Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a fourth year teacher working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 3 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, 30 October 2014

GEG NZ Presentation

It was a pleasure (and yes slightly nerve-wracking) to join my mentor Michelle George in presenting at tonight's GEG NZ hangout on air, showcasing the 1:1 iPad pilot we're undertaking in our Year 1 classroom.

I've had an amazing year to date and the privilege to work with such a great teacher and mentor on this incredible journey.

Check out our presentation here or watch the recording of the hangout:


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

UDL ... thinking about how I learn

As part of our MDTA session today, we explored the educational framework of Universal Design for Learning.

We were presented with multiple means of researching this topic and it was extremely interesting to hear from my fellow MDTA learners as to how they approached the learning - we all went about it differently, despite beginning presented with a scaffolded framework of information.  I've always thought I was a kinesthetic learner, in that I feel I learn best with a hands on 'doing' approach.  Today however, I opted for a more lecture style presentation, which was a combination of auditory and visual, rather than the more kinesthetic approach, which supports many learning theories that we learn through a combination of all three approaches.



During my research I found a number of visual representations which I found particularly connected to my developing understanding of UDL.



As part of our session we shared examples of UDL that we have incorporated into our teaching practice this year.  I found it extremely valuable to do this as a means of reflecting on my practice, and relating the opportunities I've given my learners to this framework, as well as hearing examples from other MDTAs.  


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Exploring Scratch

As part of our MDTA immersion day, we explored the Maker Space movement.  I chose to investigate Scratch and created a small animation as I learnt how it works.  Scratch is an exciting way for learners to "create", an integral part of the Manaiakalani "Learn, Create, Share" framework.

My simple animation took less than thirty minutes to create, and I'm sure I will be using this great Maker Space tool in the future.



If the project does not load above as it is an unauthenticated script, please use this link: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/30767218/

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Maths with Explain Everything

After completing JAM tests with our learners just prior to the holidays, Michelle and I decided that two of our groups needed to work on "Adding on from the largest number".  Having time to play for this learning I decided to create some Explain Everything projects to scaffold this learning.  After spending time at the teaching table using equipment to model the concept, we moved onto my first Explain Everything project.  This project, made up of 25 slides with an equation on each, was highly scaffolded at the beginning, leading to just the equation towards the final slides.  In the first slides, the largest number was circled and dots were placed under the smaller number, allowing the learners to count the dots, starting from the circled larger number.

As the learners worked through the slides, they had to identify the largest number and circle this, before completing the equation.  Later, they had to place the dots under the smaller number to assist them in their addition.  

One of the features of using Explain Everything is that learners are able to revisit this project.  After completing it on Thursday at the teaching table, I was able to watch what learners were doing and provide further assistance as required.  The next step will be for these learners to complete the project independently, and record as they are working so we can review and check the understanding of all learners and see what they are able to achieve independently.

This video of the completed slides shows the end result of one learners work.  There is no voice with this recording as this movie was created as just a summation of all slides the first time the learner completed it.  Learners will now record, with voice, when the work with this project.  We have a master copy of the project and this will enable learners to revisit it as many times as necessary to assist in reinforcing the concept.


Once learners have mastered this project, I have created a new project, again working with adding on from the largest number, this time scaffolded with a numberline.

Once again, the power of Explain Everything, combined with Teacher Dashboard to share the project to each individual learners iPads, has helped make this lesson so successful.  Learners will upload the project to their Google Drive when they complete it independently, so we are able to view these via Teacher Dashboard and check their understanding.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Classroom Displays

I was motivated by this post by Craig Kemp to take another look at the displays in our classroom as we head into Term 4.  We have a 1:1 digital learning environment in Class 20, and I do see differences in our wall displays than in other classes.  Having said that, we also have the ability to make our displays 'interactive' through the use of QR codes and by providing visual 'how to' instructions that our learners can use as a reference point.

Every term we create a topic wall display - this display includes rich vocabulary that we aim to unpack over the term as well as a pictures which relate directly to our topic.  In Term 4 this topic is 'Art Attack', which we are combining with a trip to the river.  Following the success of QR codes last term, we are again using these to assist the learners in exploring our topic.

Some aspects of the remaining walls in our classroom are driven by the needs of our learners.  For example, they need to have high frequency words on the wall which they can easily locate and use in their writing.  They also benefit by having numbers 1 - 20 displayed to assist with their maths.  But there is also room to include information that will assist them with their digital device.  While we haven't added to this display too much after Term 1, it is still available as a reference point for learners if they forget how to access Explain Everything projects or file the projects in the relevant folders.

I also believe its important for learners to see their completed work on the walls - sharing it with other learners and visitors to the classroom.  These work samples were created using KidPix and usually shared via the class blog.  They have been printed and displayed on the wall enabling learners to share with others.


