Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a fourth year teacher working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 3 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.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Power & Process of Mentoring

My #SYD17 journey continued this week with the announcements of our mentors, and the above book arriving by courier from the USA.  As I started to read, I hadn't even completed the first page when I was inspired to take notes - what better way than through a blog post!

A mentor is defined in this text as "a guide who helps us define and understand our own goals and pursue them successfully."  I'm excited that I've been matched with a mentor I had the pleasure of working with in the past, and I can't wait to continue on this journey with her.

I've never been a mentor before, however I believe that collaboration and communication would be essential to a mentor/mentee relationship.  Further reading unpacks the following elements as crucial:

Many of the elements of success occur frequently in my day to day teaching and school relationships.  Rather than unpacking each in more detail in this blog post, this is what I'm most wondering or feel is important when working with my mentor:
Partnership - valuing the uniqueness of each of us in the partnership and drawing on the experiences, and individuality of my mentor while sharing my own experiences with her.
Relationship - I'm lucky in that I already have an existing relationship with my mentor so I feel trust will develop more easily because of this.  I look forward to, and welcome honest, reflective and authentic conversations with Fiona.
Learning - I have a belief that I will never stop learning and I certain hope to grow through this experience.  As always, I will be critically reflective, unafraid to try things and learn from any mistakes I make along the journey.
Collaboration - One of the things I'm looking forward to most is the experiences we are both bringing to the discussions that will take place - I feel comfortable sharing with Fiona with an openness that will lead to greater collaboration as well as willing to give and take as required to enable the best possible outcomes.
Reciprocity - Both of use bring different perspectives to this relationship and I look forward to exploring these over our mentoring time.  I'm excited and inspired to have Fiona as a mentor and I hope she enjoys the process as much as I hope to.
Development - This is perhaps my biggest wondering - what will I be able to achieve as a result of our partnership and what knowledge, skills and abilities will I develop over the next 11 months?  While its definitely a wondering, I'm excited about the possibilities and cannot wait to continue the journey.

The Mentee's Guide by Lois J. Zachary with Lory A. Fischler

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

#SYD17 Day 1

Earlier this year I applied to the Google Certified Teacher academy and was lucky enough to be accepted.  Part of the program entails an intensive at the Sydney Google offices and that started today.

The day started with an (optional) Amazing Race around Sydney.  In groups of three or four we had a huge number of tasks (worth varying points) to complete in three hours.  While public transport was an option, our team had fun collecting clues as we walked around the inner city. 

While the winner is still unknown (and I'm fairly sure it wasn't us) we had an amazing time and definitely explored some of Sydney that I would never have investigated.

Onwards to Google for the start of our Academy.  It's an amazing group of educators from around the world - supported by great coaches.   We kicked the afternoon off with some Moonwalking and found some new friends - our High Five buddy, our Secret Handshake buddy and our Booty Bump - three new friends!

Then it was time to break out Google style - with an Escape Room challenge, my very first (but certainly won't be the last) time of doing one of these.  Our group would have successfully broken out had the locks not been accidentally switched :) It sure was fun and cracking those codes are hard work  -  thank goodness for phones .... and Google!

We then met our team and coach, who we will be working with closely over the coming days!  Our coach is Justine Driver from Auckland, NZ!  Despite going to school together (many moons ago), I've never worked with Justine before so super great to have a fellow NZer as our coach.  We began with initial introductions and shared a five minute story about what has inspired us - later, over dinner, our team name and chant evolved - looking forward to that tomorrow morning!

Lastly, we had a session about the Design Process where we were encouraged to fall in love with our problems.  We had to design a new chair and then face off with other groups to ultimately find the best "new chair" - a huge shout out to the imaginations of the crew that designed the "Volcano Chair" which ultimately won the prize!

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:

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Explain Everything Classic - navigating the major changes

With the recent Explain Everything update, some of my learners are not sure where to locate features that they use frequently.  I've made some easy help cards for them which I have displayed around the room as a visual reference.  They were all created using Google Draw and they may help other teachers who also use Explain Everything in the classroom.  I've shared some of them below, and they are available to be used by other teachers from this Google Drive folder.

The ones I have so far created are:

  • adding new slides, deleting, moving between slides
  • exporting a project to Google Drive (or similar)
  • opening a project from Google Drive (or similar)
  • saving and exiting from a project
  • deleting audio/video recordings
  • changing colours

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Exciting changes in Explain Everything 4

I've been a huge fan of using Explain Everything since I started teaching and have definitely enjoyed the new features after installing the update late last week!  If, like me, you love using Explain Everything but are used to the old version, these great videos are worth three minutes of your time as they are a great overview of the new features.

 Having only created a few projects this weekend already here are some of my favourite new additions:
  • The draw/fill option
  • Adding a sound bite from within Explain Everything
  • The ruler feature - my lines have always been just that little bit crooked ;)
  • The eraser - so many times my learners have wanted to remove a part of the drawing they had added earlier and haven't been able to - until now! 
I'm really looking forward to using the new version over the coming weeks!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Interface XPO 2017 - Afternoon Sessions

Creating with iPads - hosted by Cyclone Computers
Moving from consumption to creation!

