Teaching Students to Learn Using the Dominant Media

Alan November thinks 85-90% of questions asked in U.S. schools can be answered with a simple Internet search–assignments created before the Internet. A second and related problem is that we don’t teach kids to use Internet search.
Instead, November says, “We should design assignments that have two versions of the truth and require students to validate which one is true.” And we should teach kids how to learn using the dominant media of the day.
“We grew up with one version of the truth,” said November, “We should be teaching perspective not technology,” and “we should be teaching with the dominant media of society–the Internet.”
For an example of what November is talking about, just search Iranian Hostage Crisis. Even if you add “primary sources” to the search, you’ll have a hard time finding an Iranian perspective. But try site:ac.ir Conquest of the American Spy Den. You’ll find an entirely different perspective–but it takes knowing about a little about search operators (See googleguide.com).
November hates interactive whiteboards, “They’re all about maintaining control with fancier blackboard.” Instead, “The real revolution is not the device, it’s information and communication.” He recommends ditching the 1:1 tech plan and focusing on 1:world teaching plan.
November said, “There is so much guessing going on in our schools,” instead we “should be teaching problem solving.” In that regard, he’s a fan of WolframAlpha, the only knowledge engine on the Internet, “Every parent should learn WolframAlpha on parent night.”
Instead of another PowerPoint on Romeo and Juliet, November suggests asking students to compare and contrast 10 decks from 10 universities in 10 countries (but first teach them how to search like this site:ac.uk filetype:ppt romeo and juliet).
What makes a big difference? November said research suggests that the quality of teacher feedback on student work makes the biggest difference. The other side of that is students who self-assess. November recommended using Kaizena to provide voice feedback on student work.
November also stressed the importance of peer learning. Thinking flipped classroom? Why not ask kids to build tutorials to explain the curriculum? He wonders if we worry too much about training teachers when we should be training kids.
After writing a couple papers on Deeper Learning I thought I knew something about the topic but November’s provocative conversation with Ohio superintendents at a TRECA retreat helped me realize it’s time to go back to school.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Alan November

HI Tom, Honored that you wrote about the Ohio superintendents' workshop. Perhaps you share my concern that our top leaders do not always have access to the professional development they need to lead our schools in this time of transition from paper to all digital.


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks Alan. The TRECA superintendent program we were part of seems like a great professional learning experience--the kind that should be available to school & system heads.

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