Wall space for displays in any classroom is limited, particularly when you have a whole wall of windows as we do.  However making use of hanging displays (particularly when working with five year olds so height is not an issue) is one way of creating more display room.  We have numerous examples of stories that we have created as a whole class on display around the classroom.  As referred to in a recent Jannie van Hees professional development session, this enables learners to revisit the stories they had a part in creating.  


As with anything, there is always room for improvement or things that could be tried to see if they are more effective.  Currently our rotation board space is not being well used as we generally have done away with a reading rotation and tend to base our reading lessons around a limited set of options in combination with Explain Everything projects and time on KidsPix.  Over the holidays I've changed how this display space is being used and incorporated some ownership of activities for learners around their Explain Everything reading activities.  Often learners do not finish their activities in one session and these carry over to the next day.  By utilising some of this board learners that have not completed their activity can add their picture to this display at the end of the session giving us a visual reference of who has work to complete the next day.

I've also redesigned the space to allow the display of more topic specific words which will assist learners with their writing.  The before and after of this space appear below - time to see how it works with the commencement of Term 4.







Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sound Explosion ... learning from the experts!

After completing our Manaiakalani Film Festival movie last term, today we had the opportunity to visit an expert in the field of editing sound!


Ben Sinclair works at Images & Sound in Auckland and we were welcomed into one of the sound studios today while he demonstrated some of the techniques he uses to create a soundtrack of television/movie quality.  

"The soundtrack can influence the mood of the entire movie"


Ben demonstrating some of the sound effects he is able to add

Some of the take away messages from today's session for me were:

  • Include an ambient backtrack such as traffic noise to fill 'holes' in your sound
  • Film pieces of ambience (eg in the school playground) to use as a backtrack for your movie
  • Add sound effects such as footprints, bird noise or rustling of leaves to make your movie appear more authentic
  • Capture just the music and effects, removing the voice from your soundtrack to enable voice overs in a different language
  • When recording voice, have the microphone above the actor/actress pointing downwards towards their mouth to remove the 'ppppp' effect - use of a filter can also assist with this
  • Aim for a 75% voice level in order to balance out your sound so no one speaker sounds much louder than the rest
  • Never underestimate the importance of getting good vocal sounds when filming - the better the quality of the original track the more you are able to do with it in the editing phase

We also had the opportunity to experience the sound proof recording room - despite being right next to a motorway with cars rushing by, all you could hear was a slight hum of the air conditioner.


Inside the recording studio

We were also lucky enough to be shown two of the visual editing studios, where colours and effects can be added and manipulated as part of the editing process.  Once again, the importance of capturing raw footage of the best quality was emphasised to enable these editing experts the best chance of making the final cut look the best it can be.

Yes!  That is my movie that Ben is listening too - oh for more editing time!

I'm definitely inspired to explore further following the tips and ideas I picked up today ... I wonder if I can convince Michelle to again let me lose on this terms PENN movie??  Watch this space!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Art Attack!

As I head into my last term of team teaching with Michelle George I want to draw on the successes I’ve had with our learners over the past three terms and the growth I’ve experienced as a Beginning Teacher.

I continually feel lucky to be part of the MDTA (Manaiakalani Digital Teacher Academy) programme and know that I’ve experienced a different (and probably more supported) pathway than a usual BT.   I’ve been well scaffolded and had a great role model into the pedagogies of Pt England School and also had support in developing my own personal teaching style.   Having this level of support helped me try things that I may not have, and also allowed me to be involved in a 1:1 pilot class with iPads in my very first year of teaching – for someone with such a passion for digital learning environments, this has been an amazing challenge and allowed me to grow even further.

Last term I created a site for our Integrated Learning topic – Game On.  The learners accessed the site pages through the use of QR codes, which proved to be extremely popular and successful.  It gave the learners an opportunity to take control of their own learning and make decisions on what they wanted to learn about within a modeled and supported learning environment.

The beauty of using a Google Site was that I was able to add to it throughout the term.  This was highlighted during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony – the learners were hooked and wanted to explore independently and were able to choose to do this with the additional page.   As we explored and used the site throughout the term I also made modifications and took note of things that could be improved, or weren’t as successful. 

As we begin our last term, the Integrated Learning topic is “Art Attack” – focusing on The Arts curriculum area and based around a trip we have in week 2 to the local river.  Initially I thought this topic would be a challenge to create a “Site” for – let alone integrate with QR codes (the learners all asked for QR codes again this term)!  However, the wealth of available material on You Tube around art has made it relatively easy for me to create several pages that learners can explore, giving them ideas on different types of art and ways to create it.   The viewing of these clips will help enhance their vocabulary with topic specific words, which will feed into their writing.  Once again we have a rich topic wall with vocabulary, images and QR codes for learners to refer to and explore throughout the term. 

It’s been great to be able to go to some of the resources I created during my teacher training (never throw anything away) as both displays and inspirations for the term.   Art is not a curriculum area I have strength in, but I look forward to undertaking this learning challenge and to sharing the results of our Art Attack later this term!