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, 31 December 2014

2014 ... a year in review!

Usually at this time I just "think" about the highlights of my year and I've never had a blog before and therefore a vessel to review them via.  That all changed this year as embraced social media, in particular blogging and twitter and have enjoyed being able to share my successes, thoughts, attempts and meanderings.

I've grown so much as a teacher this year and look forward to extending that growth into my own classroom next year and at the same time completing my Honours degree - I have one summer school paper and a research project which I'm awaiting ethics approval for - once again, "watch this space" on that one!!

As we move into 2015, I feel I've accomplished plenty in my first year of teaching, and received an opportunity that very few beginning teachers have had - the support of a mentor teacher to assist in my transition to the classroom - the Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy (MDTA) made this possible and this unique opportunity has made for an amazing year!

So, without further ado, here are just some of my highlights as I think back and review 2014!

  • The 19 unique individuals who will forever be the very first class I had the pleasure of teaching!
  • Sharing my knowledge with the school and cluster with HTML toolkits
  • Sharing my experiences on my blog (and the Auckland University Top of the Class blog)
  • Getting to know the wonderful staff at Pt England School who make coming to work every day such fun
  • Piloting the iPad 1:1 in the junior classroom - it was a challenge that I embraced and enjoyed, despite the hurdles and occasional bumps along the way - opportunities for learning and growth, each and every one of them!
  • Explain Everything - wow, what an app!  We've used it in SO many different ways and I know I will continue to do so in the future
  • The Manaiakalani Film Festival - wow - what an experience, can't wait to do it again next year.
  • The MDTA weekly sessions which gave us opportunities to debrief and talk about our weeks  and more importantly, explore new tools to assist us to be at home in a digital world
  • and last, because it means the most:  Michelle George, my mentor teacher - you are amazing!!  I will never be able to thank you enough for your support and encouragement this year - I'm a better teacher because of this experience - you shared a class with me and were supportive no matter what, always allowing me to try new things, while providing expertise and experience that you were so happy to share, each and every day.   
I'm sure I've missed things, but the wonderful thing about my blog is the history - I can look over the experiences of the year at any time in the future!  I can't believe I've been teaching a year - its been exciting, enthralling, exhausting, eventful, exhilarating and emotional - I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else!   

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Farewell Class 20 .... hello Room 19!

Well it has arrived, the last day of teaching for my very first year!  I'm not looking forward to farewelling my first class, but I do so knowing that I can watch them move up the school and that they have a unique place in my heart as my very first class!  2014 has been an amazing year - I've grown so much as a teacher and had the expert guidance of Michelle to support me on my journey. We have made some amazing discoveries throughout the year as a 1:1 iPad pilot class and I look forward to continuing the journey into next year.

And so I look towards 2015, and another first - my own class!  While my teaching space remains the same, I will be teaching Room 19, again a Year 0/1 class which will grow throughout Term 1 as new learners arrive at Pt England School.  Already I have begun work on my Google Site in preparation for a new year and I can't wait to meet the unique individuals that will call Room 19 their classroom for 2015.

My journey continues, as will this blog, as I definitely plan to continue blogging about my professional journey, this time supported by my very own class blog!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Provisioning iPads ... the learning continues

I love learning new things!  Prior to starting this year I didn't know terribly much about iOS or Apple products, having spent 10+ years working with Windows!  That all changed this year.

Earlier this year when we set up the iPads for our initial pilot class, we spend many hours moving apps around on the iPad screen (on every device) and entering passwords in order for the apps to arrive on each device (at the time I remember thinking "surely there is a better way")  - we wanted to avoid this pain as we move to provisioning iPads for all our junior classes in 2015, but we have a need to have the iPads all look exactly the same, with apps in the appropriate folders (eg maths apps in a maths folder).

Pt England School have chosen to use Meraki for our MDM (Mobile Device Management) - with the initial setup of each device handled by Apple Configurator, which automatically enrols it with Meraki.  While we are still ironing out a few minor issues, I think this combination is extremely easy to use and has made provisioning so much easier - and all our devices look exactly the same (complete with a great lock screen picture of Pt England!)

I have no doubt we will tweak our systems even further but a few tips that have definitely worked for us:

  • spend time getting your backup looking exactly as you want it to - additional time here will see you reap the benefits as the iPads will all look exactly as you want them to look
  • think carefully about how you are going to tag your devices within Meraki - you are able to use these tags to send apps, webclips and restrictions to groups of devices (you can use multiple tags if you want to identify iPads in different groups)
  • use webclips (within Meraki) to put a link on iPads (we use this to have a link to our class sites)
  • use a powered USB hub to plug in more devices at a time - provisioning via Apple Configurator will occur over all the devices plugged in
I found this guide by Meraki extremely helpful and user friendly.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Blogging with 5 year olds

As we countdown to the end of the school year, my class have received their own blogs as preparation for moving to Year 2 next year!

The blogs were created with a few days of the term left, so I decided to take advantage of this and have the learners do a post using the Blogger app on their iPads.   This was a scaffolded lesson and we started by thinking about what we have particularly enjoyed about having iPads to help us with learning this year and unpacked some of the required vocabulary.  Learners created their own stories in their writing books and then used this to create their blog post, together with a photo of themselves taken with the iPad.

The class used the Blogger app for the first time and we went through each step as a whole class, with me demonstrating on the Apple TV and the learners then completing each step.  The Blogger app is really user friendly and I only had two children that tried to rush ahead and published too early - as I am an administrator for all the learners in my classroom I was able to quickly fix this.

I've also added some additional posts to my learners blog, celebrating the learning we have completed this year, as this will become part of their history at Pt England School.

A selection of my learners blogs are available here (linking to their very first individual blog post):

(NB:  These learners are currently Year 1 and will be Year 2 in 2015)