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.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Reading for Understanding

As part of our ongoing school wide Professional Development, today we had another session with Dr Rebecca Jesson, to upskill and provoke us in the curriculum area of reading.   Firstly we recapped from our last session and discussed as a team what we had achieved to date.  Some important reminders from that session were:

Image result for vocabulary

Widen and deepen vocabulary knowledge by:

  • Multiple texts for word recycling
  • Relationships between words, meanings and concept development
  • Word walls for scaffolding
Increasing depth and breadth to allow learners to deepen their understanding as well as provide repetition of content learning over texts.

Higher order creation activities from multiple texts

Themes that cross texts - eg children who are heros

Rebecca reminded us that  ... "A good text should be both a mirror and a window" and that teaching vocabulary, is a "big ticket" item in our reading program.

New learning from today's session focused on:
Image result for empowerment

Empowerment or self monitoring or agency or ownership by the learner.

We were encouraged to consider:

  • scaffolding to support to independence  -  learners need to be able to stand on their own
  • are learners offered opportunity to tackle things "without us" but with "support" from us

What would make the learner want to?   (motivation ... engagement ... of our learners) - free choice?

Ideally, we are working towards:

  • learners who notice whether the text makes sense
  • learners who notice whether they understand
  • learners who problem solve
  • learners who persist

As a team we discussed what this would look like and how we can scaffold learners towards this with such questioning as:

  • How do you know you are right?
  • Were you right?
  • Did the text give you what you need?
  • Did the text give you something you can use?
  • Make the thinking visible - eg with highlighting, voice notes, screen-casting

As always, Rebecca has made me think about not only my deliberate acts of teaching but also my follow up activities and how I can give my learners more choice and opportunities to demonstrate their understand in creative ways.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Progressing my Spark MIT inquiry

Earlier this week I've been working on the next stage of my Spark MIT inquiry - a laminated guide for whanau on commenting on their child's blog.

Firstly I identified which components I wanted to include.  This included:

  • the blog address
  • a scannable QR code which will take whanau directly to the blog
  • photo of the learner - making the sheet more personalised
  • a piece of art the learner has created - again, this personalises the document
  • a guide on how to make a comment
  • important things to remember when commenting
  • some suggested 'starter' ideas to kick start the comments
I've drawn inspiration from some of the Manaiakalani successes, including this commenting poster which is used extensively to encourage our learners to comment on each others blogs:

I've used Google Slides to create my first draft as I find this easier to manipulate various elements and place objects exactly where I want them to be.  I've shared the first draft with a selection of colleagues seeking feedback before I refine it.  I also intend to share it with a few of the whanau from my class to get other ideas before I settle on my final draft.  It is hoped it would be ready to share with all whanau during interviews at the end of this term.

This is of course the first of a series of ideas I'd like to have in place by the end of this term.  Many of my families are Maori and Pasifika so I'd like to create different versions in different languages so it is most helpful for all whanau.  These different versions will also assist me in the creation of a site to support whanau in commenting on their tamariki's blogs.  

Sharing ... Learning ... Networking #SparkshopAKL

Earlier today I really enjoyed attending the first GEGNZ run #SparkshopAKL, an opportunity to share and collaborate with like minded teachers/educators.  The day began with a Sparkshop smorgasbord with all participants rating each session based on interest - from there 18 great sessions were available to explore.

I was delighted to co-present a session with +Fiona Grant about how +Explain Everything works so nicely with Google.  During this session I showed how my learners access their +Explain Everything projects, which I have created to meet their learning needs, directly from my Google Site.

My second session was tricks and tips for extending Google Sites, touching on the use of tables to allow greater control of your layout and manipulating the HTML to centre tables, take away borders and resize images.  This covered some of the content I'd presented at GAFE earlier this year, however the smaller group enabled specific questions and tips to be covered.

I particularly enjoyed reconnected with fellow teachers but also took away some tips (particularly from the Demo Slam at the end of the day).
  • Colour Picker Add-on to Google Chrome - match an exact colour quickly and easily - great for when creating Sites or putting together presentations!
  • Bitmoji - as featured at the GAFE Summits earlier this year - but still a definite fave with me
  • Visual Timers - a great way to help with those transitions in the classroom - I have used these before but hadn't thought to use them this year so a timely reminder 
  • Bouncy Balls noise monitor - I thought this was really cool, although I could see it having the opposite effect in my classroom as they try to increase the noise to make the balls bounce more
  • Save to Google extension - quickly save any images or webpages to view later - use tags to easily group/find later


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir continues

This morning I uploaded another lesson for Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir, this time focused on writing.  Feedback the Class OnAir team has received asked for different curriculum areas so it is my intention to record lessons in the three main curriculum areas over the coming weeks.

Lesson Six compliments my inquiry into Writing and my learners really impressed me with their enthusiasm ideas during our brainstorm.   Often my learners struggle to come up with ideas due to their limited experiences which they can draw from.   This particular writing lesson was inspired by a Team wide art adventure where learners experienced three different activities over ninety minutes, each designed to be fun and inspiring.  One of the activities that formed part of the adventure is showcased on my class blog.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Inquiry Update: Term 2

DEFs of Writing:  Deliberate Teaching Acts, Engagement, Fun

My school inquiry topic supports my Spark MIT inquiry, ABCs of Writing and focuses more on the deliberate acts of my teaching to engage the learners in writing, which will in turn feed into my MIT inquiry. 

