Thursday, January 16, 2014

Notes from Leadership for the Digital Age With Alan November

Yesterday, I was privileged to spend a day learning from and with Alan November, a consummate digital age educator whose work I have followed for many years. My first exposure to Alan was the article "Teaching Zack to Think," which made me painfully aware of the work that must be done to promote literacy in our digital age. 

I'm grateful to my school district and TASA for this opportunity!

What I loved about Alan's presentation was it was organic. He had definite goals and topics to cover, but due to his vast knowledge he was able to customize the content as questions came up. Several times as he set us on an activity he said, "I haven't done this before, but let's see how it goes!" 

When I grow up, I want to be a teacher/lead learner/presenter like Alan November!

Before You Get to the Notes...

You'll probably glean a few gems from my notes, but notes being what they are, they won't give you a cohesive picture. If you've never had the chance to learn directly from Alan November before, I encourage you to watch this TEDxNYED Talk he gave in 2011.

Notes from TASA Leadership for the Digital Learning Age with Alan November 1-15-14

Notes from yesterday's same workshop in Ft. Worth -

United States has least amount of capacity for innovation of all the countries Alan visits. We are good at getting kids stuff, but the ability/will to make the culture shift seems not to be there. Poorer countries seem to understand that the internet is the ticket to learning.

Before we do technology there should be a clear vision for why we are doing it. The technology itself cannot be the ultimate goal.

The real revolution is information. The internet. Any answer to any question that has a known answer is available right on your phone.

In the age of the internet what is the value of the teacher?
Ex: Wolfram Alpha - Type in any equation and the site will show you the step-by-step solution. (When Alan showed this to high school students, at the end of the school year, the students were angry that they didn't know about it all year so they could experiment with variables, check their homework, etc. The math teachers, however, were mad at Alan for showing it to the kids because he had destroyed math as they knew it.) - See what Wolfram Alpha can do!

If you can get to vast amounts of data this quickly, you can move to higher-order problem solving.

How about this for authentic learning? Problems that can't be solved through Wolfram Alpha...

The mind of the teacher is the most valuable resource you have in the classroom.

What is the best use of time/a teacher's mind in the classroom? 45 minutes to an hour a day...
A.    Transfer of Knowledge
B.    Teachers Speak Little & Listen to Students
C.   Teacher is Connecting Kids to Authentic Problems All Over the World
D.   One Room Schoolhouse - Get rid of grades as we know them. Kids work to teach kids.
E.    C & D

Books suggested by a colleague based on November's presentation:
Better Learning Through Structured Learning - book from ASCD
Role Reversal - another ASCD book

What questions should we be asking before we even think about technology?

We should have learning design committees/planning teams, not technology planning committees.

We should have learning design directors, not instructional technology directors/coordinators.

Games are scientifically designed to engage and motivate. Teachers should be learning game design theory and using it to structure learning. (Follow #gbl on Twitter for current info.)
1. You don't need grades, you need a leader board! (see
2. Real time feedback - optimal design of feedback loop is half a second
3. Autonomy
4. Education - All kids love to learn. iN a game, kids choose a hard level just beneath what will kill them. Allow your students to pick their level.
5. Collaboration - The really powerful games that engage students allow them to interact with real people, not just with a computer. Kids want to win.

The real problem is telling teachers to stop what they are doing and start doing things differently.

It is a myth that the teacher needs to learn everything first.

Staff development as we know it is a myth.
Let every teacher bring two kids to the PD. Teacher's job is to watch the kids use the tech and implement pedagogy of using tech they don't understand. Learn how to assess. Let the kids learn the tech.

@LiveFromRoom5 - Kinder teacher sends about 10 photos home per day. Shows what kids are doing and tells parents to ask kids about it at the end of the day. Teacher sets up every parent's cell phone on open house night to receive these Tweets by text.

Schools are terrible at marketing. They need to tell their stories well. Superintendent should be podcasting. Principals should be Tweeting, being the cheerleader for their teachers and students.

A lot of parents aren't going to go to websites. We have to push information out to them.

What skills can we teach today that will outlast the technology? One-off projects are not the best way. The internet is not going to go away and information is the key.

Big Skill: How to deal with the enormous amount of information out there!

Huge change is students no longer get their information from pre-selected sources. They have to understand how to assess information.

We need to give students messy problems, not well-structured problems. When you solve real/messy problems, there is

  • Too much info
  • Not enough info
  • Info in the wrong order
  • Problems that change as you are solving them

Google Searching

  • One of top criteria - if the search terms are in the URL
  • Limit searches to a specific country - example: How do you get resources on the Iranian Hostage Crisis from Iran?
  • Teach precision - search operators (Google wants to make money; won't give you best quality unless you search for it)
  • - Free online self-paced courses

We are still giving assignments as if we control all of the information, but we don't. We have to teach teachers and students how to find, evaluate, and manage/organize information.

Focus on teacher feedback. Audio feedback gets more attention from students than written feedback. (Teacher anecdote - when you record your voice, you give a lot more positive comments than you do when you are just writing comments.) - Tool for collaborative interpretation of texts - FREE - Free starter version but have to pay for more robust version. Turns any book or document into a digital classroom. You can see what students highlight in the reading or questions they have. Teacher can access and see what students have accomplished. -  From Palo Alto, CA - Student created videos to explain core subject concepts

***In flipped learning, teachers work too hard. Let the students make the videos!!!!

Curse of Knowledge - Teachers know too much. First time learners think teachers are really really smart and never struggle to get answers. It's not good for kids to not understand the struggle needed to learn/understand. - Free, educational "kids teaching kids" project from Mr. Marcos & his middle school students. Teacher NEVER grades the tutorials. He works with them to make them accurate, then approves and posts them. Kids are motivated by the number of other kids who view their tutorials.

RSA Animate version of Daniel Pink's Drive on YouTube -

Teach kids to learn how to teach from a young age. Every learner a teacher. When you have to teach something, you learn it on a deeper level.

Change thinking on assessment - Mazur model - Take individual test, then have groups of students collaboratively complete the same test (come to agreement on answers), then have students create a new problem to demonstrate their understanding/learning of the same content. Average the three assessments to get the final grade for the content. Mazur creates the groups of students and changes them up every five weeks or so. Creates trust between students in class. [Requires shorter more frequent assessments.]

Questioning Toolkit - - The single most important skill now is getting people to ask the most interesting questions. The teacher's job is to teach students to ask questions.

Verso - App that makes learning visible. Students answer & ask questions & can't see what other students say until they make a contribution.
How do you know what to teach tomorrow if you don't know yet what the questions are today? Administrators need to give up control over having lesson plans submitted ahead of time.

**Choose your apps wisely! Don't do 100 apps; just do 10 and make them count every day.

Essence of flipped learning is to ask an application question, not a memorization or regurgitation question.
Don't tell the answer; give more models until students get to the answer.
Ask the same answers twice to assess if there has been growth.

Teaching the technology is easy. What takes time (years even) is building a library of interesting application questions.

Kids can do well on tests, but can they apply their learning?

Have one student be the scribe each day. Student takes notes and posts to class blog. Teacher conferences with student before post goes live. At end of year you have thorough record of the learning. Teacher also learns a lot about their teaching by conferencing on learning each day.
Students can also add extra resources to the learning.

Class Twitter account and blog to connect around the world. Let kids Tweet and write.

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.