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A Sense of Urgency in Education Innovation

A Sense of Urgency in Education Innovation

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This is a cross post from

During the closing roundtable at Graded School Innovate 2017 Conference, Alan November was very emphatic when justifying the urgency for change in education. He mentioned an interview with Rahaf Harfoush, who was part of Barak Obama’s Presidential Campaign. His point was that as social media started having a crucial role in political campaigns, new skills in democracy involve being social media / information literate. You can listen to the full interview in the link Alan November – An Interview with Rahaf Harfoush Part 1 & Part 2 .


The podcast interview is an interesting summary of Alan November’s ideas, so the items below taken from the interview can be good starting point for digging deeper into his work.

To learn more about Alan November’s work you can also attend one of his Building Learning Communities Conferences (BLC18)., held in Boston every summer.



A New Type of Information Consumer

In the podcast interview Rahaf talks about the need to teach students to be active consumers of information. This idea is related to a shift in control, where the teacher no longer provides most information, but guides students in becoming active information consumers. Alan November cites the successful education in Singapore, where they developed the Teach Less, Learn More initiative . You can learn more about the Singapore experience at this video from Edutopia: Singapore’s 21st Century teaching Strategies.


  • Use a broader set of media sources: instead of searching for resources that replicate your personal version of the truth,  be driven by a “profound curiosity”, learning how to search for printed and online resources, including for example different news analysis, blog posts, tweets, videos.
  • Reconstruct and triangulate information:  instead of consuming a single point of view, be able to sift through all the different sources and media, creating your unique world perspective.
  • Question and  check sources of information:  be very critical about sources of information looking for credibility, bias, etc.
  • Interact with information: be able to add your own thoughts, your own analysis, contributing to blog post or website comments (ex: news), retweeting or responding to tweets, creating content.

Becoming a Producer of Information & Knowledge

In the podcast interview, Alan November and Rahaf  also mentions how nowadays we have the possibility of becoming information & knowledge producers as well as consumers. Alan mentions a 3rd Grade class who produced a Wikipedia page that was later mixed and remixed. Rahaf mentioned Wikibooks where people can publish. They talk about how Brittanica Encyclopedia adapted to the Wikipedia model and now accepts outside authors. All considering that not only Britannica but also Wikipedia, have now systems to check content.

Alan November describes in detail how students can be contributors to the construction of knowledge in his idea of a Digital learning Farm: Students as Contributors: The Digital Learning Farm:

  • Tutorial designers: screencasted tutorials published for peers and others
  • Official Scribes: rotating official notetaker
  • Researchers: contribute with researched content
  • Collaboration Coordinators: connect and collaborate with outside experts and peers
  • Contributing to Society: connect with social responsibility organizations / websites
  • Curriculum Reviewers: contribute with materials, podcasts to enhance curriculum

The First 5 Days of School

The ideas above about students becoming a different type of information consumer and also producers, are encapsulated by Alan November in The Four Skills to Teach in the First Five Days of School: This is because the first days of school set the tone for teaching and learning expectations:

  • POWER RESEARCHING: learn syntax of searching to find information that may be missing, answer questions that cannot be easily found on the Internet, in other words, high level research skills including power search and Google operators.
  • MEANINGFUL CONTRIBUTIONS: develop tutorial design skills to learn and contribute to the learning of others.
  • ASK THEM ABOUT THEIR PASSIONS: encourage students to define their own problems.
  • BUILD A LEARNING ECOLOGY: teachers demonstrate how they learn and also how to harness the power of a learning network using social media.

Check also Resources at Alan November’s website, for example:

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