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, 6 May 2015

My Own Class for a Term ... time to step back and reflect!

I vividly remember finishing my teaching degree at the University of Canterbury and being so over the word "reflect" that I never wanted to hear it again - let alone use it!  I find it somewhat humorous that I have become SO reflective in my practice that I do it, at times, without even realising I'm doing it.  I don't think I fully appreciated the value of reflection until I finished my degree and was out in the "real world" teaching.  Now, I find myself constantly reflecting and thinking about lessons - how they went, how I could improve on them, what my learners thought, were they engaged? Not only am I constantly reflecting, but some of my best ideas have come from reflections!

So, with that said, and four months into having my own class, a time to reflect and think about the year to date in terms of my teaching and my own personal growth as a teacher.

The Highlights

Planning - I'm feeling more and more confident with planning each week - I have my routines sorted and find myself monitoring and checking the progress of my learners.  My groupings in the classroom are fluid and I continually change my groups to fit the needs and learning stages of my learners.  As a side effect of this, I see that different friendships are developing as learners work with different peers when groupings change - I think this is a good thing and helps with the general cohesion of the class.

Classroom Environment - Deciding to change the learning space to suit a more digital environment has reaped rewards.  The learners choose different spaces to work and I find some of my more behaviourally challenging learners settle more quickly when given the independence to choose their working space.  I find it easier to monitor what learners are doing with the distinct learning spaces.  Importantly, I enjoy walking into my class each day and I feel it is more inviting for my five year old learners.

1:1 iPads - I definitely think I've continued on from where I left off last year.  I've been strong with my routines (continually having to reinforce these with new learners arriving) and continue to be consistent to ensure that learners understand how to use their iPad within the boundaries of Room 19.  Again, I've tried things - not always successful - and seek to continually find ways to ensure the learners are engaged in what they are doing.  Once again, repetition is important, and the iPad is a great way to ensure repetition in activities to reinforce learning (eg high frequency words).

Inquiry 2015 - Investigating higher order thinking in literacy with five year olds was a challenge and I wondered at times if I'd attempted to inquire into something that was going to be "too difficult"!  By breaking down what I wanted to achieve in the first term I surprised even myself with the tasks I created and my learners responses to them - I'm excited to be continuing to explore this area into Term 2 and see what is possible!

Digital Enhancement & Research dissertation - It seems somewhat comical that something that is taking up a significant portion of my spare time could be a highlight!  I found the Summer School paper, Digital Enhancement, to be thought provoking and particularly useful and applicable to our digital learning environment.  Once again, it was great to work with my MDTA colleagues - we have some of THE best discussions and are always extremely supportive of each other.  Further to this,  I was inspired by the willingness of teachers to assist in my research project and while it is still early days, I'm excited by what I have seen to date.  Having said that, I won't be sad to complete my Honours at the end of the year and take a break from study for a while!

The Challenges

I choose to see challenges not as failures, but as opportunities for me to grow as a teacher, learn from things that may not be successful, and be a better teacher as a result.  Like every learner in my classroom, I'm constantly learning, and will continue to do so.  The things I've found particularly challenging this year have been:

Managing Behaviours - I didn't fully comprehend how time consuming this could be, or how much I would doubt myself when I seemed to take one step forward and three steps back!  That said, when I reflect on the behaviours that some of my learners presented in the first weeks of school and compare them to where they are now, its been an encouraging journey.  It is great to be able to draw on the expertise of my mentor teacher, Michelle George.  While we are no longer team teaching, she covers my release one day a week so I'm able to discuss individual learners with her and she understands where I'm coming from and can provide ideas and suggestions to try out.  As I move into Term 2 I can see the importance of continuing to reward and reinforce the behaviours that are acceptable in Room 19 as well as continually seek ideas from other, more experienced teachers that I could try with my learners.  I also think its important to continually reflect on how far my learners have come - particularly on the days that don't go so well.  Teaching can be hard work - I'm dealing with unique individuals, with unique personalities and some days its just not going to be perfect!

Managing 200+ iPads - This has been a challenge over the first few months of this year and I struggled for many hours to identify and iron out some issues we had - and quite a few times I was very close to giving up!  I've really enjoyed the learning I have done around Meraki and Apple Configurator over the past 15 months - and will happily accept the "geek" nickname I've picked up from a certain fellow teacher at Pt England - I enjoy technology challenges and I'm now glad I didn't let this one get the better of me.  I know that there will always be new learning in this area and that thought is super exciting (here's hoping its not as "time intensive" as it was last term!)

Work/Study/Family balance - The demands of completing a dissertation while teaching full time continue to impact on my work-study-family balance.  It is a topic of conversation that continually arises during my PRT meetings with Michelle.  This year I have found it slightly easier to chip away at my assignments and dissertation but there is always more to be completed.  I'm trialling a new time management system this term as a way of having one day off each weekend, while still being up to date with my planning, assessments and assignments - so far so good (but it is only week 3!)

I'm a great believer in having goals, even if they are known only to yourself - something to work towards and pat yourself on the back when they are achieved.  As is required by my PRT portfolio, every term I have goals and things that I (or my mentor) think I need to work on in an effort to improve my teaching pedagogy and practice.  Having said that, some goals I don't mind making public:

  • Complete my research dissertation
  • Continue to reflect and modify my behaviour management to suit the ever-changing needs of the learners in my class
  • Continue to innovate with the iPads in order to ensure continued engagement and projects which allow visible, repetitive learning
  • Share my knowledge with other teachers/educators (blog, Manaiakalani Toolkits, ULearn)
  • Fulfil the requirements to become a Fully Registered Teacher - just three terms to go!


  1. What an awesome reflection Karen! It is such a pleasure to share in your teaching journey via this blog, and in my case face to face as well. Hang in there - you are so close to having a huge reduction in your workload!

    1. Thanks Dorothy! You have been an inspiration to me on this journey! Definitely looking forward to the workload reduction ;)