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, 15 July 2015

Half time review

I needed a break these holidays - I'm the first to admit that!  Often teachers are viewed by outsiders as working 9 to 3,  five days a week and having weeks and weeks of holidays to enjoy each year  -  the reality I've experienced is radically different.  Planning lessons and creating engaging activities to accelerate the learning of my 17 learners takes time and that's before the demands of study are added to my workload.  So this school holiday break was gratefully received!

Having said that, I've really missed my class - and despite being away I constantly found myself taking photos or videos that I could share with my class and seeing things that made me think of different individuals.  I'm really looking forward to hearing what adventures they had over the past weeks and jumping into an amazing term of learning.

The past ten days has also given me an opportunity to be reflective and think about my first six months "teaching solo".  The application process for mentors for 2016 has begun and I've also had the opportunity to reflect back on my amazing MDTA journey to date with teachers who are considering applying - I'm constantly reminded of the amazing mentor that I shared this journey with and how inspiring she has been on my first eighteen months of teaching.

Its "half time" on the 2015 teaching year, and as I take a drinks break, these are the things that stand out this year so far:

  • A new app - using Tiny Tap has enabled me to really reinforce some areas of rote learning that has made a big difference in reading and maths.  While also giving me a new challenge, in learning the new app, the learners in my class have really engaged with the "bells and whistles" that comes with a more games type approach to learning.  Importantly, this app has fitted into my class routines and rotations seamlessly.
  • Seeing learner progress - I'm constantly inspired when I see the progress that my learners have made.  It differs between individuals (as you would expect it to) but in the mid year testing (just completed) it was great how far some learners have come!
  • Sharing my journey - I still get as much enjoyment from blogging as I did early last year when I was first introduced to it as part of our very early MDTA sessions.  During the last holidays I really enjoyed my second GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit, this time as a presenter and backed this up at the BYOD conference.  I never take for granted the privilege of working at a school which embraces technology in learning and love sharing with others.
  • I can see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow with my Research Dissertation as the deadline to finish is only four months away! Its been hard work to date (particularly with working full time) but I've really enjoyed reviewing the existing literature around the use of digital technologies in the classroom and embedded some of this into my ongoing inquiry.  My timeline for the next term with my dissertation is intense, but definitely made easier through knowing that every word written is one word closer to being done - if only I could get a degree through blogging :)
  • My classroom environment continues to inspire me.  The changes I made at the end of last term continue to be working amazingly well and allow my learners choice of work spaces.  

  • Attendance - I've really struggled with learner attendance issues this year, and have had very few days with the whole class present.  I never noticed this was an issue last year as we had such high attendance throughout the year.  Its hard to make progress with learners when they are not in the classroom and I do take this personally as I want the very best for every learner in my classroom.
  • Managing the behaviours in my classroom again was a challenge this term.  I have a few learners that respond to different things on different days - if only they had a light that told me which thing they would respond to on each day!  I continue to use positive reinforcement constantly in the classroom and see many positives resulting from this but also know that the attendance issues referred to above also have had an impact.  I can see so many huge positive differences in the learners in the last six months and this reinforces that I'm on the right road with my behaviour management.  Above all I want my learners to feel safe and secure in the classroom environment and inspired and motivated to learn.  The less time I need to spend on behaviour management, the more time for learning!

  • Complete my research dissertation - I really hope to be extremely close by the next term break
  • Transition to using Class Dojo for class management - this was extremely successful last year and much easier to maintain in a busy classroom 
  • Continue to innovate with the iPads - I've signed on for an exciting opportunity next term - watch this space.
  • Fulfil the requirements to become a Fully Registered Teacher - just two terms to go!

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