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, 17 April 2018

Auckland GAFE Summit 2018 Ignite Session

To Auckland GAFE Summit finishes with four Ignite sessions, each 5 minutes each.


Dorothy Burt - Creativity Empowers Learning
A few things have been assigned to the bin - so its now an exciting time! Once again we are exploring equity and students having access to all they need to learn.  How have we lost the ideas that worked 60 years ago?  Create and be creative - it might look different with robots and coding but the messages are still the same.  We can't go from our planning to the child's mind .... for the most part, the rewrites need to address those learners that need slightly longer - by applying and creating.  It can get noisy and messy - but its empowering!  Think and plan outside of our comfort zone.  Engage, then empower using creativity.   Plan for opportunities to be creative - free up time and empower students to create more - hook through active participation!



Anthony Speranza - Hope about what is possible
Change is hard but necessary in our job.  What makes a good learner?  We are experts as teachers and we understand how learning occurs but is it happening?  Is the teacher the one in control in the classroom? How can you change it?  Why do children want to 'check out' of school?  We should be encouraging learning and engage learners in school.  What is the 'seduction' of technology?  Unpacking the why could help us engage and motivate those learners. 



Learners need:

  • content
  • motivation
  • skills
This requires us as teachers to take risks and be vulnerable!  If learners need to take risks then good teachers and leaders should also take risks.  We need to create an environment where they are comfortable to take risks.  Leaders need to grow a culture where teachers feel they can take risks.

When will the extraordinary become ordinary?




Dorothy Apelu - Supporting students to become better writers using blogs
Blogs enable a history of a child's learning for future teachers.  Three focus areas;

  • engaging contexts - that matter!
  • writing strategies - from other teachers and schools that had success
  • blog posts 
Blog posts enable learners to share their learning but the value of face to face is also important - sharing across schools or classes.  Authentic audiences can be other students in the class or old teachers - getting more feedback!  Posts were shared with a local MP, who responded! This also showed that students could see they could have an impact.



Stuart Kelly - In the Classroom I am ......

  • aptitude
  • attitude
  • altitude
  • storyteller
  • explorer
  • collaborator
  • advocate
  • performer
I am .... teacher ... learner .... you!  WE!




What a great couple of days, connecting, networking, learning and exploring.  Thanks to the #EdTechTeam for the opportunity!

GAFE Day 2 Sessions

Session 8:  My Space: Within and beyond the classroom walls - James Hopkins

Where do you store your positive feedback to review when things are tough?

How are learners currently accessing learning in my classroom?




Consider ..... how do you learn best?  Often hard to put yourself in the role of the learner but here are mine ...
  • Hands on activities - doing not listening
  • Coffee!
  • Good lighting
  • Time to think about things
  • Colleagues to work with
  • Research or opportunities to unpack research
  • Not too hot

Collaborative Placement - as a group, find the commonalities of our group by looking to see what is in the middle.  If its a bigger group ... three to four in common would be a commonality.  The things that come from the centre are the main ideas important to most in the classroom.


Online learning spaces are becoming more frequent - many options are available to create these including Google Sites. Google Classroom, Weebly, Slides and Hapara Teacher Dashboard.  Make sure it fits the needs of the learners.  Many online spaces are available to look at and use as a base for creating yours.  










GAFE 2018 Day 2 sessions


Session Five:  Data Visualization and Infographics - Patrick Green

A great way to display data in a way that makes it much easier understand a concept.




Elements of Design:
  • Colour
  • Font
  • Shape
Principals of Design:
  • Contrast
  • Alignment
  • Repetition
  • Proximity

Tips and Tricks for Google Draw:

  • Zoom into a specific area of your Google Draw by clicking on the Zoom button and drawing a square around where you'd like to zoom
  • Put notes/ideas outside the parameters of your Draw so they won't display but are available if you need them - e.g. colour swatches; fonts; images


Session Six:  GEG NZ - Fiona Grant & Justine Driver

It was great to support Fiona and Justine introduce GEG NZ.   If you haven't joined the GEG NZ Google+ group, you can do so here.


