Connected Learning

Jarrod Lamshed

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Sparking Change

Change is a funny thing. Some people like it, but for many it brings about feelings of discomfort and anxiety. Being a member of the first group, I find the challenge that change brings exciting. The opportunity to participate in new learning is something that is fairly unique to our profession. In many jobs new information is distributed, but teachers get to participate in the learning. We get to take new ideas and try them out. We have the luxury (for the most part) to decide if something new improves the learning in our classrooms or not and then decide what to add to our practice and what to leave out.

The process we go through in doing this is extremely valuable. It challenges the ideas we have about how students learn and, just as importantly, it challenges our own learning. I firmly believe that a growth mindset is necessary for us to do our jobs properly. Being unwilling to consider new ideas is detrimental to our student’s learning. One of the most powerful things we can do is model learning to our kids. It shows them that we are the ‘life long learners’ that we want them to be.

Having said this, the realities of our day to day work are often harsh. The overwhelming feeling of having ‘too many balls in the air’ can plunge us into our default modes very quickly. It’s not ideal, but it’s a real thing. When we are stressed and busy we fall back to what we know works and it can feel like there isn’t time to try new things.

So how do we break through this feeling? I don’t know that there’s an easy answer. For me, it was being exposed to some high level professional development at an EdTechSA (formerly CEGSA) conference. I was already engaging with new learning regularly, but for whatever reason, the connections I made both to what was being said by the keynotes and in my discussions with other attendees left me with a need to commit myself deeper to new learning. George Couros, Summer Howarth and Louka Parry were some of these people.

I have been lucky enough to follow this up with regular, inspiring, professional development opportunities both locally and at two EduTech conferences in Brisbane. My connections (mostly through Twitter) with generous educators like Alec Couros and Stephen Heppell alongside a huge number of connected local and global school based teachers has helped me to continue my new learning every day.

In a few weeks, I look forward to taking 25 staff from my school to this year’s EduTech conference. This is a huge investment for our school but one that is well worth the cost. Over the last year I have asked our teachers to consider a lot of change and they have all shown a willingness to invest their time and effort in what I have had to say. To me, this says that our students are in good hands. I work with a group of teachers that have stepped a long way out of their comfort zone. For me, being able to take them to EduTech, I hope will provide an opportunity for our staff to make some new connections of their own.

 

 

 

 

 

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Time to Take Off the Mask

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the South Australian premiere of “The Mask You Live In”, a film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. 

“The Mask You Live In” is a documentary that focusses on boys and young men as they struggle to find their identities among our society’s definition of masculinity. The film addresses some important questions and highlights some scary statistics from the USA, many of which I fear closely represent our own statistics in Australia and those in many other countries.

Many times, in previous posts, I’ve raised a lot of the same points. Nearly all of our violent crimes are committed by men, our boys are significantly more likely than girls to have learning issues, boys drop out of school at a much higher rate than girls, the highest number of suicides in our country is by young men… the list goes on. Unfortunately this documentary didn’t have a magic bag full of solutions.

What the film did do, was highlight the conversation. Jennifer Siebel Newsom has captured some extremely powerful stories to narrate this problem. This movie will go a long way to bringing the discussion out of the shadows and into the mainstream. 

It’s a discussion that needs to happen. Last night in Adelaide a service was held to remember those that have lost their lives to domestic violence. It is a horrendous realisation that we even need an event like this. But we do, with an average of 2 women a week killed by their current or former partner in Australia this year. Horrifying. It’s easy to see this as someone else’s problem, but realistically and statistically any of our sons can become these men.

“The Mask You Live In” goes a long way to clearing up how we got here. The cultural pressure we put on our boys to ‘man up’ is intense. It’s everywhere. In our sports teams, music, TV, movies… the message says “be tough”… “don’t be a sook”. Most men have at some time either said or have been told to “toughen up”. It has to stop.

This week has given us a strong example of how our society not only promotes an image of ‘toughness’ but also accepts violence against others. Most of our Facebook newsfeeds have been over run by promotions and news stories about the recent Mayweather vs Pacquiao boxing match. I’m not jumping into a debate over the merits of boxing as a sport, but with celebrities lining the front row at the bout, its hard for young boys (or even we men) to ignore the fact that this manly boxing thing draws out the cool people. My big problem here is that one of the contenders, Mayweather, is a convicted wife beater. A witness statement written by his young son has been making the rounds and it is gut wrenching to read. Even with this knowledge, someone (or many people) somewhere has given this guy a chance to earn a share of $300 million (yes million) by beating someone. Not only that, but we have gone out in droves to watch and participate in the hype. In my opinion, we were focussing on the wrong hype. Domestic violence accepted and rewarded. Not good enough.

