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.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Sharing gems and collaborating on the problem solving

Image result for collaborationToday in our inquiry groups we had an opportunity to share some gems from our inquiry as well as discuss things we might be struggling with and brainstorm some ideas.  It was an amazing session and we had teachers from different areas and year levels to contribute to the discussion.  Some of the things we discussed and shared included:

  • Samoan Proverb: ‘Ia teu le VĂ¥’ Va is the space between, the between-ness, not empty space, not space that separates but space that relates, that holds separate entities and things together in the unity-in all, the space that is context, giving meaning to things. A well known Samoan expression is ‘Ia teu le va’, cherish/nurse/care for the va, the relationships. This is crucial in communal cultures that value group, unity, and more than the individual person/creature/ thing in terms of group, in terms of va, relationships.” Albert Wendt - respecting the same between us and the learner or group of learners and keeping this at the forefront of our practice, particularly when dealing with difficult situations
  • creating a culture for your space - as well as creating this culture, make sure the learners feel ownership of the culture and also you, as the teacher, take ownership of the culture also.  Reaffirm the culture frequently
  • ensure the learners know why they are doing an activity/task a certain way - at times you need to explicitly teach it, or teach the 'why' behind it
  • feedback is important but needs to be manageable and sustainable - one suggestion was to give written feedback fortnightly on a cycle, to support the verbal/oral feedback in the classroom
  • understand your learners and use extrinsic motivators (eg Class Dojo) to achieve desired behaviours - where possible make these visible but as unobtrusive as possible

While some of the things we discussed today seem "obvious" its great to hear other teachers' opinions  and hear some new ways of doing things to try in my own classroom.  Its great to have an opportunity to discuss things openly, particularly at a time of the year which can be more difficult and time pressures continue to intrude.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

ULearn Opening Showcase

It was great to present with my fellow Class OnAir teachers Matt Goodwin and Nicola Wells, sharing about Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir.  It was somewhat nerve-wracking that the slides for our presentation automatically advanced every 20 seconds, so timing was definitely everything!

Friday, 7 October 2016

ULearn 2016 Day 3

The final day and the sun comes out!  That will make walking between sessions so much easier :)

SESSION 6: iPads are HOT Tools!  Emilie O'Keefe and Casey Patuawa

Google Classroom - great to monitor who is doing their work and who isn't allowing for more accountability

Puppet Pals - ability to make their own puppet or use a photo of themselves and record voiceover as you move your puppets

Drawing pad/Draw and Tell - can draw as well as voice over
Odd one out task - which is the odd one out and why?  What can you do with these numbers?

Book Creator - create an inquiry presentation on a topic - gives learners ownership that they are an author

piZap - photography app; very similar to PicCollage but without the adverts - create a photo mosaic from photos that they have taken, add words to describe and then share to blog.  Would be great for this term when we are doing science experiments

Writing planning idea to scaffold ideas - describe a setting - use a picture and describe it with words around the outside.

Give learners "iExplore" time so they can explore the app - share back how they used it and what they found?  You can then fill in the gaps of what is necessary to use the app.

SESSION 7:  Dynamic Digital Technologies for Narrative Assessments - Diana Wilkes & Kyle Hattie

Narratives are written by the learning coaches (teacher) for the learners and shared on their blogs.  Different tools are used to craft these narratives.  The school is exploring having their learners write their own narratives using a standard format.

BreakOutEdu - a fun way of problem solving  -  a great way to check understanding on concepts and build on collaboration in the classroom.  Need multiple locks and clues.

EdPuzzle - possibly great for teachers - have questions throughout the video so that learners need to leave comments or answer questions about the videos

NearPOD - learners all use a PIN to enter the presentation - teacher drives how fast you move through, when teacher moves to the next slide, the learners device moves along with you

Comic Life - great for creating comics and creative posters/pages

Movenote - video in the side and presentation on the right

Image result for karen spencer nz

CLOSING KEYNOTE:  Karen Spencer - Beyond the echo chamber:  The extraordinary possibilities of a networked profession (@virtuallykaren)

"Weave the aho and the ideas together to achieve success."  Praxis makes perfect  -  exploring ideas and putting them into practice.  All the professional learning of today is driven by teachers - collaboration!  Teachers make the biggest difference in the lives of our learners.  Consider your conversations in terms of immediate value, potential value and applied value.  Of even more importance, think about the realised value (this can't be determined until we have talked to our learners), and the reframing value (changing an approach based on the feedback from our learners).  No single person has a monopoly on good ideas - this just reinforces the need for collaboration.
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Methods Matter!

