Monday, March 1, 2010

Marblehead: Connecting Me with Alan November

Ellie Freedman, RMHS principal, shared this video with us, her faculty, after attending a session with Alan November over February vacation and listening to his ideas. I was intrigued by the setting November chose for the video.

November juxtaposed the history of Marblehead, Massachusetts with the need to assign class work and projects that all students to be contributors, not just workers in the classroom. I worked at Marblehead Veterans Middle School as an 8th grade social studies teacher for 4 years prior to coming to Reading. I'll admit the connection is tenuous, but it was enough to help me recognize many of the narrow colonial streets and coastal landscapes in the video.



Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November from Brian Mull on Vimeo.

Based on this video (and a complimentary article by November you can find if you click here) we have both learned a few things from our time in Marblehead:

  • Technology for technology's sake is NOT an improvement in education.
  • Students like to be told what to do, because it is easy to receive and follow instructions. The best way to challenge them is to ask them what they need to do in order to learn.
  • Students do better work when they are going to share that work with their peers, or with an even wider audience via the web. The quality of work goes down when the only eyes that will see it are the teacher's.

There are a few other things that November does NOT cover in his video, but I think they are important to remember.

  • Rolling out these ideas takes time. Once the kids know what to do, it may not take much time out of your curriculum instruction, but you have to make some sacrifices early in the year to set them up.
  • It is best to try one or two ideas at a time. Become an expert at those applications (and allow your students to become comfortable experts in their own roles) before you roll out another idea.
  • Don't let yourself, or your students, get frustrated if it doesn't work right away. Students need reminders. They need encouragment when they are taking part in self-directed learning. It is frustrating and requires a lot of mental effort. They need you to remind them all along that you believe in them and that their effort will be worth it in the end.