UTB Newsletter - Issue 6 - 2020

  • Welcome from Mike, Founder, Visionary & Commander-in-Chief
  • Something to make you think
  • Something we think you'll like
  • Product updates from Google
  • New online course - Getting started with Seesaw
  • Tool of the week - Screen Shader
  • Microsoft, Google and Apple tips
  • Classroom + Lesson Idea
  • Website of the week - Being Thankful
  • Product Review: Seesaw
  • NZ PLD Update - Keeping UTB busy during lockdown!
  • Latest blog posts
  • Join the UTB Team
  • Win a free online course

Hello June 2020 😲

Welcome to this month's Newsletter, and what a month it has been! With the majority of schools in Australia and New Zealand heading back to school, this is an opportunity to shape what your classroom will look like for the rest of the year and beyond. We have been eager to read your emails about how you are experimenting with giving your students more autonomy, have been testing out blended learning, and are looking to further expand on the lessons learnt from the remote learning situation.

Parents have reacted in different ways to schools returning. Some couldn't wait to hand their kids back over to you, whilst others are reconsidering the role that traditional teaching plays and whether they want their students to 'go back to normal'. One of the online schools had over 900 applications just after the lock-down. We'd be keen to hear what your 'new normal' looks like.

If I could offer you one piece of advice, it would be to lean into the uncertainty and take the opportunity that is in front of you. You have all the support, encouragement, perspective and training you need right now to take your next step. Our latest podcast digs into this topic :)

Hope the month of June is amazing! Nearly half the year is gone, can you believe it? Stay safe, stay sane, and keep being amazing.

- Mike

Something to make you think...

Are you reading a poem - or are you not?

This website is a Turing test for poetry. You, the judge, have to guess whether the poem you’re reading is written by a human or by a computer.

We need to really encourage our student to THINK about what they read and see on the internet.

This is a great site to get your students, and your colleagues, thinking about what they read.

Something we think you'll like

Have fun with encrypted messsages

During the last few months we've all been working and teaching a lot more using our devices.

But have we stopped to think about how these things actually work?

Encrypting messages is a fun way to help students understand a bit about how the internet works. Codemoji allows us to have a bit of fun with this while also thinking critically.

You type your message, choose an emoji and then magically, your message is encrypted. You need to share the 'key' to unlock your message with the receiver - so just how will you describe the emoji you chose?


Is your school using Google Shared Drives?

If yes, then you will probably want to check out this update!

One of the biggest issues with Google Shared Drives has been the inability to share specific folders within a drive with other people outside the drive. Last week Google announced a new beta (early testing) program for this feature. If your school needs this functionality, talk to your IT team about signing up for the beta program.

Tool or tip of the week

Tint your screen to benefit your eyes...and maybe your sleep!

You are probably familiar with 'night mode' or similar on your devices. You know, it's that thing that happens at about 7pm when your phone screen suddenly gets a bit yellow! There is an increasing amount of evidence that the blue light emitted by devices can be harmful to your eyes and your sleep. Tools like night mode are designed to help reduce the amount of blue light we are exposed to, particularly in the evening. If you have found these settings useful, you may like to check out the 'Screen Shader' Chrome extension. You can customise it to change the shading on your screen as the evening wears on. It's great for reducing eye strain, and maybe even improving your sleep!

New Online Course

Getting Started with Seesaw

Want lessons your students get excited about? The ones they remember for a lifetime?

Seesaw provides a powerful online platform that will help you deliver amazing learning opportunities for your students - the kind they are going to love you for!

Microsoft Tip

Creating VR worlds with Microsoft SharePoint

Did you know that SharePoint has a new environment to create virtual worlds called 'Space'? Watch our YouTube video to learn how to unlock this amazing feature so you and your students can start creating!

Google Tip

Mote - Audio Feedback inside Docs, Sheets and Slides!

Mote is a great tool which makes it incredibly easy to leave audio feedback for your students. It will even transcribe your audio into text!

1. Download the Chrome Extension.

2. Open a Google Doc, Sheet or Slide, select what you would like to comment on, click the comment button and you should see the Mote logo.

3. Click on the logo and start speaking. Click stop when you are done, then click the comment button and wait for it to magically transcribe your words.

You can edit the transcription if it isn’t accurate. The comment will stay there for your students to see the text or click on the play button to hear your recording.

Mote is a great way to give meaningful feedback quickly and to connect with your learners. It’s also a great way for students to engage with you in relation to parts of the document - maybe they want to ask you a question or explain their thinking. You can even change the transcription language!

Apple Tip

Apple Classwork App Updated

Apple Classwork has had a major update with lots of new features and functionality. View class and student data, share files and collaborate with students and a whole lot more.

Classroom/Lesson idea

Do you want to stop reinventing the wheel?

We've mentioned Google Arts and Culture a few times in our newsletters - it's such an awesome resource to use with your students.