Karen shared three main ideas with us:

Find the Urgency - which is the area that YOUR learners need the most?
Hold our ideas lightly.  There is no solution - plan carefully before you introduce anything.  Teachers are constantly redesigning to find solutions to educational problems - it is therefore necessary that our time is spent on the most important things.  The NZ Curriculum is a great resource to help prioritise and identify ares of need.  Spend time trying to understand where the vision is already in evidence and where changes could be made so that the learners feel it more strongly.

Image result for holding a match

See the story behind the data - listen to your learners, gather the voice/stories of your learners and treat them like a piece of art.  Bring the different viewpoints in order to look for what is really going on with the learners and where we can spend our time most usefully.

Embrace discomfort - we only see things through our own interpretations (or bias) and these guide our actions.  Part of being a modern educator is being comfortable with having our own bias' exposed and discussed.  There is often a pressure to conform through a fear of looking different.    What can we achieve if we embrace discomfort or include our devils advocate voice?  It is OK to have different views.  Our role is to look at how professional learning conversations allow people to safely air their views in ways that celebrate diversity and help people check the assumptions that are driving their actions.

What does the research say?  Look for evidence that your innovation is working - is it making a difference for your learners?  After all, we are teaching to make a difference in their lives of our learners - education doesn't change the world, education changes people and its people that change the world!

As always happens, talking to other teachers can be really inspiring.  These are a few other ideas that I'd like to explore after talking to other teachers during the breaks:
Swift Playground - a coding environment that can be used on iPads as iOS10 and above
Ant Word Profiler - a freeware tool for profiling the vocabulary level and complexity of texts.
Discover first tweet  -  a tool to find your first ever tweet.

Would a great three days of Professional Development and I'm looking forward to taking some of the inspiring ideas back into my classroom - thanks to CORE Education and all the presenters, and also to Manaiakalani for the great opportunity!

ULearn 2016 Day 2

Great to be back for Day 2 of ULearn 2016.  A very full day with a keynote, ministerial address and three break out sessions!

OPENING KEYNOTE - Michael Fullan - New Pedagogies for Deep Learning

Children are highly creative and its important that schools don't squash this creativity.   Often the millennial's rebel against organisation - they are keen to explore the changes required to move forward.

How do we make the "Six C's" of character, citizenship, collaborating, communication, creativity, critical thinking shine in the classroom?

  • Deep learning and equity go hand in hand - it connects to the real world if we provide authentic experiences
  • It builds relationships of trust with our students
  • It increases optimism with students
  • It provides support systems for learners that traditionally have not have enough support
  • Accountability and Standards by themselves will not effect change
  • A change in system culture - collaboration within and across schools, leadership from the middle; supported by pathways to success
  • Respect and reject the status quo
  • Be an expert and an apprentice
  • Experiment and commit to getting it right - keep working until you get the solution you are looking for
  • Students become agents of change (pedagogy change, organizational change, societal change), working alongside teachers as agents of change (human capital, quality of the group, the group gets better at using evidence to show what they are doing)
  • The job of leaders is to make learners run better
  • Live by a motto of "less is more" and give learners choice
  • Be willing to admit you don't know the answer
  • Its OK to make mistakes and create opportunities for revision
  • Ensure students feel they belong in the classroom
  • Leaders/Teachers listen, learn and ask questions
  • Leaders/Teachers help crystalize, articulate and feedback what they see
  • Deep learning incorporates parents, families and communities
  • Pedagogy is the driver, technology the accelerator and culture the runway
  • Coherence - simplexity - make things more simple!

"The job of education today is to produce better citizens for tomorrow, today"

ADDRESS - Hon Hekia Parata

It was great to hear Minister Parata speak this morning and some of the messages that resonated with me are:

  • It can only be the profession (teachers) that can lead learning and learning outcomes
  • Standards don't create professional behaviour or accountability - they are 'part of' but not the whole of
  • If the profession is not focused on how we create, with young people in the centre, young people will not be educationally successful 
  • How does funding more closely align with what is the size of the educational change?
  • We need to take advantage of the all the possibilities, not just in NZ, but what we see happening overseas
  • We need to remind ourselves constantly about the wonderful educational system we have in NZ - we still need to strive to improve, and use all the functionality that we have available to us
  • 7 big system levers that the government is working on (puzzle card) - what pedagogical changes are we going to make in our Community of Learning?
  • We are a small, smart, sassy nation and education is the critical pivot of that nation

SESSION THREE - Helen King & Karen Belt - Redefine your classroom with Explain Everything

It was great to present with Helen again this year at ULearn and share the great things we do in the classroom with Explain Everything.  Details of our presentation are available at this blog post.

