Connected Learning

Jarrod Lamshed

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Connected Classroom – Twitter

One of my ‘back to basics’ this year is harnessing the power of Twitter in both my and my students learning. This is something that has taken a back seat to the ‘busy list’ over the last year or so. Re-establishing this as a part of my routine has added immediate value to both my professional learning and learning in my classroom.

When we talk about ‘new basics’ in education, facilitating a connected classroom has to be one of these. Keeping a class Twitter account open in a browser tab on the screen in our class adds a layer of depth to the learning opportunities we create. A simple thing like our shared class novel becomes a whole different experience when we can have access to the author to interact with as we read. This term we are reading ‘Refugee’ from the ‘My Australian Story’ series, written by Alan Sunderland. One tweet from our class account connected us with Mr Sunderland who has offered to answer questions from students as we make our way through the novel.

Another common experience in Australian classrooms is ‘Behind the News‘. With a class Twitter account, this moves from a ‘viewing’ experience to an interactive learning experience where our students develop questions to ask of expert reporters on a weekly basis. This transforms the learning and allows students to see connections to their world.

For me professionally, being back in the Twittersphere keeps me on my toes. Feeling accountable to someone keeps me blogging regularly which I know helps to solidify my thinking. It keeps me in regular touch with creative thinking about education and it gives me a much broader learning network to bounce ideas around with.

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Social Media in Schools

Periscope-logoSocial media is well and truly a part of our lives. We tweet our way through TV shows, Instagram photos of our dinner, pin that craft idea and update our Facebook status to let everyone know what we’re up to or share endless photos of our kids (sorry). For our kids, the world of social media is even more crowded adding Snapchat, Kik, Omegle and Vine… the list goes on. It’s almost impossible to keep up with, with new services popping up regularly.

Given the huge number¬†of services to wade through paired with the hype around children’s safety in these spaces, you can almost be forgiven for wanting to steer clear of social media in the classroom altogether… almost.

There is a lot already written supporting the use of social media in schools. From taking control of your school’s digital footprint, to drip feeding information to your school communities, the applications are wide and varied. For me though, the exciting stuff happens in the classroom.

In many of our classrooms at Woodend Primary School, our teachers are using Facebook to improve their communication with parents. Replacing regular class newsletters, Facebook groups have become an interactive way to bring parents into the classroom. We decided that rather than continue trying to get parents to go to a new space, we would go to them. Most of us are on Facebook and know that ignoring that red notification dot is not really an option! These groups have been well received and are now a natural extension of our school community.

Even better, several classes are regularly using social media to connect their learning with others classes around the world. Twitter being used alongside student blogs has let students start building authentic audiences for their learning.

Twitter has also helped our class along with Jess Ottewell’s class make connections with the Behind the News television series. Behind the News is a current affairs show aimed at a student audience. Each week our classes have been using twitter to ask questions about the week’s stories and to share our ideas and learning. Last week, we were contacted by the show to be a part of a new ‘Ask the Reporter’ session using the new app ‘Periscope’. We were one of only a handful of classrooms to be invited to participate in this trial event where we were able to send questions via Twitter and have them answered live by a reported from the show.

Apart from the obvious added value to the learning in our classrooms, this is a great example of how a new social media app has been harnessed for a learning purpose. A lot of reports surrounding ‘Periscope’ have been negative, highlighting the possible negative uses of the app. As educators, it’s important that we see past the knee jerk reaction surrounding social media and look deeper at how it can add to learning in our classrooms.

The video of this event is posted below.

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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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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.

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How Has Social Media Influenced Your Professional Practice?

I saw this question floating around Twitter today and I thought I’d have a go at answering it.

Social Media has become a HUGE part of our world. In schools, we have spent a lot of time focussing on the perceived negatives surrounding it and quietly keeping our fingers crossed that it will go away. It’s become pretty obvious that this is not going to happen. We could spend a lot of time discussing the possibilities and methods of incorporating social media into our classrooms.

For me, social media has had (and continues to have) a substantial effect on my teaching. This happens in several ways.

Professional learning
Through Twitter, social media has connected me to many educators from around the world. All of these people have become part of my professional learning network. Through their blogs and through 140 character conversations, I learn from these people everyday. This community provides me with an ear for my questions and a multitude of links to interesting information and practical ideas that eventually make their way to my classroom.

Making connections
Making connections with educators around the globe has become an integral element of my classroom practice. As a classroom creating student blogs these connections help to provide my students with an international audience for their learning.

Reflection
Blogging and social media provide me with a platform and an opportunity to reflect on my practice. The difference between using social media and using a traditional book diary is having an audience. No matter how small, knowing that someone might see my ramblings forces me to think deeper and reflect in a much clearer way. It also allows for conversation based on my reflections. A traditional diary wouldn’t encourage any interaction at all.

Twitter has been the biggest social media contributor to my professional practice and the next step for me is to better harness the power of Facebook for my learning. Until now, Facebook land has been purely social. Maybe it’s time to blur the lines and explore this further.

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Professional Learning

Professional learning is such an important part of what we do. Attending workshops and conferences is one of the ways we access information to help us improve the way we do our job. Unfortunately, many of the sessions we attend don’t live up to our expectations and leave us feeling cynical about leaving the classroom and attending sessions in the future. In the last week, I have attended two conferences and thankfully, both have been fantastic.

On Friday, I attended a workshop run by Dr Ian Lillico on Educating Boys. As a teacher of an all boys class this was invaluable, but I would highly recommend this session for all teachers. Having an understanding of brain difference between girls and boys is essential for all teachers and can help to allow both boys and girls to achieve better at school. If nothing else, check out Lillico’s website ( www.boysforward.com ) and read through his 52 Recommendations for Boys in Schools.

On Monday, our whole staff attended a full day workshop run by Dylan Wiliam. The day provided us with some confronting data, but also some fantastic ideas for practice that we were able to put to use in our classrooms immediately. His work around questioning and feedback was brilliant and again, I highly recommend attending a workshop if you get an opportunity while he is in the country. Wiliam’s website can be found at www.dylanwiliam.net and is also on Twitter ( @dylanwiliam )

Attending good professional development can be inspiring, and helps us to continue improving as teachers. I would love our education department to see the value of adding a Twitter hashtag to all PD sessions. Adding this option allows for great back channel discussion for participants as well as extending the conversations and learning beyond the room.

This term, I am looking forward to attending more of these valuable sessions with our TeachMeet and a workshop with George Couros ( @gcouros georgecouros.ca/blog) both hosted at Hackham East Primary (and both with hashtags!).

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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.

CEGSA

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

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.

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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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