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Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age (Incorporate Technology and Opportunities Into Instruction) Perfect Paperback – May 21, 2012
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There is nothing like a great question to send you on a rich and meaningful quest for learning. A great question forces us to challenge our most taken-for-granted beliefs and threatens to uproot our most deeply rooted habits. Who owns the learning? is one of those great questions. When I first allowed myself to ask the question and really sit with it for a while, I soon found myself questioning everything in my teaching practice. Fortunately, November offers inspiring stories along with practical advice to help us on the journey forward, while leaving enough space to make each of our journeys our very own. --Michael Wesch, associate professor of cultural anthropology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas
Fantastic! Captivating from the start, this book will change the way one thinks about the process of learning. The many examples help provide explicit guidance on how to move from a teacher-centered to a learner-centered approach. --Eric Mazur, area dean of applied physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
If you think you know what problem-based learning is, or if you've ever wondered what formative assessment actually looks like in a digital world, Who Owns the Learning? is your first port of call: the first step in providing real meaning to the learning of your students." -- Ewan McIntosh, founder and CEO, NoTosh (UK) Learning | Digital | Design Thinking, Edinburgh, Unit
"When Alan November first shared his concept of the Digital Learning Farm, educators sat up and paid close attention. As usual, he was on to something fresh, thought-provoking, and of imminent value. Based on years of experience throughout the world, November describes in detail what the contemporary learner can look like in action, in any school setting. For the forward-thinking teacher, school leader, professional developer, and curriculum writer, Who Owns the Learning? is a must. --Heidi Hayes Jacobs, author and director of the Curriculum 21 Project, Rye, New York
About the Author
Alan November began his education career as a science and math teacher and a residential dorm counselor on an island reform school in Boston Harbor. November went on as a teacher and administrator in the Boston Public Schools, Lexington and Wellesley (Massachusetts) Public Schools, and the Glenbrook High Schools in Illinois. He has also taught in the graduate schools of education at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Seton Hall in New Jersey. He was the cofounder of the Institute for Education Leadership and Technology at Stanford University. He has presented in all 50 states, every province of Canada, across Europe, Asia, Central America, and South Africa. He is proudest of being named one of the first Christa McAuliffe Educators in the United States. November is the author of the best-selling book Empowering Students With Technology. Each July, he leads the international Building Learning Communities summer conference near Boston.
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November wraps up the book describing a "Digital Learning Farm" that seeks to pull together all four strategies in one, grand, master approach. The final chapter describes another real-life example of two teachers partnering to forge, over a number of years, a new approach to their middle school history courses. This is probably the weakest part of the book. November's description, as a capstone example, is overly sketchy and does not really connect all the dots. I suspect that this is more reflective of the book than the work of the teachers. I found myself wanting more, and not in a good way. That said, November again provides links (via QR codes at urls) that allow the reader to explore these teachers' (and students') actual work in greater detail.
Each of the four strategies is accompanied by information to get a teacher started. For example, the section "The Student as Global Communicator and Collaborator" ends with a few pages on how to get started with Skype. While this might be helpful to some, the book might have been more helpful if it used this space instead to illustrate additional examples for different subjects or grade levels. There are lots of resources out there for getting started with Skype, and perhaps the book could have just steered the reader towards these. The examples seemed to emphasize middle-school-level teaching, and this might not translate for some - that would be a shame, because November's strategies can enrich the learning experience for a wide range of ages/grades.
Criticisms aside, the book is effective in outlining ways that teachers can bring more student ownership and engagement into their classrooms. As one other reviewer commented, the book is ultimately more about how we teach than it is about any specific strategy or project. November outlines practical, approachable ways to shift away from "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side" teaching, incorporate technology as an authentic learning tool, and help students take ownership of their own learning.
One of November's biggest claims is that students will only work hard to achieve a specific purpose. They will not work hard for a grade! I believe this is true for some students, but do not think that others will have the intrinsic motivation to really push through classes and classwork to learn. Being one of those students who did the work because it was required, I do not know whether students will put forth the effort to simply learn without having a grade.
Another point that I found quick unique and something that I hadn't thought about was that November argued that one of the most important skills for 21st century people is to come up with the most interesting question! This works for both students and teachers! If teachers do not have interesting questions for learning, students can easily not care or gain interest in the material! Students also have to worry about this though. During presentations and inquiry-based assignments students must develop interesting questions in order to further their exploration.
Finally, one of November's key points is that students must be "contributors, collaborators, and leaders in their learning environment." With the advancement of technology, it is easier for students to become connected with other students and collaborate among themselves! November states that this is a great part of integrating technology into the classroom and classwork. People build connections with others and can learn so much more by sharing their experiences and listening to the experiences of others!
One final thought that he leaves readers with is that teachers must be a global publisher of their students' work! I really liked how he talked about this getting students motivated in their work! He states that teachers can have students create work and then share it with the whole class. This enables others to use their work to help them in their learning journey. Also, students would then recognize that they should put forth more effort because their work will be accessible to other students and they should want to display their best work among their peers!
While I didn't necessarily fully agree with everything that November said, I felt that he brought up interesting points that really made me think about technology integration and about how to get 21st century students interested in their learning!