Connected Learning

Jarrod Lamshed


The REAL Game Changer

In his latest post titled “The biggest ‘Game Changer’ in Education“, George Couros wrote:

The real game changer isn’t something external; it is internal. It is the way we think and grow. It is moving from that “fixed” mindset about teaching and learning, and moving to the “growth” mindset. It is thinking differently about education and understanding that all of us as people need different things to succeed. To some students, the “Flipped” model is hugely beneficial, while to some others, gaming is going to push their learning to a new level. Some learn better in isolation, while others excel in collaboration. There is no single “thing” that is a game changer. If there was, we would have figured it out and adopted it by now. We have to stop looking for standardized solutions to try and personalize learning. Our mindset towards teaching and learning has to be open to many approaches, not any single one.

This paragraph really resonates with me. The willingness to approach teaching with a growth mindset is essential. In my opinion, teachers who are completely ‘fixed’ in their teaching and unwilling to continue their own learning journey, have no place in a classroom. Although harsh sounding, I don’t think that this is a particularly radical view. I think that most of us understand that a teachers willingness to grow and try new things is a requirement of the job. I think the next question is how do we decide which ‘new thing’ to take on? As George discusses, it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Different kids have different learning needs.

As teachers, the biggest challenge for us is finding what it is that switches each of our students on to learning. There’s no magic trick needed to work this out. The answer doesn’t rely on new technologies or even connecting with other educators online. It comes down to, first and foremost, connecting with your students. It is vitally important that teachers take the time to develop real relationships with their students. I use the word ‘real’ because so often we don’t take the time to get to know what really makes kids tick.

Building relationships with kids can be tough. There are always those kids that you connect with immediately, but the relationships with the ones you don’t instantly connect with are just as important (if not more). Time taken to go and watch a sporting match or violin concert outside of school is well worth it. Taking some time out of the day to talk to your students about what interests THEM is an easy thing to do and helps to strengthen your relationships. When you’ve established these real connections, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to make learning accessible for each individual learner in your class and that’s when you’ll know which ‘game changer’ to tackle.

I’m not trying to be simplistic and am not saying that attending a Saturday morning footy game will fix all of your problems, but in the reality of over crowded curriculums and heavy workloads it’s easy to neglect the basics. If we don’t have the relationships.. we don’t have effective classrooms.


Size Does Matter

1001100_606954929349910_214370949_nI have a class of 32 year 6/7 boys. It’s a lot. I’m not complaining, but it’s a lot.

This week, because of an inter school cricket tournament, I had 16 of my 32 kids out of the classroom and as you would expect, it made a difference. With half the class away we suspended our usual routine and worked on negotiated projects. With less kids in the class, I was able to talk to each group about their ideas and work with them to make links to the National Curriculum.

Over the course of the day the boys worked with enthusiasm and passion for what they were doing. I was able to spend the day having learning conversations and asking questions in a way that i just can’t physically manage when the whole class is on deck. We had students exploring family history, working on Raspberry Pi projects, creating World War II re-enactments with clay animation, exploring the Gold Rush with Minecraft, designing games and investigating the differences between copper and fibre internet roll outs. It was a good day of learning.

It’s interesting (and a little scary) to hear our would be Education Minister Christopher Pyne talk so confidently about the ‘fact’ that class sizes are ‘not that important’. I can’t say that I agree. Even having a few less kids in the classroom would improve learning. It’s a simple maths equation. Less kids = more time for me to spend with every student. Pretty simple.

I’m not that unrealistic that I think I can ever work with only 16 kids, but I do have a hope that my class of 32 is not what I should expect EVERY year. With more kids in classes and less money for kids who need support, this ‘it doesn’t matter’ attitude scares me. Education can’t be all about the budget. We need to be looking at it from the needs of our kids and the need is that they have a teacher who has time to teach. I guess we will see what happens.


Challenging Stereotypes

disability workshopA big part of our boys program focusses on challenging stereotypes and building empathy. This week we have the opportunity to attend two workshop sessions to support our learning in these areas.

On Wednesday my class was involved in a ‘disability awareness’ program. Students had the opportunity to participate in a range of activities designed to give them some insight into what it is like for people with disabilities to perform simple school task. It was interesting to see which students rose to the challenge and which students didn’t cope well at all. All students came away with a greater understanding of the challenges faced by students with disabilities in our school.

