ITEC 2008 – Alan November

Here are my notes from Alan November’s keynote today at ITEC 2008 in Des Moines. ITEC is Iowa’s statewide educational technology conference so it’s always a good time. I actually had never seen Alan present before so that was fun for me. He was extremely entertaining and I got to go up and meet him afterward. He said that I was younger than he would have guessed!

  • There is a gap between what we teach children and what is needed in the global workplace, and the gap is growing.
  • Students need to be able to do three key things
    • Have the capacity to do good research on the Web
    • Have good global communication skills
      • We should evaluate teachers on their ability to directly engage children with people all around the world
    • Be self-directed
      • Our system is based on the concept that teachers own the learning
      • Corporations need people who don’t need a boss to tell them what to do
      • The top skill learned in school is to learn how to be taught
  • West Point is requiring its instructors to teach Islam across the curriculum
  • The Internet, rather than being a tool that will expose you to other beliefs and perspectives, is instead becoming a place to simply validate one’s own beliefs.
  • We need to teach teachers good assignment design when teaching them technology.
  • Why not teach students how to debate kids in Britain regarding their perspectives on the Revolutionary War?
  • We vastly underestimate kids’ ability to create rich academic content that contributes to the learning of the rest of their class.
  • We need to teach children to have a global voice that people all around the world can hear.
  • Paper gives you a little voice – paper stays in the classroom.
  • Bob Sprankle has 2nd graders asking for their own writing / math podcast shows. A sign of a good classroom is kids asking to do more.
  • The Internet has made people realize that they are really, really poor and their work ethic is almost scary to watch because they think education is the ticket out of poverty.
  • Showed part of the Digital Kids @ Analog Schools video.
  • Check out MarcosMath’s Library, Mathtrain Podcast, bob.primefactor?
  • Have the kids help you build learning objects (using, e.g., Jing)! This is a “shift in control” problem, not a technology problem.
  • Demonstrated how to set up a custom Google search engine. Can set one up so that students only search the sites that the teachers select (e.g., FunBrain, BrainPop, IKnowthat). High school students can help create the sites that go into the custom search engine.
  • Have an official researcher every day at the one computer the teacher has in the classroom. That person is in charge of finding answers to questions that pop up and also in charge of adding relevant sites to the class search engine.
  • You can create a search engine for just a particular topic (e.g., Revolutionary War). Have your class’ British ePals contribute to the search engine too!
  • You can access other people’s custom search engines.
  • Showed
  • Too many “technology-enabled” assignments involve using the computer as a $1,000 pencil.
  • Collaborative class notes in Google Docs are even better than presentation notes because students can add on extra resources, etc.
  • Google Docs gives you a running history of the flow of writers’ thinking through version control. About 4 people can write concurrently.
  • Google Docs is ideal for collaborative writing. We should be teaching kids collaborative tools. The content should add up to something greater than the sum of the individual parts.
  • Kiva – a great web site to teach children how to make a contribution to other parts of the world. A community of contributors invests in a person / project. If the Web needed a reason to be invented, this is it. Linking people around the world to help people.
  • Three elements of video game design that are not present in schools
    • Students go to the most challenging level – they don’t want to be bored
    • Students get instant feedback (less than a second) – hard to reproduce in class
    • Third? [never got to it; we went off in a different direction]
  • If blocking is your only strategy for protecting children, you’re setting them up for failure in the real world. This is immoral. It’s a manipulative world out there. We have to teach kids how to navigate it.
  • Kids think they can take down their MySpace / Facebook content when it’s time. Show them the Wayback Machine!
  • We’re blocking them instead of teaching them. This is not the way to prepare kids for a web-based world.

I sat next to Angela Maiers. Vic Jaras, Evan Abbey, Carl Anderson, Leigh Zeitz, Rob and Magda Galloway, and bunch of other fun people also were there (including a good showing by Iowa State folks!). Iowa may not be where we’d like it to be but there are some fantastic educators here who are trying hard to make it happen!

Update: I added a picture of Alan to this post. It’s not the greatest picture in the world but it’s hard to get him to stand still!

6 Responses to “ITEC 2008 – Alan November”

  1. I had a chance to visit the November Learning Conference in Boston this past summer. What a fantastic experience. Take time to check out the work of the New Technology High Schools (and their Foundation). There is no question that he is all about collaboration, social networking. Check out BLC 08 if you want to learn more of November’s work with his colleagues. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Thanks for the summary. That’s a great bullet list. If schools even pushed a small fraction of what’s on it, students would be much better for it.
    I’m curious what he had to say about the Digital Kids video. (I guess I can dig around.) Students in it mention how they’re visual these days. Well, I don’t see much change in what gets them excited about learning: it’s the ideas! They don’t mind a lecture as long as it’s engaging. It’s the message, not the medium.

  3. These notes are getting me excited to hear Alan speak again in a few days. He is coming out to Kota Kinabalu on Borneo for the EARCOS Admin conference.

    Too bad I am presenting during one of his sessions. One, because I’ll miss the presentation and two, because no one will be at mine!

  4. Scott, It is always a joy to hear Dr. November speak. I’m glad you have finally had the chance. Just curious, did he talk at all about the role/importance of creativity in the educational process. I really think schools need to be as involved in the creativity process as in the academic process. I’ve been blogging a bit about it as I work it through my head… just put up this post today:

  5. I’m not sure that I agree with the idea that we immediately set the video game to the highest level. I think that most players beat the game at a respectable level, then try at a higher level if they’re still interested in the game. If the game is too tough, we won’t play or we’ll make it easier; if we’ve “beaten” the game, and the higher level proves to be too difficult, we won’t play anymore. Either way, this isn’t a good analogy for the classroom– I think that we’ll play at the highest level where winning is possible, but not raise the level to the point where winning is too hard or not possible. Put it this way: “Sarah, you have a choice: you can take a lower level class, be bored because it’s too easy and get an A” -or- “you can take a harder class, work harder and get the same grade.” I think Sarah takes the easier class.


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