SESSION FOUR:  Dorothy Burt & Fiona Grant - Apple Smacdown

A great Apple Smacdown full of lots of tips and tricks!  Some of those that were shared include:
  • Become an Apple Teacher ... coming to New Zealand sometime soon - can't wait!
  • How to put the macron in the right place in a word - a great online resource
  • Preview App - annotate PDF, edit images, resize images, remove background images
  • iTunesU - resources for learners to access based on a class assignment
  • Keyboard shortcuts - I really love the F3 - expose - view all open windows; command & spacebar to open up the search bar
  • Collaborative Keynote - work with others to create a keynote
  • Maths Shake - app designed by teachers for teachers to support maths learning
  • Using Siri to edit work
  • Swift Playgrounds for coding and app creation  (Lightbot for younger learners)
SESSION FIVE:  Writing tips and tricks in the iPad classroom - Amie-Lee Mills & Trudi Fausett

The last session I attended for the day shared ideas to motivate reluctant writers.

Spelling books - a fun and exciting way to practice your spelling words using Book Creator and Mojo Masks - post your book to your blog when complete at the end of the week.

  • write your words in your handwriting book - take a photo of these
  • type each of your works into Book Creator five times - change the colour/font 
  • record yourself saying each of the words using Mojo Masks which save as a movie to your camera roll - put these in your book
  • at the end of the week, buddy test the words and take a photo of your test - add it to your book
  • post your book to your blog
Siri to check spelling - learners underline all the words they are unsure on the spelling in their writing and then use Siri to give them the correct spelling by asking Siri, "how do you spell .... "?

Responsive writing  -  pen pal writing between 2 different classes in different schools - use Google Docs and/or learner emails to support this.

TES teach with Blendspace - great for creating a shared space to direct your learners - I could link this from my class site for added ease of access.

Keepvid - an alternative to Clipgrab for downloading You Tube and other video clips

WOW!  What a big day - looking forward to the dinner tonight and another great day of learning tomorrow!

Presenting at ULearn

It was great to present again at ULearn with +Helen King and showcase some of the ways that we use Explain Everything in our classrooms.  The session was hands on, allowing attendees to create using Explain Everything so they had a resource they could use in their classroom.

This is the presentation we used, which is supported by a Google Site.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

ULearn 2016 Day 1

Once again I'm lucky enough to be attending ULearn, this year in Rotorua.  On Day 1, after the opening Keynote I will be presenting with my fellow Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers. showcasing our inquiries from this year.

Early on in the morning, one of the first messages was to promote the Connected Educator opportunities offered throughout the year by CORE Education.  I'm looking forward to exploring these opportunities after ULearn.

OPENING KEYNOTE:  Larry Rosenstock - High Tech High

Larry launched his Keynote with a powerfully emotive video, before launching a history of Education in America.  Living in a country that is 'relatively young' it was great to hear the history that Larry shared.

Larry was a carpentry teacher, and this very apt saying resounded with me as a mantra for more than just carpentry.  

Why not integrate different subjects, with real problems and an authentic audience.  Why not Change the Subject?  This second video that Larry presented certainly opens up a world of opportunities.  Unleash teachers and students to design experiences that are authentic and transformed.

BREAKOUT ONE: Ignite your teaching through Innovative Inquiries: by teachers and for teachers 

The Ignite system of presenting was a challenge - slides auto-advanced every 15 seconds!  Dorothy introduced our session with a great over view of Manaiakalani and the Learn Create Share philosophy.  All the teachers that presented during this session share their inquiry via their blogs which are available here.

BREAKOUT TWO:  Rod Scott - Tools to help produce engaged and motivated writers
This breakout followed Rod's inquiry into motivating writers.  Some of the takeaways from this session were:
  • Know me before you teach me - what makes a child an individual.  Build the relationships with the parents.
  • Seek the parent views via a Google Form on the Class Blog
  • Mystery writer via email - write to someone and have them reply 
  • Use other classes as a buddy class to provide feedback on learners blogs
  • Have learners reflect weekly on their writing and post reflections to their blog
For me, this session complimented the work I've been doing for my Manaiakalani Inquiry - I'm looking forward to exploring the class blogs in more detail.

The closing keynote was a great way to finish the day.  Throughout his address John shared some thought provoking messages.  One such message that resonated with me was the difference between Education and Learning.

John challenged educators to make their classrooms relevant, creative, collaborative and challenging - something I feel we are always mindful of at Pt England, but also a timely reminder.  He also suggested that we think beyond just collaboration and content, moving towards Challenge Based Learning where the learner can "feel, imagine, do and share!"  A powerfully inspiring message which leaves me hungry for more on Day 2 of ULearn.