I don’t know what the answer is (still), but I’m glad the conversation is happening.

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The Juggling Act

When you start a new job, there’s always a period of time it takes to feel settled. Last year was that for me. If I’m being honest, it really took the whole year for me to start feeling like my new school was a place where I fit. I don’t think that this is unusual. Starting a new role in a new school means developing relationships with students, staff and other leaders. It means gaining their trust. In a new role you tend to hit the ground running. You are eager to impress… to show people that they’ve made the right call in hiring you. That time is over now. I’m beginning the second year in my role and I feel like I’ve got a handle on what that means. I’ve also had the time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not. This isn’t a ground breaking revelation… I think most of us do this all the time.

Last week, some things clicked for me. Any teacher knows that time is a precious thing. There are only so many hours in a day. What we do with those hours is important. I’ve written about the need for balance before and I don’t want to rehash that here, but my thinking has changed a bit. We all struggle with the balance between work and home. Hours at school stretch out and that time at home with the family get encroached upon all the time. This is a constant battle that isn’t going to end any time soon. What I’m struggling with right now is finding balance WITHIN my work life. Reflecting on my new role, I’ve discovered that I’ve lost some things. In particular, I’ve unintentionally removed myself from a network of learners that challenges and pushed MY practice.

A big part of my role is encouraging pedagogical change in others. My job is to prod, push and expose people to consider new ideas and to try new things in their practice. In focussing on this, and feeling time-poor, I’ve stopped exposing myself to people and professional activities that push me.

This year, within my work, I need to make time for this. I have nominated to rejoin the EdTechSA committee and work with others to help shape teaching and learning around digital technologies. The people involved in this group are passionate about what they do and help to spark my thinking. I have already committed to facilitating several workshops for teachers at other sites this year. Doing this, pushes me to think more critically about my practice and keeps me on my toes.

Guiding others is important and I know that this is what my role is about. But I can’t do this properly if I’m not pushing my own learning.

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Listening to Outsiders – Weekly Round Up

answerhub_quote_nyedesktopipadThis week I’ve been listening to a series of interviews from the ABC (I hope it survives the budget cuts) podcast ‘Conversations with Richard Fidler’. Interviews with Julia Gillard, Molly Meldrum and Matthew Evans have been varied and entertaining company on my morning walks. In particular though, an interview with Adelaide Craniofacial surgeon Dr David David stood out this week. As well as being a good story, Dr David hit on some pretty important points that are completely relevant to schools.

When discussing the early years of  craniofacial surgery, Dr David made the statement that the successful outcomes they see today didn’t start until true collaboration became the common practice. He explained that to provide truly successful outcomes for his patients, he worked with a social worker, eye doctor, brain surgeon, ear specialist and a dentist. He went on to explain that this was a ‘true’ collaboration. They don’t work under a traditional method of referral through letter writing, but instead have become a team that communicate, strategise, plan, operate and consult with each other. They share office space, and meet everyday to fine tune and improve their practice.

This is something that we’ve talked about in schools for a long time, but it’s something that we could still do better. We know collaboration is a powerful thing. In our job, we are busy… I get that. As school leaders, we need to be looking at ways to create time and space with timetables and structures, and as teachers we need to prioritise collaboration over the ‘busy’ stuff. I know the busy work is important, but we need to look at how to balance this with real, ongoing collaboration that will improve our practice and create better outcomes for students.

It’s a fact of life that we can’t all be experts on everything. What if we found a way to truly collaborate and worked with and draw on each others strengths? What if we were able to team teach when it was beneficial and free each other up to work with students that need some extra support or extension? What if we planned critically together more regularly? What if we saw asking for help or advice about our practice as a natural and comfortable thing rather than a threat or sign of weakness? I feel confident that this is all possible… I just haven’t really ever seen it in action in a sustainable way.  It’s certainly something to aim for.

Listening to this conversation really pushed home the idea that we really need to be listening to people from outside of the teaching profession. As teachers, I think we can easily become caught up in the world of ‘school’ and forget that there are other ideas and experiences out there for us to learn from. When we think like this, we are really limiting ourselves.

After this, I’ll certainly be listening to more of these ‘outsiders’. I think that it it important, and will only help my practice and professional learning.

