Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#CyberPD Who Owns the Learning? (Chapters 1 and 2)

As I read the introduction and chapters one and two of Who Owns the Learning? by Alan November, I began thinking about what I've already done in my 2nd grade classroom to help my students own their learning and what I can do to try and make the shift without overwhelming myself next year.  I also found myself thinking about my own two children and their lack of ownership in their learning, especially involving technology (Digital Learning Farm model).

Beyond the digital learning aspect of this book, I found myself thinking and reflecting about how I can help to empower my students to intrinsically motivate themselves to direct their own learning.  How can we create this environment in our classrooms for students to want to read, write, problem solve and collaborate without me as the teacher being at the forefront of the learning.  How can I help my students learn how to learn and want to do this on their own?

At the end of chapter two November asks us to name specific lessons or topics that would be suited for student tutorials.  I've been pondering this and came up with a few ideas:

  • student tutorials on different math strategies (i.e. solving double digit addition and subtraction problems)
  • student tutorials on different reading strategies (i.e. what to do when you don't know what a word means while reading or how to figure out the main idea of a text)
  • student tutorials on different writing strategies (i.e. what to do when you can't think of anything to write about or how to find and choose interesting words for writing)
I look forward to reading chapters three and four and reflecting more about incorporating digital learning in my classroom over the next week.

Thank you Cathy at Reflect and Refine, Jill at My Primary Passion and Laura at Ruminate and Invigorate for organizing and hosting this summer's #CyberPD.



  1. Barbara,
    Your comment about your children's lack of ownership for their learning really struck me. You mention your children in digital situations, but my daughter struggles in general learning opportunities. My youngest daughter, soon to be senior, has always struggled with this. She sees school as completing tasks assigned by the teacher. She doesn't think about adapting things to suit her interests, exploring in her own ways, or shaping her own learning. She just wants to be done. It is interesting to note, of our three children she is the one to come through the school system with the most testing required. Hmmm. Anyway, I wonder if her thinking would be different if she would have come through classes like November mentions. You also make me realize that this isn't just about being digital, it's about owning your learning --- autonomy .

    Lots to ponder,

    1. Thank you for your response, Cathy. I started the above post two or three different times. One of the angles I was toying with was how using the Digital Learning Farm model and how it connects with CCSS and the testing generation. The two don't seem to mesh very well, as evident by your thoughts about your daughter. My daughter would go to the computer lab every Friday to take a test on the weekly skills learned in Basal reading program, but then made a shoebox diorama for a class novel read. This doesn't seem to be setting children up of for the future and ownership in their learning.

  2. Barbara,
    It's wonderful to have your voice in our conversation! I agree with Cathy - you've really hit upon the key aspect of what this is all about. Whether digital or not, it really is all about the learning and the motivation to learn. Your examples of student tutorials were fantastic! I think your second graders would be able to impress you with what they come up with.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Laura. I appreciate you reading my post and comments. It's easy to come up with simple ideas for tutorials. The next step with be implementing them next year.

  3. Barbara~
    As soon as I read your personal reflection of your children my youngest flashed in my mind. Like Cathy's daughter my daughter feels very helpless in her learning, its all about the teacher- WHAT DO THEY WANT?? not the question(s) I wish she was asking! Did the education system do this is is this just who she is a learner? But most importantly how do we change this in her and avoid in others?

    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Deb. We are at a scary place in education right now. I wonder if we aren't being counter productive in trying to quantify everything students do. Is this causing students to lack responsibility in their learning?

      My next stop in summer reading PD is Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. I'm looking forward to the connections to Who Owns the Learning.

  4. Barbara,

    This idea of students learning how to learn certainly is one of November's key ideas. He builds his thinking on Pink's ideas of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Many of the posts have identified connections between Who Owns the Learning and Johnston's Opening Minds. Another connection that comes to my mind is the work of the Canadian Education Association (CEA). Since 2007, Doug Willims (lead researcher) has conducted widespread research of grades 6-12 students on three areas: institutional engagement, social engagement, and intellectual engagement. Intellectual engagement is most interesting to me.

    "Intellectual engagement is defined as a serious emotional and cognitive investment in learning, using higher-order thinking skills (such as analysis and evaluation) to increase understanding, solve complex problems, or construct new knowledge. Three measures of intellectual engagement include interest and motivation, effort, and quality of instruction."

    What part of that definition jumps out at you?

    The original report from 2009 and all subsequent articles and new findings are here:

    And although the study and ongoing research is on 6 to 12, we know that by the time students arrive in grade 6, many of them are already great at the game of learning (your personal stories attest to this). I think that by exposing ourselves to the various 'educational rooms' and considering the challenges faced by educators in those rooms, we develop a greater understanding of the educational journey of our students.

    Thanks for getting me going on this...surprising really what emerges in this process of commenting.


  5. Barbara,
    I think it's interesting that you give examples of your own family and how this fits with the concept of who owns the learning. My son is creating things because I let him play with the devices and tool son that came to mind was when he made his video to show how to tie knots for cub scouts...he made it because he wanted to, he showed how to do something, and hopefully it could potentially help someone else learn how to tie knots he was required to learn...
    I was also thinking about how this applies to the common core-they aren't telling what or how to teach just what students need to be able to do at the end of their specific grade level-so there are opportunities for autonomy that way-just that it will be measured by rigorous assessments as the only way to demonstrate learning and that the performance is tied to teacher evaluation is worried about this.
    Also, thanks for giving examples of specific tutorials you could have students create...that is helpful to think about!
    Thank you.

  6. Barbara,

    What stuck with me from your post was your list of ideas for tutorials - especially the writing ideas. My students have created tutorials for math and reading but not writing. Might be a way to grow next year.