But did you know there are already some fantastic free lessons created for teachers using this resource?

One of my personal favourites is the dinosaur one - but you might have another.

Website of the week

Being Thankful

Now, more than ever, it's important that we look for the good in every day. Some days this is much easier than others!

Here at UTB it's something we consciously focus on - we begin every meeting we have with a 'Good News' session. Even if we have to dig deep, it's great to be reminded there is something good in every day.

In our classrooms this isn't always an easy task task - which is where this website might help. Thankfulness For Schools has lessons and resources that you can use with your students to help encourage them to be thankful.

Take a look and see if there is something you could use with your students.

What are you thankful for today?

Product review

Skills and Seesaw

Seesaw is an amazing tool for students to show us what they know, and recently I have been investigating the Skills options.

What an incredible resource for teachers!

Skills are only available with the paid version, but they are definitely worth checking out by using the free trial that is offered. The wonderful Seesaw people have even produced spreadsheets with curriculum objectives for different countries already laid out for you to easily upload.

Skills allow you to easily tag students' work on a scale that works for you. You can filter by skill, by student or by subject. It's just a quick way to see a big picture of how students are progressing or who you need to touch base with.

Upcoming Events

Google for Education Extravaganza Online Conference

Have you register yet for the most engaging and interactive online conference you've experienced yet!?

The two day event will run in the afternoons from 4:00pm-6:30pm NZT. Session schedules are outlined here.

Network with other passionate teachers, share ideas and collaborate together on the exciting journey that is teaching.

NZ PLD Update

Keeping UTB busy during lockdown!

Schools are back in the swing of things here in New Zealand, with them being reopened fully since the 18th of May.

During lockdown we were able to support many of our NZ PLD schools via virtual training, utilising tools like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom to connect with them and do what we could to make remote teaching and learning as smooth and meaningful as possible.

Many teachers fed back to us that they loved this style of learning and we aim to continue to offer this style of support to any schools who are interested.

The top three benefits we heard were...


Having a recorded training session adds incredible value as people can go back and review at their own pace. What an amazing resource for you and your school to use over and over again!


Having three or four sessions scheduled across a few days allows teachers to select which training will serve them best at that time, then access recordings of others as they are ready for them. It also means we can utilise the awesome skill sets of our trainers and match the sessions with trainer expertise and passion.


Scheduling a series of training that is made up of short, sharp sessions then allowing time before the next session has been a hit for our teachers! They have been able to go and try out what they’ve learnt then come back with questions or ready to learn more! This significantly reduces overwhelm and anxiety around learning and implementing new skills.

What people have been saying about online training…

“I love online courses - I don't have to drive for hours to Queenstown or Invercargill, and as an introvert,I can just work away on the course at home. I can also reread and watch. Excellent!!!! Thank you!” - Sue Peoples, Teacher @ Fiordland College, NZ
“At the last session I wasn't sure if remote PD was the way to go for this but I've had a change of mind. Having time to play in between sessions is FANTASTIC. It allows you to not become overwhelmed and take a little bit of learning, apply it, practice it and become a bit more confident personally.” - Rachel O'Connell, Alexandra Primary School

PLD Applications

We are anticipating an announcement from the Ministry of Education very soon which should inform us of how application will work moving forward, what the implication is on applications submitted in Term 1 and when the next round of applications will be open.

If you are a NZ school interested in finding out more about NZ PLD applications please feel free to email lara@usingtechnologybetter.com for information.


Podcast episodes 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.

Outclassed Podcast: Episode 7 – Leading in a crisis – In this week’s OutClassed Podcast, Mike and Blake discuss a range of topics including:

  • Why Blake decided to download the COVID tracing App.
  • The opportunity to lean into the leadership challenge and see great results.
  • How to communicate with your staff.
  • How Mike has set up the UTB team and the opportunity for schools to re look at they way they work (how his staff find leaving teaching and working in this new way).

Outclassed Podcast: Episode 6 – In the Government we trust - In this week’s OutClassed Podcast, Mike and Blake discuss a range of topics including:

  • Fun ways schools are finding to stay connected to community.
  • Data security and the role technology is playing in shaping society.
  • Should you filter the internet at high school?
  • We compare Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Chat.
  • Wins and Fails of the week.

- Mike Reading

Outclassed Podcast: Episode 5 - In this week’s OutClassed Podcast, Mike and Blake discuss a range of topics including:

  • The best way to provide PD for staff and students and why both are important.
  • What’s the consensus around the global around how much work a student should have?
  • Why your 'block first and open tools later' is doing a disservice to staff and students.
  • Are keyboards making students dumber?

- Mike Reading

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!

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 Jessica Lewis - "untitled image" • Moe Kong - "untitled image" • ernestoeslava - "education people school" • Markus Winkler - "untitled image" • analogicus - "architecture building postilion" • MariusMB - "iphone 4s technology"