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.







Investigating with Pi

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Clive Darra

Today a group of students started investigating a Raspberry Pi (above). They were given no structure and no instructions apart from ‘see if you can work this out’. They weren’t even told what it was called. Within a short time, they had identified it and had worked out a vague idea of what it does. 30 mins in and they had worked out that they needed a screen, keyboard and mouse and were quickly able to source these (with a bit of negotiating) from the ‘surplus’ pile in the school library. Within an hour they had set it up, found a ‘how to’ video online and installed an operating system on the ‘Pi’. As we moved on to other learning this afternoon they boys were discussing who was going to set up an Edmodo space so they could share resources that they hope to find from home tonight. Another student in the group suggested setting up a Google Hangout for collaboration. Great discussions. Great learning.

Although they have barely begun, the learning in this task has been fantastic. The problem solving alone has been worthwhile. The group hit a snag this afternoon and without an ‘expert’ on hand the kids have had to discuss and plan ways to solve the problem without being ‘rescued’ by anyone.

‘Letting go of the reigns’ can be a hard thing for teachers to do. The idea of not being the expert is scary, but certainly opens up some great learning opportunities for students. Without a teacher expert to rely on the kids need to think deeper about problem solving, they need to be organised and they need to be creative in the way they learn. I look forward to seeing where the journey takes them.


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