UTB Newsletter - Issue 17 - 2019 BLOG UPDATES - something we think you'll like - SOMETHING to make you think - AND MORE!

Hello there and welcome to the latest edition of the UTB newsletter!

The team have pulled together some great content for you this week, we're getting you thinking about shooting robots, showcasing Workbench and YoTeach, sharing computional thinking ideas for English teachers and reviewing the Finch 2.0 robot. So there is lots for you to explore!

This edition also has a touch of sadness about it because we are farewelling one of the UTB family - Tim Thatcher. Although our team works remotely much of the time, when we are physically in the same location we usually spend a lot of quality time together - chatting, sharing meals, cooking etc. These activites build a strong, family-like bond that makes it harder to say goodbye to people! We will miss you Tim!

While it's easy to praise and thank our colleagues when they leave an organisation, it's also super important to make sure we're doing this on an ongoing basis. Here at UTB we're very committed to upholding our core company values and recognising when our colleagues do something that aligns with those values. We actually share stories of these in our tri-weekly team huddles. This is a great way to keep our company culture strong and make sure the team feel appreciated. In that spririt, I'd also like to use this week's welcome to say a big thanks to Lara Kirk! While all the team are involved in writing content for our newsletter, it's the lovely Lara Kirk who brings it all together for you every fortnight.

My challenge for you this week is to give a public shout out to one of your colleagues who is embodying the values that are important to your school or organisation - maybe you might start a trend!

Enjoy the newsletter!



  • A farewell...
  • Shooting robots in schools
  • Blog posts
  • Something we think you'll like... Workbench in Google
  • Updates and tips
  • Looking ahead to 2020
  • Free training opportunities for SCHOOL LEADERS
  • Classroom idea - Conditional Poetry
  • A useful tool for your classroom - YoTeach
  • Product Review - Finch 2.0

Farewell to Tim!

Very sadly for our team we are farewelling Tim Thatcher this week!

Tim is leaving the UTB family to take up an exciting positing with TANZ e-Campus as an Instructional Designer, designing and developing online courses for tertiary institutions and companies throughout New Zealand. He'll be working alongside engineers and developers to integrate machine learning in order to better support the achievement of learners.

We've loved having Tim as part of our team and will miss his passion and enthusiasm for tech. He's contributed so much to the schools he's worked with as well as us as trainers, especially around The Arts and robotics.

Tim - we'll really miss you but we know you are heading off to do great things in your new role.

All the best and keep in touch!

something to make you think...

Shooting robots in schools?

Bloomberg's Youtube channel consistently provides thought provoking content about technology.

In this video they explore tech giant DJI's new shooting robot. While this is no different to nerf guns and battle bots its integration of new high level technology is certainly thought provoking. The robot drives at high speed and can be controlled via a tablet with a video link. The robot shoots water capsules and can sense when it has been shot.

How hard would it be for someone to turn the pellet gun into a real gun? Would you want your child playing with this robot? How will this technology evolve?

The scary thing for me is that this product is intended to be used by schools. Students will get to build the robot then use the popular coding interface Scratch 3.0 to code it.

Shooting robots in schools? What are your thoughts?

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.

Ideas for building positive relationships with parents - Besides the students in your school, one of the next most important groups of people are your student’s parents. Building positive relationships with parents is not always an easy journey - but there are some things we can do to help establish positive relationships with them. Here are five ideas to help with this. - By Donna Golightly

Five ways to make Chromebooks even easier to use for younger students - I recently spent three days working with staff and students at Waipahihi School in Taupo, New Zealand. While helping the teachers to introduce Google Classroom to their grade 3 and 4 students, I noticed that a lot of time was spent directing students to particular websites and assisting them to change settings on their Chromebooks. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing these five ways to customise Chromebooks to eliminate these time wasters. - By Samantha Vardanega

Something we think you'll like...

Workbench in Google

You may have recently heard that Workbench was aquired by Google and has some great educational resources.

Workbench gives you access to a library of lessons and projects, organized by subject and grade level. It also offers an interface that allows you to be able to control bluetooth devices via coding.

The other nice feature is that you are able to read and write the coding from spreadsheets, so data colleted via forms or from remote devices can be maninpulated and managed via block coding.

We are exploring how to integrate this with Micro:bit and Sphero at the moment and we will keep you updated with our progress.

Check out the video above for an overview.

Google Slides Update

Google Slides has two new updates coming which will be useful when using Slides in present mode.

You will be able to add blank spaces - great for pausing and asking questions or allowing for discussion time. You will also be able to set the slides to automatically loop.

Chrome Extension Toolbar Menu

If you're like us you may have just a few extensions installed on your Chrome browser.

We use the extension Extensity to help manage them all - it allows you to turn them on and off as you need them.

But we recently discovered another way to manage them that clears them all from next to the omnibox and just makes life feel a little less cluttered - it's one of Chromes experimental flags.

In the omnibox (or the address bar) type in chrome://flags/#extensions-toolbar-menu . This will take you to all the flags Chrome has available but the extension toolbar menu should be highlighted. Simply enable it. All you extensions will now be under one jigsaw looking icon. (You'll need to reload the page to action the change.)

Click on the icon and you'll see a dropdown list of all your extensions.

Keep in mind this is an experimental feature so it may change in the future.

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!

Join Google and Using Technology Better for a special training for school leaders

A day for empowering school leaders to go beyond talking about the need to change, to actually achieving the change you desire, faster than you thought possible!

This day is for school leaders only, and will be limited to 30 people (3 people max per school).

During this day you will:

  • Experience the exact process that Google uses to develop their culture of innovation.
  • Use a design thinking process with your own schools context, and leave with a solution to your most pressing issue.
  • Understand the 7 essential elements of school transformation, and how to ensure your technology plan succeeds.
  • Discover what is on offer for free from the Ministry of Education to better help you manage student devices.
  • Receive all our frameworks, resources, and knowledge needed to lead your school through the school transformation process.

Wellington, NZ - 9 September 2019

Hamilton, NZ - 10 Septemeber 2019

And it is at NO cost to you!

Classroom Idea

Conditional Poetry

I was recently given the challenge of working with some English teachers on what computational thinking might look like in their class.

I developed a quick warm up activity called 'Codeded Snap Poetry'. Participants were provided 4 words that they had to use in a 6 line poem. Each word was associated with a sound (an IF statement) so when the poem was read out the audience would make the sound which corresponded to the word. This made for an entertaining exploration of how basic computer science principles can be weaved into other content.

- From Tim


YoTeach is a free back channel you can use in your classroom for students to ask questions during a teaching session.

You can password protect it so only those with the password can contribute, or you can leave it open for anyone to use.

It has the function for students to type their questions or thoughts and there is also a drawing function. This tool brings up a whiteboard that has auto draw built in - they start to draw and it shows suggestions of what their image could be. They click on it and it drops in. Magic!

And of course it doesn't have to be the teacher monitoring the channel - students could monitor it also.

YoTeach is a great tool to allow for all voices to be heard.

Product review by tim

Finch 2.0

I have a bit of a crush on the Bird Brain Technologies product line and their pending release of the Finch 2.0 robot is very exciting.

The Finch 2.0 accomodates the Micro:bit and adds much more functionality to this tool. It also features LED lights, bluetooth connectivity, marks on wheels for counting revolutions, light sensors and much more.

One of the coolest features is that students can draw on the robot with white board markers, adding some creative flair to their robot.

Check out all the features of this exciting new product here.

WIN a free UTB Online Course!


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!

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

NB: Please make sure that you have permission and that you also give us permission to share any photos! It's often a good idea to put smiley stickers over students faces and anything else identifying in the image. OR just share images that don't have students in them.

Check with your school administrators what your policy on this is! Safety first everyone! :)

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Created with images by JJ Ying - "untitled image" • senjinpojskic - "connect jigsaw strategy puzzle pieces business solutions"

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