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.

Monday, 15 September 2014

My MDTA journey so far ...

The following is a post I recently submitted to appear on the University of Auckland's Top of the Class blog!

As I approach the end of Term 3, I decided to use this post to reflect on my journey as a beginning teacher in the Manaiakalani Digital Teacher Academy (MDTA), a very unique opportunity and one for which I continually thankful for.

The Manaiakalani Digital Teacher Academy (MDTA) allows 10 Beginning Teachers (BT) the opportunity to teach alongside an experienced teacher, while being immersed in schools using digital technology in the classroom.   This is a unique opportunity for BTs to experience and learn through “doing”, with the support of our mentors.  It will ensure that we are strong practitioners in teaching in a digital environment to maximise achievement opportunities with our students.

Alongside this team teaching, I meet with the other MDTA BTs in a weekly PLG receiving professional development assisting us in building digital pedagogies and becoming confident and competent with digital technologies.   All the BTs and mentors are also completing postgraduate study (Honours or Masters) focusing on teaching and learning with digital technology, particularly in lower decile schools.

Teaching in a Digital Learning Environment
What I really like about teaching in a digital learning environment is the 24/7 nature of it.  I don’t have to be at school to do my planning or look at my children’s work as I can access this from anywhere as long as I have an internet connection.   All our learners have a Google account created and managed by the school.  Their work is uploaded to their Google account (each learner has their account linked on their iPad so they are not having to remember passwords).  Using the Hapara Teacher Dashboard app, I have access to all my learners’ files and parents are also able to log in via the Parent Portal on this app and look at the learning of their own children.

Team Teaching with a Mentor Teacher
Sharing the class with Michelle George (my mentor teacher), I have an opportunity to observe her on a daily basis and adjust my practice and pick up on things that she is doing really well.  I also get immediate feedback from her about my teaching which is particularly valuable if I try something different or need guidance on things I want to change.  Michelle has given me opportunities to try things out whilst providing guidance about the school systems, assessments and how to progress individual learners when appropriate.  When we discuss individual learners we bring our own unique perspectives but will often have seen the same things and agree on the way forward.  As a beginning teacher I totally appreciate that I’m receiving more guidance and feedback than other BTs and feel that I will be a better teacher because of this.

Furthering my Education – the Honours Degree
Balancing the demands of teaching with study can be difficult, although it is also extremely rewarding.  The two papers we are completing this year (Research Methods and Accelerating Learning) are able to be related to learners and my digital classroom environment.  We are encouraged to bring specific examples to our lectures to discuss, particularly with those teaching at a similar age level.  The learning from lectures and readings can be applied in the classroom and are grounded in theories for both teaching and learning.

There’s been so much learning this year so far, but by far the highlight for me is the progress that the learners in my class have made and continue to make.  When I look at the gains they have made since starting school and see their progress, combined with how highly engaged they are with the iPads, I find it extremely motivational for me as a BT.

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