Today, the boys attended a session run by the Australian Ballet Company. After a lot of groans leading up to the event, the boys were exposed to a challenging and exhausting dance workshop followed by a performance. It was a fantastic opportunity for the boys to experience something that is not generally promoted as acceptable for them. It was even better to see them participating well and enjoying themselves.

Challenging these stereotypes is vitally important for boys. If their experiences are limited to the footy field and traditional ‘man’ activities they are also limiting their opportunities for the future.

ballet workshop


A Stroke of Genius


This week we have begun ‘Genius Projects’ in our class. Inspired by the work of many other classrooms around the world, these projects allow students to explore their passions learn in creative ways. It allows students to be involved in learning in real life contexts. After our first session today I saw a class of boys that were more ‘switched on’ than I have seen all year.

Our ‘Genius Time’ happens for a 100 minute block on a Friday for 4 weeks. The first 3 weeks are for students to plan and create along (along with some independent time at home) and the final session is for presentations and sharing. Before our sessions start, each student submits a proposal for their project at a meeting with me and we look together at how their project supports their learning across the curriculum.


The projects underway are varied and unique to the interests of each child. One boy spent time learning guitar chords in preparation to perform a song, another small group of kids were turning a narrative into a movie and were experimenting with creating a realistic black eye. Another pair of students were creating recipes, shopping lists and budgets in preparation for their ‘restaurant’ opening where they plan to serve a three course meal to a group of parents and teachers. It was a fantastic sight to see.

For more information about ‘Genius Time’ have a look here.


Capturing the Moment

This term, I’ve been feeling flat. A feeling of being over committed, and frustrated with time restraints has been a little overwhelming. A ‘not so inspiring’ professional development session last Monday certainly didn’t help. With this on top of all the usual frustrations of a teacher’s life I have not been at my enthusiastic best.  This is not to say that everything has been bad. I am working with a great team of teachers on some innovative and exciting stuff, it’s just been lost in the ‘muddle’ for the last few weeks.

With this lacklustre state of mind I wandered off to my first CEGSA (Computers in Education Group of South Australia) committee meeting on Thursday night and went through the motions of beginning my newest commitment. I can’t say I was feeling enthusiastic at the thought of an after hours meeting, but I had committed so I went along and joined the conversation. After the committee meeting I had the opportunity to attend a ‘spotlight’ session with George Couros. It was the beginning of the rejuvenating process.

George’s session, titled ‘What to Look for in Today’s Classroom’ was energising. As the session progressed and the tweeting began, I began to feel the fog lift. I began to refocus on the exciting parts of the job and recommit to my ongoing list of goals. By the end of the session I had re-established some important connections with people but had also re-established a connection with my job.

Thursday’s session was followed by a full day ‘master class’ with George. At this event I attended as a support person. My role was to support participants as they worked with George to set up their own online professional portfolios linked with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Even though I was there as a troubleshooter, the learning for me was huge and once again I came out inspired with a new list of goals for my teaching and learning as well as that of my students.


Now,  I have seen George present on several occasions before (maybe not quite to the extent of a stalker), and each time there is a feeling of excitement in the room. Over both sessions this week, it was clear that this would be no different. I had many conversations with participants at both sessions who ‘got it’. Comments about the quality of the PD sessions were overwhelmingly positive. All of the people I spoke to felt that this was the best and most relevant training session that they had been to in a long time. As I did, people had come away with a drive to take action and make positive change in their classroom and school. 

This week, twitter has been alive with conversation about George’s sessions. Apart from the usual discussion from classroom teachers it has been great to see the discussion from our leaders in DECD head office. It is obvious from the conversation they also ‘get it’ as is evident in this post by Karen Butler of the Digital Learning team in DECD.

All too often, the positivity generated by good professional learning fizzles out because of a focus change in the school or from the department. The ongoing positive change that is being generated here needs to be harnessed. It’s time to capture the moment and give access to this learning to as many people in our schools and department as we can.  There is a movement beginning and with ongoing support and co-operation from supporting organisations like DECD and CEGSA, there is no reason that this learning can’t be ongoing and long lasting.

