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.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Game On ..... a personal review!

After using my Game On site for seven weeks now, I thought it was timely to review how its gone from both a teaching and learning perspective.  The site was time intensive to create (although much of the work could easily transfer into a new site in the future) but did it achieve the outcomes I intended?

  • The use of QR Codes for learners to navigate to the pages - extremely easy for five year olds to use, highly engaging (they were always keen to use them) and were very simple to create and display on our integrated learning wall.  I would definitely use these again, in fact the learners are already asking if we will have them again next term!
  • You Tube clips on the site for learners to view and hear the information - again, extremely successful (although a little noisy in the classroom) but many viewed the same clips more than once and were able to remember and report back on what they had viewed.  
  • The world map with links to the Commonwealth Countries we intended to investigate - this worked really well and provided a visual link for the learners as to where each country was in relation to New Zealand!  I feel I didn't unpack this map as well as I could have and this is a "need to work on" for next time.
  • Ability to add additional pages to the Google Site - so easy!!  After focusing on the Opening Ceremony during our class time I easily added a page to the site to include some of the images we'd discussed in class.  Creating an additional QR code and adding it to our display wall saw the learners being able to access the page the very next day!
  • Ease of creating a Google Site and sharing it with multiple teachers - again, so easy!  I was able to give Michelle editing rights to the site and she could add and edit our site.  Other teachers in the school also indicated they intended to use some of the site for their learning.

  • Topic specific words with corresponding pictures - these made our inquiry display in the classroom visually appealing but I feel I didn't unpack these words with the learners so they could benefit from this rich vocabulary.  Something to improve on next term!
  • You Tube clips on every page - because I had a You Tube clip on every page, it was impossible to have students exploring the site at various times as the noise was extremely distracting for other learners.  This wasn't a huge problem for this topic as we all explored the site at the same time (it was a little noisy!) but it definitely is something to remember for future sites if the intention is to explore it at varying times throughout the day.  In the more reliable summer months, there is always the option to head outside and listen to clips.

  • You Tube clips relating to the 20th Commonwealth Games - when I created the site I added clips from previous Commonwealth Games as a starting point, with the intention to upload additional clips as the games got under way (I created the site during the Term holidays before the CG started). However, I didn't expect such limited access to You Tube clips once the games got under way.  Even clips from the Opening Ceremony were extremely limited except for those on NZ news sites (Stuff, TVNZ) which were much harder to link to directly.  This meant while we were able to play content for the learners on the Apple TV (using the Stuff & TVNZ sites) I wasn't able to add these to my site and have learners look at them independently.
  • How many site pages did we need?  I'd created pages for six commonwealth countries and five of the commonwealth games sports.  This gave the learners a huge selection to choose from but took a significant amount of time to create.  While this variety was great for the learners, it could easily be scaled back to be more manageable from a creation perspective.
  • Height of the QR codes - oops!  While visually appealing to have the QR codes at different heights, in reality this made it hard for learners to scan them.  We had a number of work-arounds throughout the term - some learners standing on chairs, me moving them down temporarily so they could be scanned, but the big message for next term - KEEP the QR codes lower!
  • Explain Everything projects linked to QR codes - this just did not work.  It was a great idea, but when learners scanned the QR code linking to the Explain Everything project (despite intensive testing) there were always problems, such as it not linking into the Explain Everything app, taking too long to load, or just not opening at all and displaying an error.  It was worth trying, but definitely Teacher Dashboard remains the best way for sharing these projects.

As we evaluate the learning that has occurred this term about "What Makes a Champion", much of the learning has come from the information provided on the site.  While it is impossible to tell if the learners would have 'learnt it anyway', it was extremely obvious that they were very engaged and motivated in their learning when using the site.  They were able to share things they had discovered independently, with the class and revisit the information when required.  There are definite areas for me to improve on with future Integrated Learning sites, but for a first attempt I'm extremely pleased with how the site was used.  I'm confident that using QR codes with this age group makes the learning more accessible and will continue with this system into Term 4 and my teaching in 2015.  Overall, a grade of ...

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