The SAMR model helps us determine what level of creativity with technology you are achieving. Most learning takes place above the line (transformation) - modification and redefinition!

While there are MANY apps, using a few apps extremely well is better than just touching on many.  Its not about the app - its the task!

PicKids - the same as PicCollage but more child friendly (not internet based).  
Some ideas for using this:
Letter/Number Scavenger Hunt
Story Sequencing
Parts of Speech
Book Covers
Writing Displays for publishing
Timeline of events
Character Map

Some ways to use Book Creator:
Collaborative books
Books can include text/sounds/images
Sentence starters

Explain Everything
Some ways to use Explain Everything:
Explain learning by annotating and talking about instructions
Take a photo of a piece of writing to model editing and recrafting
Capture the voice of the learner

Afternoon Keynote
Coding using Gamefroot
A game creation tool for school children and educators to create games.  This web based creation tool uses scripts (similar to Scratch) to enable children to make and share their own games. Learners can draw their own backgrounds and images or choose from a full library.  You are able to have as many levels as you would like in a Gamefroot game.

Afternoon Session
Keeping Students safe using Google Suite for Education (GfE)

This recent report highlights the importance of digital technologies in education.  Various risks for children using the internet.

"More time teaching, less time teching" - Google.

G Suite - different settings for different users within in a domain.  Many of the features for G Suite are underused in GAFE domains and experts such as Cyclone can assist to ensure these are set up correctly.

Google Safety Center - free information for parents/teachers/educators

I've enjoyed my first Interface XPO.  It was also great to network with other teachers and IT techies throughout the day.

Interface 2017 XPO - Morning Sessions

My first visit to the Interface Xpo and I'm looking forward to being inspired with some great ideas.

Opening Session

A fast game of XPO Feud (based on Family Feud) to kick off the day - download the template and many others from Youth Downloads.  The game was followed by a few Keynote presentations:

Creativity in the Classroom with Adobe
65% of learners will end up in jobs that have yet to be created.
Adobe Creative Animator - great for learners who are shy and don't like appearing on camera
Adobe Spark Video - a free creativity tool that allows you to create videos or tell stories - personalise the voice, music, text and pictures to make a short movie.  App for iPad available or can be done online at spark.adobe.com.  Copyright free music is provided.
Adobe Spark Page - a free creativity tool to create a webpage.  Easy to use with free images, texts and layouts which you can include.

Image result for adobe spark video

Breakout Session One

3P Learning - Mathletics and Reading Eggs

Mathletics and Reading Eggs are more than just lessons for students.  Check out the printable resources and group teaching resources (available through eBooks link).  Teaching resources are interactive.
When completing activities:  "i" button or "?" button shows specific steps on how to get it right.
New questions are generated even if they get it completely right - giving depth of learning.
Demonstrations allows you to teach using the student view.
Reading Eggs:
While there is a focus on reading, it is a broader literacy resource.   Reading Express (focus 7 - 13 years old).  

Middle Keynote

GEO A.R. Games - Magical Park
Digital mobile outdoor games using augmented reality.
Different aspects to augmented reality - image recognition; tracking; geospatial (using GPS co-ordinates); 
Examples of augmented reality:
AR Book - Quiver Education
Skills Training - Zapbox

Benefits of Augmented Reality:
  • More student engagement and higher motivation
  • Learning at the student pace
  • Higher creativity
  • Solution focused thinking and problem-solving
  • Leadership and collaboration

Friday, 21 April 2017

GAFE - Closing Ignite sessions

The GAFE Summit experience today finished with a Ignite session. Ignite is a series of speedy presentations. Presenters get 20 slides, which can automatically advance every 15 seconds. The result is a fast and fun presentation which lasts just 5 minutes.

Beginner Code - Switching - Jim Sill

Past performance is no guarantee of future results!
Sucking is the first step to being sorta good at something - Alexis (founder of Reddit)
You need to switch your code to try something new.
To adapt you have to change your attitude, language and thinking.

Hardwiring Happiness - Rick Hanson Ph.D
Do a beginners mind - challenge yourself outside of your comfort zone.

Reaching the Summit (and surviving) - Stuart Kelly

What does it take?  Citizenship; Culture; Connectivity; Celebration; Cash; Communication; Community;
Infrastructure is everything  -  the backbone of success!
Recognise the talent within your own school.
Remember:  students, students, students!  Think, move, grow in teams!

My Digital Journey - Angelnella Tupua-Wilson

Angelnella is a student at Aorere College and shared her digital journey.  When she was 8 or 9 she could not imagine having her own Chromebook or device.  She finds having digital devices in classes great for communicating and sharing ideas even outside the classroom.  Its a move away from the traditional classroom.  Last year she took robotics as it was something she knew very little about and wanted to prove that anything is possible.  She hopes her future will revolve around technology.

More than a coincidence?
- Chris Betcher

When you mix with the right people, your success exceeds the chance of statistics.
Chance favours the connected mind. - Steven Johnson