The learning that George is bringing to us creates connections. Connections that are essential to ongoing improvement and learning in our classrooms and our department. As a new member of the CEGSA committee I feel like I am now part of a group that can work to support this important learning and help to effect much needed change in our schools. Working together, with all parties involved, it’s time to ride the wave and create the movement and change that we need. It provides us a chance to open up learning in our schools and look at new ways to move forward and prepare our students for the skills they need now.

After a rejuvenating week, I’m looking forward to the challenge and to seeing what can be achieved. I hope that others are also inspired and are ready to join me in the conversation.


52 Recommendations for Boys in Schools (Recommendation 1)

Over the last seven years I have worked to establish and develop a single gender program at our school. Starting with some initial small trials, the success of the program has seen us expand so that we now have a single sex class option, for both boys and girls, for students from year 2 through to year 7. Being involved in this process has been a highlight of my teaching. I totally and wholly believe in this program and feel lucky to be involved in something that has made a big difference in the way our school runs. The lasting relationships I’ve been able to develop with students and their families over this time have been brilliant. 

Our single gender classes are designed around the work of Michael Gurian, a gender education expert from the USA and also the work of Ian Lillico, an Australian expert in boys education. Among his extensive work, Ian Lillico has developed 52 recommendations for boys in schools. These recommendations were at the heart of our boys classes when we first began.

This year, one of the goals I have set myself is to revisit these recommendations and critically look to see how well we are showing these in our classroom and learning programs. To do this, my plan is to create at least one blog post each week focussing on how we implement (or don’t implement) each recommendation. Each post will focus on one recommendation and look at what we are doing, what we need to improve on and, if appropriate, a commitment to action.

Let’s see how we go!

Recommendation 1:

Both at home and at school women must be in positions of power – they must not be seen as the nurturers and men as the power brokers. Both men and women must play a rearing role in their sons’ lives. The father (or male teacher) must not be seen as the disciplinarian as this tends to further emphasize the gender stereotype.

This recommendation is one that we could certainly do better in our classroom. This is particularly evident to me after participating in the Miss Representation PD last week. Although we have lots of good things happening in our classroom, we need to tighten up our act in this regard.

At Hackham East we have strong female teachers and leaders everywhere. Our boys class spends a lot of time with our female music teacher who is also responsible for our Kapa Haka program and she is certainly a strong and well respected role model. There are many others though, that we could access better.

Our new deputy principal has a passion for reading and has some great ideas about class libraries and the way book clubs run. These passions fit in with one of our key class focuses this year. This is a perfect opportunity for me to expose the boys to another female educator in a position of power. Our new school counselor is also a strong female leader that we could access better for our class. Being the teacher in charge of our schools student voice program means that there are some links we can make with how our classroom runs.

Next week, my commitment to action is to work at strengthening how we achieve this recommendation in our classroom.  My goal in using this process is to turn a never ending  ‘to do’ list into something that will see regular professional reflection and  improvement in our classroom.


Natural Maths – Ann Baker

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”  Alvin Toffler

I like this quote. The idea of unlearning and relearning is important. If we aren’t prepared to do this we are doing ourselves and our students a huge disservice. If we continue to do things purely because it’s ‘the way we’ve always done it’, we are missing out on learning opportunities for ourselves and taking away the same opportunities for our students.

This week, I was faced with some new learning that challenged everything I knew about teaching and learning maths. The session, run by Ann Baker, unpacked her ‘secret code’ and showed me a whole new way of thinking that just made sense. Using the strategies she showed, allows students (and perhaps we teachers) to see HOW and WHY numbers work. It clearly shows the relationships between numbers while challenging the deeply ingrained processes that we all grew up with. It’s not to say that the ‘old’ processes are completely wrong, but they are not the only way, and they don’t show us the all important HOW and WHY.

As teachers, we know that professional development can be a bit ‘hit and miss’. I walked away from Friday’s session feeling completely challenged, wondering how I had gotten this far without knowing this stuff. I walked away wondering how we get this information to teachers before they hit the classroom. I walked away wondering where to start in helping my students to ‘unlearn’ and ‘relearn’. I also walked away with a new set of tools, feeling ready to start making changes.