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Teacher Education Review Podcast 2013

Teacher feature segment with myself and Selena Woodward (@teachertechnol) from 2013

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EdTech Crew Podcast – 2013

This interview was recorded as a part of the Ed Tech Crew Podcast number 228 – released 2013-07-18

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Parent Feedback

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Hollywood in the Classroom

Using film making in the classroom has become a regular part of my practice. For most of my teaching career, I’ve done this. Thanks to the example set by my first principal, Bob Thiele and through the work and support of programs like the New Media Awards, run by Kym Nadebaum, film making in the classroom has been a very positive experience for all involved.

We all know that engaging kids in deep learning can be a difficult thing. Using film takes care of that problem. All of a sudden kids who are disengaged become willing writers. Kids who produce ‘that’s good enough’ work begin working at their best. It’s fantastic to watch.

This year has been no exception. Being a part of the New Media program has given us an opportunity for kids to create learning to share with a wide audience. Having the chance to learn more about and share something that they are passionate about has been a powerful experience. This year, our team of students have created a film about type 1 diabetes. This is not something that they plucked out of the air, but a condition that affects one of their classmates. This project gave this student a chance to tell her story. It gave her friends a chance to learn more about her illness. It turned an unwilling writer into a champion researcher. Along the way we learned about creative commons, text structure, storyboarding, planning writing, purpose, audience and much much more.

This year’s subject was a personal one for our class. When our editors had completed the film, this student watched the finished product with tears in her eyes. You don’t get that by reading your essay out loud.  Film making makes connections. Connections create learning.

Here is the team’s finished product for 2014:

Diabetes web from Jarrod Lamshed on Vimeo.

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Failing Professional Development

There is no doubt that professional development is an important part of our job as teachers. If I’m honest, I love it (I can hear you scoffing). Being able to earn a living and continue learning new things is a wonderful part of being a teacher. When you attend a great PD, you come away feeling inspired and it improves the way you do your job. It improves learning.

After having attended some fantastic PD, my expectations are high. If I am taking a day out of the classroom I really want it to be worthwhile. Today, I attended a training session for a program that our school is involved in. Although the program is a worthwhile one, the training left a lot to be desired.

Being connected is a big part of how I learn. Rather than work in isolation, I have become accustomed to sharing and learning from others in digital spaces. We all know the drill. We know that Twitter and other networks have a valuable role in our learning. Along side this is the fact that ICTs and digital technologies are a big part of our Australian Curriculum and of our Professional Standards for Teachers.

The first thing I saw when I arrived at today’s session was this:

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It sucked the enthusiasm right out of me. In my opinion, ANY professional development sanctioned by our department NEEDS to embrace connected learning. If my child was to go into a classroom where technology was banned, I wouldn’t be happy. I think we need to have the same standards for our teachers.

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ACEC 2014 – Digital Leaders – The View From the Sidelines

Over the last few days, I’ve been watching my Twitter feed with interest. This year’s ACEC event is in town and I am unable to be there. This is a little frustrating and pangs of jealousy keep creeping in as I read tweets about inspiring things. Even though I can’t be there in person, the power of social media allows me to be involved in the learning.

This year my son Matt is involved in the conference as a student digital leader. In the lead up to the event, a realisation that he’d agreed to do ‘school things’ for most of the first week of holidays kicked in, and his enthusiasm for the task ahead weakened. Even so, he trudged off to his first day of Digital Leader duties, not sure what to expect.

I wasn’t sure what to expect either. I am a big believer in the Digital Leader program and saw this as an opportunity for empowerment. A chance for him and his fellow students to show a large group of teachers what they are capable of. His despondent attitude on morning one, didn’t fill me with hopes of success. What we ended up with exceeded my expectations.

Coming home from day one, I had a child who was full of excitement for learning. He spoke of being able to learn ‘like a real person’. He felt that he was not only able to help others but that he had learned a lot at the same time. He talked about the connections he made with other students and the conversations he’d had with teachers from other schools. He recounted the conversations with event sponsors and with keynote speakers. During the course of the day he had had a light bulb moment and remembered that he actually loves learning.

One of the key aspects he has talked about each day was the ability to learn from people outside of his immediate circle. He was particularly interested in the ideas discussed by Alec Couros and was able to make direct links between these ideas and what was NOT happening for him at school.

Day two seemed just as exciting for him. He explored Google Glass with Kathy Schrock, and has seen how Twitter can play a part in not only sharing his learning (along with his blog) but for building a learning network outside of his classroom. He interviewed teachers and keynote speakers and discussed the ideas he’d heard about with his peers. As he told me about his day the term that kept repeating was “we can’t do that at school”.

So here is the dilemma. How does he go back to school and stay inspired about his learning? How do we, as teachers, go back to school and help our students to feel inspired? It’s a hard question…. maybe the students have the answer?

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