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.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Unpacking the new technology curriculum ... #CS4PD

After a great first day yesterday, I'm energised and ready to unpack and talk about the new curriculum in greater detail!

Just do stuff!!! Don't spend a long time talking about it - that's not as engaging.  Unpack after you do it and you will engage and motivate your audience.  Give them a toolkit that they find useful and can utilise in their classroom.

Everything we do is about seeing the ingredients and putting them altogether.  Keep track of the big picture but make it real and bite size portions.  

Unpacking the New Curriculum

There is an importance in everyone understanding 'where we are going' - what is the shared vision?  It is a progression with important building blocks to support and enable students to meet the outcomes.

Computational Thinking
The main focus in this area is on:
  • Algorithms
  • Data Representation
  • Programming

Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes
You can be the creator and use these applications in exciting ways.  We can create something new with our knowledge.  Focusing on:
  • Producing quality, fit-for-purpose, digital outcomes
  • Locate, analyse, evaluate and present
  • Knowledge of operating systems, file management and application software

Where to start ... when to start

Next month is Moonhack Day  (August 15th) a worldwide event to encourage programming with projects available in ScratchJr, Scratch and Python.  A great way to launch into coding and starting to unpack computational thinking.  Teachers are able to register their class and the projects provide stepped instructions.  

A career in technology?

Technology companies have an imbalance in male/female candidates in New Zealand because female candidates are not coming through education at the same rates as males.  Interestingly, developers often join as a 'junior' and earn more than the median New Zealand wage.  Why are the girls not looking at computer science/digital/IT as a career?  How can we address this imbalance?  Why did you get into technology - the two most common answers are creativity and problem solving.  

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Computer Science inspirations & ideas @ #CS4PS

After a day of travelling (thanks to the Christchurch fog) I finally made it to the #CS4PS workshops in Christchurch.  I'm excited for a full days of networking and learning.

Computer Science in all curriculum areas .... 

Computer science can be used to reinforce learning in all curriculum areas - it doesn't have to be an extra!


What is debugging?  Locating a problem and fixing it

  • What language are you going to give your students when they have a coding problem? 
  •  Often there are different ways to achieve the same thing - not a bad thing, just an opportunity for learning.

Three questions to ask your learners:
What did you expect to have happen?
What is actually happening?
What does your code say?

Encourage students to critically think and debug together.

Using Raspberry Pi, circuitry, robots

Littlebits - really good for inputs and outputs
Arduino - using the specific arduino language but through purchasing a book called Sik Guide you are able to get many codes online.  Uses a breadboard to house wires (prevents soldering). Teach learners the first 12 projects and then ask them what they'd like to make?
Raspberry Pi - recommended for older students - takes about a week to set up but needs a time commitment
Spheros - use an iPad app to move a robot around the classroom
Edison robots

For teachers with iPad classes (which can't used Scratch) these options will both work on iPads and are very similar to Scratch


Kidbots and Fitness UnPlugged

Have learners draw one exercise on a card.  Laminate and keep the cards so learners can program their fitness each week.  Use whiteboards to put each card on so you can write the number of times for each card.  Select a child to be a programmer - use a lanyard.  Reinforce that there is no wrong answer - programming language can be different.

Ideas and ways to use programming in the classroom

Use Scratch to program and say your Mihi
What is a noun/adjective etc - join them together to create a sentence
Site to explore:  Madlibs
Use Scratch to explore your school values - clickable and interactive for the learners to communicate. Learners create the project - when you half make the project, learners will be more creative.
Codeclub.nz - projects learners can work through easily with check boxes so they are extremely learner friendly

Statistics unit - Searching algorithms

Organise your data in a way that it can be easily searched and you can find what you need easily.

Sequential search

An efficient way to search?  Use paper shot glass cups with a number inside each.  Teacher becomes the computer and children guess a number - how many guesses could it take?  What is the largest amount of guesses?  What is the least number of guesses we need? Sometimes it is good to have things out of order.   Use a range of numbers which are mixed up so learners can't just "count" the number of containers.

Binary search

Halve the search criteria by using a binary search.  Use "I'm thinking of a number" to demonstrate a binary search using only 7 guesses if they are in order.   Could use Scratch to make a teaching algorithm using the "higher/lower" game.

Game - find a treasure chest.  Start with a randomized sheet.  Graph the results.  Second time, use binary guessing system and sheets that are in order - most should guess within 5 guesses using this system.  Talk about the differences in the graphs.  Could lead to discussions on probability and validity of the data.

Computational Thinking

Computational Thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent.  -  Cuny, Snyder, Wing 2010

Thinking computationally is about solving problems, by creating solutions that teaches students how to:
  • describe a problem
  • identify the important details to solve the problem
  • break the problem down into smaller, logical steps
  • use these steps to create a process (algorithm) that solves the problem
  • and then evaluate the process
All of the skills are strongly linked.  There is often an overlap in descriptions and in examples.

Algorithmic thinking
  • is the process of creating algorithms
  • is a step by step process that solves a problem or completes a task
  • when we create an algorithm to solve a problem we call this an algorithmic solution
  • is about simplfying things to help us manage complexity
  • it requires identifying what the most important aspects of a problem are and hiding the details/information we don't need to focus on
  • breaking things down into the smaller and simpler parts
  • it helps to make large problems less intimidating!
  • we can break problems down into smaller subproblems and then break these down further and further
  • the solutions to each are smaller and simpler and built up to a solution
Generalising and Patterns



The Barcode challenge is a great way to challenge your learners using computational thinking.  In the classroom you could amaze your students the first time and then teach them how to do it.  The same concept (check sum) can be used with books.

Internet of Things

Relevant learning through problem solving local issues using the internet of things.  How can you extend past Scratch - coding something for a purpose or to make it 'real' for the learners.  One group of Dunedin schools is working on an issue and using this as the motivation for learning - Picaxe.co.nz.  The project aims to create a website were all the setup and resources are available for teachers to use in their classroom.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

#SYD17 ... let the journey begin!

Totally excited to have been accepted into the Google Certified Innovator program in Sydney next month.

My project focuses on my passion of Personalised Learning.  In order to apply, you need to create a Project Slide deck and one minute video.  It only seems fitting at the start of my journey to begin with these: