UTB Newsletter - Issue 7 - 2020

  • Welcome from Mike, our Founder, Visionary & Commander-in-Chief
  • Something to make you think
  • Something we think you'll like
  • Product updates from Google
  • Tool of the week - Canva Tip
  • Microsoft, Google and Apple tips
  • Classroom + Lesson Idea
  • Website of the week - Mentimeter
  • NZ PLD Update - by Lara
  • YouTube Channel of the Week - Simone Giertz
  • Newsletter for School Leadership & Administration
  • Latest podcast digs into the role of technology in the classroom
  • Join the UTB Team
  • Win a free online course

Hello July 2020 😲

Welcome to this month's newsletter. I can't believe another month has FLOWN by! Hopefully you are finding some time for rest, or have plans in place to get some. One of the important concepts I have learnt this year is that you need to take time to breath in.

As teachers / service oriented people, we give out a lot. If you breathe out for a very long time and don't take the time to breathe in, you won't last very long. This term, in the midst of the craziness, the UTB team took a breathe in day, and we have 4 days planned for next week. It is a bit of an experiment for us where we are looking at how we remain effective and efficient without running our tanks dry. The concept is that we are wanting to manage our energy, not our time. There is always a long list of things to do, so hide the list and join us in spending some time breathing in!

We are also combining this with an experiment of deep work, based on the book by Cal Newport called Deep Work. This is where you go distraction free and spend focused, uninterrupted time, to create, think and produce great work. One of our trainers, Samantha, kicked off the experiment by going off grid for 5 days last week. There were some interesting learnings which we will share with you next month. The team are about to go into phase 2 of the deep work experiment where the whole team 'goes dark' for 3 days. The next 6 months for us are going to be crazy with so many awesome events planned, and awesome courses being released. Will let you know how we go and what we learn. Hopefully our learning will benefit you and give you some actionable tips.

Speaking of actionable tips, don't scroll past the opportunity to grab the recordings from the Google Extravaganza held over the last couple of weeks. Over 1000 teachers in NZ participated in this awesome event. You will find a lot of great sessions showing you how to use the range of Google tools. Wish there was a Microsoft or Apple version of this? Stay tuned...Term 3 will be chockers with high quality online events for Microsoft, Apple and Google!

- Mike

Something to make you think...

Culturally Responsive Teaching

There is much talk these days about cultural responsiveness.

In light of recent events around the world, it's a great time for educators to reflect on their practices and ask themselves if they are truly accepting towards ALL their student's cultures and are they responsive to them.

We know that relationships are key to great teaching and this begins with truly knowing and understanding the culture of your students and colleagues.

This article, although aimed at early childhood, is applicable to all levels. It outlines four simple steps you can take to be culturally responsive in your practice.

Take a moment to reflect on your practice. Is there something you could change to be more inclusive of all cultures? We'll leave you to ponder that question.

Something we think you'll like

Access to the Google Extravaganza Replays

Just a few short weeks ago, UTB, together with Noel Leeming Commercial and Google for Education, delivered an amazing (if we do say so ourselves) online PD experience for our champion NZ Educators!

We had over 34 sessions to choose from. We catered for newbies through to nerd level users. We had an absolute blast running the event.

We are stoked to be able to make it available to you now. You can get access to both events by clicking on the button options below.


Google's new certification for educators - 'Google Certified Coach'

Are you an educator who loves showing others how to use Google tools in the classroom? Do you spend most of your time doing so in a 1:1 environment (rather than group training)? If so, you're a good fit for Google's new Certified Coach program!

Google Certified Coaches use Google's 5-step coaching model to work with teachers. You can learn more about this model, and the process to get certified, in the Google Teacher Centre.

Tool or tip of the week

Canva Tip

We love how quick and easy Canva makes it to create graphics with just a few clicks of the mouse! Here's a tutorial that highlights using the Shift and arrow keys to position your graphics in just the right spot.

Microsoft Tip

Great things you can do on a Surface.

We have been making a bunch of videos for Microsoft on the great things you can do with a Surface Pro. Check out this video teaser made especially for maths teachers. Keep an eye out for the rest of the series coming live soon.

Google Tip

Preview in Slides & Docs

Have you noticed the new update to previewing links in your Docs, Slides and Sheets?

I love that now you get a great thumbnail view, and if you're the owner you can quickly see if any changes have been made.

It's the preview in Slides though that really has me excited! Not only can you preview the slide, but you can scroll through ALL the slides without having to leave the link - such a timesaver!

Apple Tip

Augmented Reality and Reality Composer

Apple's WWDC conference highlighted some developments with Augmented Reality. But what is Augmented Reality and what is Reality Composer? This graphic breaks it down for you.

Classroom/Lesson idea


Are you looking to get started with computational thinking in your classroom or learning centre?

One of the easiest ways to begin is to investigate algorithms and unpack what they really are.

We've put together this resource, focused just on activities that integrate algorithmic thinking in fun and engaging ways.

Check out the classroom, click your way around it and think about how you could use some of the activities with your students.

Website of the week


Getting student voice is such an important part of today's learning environments - but not every student is keen to speak out.

Mentimeter is an awesome website that allows you to create polls, ask questions and gather feedback from ALL your students.

What I really like about it is the option to add images and gifs to your questions. Having visual support is not only important for those students who may struggle with just the written word, but it makes it fun and engaging for students as well.

There is a free and paid version, but the free version is all you need to get started.

NZ PLD Update


We are so delighted to see that the Ministry of Education will be piloting a fund which will allow teacher aides to access high quality professional learning. The fund will cover any course fees (up to $1500) and TA wages for the time doing the course. Training can take place outside of school hours and term time, meaning TA's can continue to earn while they learn, without taking time out of school.

This is outstanding news and goes towards recognising the incredible work that teacher aides are doing in schools. We already have really useful ideas for how we can support with this. From assistive tech, through to having a deep understanding of how some of the devices your students use operate. We will put these together and share with you very soon.

If you want to know more now, have specific ideas or to get on our early release list please email lara@usingtechnologybetter.com

Online applications will be available from July 1. Read more about this here.

Term 1 2020 PLD Applications - Update

By the end of this week schools that applied for PLD in the Term 1 round should hear back about the hours that they have been allocated. Once your application is approved, please reach out to us so we can start planning out your training with you. We are excited to get this back on track with so many schools after the delays of the last few months


If you are a NZ school and interested in applying for PLD funding please feel free to email lara@usingtechnologybetter.com for information. This resource gives you a good idea of the process and we are able to support you when applications open again. We are anticipating this to happen later in Term 3 or early Term 4.

YouTube Channel of the Week

Simone Giertz

I love this channel. In her own words… “Maker/robotics enthusiast/non-engineer. Have become somewhat of an expert in shitty robots.”

Her videos are funny, clever and engaging to watch.

Over the last couple of years she has been getting treatment for a brain tumor (which she has named Brian) and has honest and inspiring videos about that on her channel as well.

Simone is an excellent role model for all in regards to creativity and STEAM. As a young female she definitely challenges some of the gender stereotypes. I encourage you to have a look at some of her videos and see how you could use them to inspire your students.

Newsletter for Leadership & School Administration

We always hear that technology can make us more efficient and productive. However, if you’ve ever experienced the stress of an overflowing inbox, the frustration of not being able to find a file, or the struggle of trying to stay focussed amidst seemingly constant digital distractions, you may wonder if this is some cruel myth or if perhaps you’re just ‘no good’ at technology.

It’s not a myth and you’re not ‘no good’..you have just never been given the tips, tricks and strategies that you need. That’s good news!! It means that you can learn how to be super efficient, productive and organised with technology, which will give you time back in your day to do the things you enjoy (without feeling guilty!)

Keen to start discovering some of the tips, tricks and strategies that can make a real difference to your life? UTB has a brand-new newsletter focused exclusively on actually boosting your efficiency, productivity and organisation (for real).

Sign up here.

It’s 100% free and they promise no stuffy, boring tech training that leaves you sprawled over the desk begging for mercy. You’ll get a friendly fortnightly ‘hello’ from Samantha with lots of practical and useful guidance.

Podcast episodes you may have missed

An interview with Neil Selwyn: The role of technology in education, data analytics and more Ep 10 – In this week’s OutClassed Podcast, Mike and Blake Speak with Neil Selwyn from Monash University in Australia about the role of technology in schools.

In this episode we discuss a range of topics including:

  • The place of data in education and a discussion around assessment
  • What role does educational research research play in schools
  • Learning analytics and data driven schooling
  • Blended learning and advice on how to move forward post COVID and school closures

To see all the OutClassed episodes go to utb.fyi/outclassed

Outclassed Podcast: Episode 9 – A Fresh Approach To Developing A Digital Citizenship Program - In this week’s OutClassed Podcast, Mike and Blake Speak with Karla Sanders from Sticks’N’Stones about the digital citizenship program developed in New Zealand.

In this episode we discuss a range of topics including:

  • The 3 essential elements your digital citizenship program MUST have
  • How a student designed and lead program actually works and the results Karla and the Sticks’N’Stones team are seeing across New Zealand
  • What are the trends Karla is seeing with issues related to young people
  • The research about gaming and the way the brain experiences this environment

To see all the OutClassed episodes go to utb.fyi/outclassed

- Mike Reading

Outclassed Podcast: Episode 8 – How to bridge the gap between IT and teaching teams - In this week’s OutClassed Podcast, Mike and Blake discuss a range of topics including:

  • What your IT team wished teachers understood about their role
  • What teachers wished IT teams understood about what it is like to be a teacher
  • How to influence each group so that everyone wins

To see all the OutClassed episodes go to utb.fyi/outclassed

- Mike Reading

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

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!



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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 Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag us in with @Usingtechbetter, #utbSHARE and #utbPD
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