Connected Learning

Jarrod Lamshed


Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions

quote-Ken-Blanchard-feedback-is-the-breakfast-of-champions-66830“Feedback is the breakfast of champions”. This is an interesting quote. Breakfast of champions conjures up images of Rocky downing a raw egg… not something that is necessarily enjoyable, but it has an important purpose in his plan for self improvement. I think, for many people, feedback is a bit the same.

Feedback is an interesting thing. It’s something that we know is vital for improving students learning. Giving students regular, targeted feedback helps them to improve. No arguments… we accept this as fact. This isn’t something that is specific to schools either. As parents we regularly give ‘feedback’ (sometimes in the form of light ranting) to our kids and sometimes they take this on board and learn from it. When we have problems we don’t know how to deal with, we talk to our trusted people and take on what they say to help us make the right decision. Feedback is everywhere… a natural part of our lives.

So, why is it that the idea of professional feedback makes many of us uncomfortable? If regular targeted feedback helps students improve, surely it’s not a stretch that it will do the same for us.

We are lucky there in South Australia that we have a Department supported tool to help us manage feedback easily. The TfEL (Teaching for Effective Learning) Compass allows us to seek feedback from students, parents and colleagues. It’s a powerful tool that is easy to use. If your are in SA and haven’t tried it, it’s certainly worth exploring.

The idea of hearing what our students really think can be a scary thing! Nobody wants to hear that the lesson we spent hours planning and preparing was a flop. But, it’s important that we do hear it. We need to know WHY it was a flop. What hit the mark and what went terribly wrong? What can we learn from this experience that will help us do a better job next time? Even when something goes well, there will always be feedback that can help it be even better. This is the nature of our job. Nothing is ever finished.

In Australia we have a set of Standards for teachers (AITSL) that are now tied directly to our teacher registration requirements. I believe that this is a good thing. In the past we’ve often had the problem of not knowing what is expected of us. We have often felt like the benchmark keeps shifting. Now, the expectations are right there in black and white. We can’t meet these expectations without the help of feedback. Standard 3.6 says…

Conduct regular reviews of teaching and learning programs using multiple sources of evidence including: student assessment data, curriculum documents, teaching practices and feedback from parents/ carers, students and colleagues.

This is something we HAVE TO do. It’s not an option.

I think that 99% of us want to do our jobs the best that we can. More than that, we want the best for our students. Moving past the discomfort we feel and seeking honest, regular, targeted feedback is the best way to achieve this.

So, how do we make this happen? Even with a firm willingness to push forward we still have the struggles of ‘not enough time’ and finding regular, quick ways to get the feedback we need. How does this happen in your classroom? What tools and strategies to you use?


It Takes A Village: Facebook in the Classroom

We’ve known for a long time that part of offering the best education to our students means involving parents and families. We have also known for a long time that this isn’t always an easy thing to do! School hours and parent availability don’t always line up. We live in a time where most parents are working and are not always available in the way that they were a generation ago. This is not anybody’s fault. It’s just the way it is. Having said this, keeping everyone on the same page is just as important as it ever was.

To solve this problem in my class I have tried many things. Blogging, Edmodo, more regular notes home, regular ‘just checking in’ phone calls after hours. All of these were successful for awhile, but none of them have proven to be long lasting. The thing that all of these have in common is that they have to be ‘fit in’ to someone’s day. Either the teacher or the parent has to make specific time in their day for this to happen.

Earlier this year I launched a Facebook group to communicate with the parents in my class. I realised that the answer was literally sitting right in front of me. I have Facebook access on my phone, my iPad, my laptop and it was also a space that I knew that most parents were already in. Instead of asking parents to come to our spaces, we went to theirs. This has been hugely successful.


Facebook is still a space that seems to scare us in the education system (at least here in Australia). We are worried about keeping professional boundaries with students and keeping some of our personal lives private from our students and their families. Personally, this is not really an issue for me. As we know, there really isn’t a ‘private’ space when it comes to being online. There is only ‘offline’ and ‘online’. When entering these spaces I made the decision that I wouldn’t post anything that I wouldn’t be happy for students, parents or my Grandma to see. I do understand, however, that not everyone feels the same way. Using a Facebook group is still a good option for these people. When starting a Facebook  group you don’t need to be ‘friends’ with the members of that group. In my class group, I have no interaction with parents on my or their timelines. All communications happen within that group.


