In Alan November’s new book, he asks the crucial question: Who Owns the Learning? This well-designed title intentionally creates some cognitive dissonance for us as educators. Who does own the learning? Have you asked yourself that question? Whether we are teachers, principals, district consultants or district administrators: Who owns the learning? How would you answer that?
Alan November then goes on to describe how we can prepare students for success in the Digital Age. He has two central ideas: students need ownership in the learning and they must have purposeful work. It is no different for students than for us as educators. He cites Daniel Pink’s work in Drive as key to understanding how this motivates all of us to do high quality work.
November uses the analogy of a farm to create a model for changing education. In the old days, children were required to participate in meaningful work that contributed to the family’s success. He suggests that we need to think of the classroom as a Digital Learning Farm. This requires using technology to change the nature of the roles and relationships between educators and students. He gives three first steps to get started:
1. Increase the autonomy of students.
2. Publish student work to a global audience.
3. Create a community of contribution within the classroom.
For students to own their learning, they need important student jobs that are meaningful and prepare them for success in the future. He outlines four key roles for students: tutorial designers, student scribes, student researchers, and global communicators/collaborators. As teachers create the learning environments where students can flourish in these new roles, students become contributors to the curriculum, engaging in problem-solving, critical thinking and global communication. This is the new Digital Learning Farm.
He is clear that, “Simply adding technology—the thousand-dollar pencil—to the current highly prescribed school culture won’t help very much.” It is the changed roles and relationships that are paramount. Central to this, from my perspective as well, is the power of the teacher in creating these learning conditions. It is the teacher who designs these powerful learning opportunities. As he emphasizes, the role of teacher as guide, mentor, facilitator, and instructor has never been quite as critical in shifting the learning. It is the teacher who shows students how “to use information and communication technologies to innovate, solve problems, create, and be globally connected. “
Who owns the learning? It is a question worth asking.
Thanks to Amy Newman (@amnewish) who recommended this book. Schools in the Innovative Learning Designs project have been sent a copy of this book along with The Connected Educator. Antonio Vendramin, Principal at George Vanier, also writes about Alan November here.