GEG NZ support educators in a number of ways:
  • Spotlights
  • Smackdowns
  • Student Learner summits
  • Sparkshop
  • Socialising
  • Study Groups
Session Seven:  Driving change and agendas of innovation forward in your school

Link to resources

Ensure parents understand the time and effort we spend keeping them informed - important they understand they are vital to the process



Upskill yourself first using the Google Certifications


Does what you do give the right picture - are you seen as 'so out there' that people won't want to follow?  Approach the early adopters first and have them share back.   Swing the motivation in your favour.  Start from the early adopters - you will need to give the laggers individual attention, but leave these till last.

Start with ideas such as:
  • Techie breakies
  • Consider how to use staff meetings, PLTs and professional development
  • Build expertise in students to be able to assist both students and teachers



Innovation consistently links back to the SAMR model - in order to build staff capacity ensure you forge new habits and embed and guide thinking through:
  • have an 'open door'
  • be present at key moments
  • guide thinking
  • influence decisions - 
  • scaffold the process

Ensure you understand the WHY before the unpack the HOW.

This will provide:
  • immediate purpose
  • which will drive motivation
  • which will lead to passion
  • which will foster ownership


Think about three priorities rather than a multitude of ideas and visions - do three things well rather than dabble in just a few things.

GAFE Summit - Day 2 Keynote



The second day once again kicks off with a Keynote.

Once Upon Our Time - Lindsay Wesner

What things do we not question in education?


What does being brave look like for you?  From failure, great innovations can appear.   Not everything will fail, many things will work, but sometimes the greatest learning can come from failing.


At the intersection of education, technology and passion, is the sweet spot - the impossible is now possible.


If we stand at the point of conflict and we don't change and innovate we miss out.  Its important we think about the battles we are fighting - what do we struggle with, what do we need to change to make innovation more possible?  Imagine what is possible if we navigate the conflict - what does the climax look like?  Our story cannot be separated from the story of our students. 



What if we engage our students in saving real problems?  What if we engage them in experiences that are engaging and challenging?  What if we gave our students a context and platform in which to share?  What if we gave them a voice for their stories?

Things happen in your classroom everyday that need to be told.  Teachers shape the narrative of education in this country and in the world.  #shareyourstory #lovelearning #whyiteach

With change in education we get some great buzz words - personalised learning; makerspace; computational thinking; flip the classroom; coding.





There are always "enemies" to innovation - 
  • time - are we doing things our students should/could be doing?  If you invest time, you can get some back.  How are we spending our time?  Don't regret the time spent investing in a moment/innovation.
  • curriculum - the need to cover every area of the curriculum.  Did your students "engage" with your teaching?  We must be obsessed with the learning - not the coverage of the curriculum.  Did learning happen?  Why or why not?  Our core business is learning.
  • fear - fear of what colleagues/students will say; consequences; reactions - very real fears.  Remember to be brave - even if you're not, pretend to be!

Our Weapons in the fight -
  • vision - for the kind of education that we want to see - when we challenge the status quo
  • community - people willing to invest in and fight for the education that they believe in
  • stories  - powerful and currency that can add value - what can we leave for future generations?  What stories will be transferred?  
In the tapestry of education, we all have a thread - but to realise the full potential we need to combine them together to form something amazing.


What is the climax to your story? 


Monday, 16 April 2018

GAFE Auckland 2018 Demo Slam


What is a Demo Slam? 

This is a quick-paced, high-energy session where presenters have three minutes each to demonstrate something Googly in front of the crowd, who will vote for a winner at the end.

Today's Demo Slam highlights

Livestreaming using the camera button - goes straight to YouTube - use a link to share with parents.


Fiddling with Google Doc URLs .. using /copy ... /preview .... /template/preview ....  /export?format=pdf ..... /copy?copyComments

Bitsbox .... free coding via the hour of code website .... check out the sheep @ bit.ly/mykiwiapp

Sheets to Map .... Insert, Chart, Map

Digital Assessment .... Checkmark extension integrating with Google Keep



GAFE Summit - Day 1 sessions

Session 1: Choose Your Own Adventure Stories - Michael Davidson


I was super impressed to have the learners take this session - very inspiring!


  • Colour code your plan - red is death; blue is a good step and green for beginning and end
  • Use multiple choices to give your reader the choices
  • Add images or videos to make your story more interesting - upload a video to You Tube to add it to your story
  • Include a 'try again' option when you die :)


Session 2: Classroom Management in a Personalized Learning Environment - Patrick Green

At the heart of all personalized learning is the wants, needs, hopes, dreams of the students.  There are three main components:

Competency based progressions - each students progress towards clearly defined goals.
Customised pathways - a path that adapts based on their learner profile, strengths, needs, interests and goals.
Flexible Learning environments - student needs drive the design - dynamic and responding to the needs of the learner.

