about the filming experience, our weekends, the spouting outside our classroom which was getting fixed and the All Blacks - thats an exciting week of experiences, combined with rich language for all the learners!  Every week (in fact every day) is different in the classroom - you never know what the learners are going to say or do, or when they will make that crucial next step in their learning.  Its not hard to love the job I do and to look forward to going into work each day!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Who is more excited ... me or my learners?

So I'm filming for our class Manaiakalani Film Festival movie tomorrow!!  I've spent my release today finalising my props, taking some green screen test shots and experimenting with my backgrounds in iMovie!

Many of the learners brought the remainder of their costumes into school today and they are all very excited about the filming tomorrow - I wonder if they realise that they may have to do things again and again to get it right!

Tomorrow is going to be a big day and a learning curve for me - I've been told to take "much more" footage than I could ever use so that I have plenty to choose from in the editing process.   There will be learning happening all day, not just for me, but for my learners also.  Many of them have spent days learning their lines at home and practicing with family members - they are enthusiastic participants in this journey.

Above all, I want my learners to enjoy the experience - they can't wait to dress up into their costumes and have their turn in our green room.   I do think the hardest concept for them to understand is the "editing process", which could take me a few weeks to do - they will be wanting to see themselves immediately!  I hope the wait will be worth it when they see themselves on the big screen at Sylvia Park!

So, with a final check of props, lines and costumes, I look forward to tomorrow, and hope that we have as much fun filming as Class 20 expects us to.  We've made movies in our class before (we appeared on PENN today in fact!) but this is different - this time we get to dress up and become fairy tales characters .... we should all get to play make believe at least once a year!

iMovie ... the upgrade!

Over the last school holidays I upgraded my OS to Mavericks and as a result of this, I now have the new iMovie!  I've always been a "learn by doing" person and have definitely found this continues with using iMovie - at the beginning of the year I'd never used it at all, and this week I've finished my 6th movie - this time using the new version!

I actually found having used the previous versions, that the new version was easier to use!  Some of the features that I "knew" existed somewhere, took slightly longer to find in the new version but once I'd located them I was away!

Each term our class needs to produce a movie for PENN (Pt England News) and today is our scheduled turn - check out this terms class movie which explores what Class 20 thinks makes a champion and incorporates some of the exploring we have been doing in class using our QR codes.

With our PENN movie complete and reading for broadcasting, tomorrow is filming day for our Manaiakalani Film Festival movie.  Yesterday we had a "dress rehearsal" with the costumes so I could work out what we still needed.  Thankfully we are nearly sorted and the learners are getting really excited about filming day!  I just hope that we manage to get it all sorted in the one day - I have scripted the movie, and listed out screen shots that we need!  It will just depend on the learners - they always say never work with children or animals - time will tell if that is a wise adage.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014


Today as part of our MDTA learning we explored the use of infographics and using graphics to present information in a variety of ways!

I explored both Piktochart and Info.gram and would recommend Piktochart as a great way to visually present information and I look forward to using it more often and exploring it's capability.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Challenges - an opportunity for further growth!

Two weeks into Term 3 and its already very busy!  While there have been a number of successes this term already, there have also been some challenges to overcome but as with everything, this is an opportunity for me to learn and grow from mistakes and be a better teacher as a result.

As the Commonwealth Games draw to their conclusion we will start to revisit some of the great sporting achievements as a class!  Already we have taken opportunities in cycling, shot put and gymnastics to showcase these sports with our learners.  The Class Google Site continues to be a huge hit and having the ability to add to this following the inquiry approach has been extremely beneficial - unfortunately many of the You Tube clips are not currently available to view in New Zealand which has made it harder for us to source relevant and timely information!  Linking to news sites via an iFrame window has helped with this - some new learning about Google Sites!

We have also begun to unpack what it means to be a Champion and what attributes a champion has - I was really surprised at the rich ideas that learners in Class 20 were able to contribute to this discussion this week - just wish I'd remembered to photograph the whiteboard BEFORE it got rubbed out - more learning!  Our cross country training kicked off last week and we will begin gymnastics this week to complement our integrated learning unit.

On the professional front this week, Michelle, Helen King and I hosted a Toolkit this week around using Explain Everything.  My major contribution to this was creating a handout to summarise the information we would be sharing.  As most of our session was "hands on", I was keen to provide a quick-look reference document for participants to take away, rather than having to make notes throughout the session.  A copy of the handout can be downloaded here.

On a personal front, the workload balancing act while also having a young family continues to test me! Using a suggestion from Michelle, earlier this week I timetabled our term and have made a list of all the things that need to be completed this term - it will be an ever changing list but having the visibility of the tasks definitely helps, as does working to deadlines which give me a little flexibility before the "official deadline"!  It will be an exciting term - how many beginning teachers get to create a movie to be seen on the big screen at Hoyts Sylvia Park!  Just one of the challenges I'm looking forward to conquering this term!