As a teacher, it a horrible feeling to come to a realisation that your ‘best practice’ isn’t really good enough, but surely it’s worse to not realise it and continue to think that you have nothing to learn?

Ann and Johnny Baker – Natural Maths


Learning Through New Media

We constantly hear reports in the news of diminishing literacy standards in our kids. If you believe what we are being told, we will soon live in a world where most people won’t be able to read or write effectively. Is this really the case or is there a different problem?

In a world of devices where kids are constantly stimulated with access to multimedia based learning, I believe we are missing the mark with what we are asking kids to produce. Our teaching programs still require kids to produce old fashioned essays and written reports. These tasks have their place, but if we are only asking for these, we are failing to teach our kids new forms of literacy.

Asking kids to research and share learning through creative tasks allows our students to work with the technology and tools that they have grown up with. Often, using one device, our students have access to a complete film making suite. They have access to postcast creating tools and equipment to record and share their own music. The technology they have in their pockets is far more powerful than anything we had when we were at school.

So why aren’t we using it? We wouldn’t have a week at school without traditional writing tasks, so why not let kids turn these into something that has meaning for them? The movie making process requires planning texts, story boarding, script writing, editing and constant revision of text. Kids enjoy the process and can produce much deeper learning than our traditional tasks allow.

The following two films were written and produced by grade 6 and 7 students from my class for entry into film competitions. I think they are good reasons to give kids a camera, some structure and a little bit of trust and see what they can do.

KWN 2011 from Jarrod Lamshed on Vimeo.

Beneath the Surface from Jarrod Lamshed on Vimeo.


AITSL Teacher Standards

This week, myself and three other staff at Hackham East have been involved in filming an “Illustration of Practice” for the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). Based around our boys education program the filming took place over two days, aiming to create a 20 minute documentary looking at classroom management.

In theory, the idea of having a film crew follow you around is terrifying. In reality, it’s even more terrifying! Once the fear subsides however, the process becomes extremely valuable.

This filming opportunity came at the same time I decided to turn my blog into a Profesional Learning Portfolio. Both of these processes involved me needing to unpack the AITSL Teacher Standards. For those who are unfamiliar with the standards, the following is from the AITSL website:

The National Professional Standards for Teachers comprise Seven Standards which outline what teachers should know and be able to do. The Standards are interconnected, interdependent and overlapping.

The Standards are grouped into three domains of teaching: Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement. In practice, teaching draws on aspects of all three domains.

Within each Standard, focus areas provide further illustration of teaching knowledge, practice and professional engagement. These are then separated into Descriptors at four professional career stages: Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Lead.

Exploring the standards has helped me to reflect more clearly on my teaching practice. It has shown me the areas that I reflect on naturally and highlighted those that I take for granted. It has challenged me to think critically about how I do my job and in doing so has improved my teaching.

In our job we can never be ‘good enough’. As teachers we need to be continually improving. I believe that the Teacher Standards are a powerful tool to help us do this. To use this tool effectively, however, we need to open ourselves up to critical self reflection and to the honest feedback of others. For me, this has been a challenging but rewarding process.

While AITSL were filming at Hackham East, I was also asked to film a “Teacher Feature” about our class use of social media. They also took photos of our classroom to share on the AITSL Facebook page.  The photos can be found here, and the ‘Teacher Feature” is posted below.


CEGSA Conference 2012 – Connected Learning

This week I had the privilege of attending the CEGSA Conference for 2012. We all know that conferences can be a bit hit and miss, and the expectations are particularly high if you are giving up your precious holiday time to attend. Thankfully, this one was a winner! I came away inspired into action on several fronts, one of which is to be more responsible for my own digital footprint (hence the new blog).

A major theme of this year’s conference was ‘connecting’. Guest speaker, George Couros (@gcouros) emphasised the importance of this in his keynote and this idea was evident through all of the workshops and sessions I went to. Students connecting with their learning and educators connecting with each other to share learning and to create better experiences for students. For me, this topic really hit home. As well as exposing me to a whole heap of new resources, ideas and contacts, the conference gave me a chance to reflect on my journey of connecting and how deeply that has changed the teaching and learning in my classroom.