What questions do you have about classroom management for personalised learning?

Why does Personalised Learning matter?
  • Not every student is ready for the same piece of learning at the same time - meet your students needs when they are ready for it.
  • Know your role - coach; guide; re-direct; question - your knowledge on how people learn
  • Provide scaffolding - activators; extensions; last 5 minutes; learning process
How to get students to take more ownership of their learning
  • By making expectations, processes and procedures extremely clear
  • Visual ad campaign - visuals for what you expect students to do
  • By giving them access to data and access to resources
  • Online space - 27/7 access
  • Digital marking book - process rather than marks - available for the students to see
  • Mini lessons - learners can work through these on their own
  • Empower students with choice - be intentional about when you allow students to choose a product or tool
Other Ideas:
  • Arrange the room to maximise the learning



Session 4:  Google Sites for Visible Teaching and Learning - Fiona Grant



What is the reason and purpose for using technology in your classroom?  Have a purpose in mind - fit your technology to the purpose!  Is your learning designed to be easily shared?

To make learning visible:
  • Rewindable learning supported
  • Accessible anywhere, anytime, at any pace
  • Personalised via multiple opportunities to access content
  • Hub of information about events


Other:  Great ideas and tips from these sessions and the #Edtechteam twitter feed


Ask a question feature on Google Slides - thanks to Patrick for reminding me of this great feature.

5Y Protocol - five times WHY questions ... regardless of the answers .. to dig deeper into your thinking!



Presenting at GAFE Auckland 2018



Once again I have presented at the GAFE Auckland summit.  My session showcased how I use Google, Seesaw and Explain Everything in my classroom.


GAFE Summit 2018 Opening Keynote

I'm excited to be attending the GAFE Summit in Auckland again this year.  Once again its being held at the wonderful Aorere College, in South Auckland. 


Opening Keynote - The Relevant Teacher - Patrick Green

Taking risks can affect more than just you - what you're doing in your classroom affects all your students.  Patrick works at Singapore American School, where they recently sent teachers around the school to visit innovative schools - those that are changing to meet the needs of their students.  During his trip, Patrick visited California - Da Vinci Innovation Labs (students go to school two days a week and learn from home three days a week) and Sequoyah (mixed aged classrooms, where students are held back twice before the age of 12 in order to facilitate leadership skills). 

Change is difficult
Interactions everyday start to shape students - relevant teachers matter.

What are relevant teachers doing?

  • Flipping their classroom and taking on the role of the learner
  • Look at what they teach with a whole new lens - is this transferrable beyond my classroom?
  • Realises when they are wasting students time
  • Not afraid of access to information - students can speak it out to find information
  • Allow students to use devices on their exams
  • Are not making students do what adults don't do
  • Recognise that one size fits nobody - personalised learning is meaningful
  • Meeting students where they are at
  • Helping students to craft a digital footprint - portfolios have a purpose
  • Incorporate autonomy, mastery and purpose into the classroom
  • Teaches students to become independent learners and to find the answers to their questions
  • Throwing exemplars into the trash as they will not develop innovators and encourage creativity - intentionally leave the exemplars blank!
  • Value students not following instructions - independent thinking
  • Doing it the way "someone else" says is not a 21st century skill
  • Play Minecraft for the 'language acquisition' - play with your students to understand 'their' world
  • Give students some side quests - it can look messy but they explore their own passions and interests
  • Refuse to accept junk from their students - they expect greater levels of creativity
  • They have a super power - they can take anything and use it for learning
  • Insert play and inspiring ideas into their classrooms
  • Embracing the interruptions as opportunities for imagination and curiosity

How do you stay relevant ........  Be a Learner!
Grow ... and change!



Questions to Consider:

What are you doing in your classroom that you could remove to give your students more exploring and passion time - student agency?

Books to Consider Reading:

The End of Average - by Todd Rose (one size fits nobody)
A Whole New Mind / Drive - Daniel Pink

Websites and Links to Visit and Explore

iTime - @aliwh_white @shaunyk  (individualising the learning)

Values of the Institute of Play