UTB Newsletter - Issue 22- 2019 A big fat thank you - tips - tricks - a shiny new course and more!

Welcome to the latest UTB newsletter!

Hi everyone, Lara here. I'm compiling this newsletter on Thursday morning (7 November) in prep for sending it out to you all in a few days! I'm buzzing a little bit this morning though, and not just from the coffee!!

Last night we hosted a live training session and I wanted to say to all those people who attended a huge thank you on behalf of Team UTB! You are all amazing for turning up after school hours to continue learning and growing to make things better for you and your students.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We were delighted to have over 160 people on the call live, with hundreds more registered to receive the video in their inbox to watch at their leisure.

During the call the UTB trainers shared 10 top tips in G Suite. More than 50 of our attendees worked collaboratively on a Google Doc while our training team did our best to answer their questions using comments during the stream. We gave away 8 vouchers for attendees to receive 50% off the price of a course, two courses totally free AND discount coupons to access our courses at a great rate!

If you missed registering don't worry - click here and register to receive not only the recording but codes to give you access to the same great discounts!

If you were part of the call or watch the recording sometime soon, make sure you share your favourite tip on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tag us in with #utbSHARE and @UsingTechBetter to be in the running to win a free course of your choice (valued at up to $300!). More details on this competition later in this newsletter!

Also a huge thank you to our amazing Julia who put all the pieces of the puzzle together and was sitting behind the scenes last night holding it all together. We love having you on the team Julia and can't wait to see where you take us!

In this issue...

  • Our newest, freshest, juciest course!
  • Meet Julia and Adam
  • Something to get you thinking
  • Blog posts you may have missed
  • Something else we think you'll like
  • Tips and tricks
  • Looking ahead to 2020
  • Literacy ideas for your classroom
  • Want to join the UTB team? Now's the time!
  • Find out how you can win a FREE ONLINE course with UTB

Our latest and greatest online course is now live!!!

g suite for education deep dive

We are so excited to bring to you our G Suite Deep Dive! This has been a labour of love for the entire UTB team and we are stoked to be finally able to share it with you.

This course is designed to take help you master the core G Suite apps and skills that you can utilise in your classroom!

Watch the video below and Adrian will tell you everything you need to know!


Hello, Julia here from Using Technology Better. I’ve recently joined the amazing team at UTB full time as their marketing manager.

I have a Bachelor of Business in Marketing and Public Relations. The past 8 years I’ve been heavily focused in Digital Marketing. To my surprise sometimes too, I’m also a qualified secondary teacher in Business & Geography.

I’m passionate about education and using the right tools to achieve the best possible outcomes in both education and corporate industries. I absolutely love what I do. Sometimes I think my team think I’m a slight marketing nerd. I’ll claim it.

We’ve got some very exciting things happening at UTB and I cannot wait to share them with you all. :)

In my downtime, I’m spending time with my husband and our two boys, in the summer usually out on the water wakeboarding and fishing. We love camping (although nervous about camping with a 4 month old!) In the winter, we love the snow. I’m pretty social, love family and friend gatherings and don’t mind the odd red wine or three. :)


Hi, my name is Adam Miller and I am two weeks into my new role as General Manager with Using Technology Better.

I have a bachelor in Finance and Property and have spent the past 7 years as a senior leader in NZs leading technology and appliance retailer supporting NZ schools and businesses.

I have a passion for coaching and training and strongly believe that the right technology supported by a robust training program leads to better educational and business outcomes.

I am looking forward to getting to know our customers and creating amazing training programs that can be consumed both digitally and in person. Please reach out to me to let me know what you think would benefit your industry/role, customer feedback is essential to us.

Outside of work I love spending time with my wife and 3 children (14, 12 & 3). Anything adventurous on the water or in nature count us in! We have a love for travel and embrace the hectic situation of traveling with 3 kids

something to get you thinking...

Academic research on eduation and education technology is typcally pretty inaccesible to classroom teachers. Most research papers are locked behind expensive subscriptions (unless you're studying at a uni). This means the only exposure we get to research findings is from the mainstream media, who are often more focused on sensationalising the findings rather than presenting them accurately!

That's why I was excited to hear about the Meet the Education Researcher podcast. Host Neil Selwyn, from Monash University in Australia, interviews academics about their current research so you can hear first-hand about their findings.

The podcast format makes this a great way to get some PD on the go! You can listen here.

blog posts you may have missed

Check out the practical, helpful tips in our blogs below.

Something you want us to blog about? Make a request here or check out our website to see all our posts.

