Connected Learning

Jarrod Lamshed


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.







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.


Judging Professional Development

We all know that Professional Development sessions can go either way. They can be inspiring, or they can be a complete waste of time. For me, the success (or lack of) comes down to my engagement, the engagement of those around me, the quality of the conversation in the room and the change of practice that comes after the session ends.

Today, Hackham East Primary hosted a full day session with George Couros. George is an educator from Canada who spoke to us about the importance of being connected educators and helping our students to become connected learners. It was a presentation that made sense.

I have seen George present twice before and even still, I gained a whole lot of new ideas. Among the revisiting, I came away with new knowledge to help me turn my professional blog into a professional portfolio. I came away prepared to lead my students in changing their individual blogs into individual learning portfolios. These are simple but important things that I hadn’t made a connection with before this session.

Those around me were having similar breakthroughs. At times the room went completely silent while people were busy signing up for twitter accounts and signing up for their own class and personal blogs. Feedback from some in attendance showed a transformation from ‘doubter’ to ‘convert’. That in itself is not an easy feat. To see people making change to their practice already is a great thing to see.

On top of all of this ‘intended’ learning were some outcomes that I didn’t expect. During the afternoon session I made a comment on Twitter about the needs of year 7 students to be able to continue blogging on their current blogs as they move to high school. This was met with a response from our local high school leadership about meeting to look at ways to make this happen. Tweeting about connecting with parents on social media, opened up a range of links from other educators around the world about how they are managing this.

The final unintended outcome was more personal. My daughter, Alyssa, recently started blogging and through the support of George, has been inspired to keep at it much longer than I expected. Because of the support he has shown (and possibly a mutual love of Justin Bieber), Alyssa has felt a strong connection to him. Today she was able to meet him in person for the first time, and has been glowing ever since. For her, this was an important opportunity and I thank George for making it a special time for her, by giving up a lot of his precious break time to talk with her and for including her in his presentation.

I look forward to seeing change unfold in our school as people reflect on the days learning. I highly recommend attending a workshop if you get the opportunity.


A Crazy Month of Learning

For about the last month, I have been on a massive learning journey. Beginning with the CEGSA 2012 conference in the school holidays, I have been exposed to information, discussion and new connections that have forced me to reflect and build on my ideas around the use of 21st century tools in the classroom and, more importantly, the way that they are presented to teachers and students.

ICTs have always been a big part of learning programs in my classroom. Engaging students through film and use of modern tools is a core part of what we do. The frustration for me has been getting others to give this type of learning a try. I think most of us agree that the ‘I don’t do computers’ attitude is unacceptable. In my efforts to combat this attitude I was failing at supporting other teachers in the way that THEY needed. On reflection, what I was doing was trying to support them with what I THOUGH they needed.

The work of Alec and George Couros has been a big part of this recent learning journey. The passionate presentations given at the CEGSA and Middle Years of Schooling Association conferences helped me to build on my use of 21C tools. It opened my eyes to new ways of connecting my learning. George and Alec refocussed the importance of strengthening my own PLN (of which they are now an important part) and also showed me ways that my students can access tools to build their own network of learners. Among my better, stronger PLN there have been many who have planted the seeds of some ideas I would like to see implemented in my school. Most importantly, I believe these new ideas will not only improve learning in my classroom, but offer a new way to present the use of 21C tools to other teachers in a differentiated and supportive way.


The Computers in Education Group of South Australia has been around for a long time, but has been pretty well ignored by our school. Not ignored through a lack of interest, but through being lost in the pile of ‘stuff’ that happens in schools. After the conference, and looking at the regular program of workshops that are available, I feel that this is a group that we should be promoting to staff in our school.

Digital Leaders

Through a TeachMeet and some Twitter discussions between Nick Jackson, and educator in the UK and Al Upton, a South Australian teacher, I have stumbled upon the idea of student as digital leaders in schools. Digital leaders would be responsible for trouble shooting IT issues but also for planning and implementing workshops and training for both other students and teachers. I see a huge advantage in this, not only for the learning of the leaders themselves but also for teachers. With the implementation of these leaders, both students and teachers will have access to more regular support and training on topics and tools that are relevant to them. They will have an opportunity to be guided as they learn along side their students.


TeachMeets are growing in popularity. I would like to see these become a regular part of our school environment. Perhaps a regular part of staff meeting time, and definitely among schools in our area. Having these regularly would better enable local connections but also offer a more regular time for sharing learning and ideas among our staff. The more we are accessing these tools, the more comfortable people will become with their use.

Our Online Identity 

Developing an online identity is becoming increasingly important. As a school (and as individuals) we need to take control of our online identity. Having a purposeful online presence has to be a better option than just reacting to ‘stuff’ that appears. Online spaces give us an opportunity to connect with families and potential families in places that they already go. It gives us a chance to get out the message that we want to get out. The school newsletter is not enough anymore.

Some of these things are pretty simple to put into action. Others require a shift in thinking from staff that haven’t had the privilege of participating in this learning over the last month. It is an exciting time.


Moving with the Times

This week gone was our first week back at school for Term 3. I, along with many others who attended the CEGSA 2012 conference, came back to school with a whole heap of new ideas, many of which I wanted to implement with my class on day 1. It did not take long for disappointment to set in.

Over the last few years, with the emergence of so many online tools, we are being encouraged to be creators like never before. Every day, so many great tools are developed that it’s hard to keep up! This is not a bad thing. A lot of these tools are fantastic for engaging kids (and teachers) in learning. Each year I stumble across many new tools that add value classroom learning. The frustrating part comes when I try to put these tools to use.

Unfortunately many (if not most) of these sites are blocked by our Education Department’s website filtering program. The program is designed to filter sites to protect our students from inappropriate content. I get the theory… we don’t want our kids exposed to bad stuff. We know there are some pretty dodgy things on the internet and the kids need to be protected. But is the OVER blocking of sites the best way to protect our kids?

My big problem with this system is that it doesn’t follow the kids home. On home computers our students WILL come across inappropriate internet content at some stage. They need to know what to do when this happens. Blocking PORNOGRAPHY at school is common sense, blocking services like GOOGLE DOCS makes no sense at all. Teaching kids how to close a screen and get an adult is a far better method of protection. Teaching responsible internet use along with adult supervision has to be a better option than blocking anything and everything ‘just in case’. This method means that we can be VERY limited in what we do.

There are some great texts and interactive programs that are available for us to use with our students AND parents to show them how they can protect THEMSELVES. Cyberquoll is one of these programs that have been developed for Australian schools. It recommends ‘sensible’ self protection measures. Using first names only, no personal information, thinking about the photos you upload and the importance of not meeting people you only know from online are some of the topics that are covered. The series is made up of six 10 minute videos that are very child friendly.

If we over block sites at school we have no way to teach kids to protect themselves. As well as this, we spend a ridiculous amount of time requesting sites to be unblocked and then waiting for these requests to be processed. Quite often we then find the same sites re-blocked the next month. This overprotection is at the expense of some valuable learning and access to up to date learning tools.

With a new system rolling out very soon, we can only hope that this process becomes more realistic and manageable.


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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