Cleaning off my desktop this morning, I found this pdf from Alan November, that I’ve been meaning to write about on this blog. The original post from November Learning is at this link.   Written in January 2015, “Clearing the Confusion between Technology Rich and Innovative Poor: Six Questions” is an important, on-going discussion for every teacher and school leader, well worth looking at each school year. It begins

“In a recent webinar, more than 90% of school leaders responded that they were leading an innovative school as a result of the implementation of technology. At the end of the webinar, when polled again, only one leader claimed to be leading an innovative school. The complete reversal was due to a presentation of the Six Questions that you will read about in this article. This list of questions was developed to help educators be clear about the unique added value of a digital learning environment.”

Readers are urged to consider our use of technology in our teaching in general, and in each assignment in particular, and to  test our own level of innovation with these six transformational questions, each of which are followed by discussion and examples.

  1. Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
  2. Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
  3. Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?
  4. Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
  5. Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
  6. Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?

I urge you to read the article, and the comments that follow it. Add the six questions to your unit of inquiry planning process, so that with each planning cycle you can easily consider how your lessons “stand up to the test”,  and think about how you can improve them.

To improve your own skills in this area, you might be interested in exploring this page of teacher resources from the November Learning website, and the Power Searching with Google site, with links to two excellent free courses in search techniques.

Watch this 16 minute  2011 TEDxNYED video from Dr. November. The talk is about how the current culture of school typically underestimates the contribution that many students would make to solve real problems and to make a contribution to help classmates learn. It includes examples of  using technology and learning. Towards the end, he says “A lot of technology is about improving teaching, which is why so many teachers show up in staff development without kids.  That has to change.  We have to get a lot more kids into staff development, and teach them how to build that same capacity with whatever tools we’re giving teachers – kids to kids.” (min 12.31)