Our Facebook group is used for a few purposes. I will post reminders about homework and events (the boring stuff) and also post photos and information about what we’ve been up to in class (much more interesting). Having this regular communication helps to build better relationships with families and allows MUCH easier communication in both directions. When I post something, a notification appears for all members. The same happens for me when a parent comments. Having the ability to communicate freely in this way has made life in the classroom much easier and relationships with parents much stronger. I highly recommend giving it a go.

Sample Posts:





Comments from parents:









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.


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.


Kids Teaching Teachers

Today I had an opportunity to do one of my favourite things as a teacher. I had a chance to present to a group of fellow educators with a team of students. Watching my students teach the teachers always gives me a huge buzz. It is fantastic to watch them speak so well about how they learn and about what works for them.

Today we presented to teachers at Wirreanda High School. My presenting team consisted of Matt and Ben, two students from my class, as well of two students who were in my class last year, Jaiden and Trent. Jaiden and Trent have clearly settled into high school well and it was great to see them given this opportunity to to be heard.

The boys talked openly and honestly to the teachers about the type of learning that they are (or were) doing at Primary School. They talked through their use of mobile technologies to support creative learning and their use of student blogs as Learning Portfolios. My former students asked their current teachers for opportunities to use their blogs and to open up the learning to include some of the opportunities that they had in the past. It was fantastic to watch.

It was great to see the responsiveness of staff at Wirreanda, with discussion happening after the session. Wirreanda, like our school, has taken big steps toward making positive change. At a recent open night, I saw the introduction of flexible learning spaces and spoke to teachers that were excited about the things happening at this school. It says a lot that students felt comfortable speaking their mind to a room full of their teachers. It’s easy to come away feeling like good things are happening here, so much so that my son will be attending Wirreanda when he begins high school in 2014.

I appreciated the opportunity for us to share our learning and look forward to strengthening the relationship between our schools in the future.


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.


AITSL – Illustration of Practice

Last year, I was contacted by AITSL about our school participating in an Illustration of Practice project. It was certainly a worthwhile project for us to be involved in. Being involved with AITSL has improved my teaching without a doubt. The reflection process is an important one and the AITSL Standards for Teachers give me something to reflect against.

Since using the standards as a tool for my professional learning, I have been able to identify not only my strengths, but als the areas that I need to focus on more. In conjunction with this blog, I now have a mechanism for regular reflective learning that keeps me accountable to myself as well as a positive industry standard.

Below is one of three final videos produced by AITSL for their Illustrations of Practice collection. I look forward to sharing the other Hackham East Illustrations soon.

It can also be found on the official AITSL website at

Visit the AITSL site and join the discussion.



Letter from a Relief Teacher

I received the following email today, written by a relief teacher (substitute teacher) who recently spent the day in our classroom. It’s not often that we get get to hear great feedback and it’s certainly rare to get it in writing.

8th March, 2013

Hello Jarrod, 

The purpose of this letter is thank you and your class for making my time at Hackham East Primary School one that I will never forget. In fact I have put it down as one of my best days of teaching.

As you know being a relief teacher can be a very tricky role but when greeted by enthusiastic students who are willing to help and support you through the day, a significant transformation takes place. 

The level of respect, emotional intelligence and support was overwhelming positive. I think that it is really important that the students and the parent community understand that whatever you are doing in the school has been working to create citizens that we can all be proud of.

This year, I have also worked as a relieving PE teacher at Hackham East and I wish to commend the students that I have come in contact from a range of Year 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 classes. They too are displaying a high level of respect, emotional intelligence and support for each other and for me as their relieving teacher.

I believe that the Play Is The Way Program and literacy programs such as Jolly Phonics as well as the teaching of values, manners and respect have made a significant difference to the way the children see themselves as a learner and how they function in their learning environments.

I also believe that having separate boy and girl classes has also provided many learning opportunities that are difficult to provide in mixed classes.

Please share my insight with the staff, students and school community, as I believe it is important to take time to reflect on the successes of the positive work that you have all committed to. It is definitely shows in the way your students behave.

Yours truly,


Salli-Jane Campbell    (a.k.a. Ms. Campbell)


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


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.

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