The beginning

In 2009, after after a push from another teacher in our school (@louisaguest), I began working on our class blog. In the process of doing this I came across a class blog from New Zealand by Myles Webb (@NZWaikato). I made contact with Myles via email and was given a lot of guidance and critical feedback as I ventured through the murky waters of online learning for the first time. In one email conversation Myles recommended Twitter. My first reaction was that he was a lunatic! Twitter was that place where people cyber stalked celebrities, and what did I have to say that people would want to hear anyway? I gave it a go and at first I wasn’t convinced, but after following the tweets of several teachers recommended to me, I slowly began to see the light.

Early in my twitter journey I ‘discovered’ Bill Chamberlain (@wmchamberlain) and Joe McClung (@jkmcclung). Bill and Joe are educators in the USA and with Myles, were my earliest online collaborators. These early experiences were exciting for me and provided a new outlook on what teaching and learning could be.

My first online collaboration was with Bill Chamberlain. After scrolling through some tweets and blog posts, I noticed that Bill and I were using the same novel with our classes. We decided that each week we would alternate setting chapter response questions that each class would answer online on each other’s class blogs. Although this is a fairly ‘low level’ interaction, for me it was the first that came from establishing a PLN outside of the walls of my school. I gave me a realisation that there was more out there. After several of these types of collaborations the opportunity came up to do something completely different that took my students and I on a fantastic learning journey that continues to effect our school community today.

Something different

In 2009 I had a new student arrive in my class. This student was from New Zealand and was keen to share some of his Maori heritage with us. He began to teach our class (an all boys class) the Haka (Ka Mate). He got to a point where he had reached the limit of what he was able to teach us. The boys has connected deeply with the haka and we didn’t want to give it up. Finding someone to help us here in Adelaide proved difficult so we turned to Myles and his class in New Zealand. We decided to film one of our rehearsals and post it to our blog for feedback. Myles took this opportunity and his students created a video response for us and posted to their own blog. After a lot of exchanging videos, we finally got to a point where we were at a level ready to perform. Click play on the video below to watch the journey unfold.


Kapa Haka Journey from Jarrod Lamshed on Vimeo.

Being a part of this experience was amazing. Both students and teachers were able to harness the power of new technologies and create global connections. These connections allowed for learning to take place that never would have otherwise occurred. From this experience our class came to the attention of a local politician who gave us the opportunity to perform for, then, Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann and also the Governor General, Ms Quentin Bryce. We were recently asked again by the Premier to perform at an event for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Now our school has adopted Kapa Haka as a regular part of our school wide arts program. Kapa Haka now involves over 100 students from across the school.

The next big thing

Around the same time, our class was collaborating with Joe McClung’s class in Missouri, USA. Joe asked me to Skype into their class and answer some questions about Australia. It was around 2am Adelaide time when I connected live into Joe’s class. At first all went well. I answered lots of questions about kangaroos and koala’s and then was asked to explain Aussie Rules Football. It wasn’t a question that I was expecting and due to the late hour (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) I messed up the answer completely. I showed the video of the skype conversation to my students the next day. They thought it was hilarious and gave me a well deserved hard time about it. They were’t happy that this was how their beloved sport was explained and this is where the learning began. This was the beginning of an experience that has changed EVERYTHING in our classroom.

From their Haka experiences with Myles’ class, the boys could see the value of using video for learning. They set to work to create a movie that explained Aussie Rules better than I did (not difficult). They wrote explanations and procedures for skills in the game and turned these into scripts and storyboards. After a lot of planning we walked to the local footy oval for a morning of filming. This is what they produced.

Footy – episode 1 from Jarrod Lamshed on Vimeo.

From then to now

After this experience the boys had the movie making bug. We entered into some movie competitions for school students and through hard work and lots of learning have been fairly successful (our latest movie below). Over the last three years the students have now won enough prize money that we have been able to self fund a class set of of 1:1 iPads! It’s been a a learning journey that never would have happened without delving into the worlds of online blogging and developing a PLN outside of the walls of our school. These opportunities have changed the face of not only our classroom but have effected the whole school community.

With the opportunity of 1:1 iPads in our class, students are now armed with the tools to take their learning to a new level. They have the tools to develop their own global PLN and collaborate with learners from anywhere in the world they like. I look forward to seeing where the journey takes us from here.

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