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, 26 July 2016

Improving understanding through 'creating'

Today, with the support or our team leader +Helen King our team of teachers became the "learner"!  As is often the case, through "doing", a greater appreciation of a task is understood.

Our task for today was to use Hyperstudio to create an animation - this is the task we are asking our learners to tackle this term.  While I have been using Hyperstudio since the beginning of the year, it was great to put my learning into action and take on board some tips and tricks to both assist with animating as well as shortcuts and different ways to attempt the task.

I'm the first to admit I'm not particularly talented when it comes to drawing - give me a computer or iPad and I feel confident in what I'm doing, but ask me to draw something and I definitely am nervous.  That said, in my classroom I am forever telling my learners "there is no such thing as can't" and that we need to "always try our best".  So with this mantra clearly ringing in my head, I begin tackling my Olympic Marathon runner (Hyperstudio animations this term for our team are of an Olympic athlete).

It is with some 'nervous apprehension' that I share my completed animation - there are definitely things that in hindsight I needed to draw differently or tweak to make more perfect, but time was against me.  IMPORTANTLY, I do take away many hints, tricks and tips that will enable me to support my learners - they will have the benefit of learning from some of the mistakes I made and I feel more confident in supporting them to create animations which have athletes with body parts that move (change) as they 'compete' on the Olympic stage.

Some of the ideas/tips that came from our session this afternoon I was aware of, but took away some great additional ideas:
  • Use a scrap card to create equipment and your athlete - a scrap card is a blank stack(s), separate from your background where you can design these objects and the copy them into your background card
  • Lasso parts of the athlete (eg legs, arms) and move them to a new position on the athlete to show movement 
  • As you add to your Hyperstudio stack to create the animation, copy/paste the previous stack and leave the object(s) in place until you've put your new object in place - this allows you to line it up and see where the object was on the previous slide
  • Make small movements from one stack to the next - the smaller the movement the more realistic it looks as you put the stacks together into a movie
  • Don't use white on your objects - they will copy in and look "see through" 
  • Try 'moving yourself' and think about where your arms/legs are in order to make your athlete look more realistic 
  • Create your objects larger than needed - easier to draw them larger and then downsize them if needed - they tend to look more detailed this way too

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Encouraging blog comments

As part of my ongoing Spark MIT inquiry in Term 3 I'm looking to encourage parents, friends and whanau of my learners to comment on their blogs as a way of motivating my learners to write (and post on their blogs).  I mentioned this to whanau during our parent interviews at the end of last term and many were enthusiastic about commenting on their tamariki's blogs - in fact, many started already following our conversation.

I want to harness the enthusiasm of my learners and have them want to write more and post more on their blogs.  The intention is to make writing more authentic and purposeful by encouraging feedback for what learners are posting.  In order for this to succeed I need to give learners a "visual" that they can refer to and see how many comments they have compared to others in the class.  Already they know about the "recent comments" feature on their blogs and I repeatedly have learners come up to me in class and read me (or in some cases ask me to read) their most recent comments - they get really excited every time a new one appears.

I've created a Google Sheet which automatically links to chart which will show the comments learners receive.  There is a little manual inputting required by me each day to log in how many comments are received - a simple entry into the Google sheet which will auto-update the graph.  The process is streamlined as I receive emails when anyone comments on learners' blogs - so its simply a matter of updating the Google Sheet whenever I receive an email (or once a day depending on how many come through).

In order for my learners to monitor their progress, the graph is linked on our Class Site which they can access on their iPads at any time, or from home on phones/computers.

In order to support whanau with commenting on their child's blogs, I'm hoping to have the guides to commenting that I've been creating completed and sent home during week 1.  This not only gives whanau the blog address (and a quick link) but some ideas on what to include in their comments.

Finally, as the term progresses I'm looking to scaffold blog commenting with my class, so they are able to provide feedback on each others posts - another opportunity for them to 'write' as well as another teaching opportunity on creating positive footprints on the internet.

The blogs of the Room 15 learners are available to view here.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Reflecting using Thinking Hats

As Term 2 draws to a close, one of the activities I have planned for this week is an individual reflection on the learning for the term.  Our school wide theme for the term, "As I See It" had an art focus, with Team 3 deciding to focus on geometry and buildings.   We have therefore covered many things this term, including our major art piece which we have today seen displayed in the school Art Gallery.

As with any activities, finding the balance between too much scaffolding and not enough scaffolding, can often be a delicate balancing act.   While I have provided some ideas of the things that learners can include in their reflection, I've decided to not restrict it to "just the art work"!  This allows some scope for learners that enjoyed the trip or learning about the Sky Tower to reflect on these activities.

This is the first time I've used the thinking hats with this class - I wanted to have them thinking of more than just "I liked .... because ....".  I'm hoping they will be more reflective in the responses they give through the questions I've provided.  We will discuss this as a whole class, but I've also provided some questions to help guide their responses and will provide further scaffolding and support to my less able writers.

I'm really looking forward to hearing the thoughts of my learners, as this can help inform my teaching into Term 3 and beyond.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Inquiry 2016: Update

As part of our Pt England School ongoing inquiry, this afternoon we shared an update of where we are currently at.  This inquiry compliments my Manaiakalani Spark MIT inquiry for this year also.  I really enjoy the inquiry process as it makes me think about why I'm doing certain things but also provides an opportunity to compare and see how far learners have progressed.