Wednesday, July 17, 2013

#cyberPD Week 3 - Who Owns the Learning by Alan November

It's Week 3 already and we are discussing the final chapters of Alan November's Who Owns the Learning? Visit Laura Komos's blog at Ruminate and Invigorate to read more thoughts on these chapters and join in on the conversation. Now that I'm back from the beach and back to my computer, I look forward to reading and commenting more this week (wonderful beach house ... wifi, not so much!)

Chapter Five discusses a new student role - that of Global Communicator and Collaborator. Tying all the chapters together is the theme of Chapter 6. Here's what caught my attention in these chapters:

Like it or not, most of us are all heavily engaged in Common Core implementation in our classrooms. So when I read the beginning of Chapter 5 where the author asks clients, "What do you value? What are the most important skills you look for in your employees?", my brain immediately went to Common Core. Everything these days seems to be about "college and career readiness". I was pleasantly surprised and so happy to hear the answer --- Empathy! How refreshing! As teachers, we know how important empathy is in our classroom communities, but I hadn't quite thought about it for corporate success. I loved this discussion about how important empathy is in working with other people and truly hearing and considering others' perspectives on a problem. I've always told students that they'll need to work with all kinds of people no matter what kind of job they have, but it was so encouraging to hear this talk from the CEOs in the book. "Top global talent must understand and value other peoples' points of view." Wouldn't it be great to have parents talking to our kids about how empathy and understanding various points of view are part of their own day-to-day work? Point of view is addressed in our reading standards beginning in kindergarten (!) ... this discussion has me thinking about these standards from a different angle. (I am also itching to reread Peter Johnston's Opening Minds, Ellin Keene's Talk about Understanding, and anything Lester Laminack.)

I learned in these chapters that I know very little about how search engines work!  I found it very interesting that different people putting in the exact same search terms receive very different results (based on their past online behavior). I appreciate all the detailed descriptions of how to do more specific searches ... I do have so much to learn! But my own ineptness aside, I found it ironic that we use the internet to access information around the globe, expand our own experience but search engines may actually be limiting by matching links to our own previous history. Often perspectives similar to our own. "Without some real education about using the Internet for communicating and collaborating with an authentic, global audience, this marvelously rich medium will only narrow - not broaden - our perspective."

I love how social networking has helped people connect. Personally, I am always thrilled when I'm tweeting about a book and the author tweets back. I don't think I'll have get over how amazing that is. November provides such great ideas about helping kids to connect globally. The ePals site was new to me, but he refers to it as "the world's largest K-12 social learning network." So I went there, signed up, and checked it out.While there are products attached to it, it seems that you can locate classrooms around the world that share your interests. This may be an on-going relationship, but it could be a one-time event during a unit of study. For example, your class may be exploring the concept of urban communities and may want to connect to another classroom in a different country to hear their perspective on the topic. I need to look into this site and consider how I might use it this school year. I'm moving into a new classroom this year and don't know what technology to expect, but I did appreciate learning how to set up Skype even if you only have one computer. There are so many collaborative tools that are relatively easy to use - just need to take the plunge and use them!

The final chapter echoed previous ones especially in regards to the students' attitudes toward and engagement with authentic digital projects. In Garth Holman's classroom, he found that the students' work in developing their own on-line textbook "empowers them because it lives on." I loved how his classes each year took over where the previous class left off and continued to edit and revise the body of work. And the students often worked into the summer because they cared so much about it. That's pretty incredible!

Reflections on this year's #cyberPD:
I mentioned in my first post that this book wasn't in my to-read pile for the summer, but I'm glad that I did. Most of the situations in the book were more geared to middle school and high school but I think it's important to think beyond my own personal situation. I think about my Twitter friends who are reading books that they will never use with their own classes, but know it's important as educators to think beyond our own classrooms and be exposed to great literature at all levels. This book did that for me as well. With that being said, there are many applications for an elementary classroom, especially in thinking about how we can broaden our classroom community through collaboration with others.

I love the format of this PD event - reading a book over a few weeks and reading everyone's thoughts on it. Looking forward to next year!


  1. I agree with your final paragraph (reflection). This book was not at all on my radar, but it was the right book (and the right community) at the right time!

  2. Barb,
    I have enjoyed reading your reflections. It will be interesting to discover the challenges and gifts a new space brings.

    This book was an interesting read even though it was geared toward high school. I tried to think of examples I have seen in primary classrooms that were similar to the concepts discussed. The real power seemed to be in moving across blogs and reading reflections and comments.

    I didn't know about ePals either and will be interested to hear what you discover. I feel like Twitter had made connecting with other classrooms easier and those connections may be enough.

    I have enjoyed the conversation and am so glad you joined.


  3. Barb,

    This line in your last paragraph struck me:

    "it's important as educators to think beyond our own classrooms".

    Those words have been used a lot in reading and discussions about creating opportunities for students. I like how you turned it around and made it about the teacher and how the teacher needs to look at the other classrooms around theirs. Great point!

    I briefly looked at ePals, too, but I have not signed up yet. I am waiting to see if I still want to after some of my ideas solidify.

  4. Barb,
    Thanks for sharing your a-ha about the search engines narrowing what we think is broadening our horizons-I was surprised by the same-it made me chuckle a little because one of my friends asked me how I always find such great stuff when searching with google and I told her its like it almost knows my thinking-well maybe it does!
    I also agree that the book has more of a middle/high school flavor to it but I know it can work as I watch teachers like Kathy Cassidy, Karen Lirenman and Kristen Wideen...
    Good luck with the transition to your new space.