Recently I've explored some readings around motivating writers and how to scaffold my teaching to maximise the support for my learners.  Some of the points I've found particularly useful include:
  • "reading does not happen in a vacuum" - Ruttle (2004) - how can I incorporate more writing into my reading activities so that learners see there is a purpose to writing outside of the writing lesson
  • how to create a shared understanding of "what writing is for and why and how we engage it it" which can lead to learners writing with a "greater sense of purpose" - Ruttle (2004)

Teaching in class has focused on writing just a couple of sentences using a variety of gifted sentence beginnings and scaffolding the vocabulary to use through whole class discussions.  Originally I planned to use padlet.com to brainstorm these ideas so that learners would be able to revisit these word banks, however with more learners wanting to use Google Docs to write, they prefer having the vocabulary on the board.  I intend to return to using padlet.com now that I have the ability to display this throughout the classroom using my Chromecast and Apple TV so that learners are able to see the words from any part of the classroom.

Moving to Google Docs

Initially I had just my top writers using Google Docs, which of course, assists with spelling as long as the learner can identify initial sounds of the word.  Over the last few weeks of Term 1 and the first weeks of Term 2, I have had even my most reluctant writers expressing a want to use Google Docs for writing, and they seem more engaged when they do so.  In fact, last week, when we were not using iPads for the week, I found all learners reluctant to write and even having them produce one sentence was a real struggle.  Through giving learners the choice of using either Google Docs or pen/paper I find that they are more engaged and produce more quality writing.  Google Docs also makes the process of posting to Blogger more streamlined and more learners are completing and finishing during the writing session.

Where to Next

Carefully scaffolding the writing process and focusing on one thing to improve our sentence(s) each writing session is the most easily manageable DAOT in my class to date.  While it would be great to break into writing groups, I find it harder to manage the behaviours of my boys (particularly those that struggle with writing) when I do this.  Having no devices last week, many learners have got used to the process of drawing first, so it could be possible to have some of the learners drawing while I worked with a small group.  Some of my more willing writers are able to proceed independently but then require support via 1:1 or small group conferencing to take their writing to the next level.  While I have tried to instigate peer support, this has also proven problematic although I feel this could work better if I scaffolded in peers so they could see this in action (rather than just having it explained).  

Drawing on ideas from the readings and trialling the use of groups by having some learners focus on pictures while others start with writing may work.  I have also experienced success with using Explain Everything to record the sentence(s) and replay it as the learners find the words around the classroom to turn their ideas into writing - however this is not as easy to do when using Google Docs which many learners are keen to do.  

This afternoon, our inquiry groups met again to hear where everyone was at and look forward towards our goals for the coming term.  It is always interesting to discuss where you are at as through this discussion you have to verbalise challenges and obstacles as well as celebrate the successes.

Ruttle, Kate. What goes on inside my head when I’m writing? A case study of 8–9-year-old boys. 

Spark MIT Update - May 2016

ABCs of Writing:  Authentic Audience, Blogging and Commenting

As discussed in my first blog post for my Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher inquiry, my inquiry question is:

"How can I use an authentic audience to enhance the motivation and writing mileage for learners in my classroom."

During the first term of this year I've begun my inquiry in a number of ways including:

  • bookmarks home to parents with a blog link and QR code
  • leaving verbal comments on learners blogs 
  • discussing learner blogs with parents during our "meet the teacher" conversations early in the year
  • deep analysis of my learners' needs in writing
Today we discussed the SAMR model and how our inquiry fits into this framework.  Ideally our inquiry's are aimed at the transformation level of the framework, using technology to impact on the learning.

My Spark MIT inquiry compliments my Pt England Inquiry as this investigates ways to accelerate writing in the classroom through my deliberate acts of teaching.  

Where to now?

It is extremely helpful to get the ideas from others in the Spark MIT group, which helped me to formulate my plan for future development.  While its been great to receive parent comments on the learners' blogs, my next step is to provide some scaffolding around these comments to make them even more powerful.  My initial thoughts were to redesign my bookmark with suggestions on how to comment, and translate this into different languages for my whanau (eg Samoan, Tongan, Te Reo).  However, after discussion today I agree that a bookmark may not be big enough to encompass the ideas I need to share.  Several ideas today included a postcard, calendar or piece of art that could be created by the learners.  I'm particularly taken with the art idea as this fits nicely with our school wide topic 'As i see it".

Additionally, there is potential to create a site using these scaffolds, as a reference for not only my whanau this year, but that could be shared to a wider audience.  Such a site could include screencasts of how to comment which could be used by both learners and whanau.  I envisage the site to be in multiple languages to assist whanau who are more comfortable in their native language.  It would be exciting to explore this with a small group of my learners who could assist with the creation of the screencasts.

SAMR Picture credit:  Ed Tech Today