For Christmas last year I got tons of Christmas presents: all the usual teacher favourites, but my absolute number one gift came from my student teacher. She gave me a copy of Alan November’s book Who Owns the Learning?
Some of you may have been able to attend November’s presentation in Langley when he spoke about preparing our students for success in the Digital Age, but I unfortunately missed it. However, from the book, I know that I missed out! I took the book on vacation with me and drove my husband crazy when I kept telling him all the amazing ideas I couldn’t wait to try this coming year.
This book is full of big, deep questions and ideas, but also includes relatively small changes that will make a big difference. To highlight a couple: using students as tutorial designers, and having student researchers. The first of these I started last year: involving students in creating explanations for each other of concepts and ideas they may not understand, recording them digitally, and making them available to a bigger audience. As a school, we teach all of our students a math game every week. The students go home and teach it to their parents. Part of the task is to explain the game to the family, but obviously this is a challenge for some students. So last year, as part of my DLC role, I started coaching students in how to make tutorials for how to play these games. Although we recorded a lot of footage on iPads, I never took the time to edit and post these on-line for families to access, but after reading November’s book I realize how valuable this resource is going to be and will turn my attention to it.
The second simple, easy to institute idea involves two dinosaur-like desktop computers in my classroom. Currently, if a student has a question during a work time, they are welcome to use a computer to search for an answer. November (of course) takes this one step further – he suggests assigning a student the job of Researcher for the day. Any question that comes up during any discussion - whether from a student or a teacher - is researched by the Researcher to provide more information and insights on a fairly immediate basis. This allows me to work one-on-one with a student to develop effective research skills, and then for that student in turn to pass that skill on to the next Researcher on the list.
It is always wonderful to find practical, easy to implement strategies that seem guaranteed to make a substantial difference in a classroom setting. It is just icing on the cake that this book includes these practical tips in amongst some of the most important questions being asked in education today.