Students as Meaningful Contributors
Cross posted to Langwitches Blog
Alan November talks about the importance of making students contributors to their own learning. I have been following his work for years (seen him present in person a couple of times too). I have been especially paying attention to his thoughts about how, over the years, it seems that we have taken away the reason/relevance for learning of our children.
Years ago, when farms dominated our landscape, children were responsible for performing meaningful jobs that were vital to each family’s success. […] Children were essential to the very survival of the family. At the same time, these jobs taught children the value of hard work, leading them to become more productive citizens within their communities as adults.
As mechanized tools and other advances developed, the work of children was replaced. To prepare for the industrial economy, students were required to attend school where teachers became central figures and where children took on more passive roles within their communities. The contributions made by children to their community shifted to the responsibility of completing schoolwork
How often have we heard the moaning from our students and/or own children?
Why do I have to learn this? I will never use it again.
There is even (why would I be surprised?) a facebook group called “I bet 90% if the Stuff we learn in School, I will never use again” It has over 16,000 members…
Maybe we need to start listening to our children. They don’t see the relevance of what they are learning in school. They don’t see how they will apply in real life what they are being asked to learn. So how do we give students back their purpose? Alan November suggests six different roles for developing empowered learners.
Here are examples of
- Tutorial Designers
- Official Scribes
- Backchanneling with Elementary School Students
- Documenting Skype Connections via Backchannel & Data Collection for Around the World with 80 Schools
- Collaboration Coordinators
- Contributors to Society
- Curriculum Reviewers
I must admit, that I have not ventured into working with my students (K-8) to being the “Collaboration Coordinators” and “Curriculum Reviewers”. I would love to read and hear about other teachers who have and are willing to share their experiences.
Please help me collect and add more examples to these by leaving a link and short description in the comment section!
You can read Alan November describe his thoughts about Students as Contributors: The Digital Learning Farm or in Chapter “Power Down or Power Up?” in Hayes Jacobs’ book Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010). Watch this video below where Alan describes the critical need for kids to make a contribution:
Going back to the days of this town [Marblehead, MA]…you were 10 years old, you went to sea and you were an apprentice, you were working, you did not go to Middle School or High School in this town in the 1700s […] What we did, I believe, over time…and the irony is that technology did this…because we invented all these kinds of machinery, we don’t need kids working anymore. So we robbed them of their sense of making a contribution to community. I think one of the breakthrough ideas is to change the concept of the learner into someone who becomes a contributor by doing their work. Which means we have to redefine their work.
Find more videos like this on NL Connec
Another person who not only talks about the importance of making students contributors, but who has walked the walk is Tim Tyson.
The now retired principal of Mabry Middle School (archived site) describes how his school is” Making learning irresistible”. He describes how he extended that vision into the classroom in Heidi Hayes Jacobs’s book “Curriculum 21”.
explorations in engaging students to produce meaningful contributions were just fine, tentative steps in moving school practice in a completely new direction. Imagine extending these first awkward steps, infusing them more deeply into instructional practices […] Would schools proffer a better learning experience if they empowered students themselves, under the professional and informed coaching of their teachers, to actively create high-quality, media rich, digital curricular contributions that are aggregated and shared with learners of all ages, the world over?
Learning from a Book
Cross posted to Langwitches Blog
You must have noticed that I have been reading and re-reading “Curriculum 21” by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. I have posted my first impressions and recommendation here and since then have joined and written about the companion Ning to the book here. I created a Flickr Curriculum 21 group to have a hub for images and videos of Curriculum21 teaching and learning examples.
I was inspired by quotes from the book to write the following blog posts Geography is a Separate Subject. Really? and “It Isn’t the Answer Anymore, It is the Question”.
Curriculum 21 is a book that is just FULL of information, ideas, thoughts, research, recommendations and exactly about the change in education, life, skills, literacies, and global competencies I am contemplating and working for.
Unfortunately, the book is not available as a Kindle Edition, which means, I am relying on sticky notes and highlighters as a way to make the rows and rows of text more appealing to my visual eye as well as a way to find passages and quotes more quickly later on.
I am conducting an experiment about my own learning style. How can I read this book and best:
- filter out the information that I want to keep?
- make connections to my previous thoughts, ideas and blog posts?
- remember quotes from different chapters?
- make the text content more visual for my brain?
I am eager to find out:
- Will I be able to learn about the content of the book differently/better/easier/?
- Will I be able to “see” connections that with the text alone I did not?
- Will the process of looking for and selecting the right image that will represent the quote make me think “deeper” about what the quote us trying to say?
- Will the sum of the quotes I selected from the book tell a story in itself?
I wonder how my personal experiment will turn out… but in the meantime, please take the time to share:
- How do you learn best from a book?
- Highlighting, taking notes, talking/discussing it with someone ?
- Do my visuals help you visualize what Curriculum21 is about?
- Do the slides do nothing for you?
- Do the visuals give you a different point of view, than when you were reading the text alone?
- Are you interested in reading Curriculum 21 (if you have not done so) because of the visual “Preview”?
- What opportunities do you give your students to learn from a a book?