How to mail merge letters in Google Docs - In a previous post, we shared the top five add-ons you can use to perform a mail merge in Google Drive. In this post, we’ll show you how to use one of those tools, autoCrat, to perform a mail merge in Google Docs that creates and emails personalised letters. This same technique can also be used to personalise any other type of document that is based in Google Docs. - By Samantha Vardanega

Four ways to move beyond substitution with the SAMR model - Classrooms all over the world are now filled with all sorts of amazing technology, but the big question is, 'How well is this technology being used?’ Using it for substitution is a great place to begin if you’re new to it, but it should never be a place to stay. This blog looks at four ways to use digital devices beyond the substitution level.- By Donna Golightly

Workbench and Google Sheets Part 2 - The coding space in Workbench has a Blockly workspace that resembles Scratch, so it is readily familiar with students and teachers and it works super well on Chromebooks as well as other laptops. This blog is the second in a series of five and you will learn how you can add devices that can interact with the code. [Parts 3 - 5 also available on the website] - By Adrian Francis

something we think you'll like...

An awesome NZ resource - easily adpated for anywhere in the world!

Many schools are beginning to think about their planning for 2020 (or have even begun work on it!).

This website is a fantastic tool to help you plan for authentic contexts. It is based in the New Zealand curriculum, but the questions and tasks within it could easily apply in other curriculums as well.


The idea is that you work your way through each section, selecting one focus from each. At the end your selections will all be saved as a single PDF file.

There is also a link to a toolkit with useful sites and tools you could use.

Check it out - we think you'll find it really helpful 😉

TIPS AND tricks

Make a coloured border in Google Docs

Something we often get asked is how can you make a coloured border on a Google Doc. When teachers or students are using it as presentation tool this is something they are used to being able to do in Word.

The quick answer is there is no page border tool. 😫

But..... there's a really easy work around! 😄

  1. Add a table that has just one row and one column.
  2. Add your text inside that table.
  3. Use the return button to make the inside of the table as large as you want it to be.
  4. Go to 'File' > 'Page setup' > Page colour' and choose the colour you want the border to be.
  5. Click back inside your table and click on the paint pot, choose white.

Magic! You now have a coloured border on your Doc. 🤩

looking ahead to 2020

The UTB team are planning out their calendars for next year. We are aiming to make sure we are giving you what you need, where you need it!

This would be a great time for you to let us know what sort of training and workshops you'd like to see us offer near you. Our plan is to get dates and locations locked in now so you can talk to whoever is in charge of the PLD purse strings at your school and get booked in early.

If you've never been to any of our training you can check out some of our feedback here -we're pretty proud of our 4.84 out of 5 rating from over 1700 workshop trainees!

So fill in this form and let us know what you're after! We'll let you know our plans soon!

two totally 'lit' ideas to light up your literacy programme 🔥


Created with ToonyTool! 🤣🙈

Visual literacy is becoming increasingly important as we encourage students to show what they know, and we know how engaging graphic novels are for some students.

ToonyTool is a great website for developing both of these skills.

You can add your own backgrounds or choose from an exisiting library, then add your characters, speech bubbles, props and even meme texts. Once your creation is finished you can download it as a standalone jpeg.

It would be a great addition to your literacy program or students could use it to explain a mathematical strategy.

Combine it with remove.bg and suddenly your students can become the characters and explain their thinking. Students could work together and create a series - the possibilities are endless!


Some more ideas with PicCollage :)

Join the UTB Team as a trainer!

We have a few training opportunities to join the UTB training team in Australia and New Zealand.

We're keen to hear from people who may be interested in full time, part time or casual work with us.

If you are a passionate educator, digitally savvy and keen to explore training options fill in this form to express your interest. We'll get back to you with more details!



We love getting your feedback about ideas you've used from this newsletter or from one of our training sessions!

In fact, we get such a kick out of it that every fortnight we want to give someone who shares the love a free online course of your choice - valued at up to $300!

Click here to check out our courses!

All you need to do is a share a photo or video of an activity that was inspired by something we shared with you (could be from face to face, online training or the newsletter), with a quick caption telling us what's happening in it!

Here are a couple of ways you can share...

  • Share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag us in with @Usingtechbetter, #utbSHARE and #utbPD
  • Not on Facebook, Twitter or Insta? No worries - email it to us at support@usingtechnologybetter.com and we'll share it out on our social media


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Created with images by Nathan Ziemanski - "The Lake Life" • 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič - @specialdaddy - "Library with hanging bulbs" • Shifaaz shamoon - "untitled image" • Annie Spratt - "Piles of old worn books" • John Barkiple - "A stem demonstrator at Craft Lake City presented his electrical contraptions."