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, 30 April 2015

Sharing via our Manaiakalani Toolkits

It was great to host another HTML session with Matt Goodwin this afternoon and share some of our knowledge with other teachers in the Manaiakalani cluster.

We used the same presentation and resources that we had used at the recent GAFE summit and were able to support the group with using HTML on their Google Sites.  I really enjoy the toolkits that our cluster offers twice a term  -  its great to share ideas and be able to contribute and assist other teachers.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Loving the Learning Space

On my first full day of teaching in my new learning space, I'm loving it!  I'm inspired by the colour on the walls and relaxed atmosphere in the classroom but am also able to encourage the learners to choose a space to work in which worked really well today!

Some learners spread out on our huge carpet rug to work with their iPads, while others chose the ABCs mat or couches as a place to either build, read or work with their iPad.  Importantly, those that prefer working at the desks still have that option.  It was noticeable that the noise level was lower today as the spaces had the learners more spread around the classroom.

I'm finding that the computer space is working really well - and its more of a "station" than just a line along the wall.  This has given me access to more wall space which makes changing and adding to displays so much easier.   My teaching station, although to one side of the classroom, gives me visibility on all areas so I'm able to monitor what learners are doing.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Term 2 and a new Learning Environment

In the last week of the holidays I made additional changes to my classroom to make it more inviting for the learners and more appropriate for a 1:1 iPad environment.  We now have a couple of couches that learners can use for reading, or working with their iPads.  I've moved away from a U shape with the desks and created additional space by removing one of these.  This enabled me to add some mats to add colour to the floor and create cosy spaces for playing with manipulative equipment.

When I compare the before and after photos I can see a difference but the real test will be what the learners think, and more importantly how the new space works from a teaching and learning point of view, which I intend to blog about in future weeks.   As with testing anything new, I'm prepared to make changes or modifications if needed, to ensure that the environment is both welcoming and effective as a teaching and learning space.

How the learning space looked before the holidays:

How the space looks now:

The response to the new look from the learners as they arrived today was great - they all noticed immediately that things have changed and were keen to explore and try out the new couches and mats!  I look forward to seeing if the results as they move around the space are as positive.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

GAFE presentations: Visible, Engaging Learning & HTML

I'm excited to be presenting at GAFE North Island Summit today with my fellow Pt England MDTA, Matt Goodwin.  We are co-presenting two sessions and I'm sharing our presentations on my blog!  I look forward to including my thoughts from the two sessions during my GAFE Day 2 roundup!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

GAFE Day 1

Once again I had the opportunity to attend the GAFE North Island Summit and learn from some amazing teachers and educators.   The entire summit is a smorgasbord of workshops and of course its not possible to attend everything!

My highlights from my day one session included:

iPads and Google - Holly Clark
Even after working with 1:1 iPads for two years there is still an opportunity for learning.  Thanks to Holly for introducing me to the power of Socrative - a powerful way of capturing the ideas of learners or participants and manipulate the information.  I really liked the co-operative nature of this tool and how quick and easy it is to used.

Holly also inspired me to use Book Creator as a different way of capturing experiences of the learners and turn it into a rewindable creation.  I intend to have my learners use Explain Everything to create their images, and use writing time so each learner can write a story to contribute to the book.   I'm a huge fan of using iPads with my learners and was extremely pleased to see the apps that Holly was talking about are the ones that we use daily on iPads.

1:1 ipads with Year 1 - Michelle George
It was great to relive our journey from last year with Michelle's presentation - we learnt so much during our year together and I miss sharing and learning with her this year - instead I'm forging ahead with my own journey and making more memories and learning with my learners.

No More Worksheets - Holly Clark

The following quote from early on in Holly's presentation was powerful for me - already I hardly ever use worksheets in my classroom (except when we have a reliever) and I can totally relate with the point made here:

Throughout the session, Holly introduced several tools to ensure thinking is visible and the learner voice is captured.  I continue to be a strong advocate for our "just one app" approach, however I often use other apps and online tools to support my teaching and make it more engaging for my learners.  I'm sure I will use croak.it over the coming weeks, particularly for sound bites for my learners and already am a frequent user of padlet (even sharing its power with the MDTA team earlier this year).  

As with my GAFE experience last year, I enjoyed the Google SLAM at the end of the day - and took away a few great tips and ideas to try out - I've already made a new favicon for my class site thanks to Justine Driver's Slam!

I'm looking forward to Day 2 - and contributing to the summit with my own presentations!  

Friday, 10 April 2015

A Modern Learning Environment

After my first term in my own class, one of my Beginning Teacher goals for Term 2 is to redesign my classroom for the 1:1 environment.  Increasingly, my learners want to use their iPads on the floor, or away from the desks and it would be great to have a space that is more accommodating of the 1:1 learning environment.  As an additional challenge, I want to bring some colour into the classroom, and make the space a more inviting, vibrant environment, to invigorate and inspire my five year olds - just a small goal for the term :)

So, without further ado - the "before" photos!  Its always good to have something to "compare"!  Notice the blue walls, and blue carpet - lots of blue :)  (NB:  Furniture is slightly away from the walls in this photo for end of term cleaning.

Today was stage one in the redesign process - attack the walls :)  I hate heights and didn't really enjoy the hours spent up the ladder today, but I'm happy with the result  -  its still a work in progress as I have more displays to add yet (it always takes longer than you think!)

Next step - rearranging the layout of the classroom, including moving the tables and adding a few pieces of different furniture and some accessories!  I'm really looking forward to seeing what feedback I get from my learners next term!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Reflecting on my First Term of Inquiry

As we wrap up Term 1 with a Teacher Only Day, I've been reflecting on the progress I have made with my Inquiry.  I've been asked to make a small presentation to the whole staff which I will present this morning.

I'm really happy with the observable progress from my learners, and in particular their ability to make a choice and use a "because" to explain why they made that choice.  I will be continuing to use my Wanted Template in Term 2 and plan to add it as an additional slide to many of the existing Explain Everything reading templates.  Most learners are able to complete the activity independently now and locate words in their book to support their drawing.

Some of the things that have worked particularly well this term, and came about as a result of my inquiry and university paper are:
  • using icons to scaffold learners into knowing what to do on Explain Everything projects
  • using oral language to capture learners ideas and thinking
  • using the same activity template multiple times, and gradually decreasing the scaffolding that is provided

The following small video was created to show some examples of the oral language and the progress made over the four weeks we've used the templates to date.

I have some "next steps" which I have outlined in my presentation.  I'm looking forward to creating a new template to use in Term 2, and am particularly keen to incorporate some of the relational and extended abstract concepts from SOLO taxonomy into the template.