Alan November (who for whatever reason I always refer to using both first and last name) had a three-hour slot to speak, and I could have listen to him talk for hours more. Alan November, would you be my mentor? He was not only incredibly inspirational, but also gave concrete strategies to use in the classroom.
He started off talking about the Internet, and how now the Internet is actually used in a less creative way than it was in the 80s. It had become a place to cut and place and do things quickly and not have to think. Alan November stressed that technology should not be misinterpreted to be innovation. Thank you, Alan November, for saying that. I worry about this. I've certainly seen it in my school, and I know others are concerned as well. It's hard not to get excited about the newest, shiniest thing. We want that new shiny thing, because then we are cutting edge and using technology in the classroom and so forth. But what's the point of announcing "We've bought a whole cart of iPads!" if there is no curriculum in place to actually use those iPads? If there's no instruction in place to teach the teachers who are suppose to use those iPads in their classrooms? Yes, it's exciting when something comes out that might possibly have educational potential, but we need to stop and think and plan and decide if it's going to enhance learning.
He talked about how learning works. Today, a high test score determines a good school. But a great school would be one where the teacher could be taken out and the students are self directed and have a passion for learning. This is hard for a lot of teachers to deal with. It's hard for me to deal with. The thought that if you're doing your job really well, you don't actually have to be there. It's kind of scary. It's intimidating, and it's a totally different way to think about learning.
We were asked the one word that students most use to describe school. That was something we all knew. "Boring" of course. And maybe students find school boring because it is boring. It's not as if students are incapable of focusing. They can focus on a video game for hours. Why is this? Alan November gave four reasons: video games give immediate feedback; video games allow you to keep going in levels and you get to chose the level you start out; video games give positive reinforcement; video games allow for mastery. When we create our lessons, we need to think this way.
Finally, Alan November talked about how librarians are more important then stuff (yay!). The most important thing a librarian can do is teach kids critical thinking on the Internet. They're going to Google stuff, so teach them how to use Google so they can find reliable information. Then he proceeded to do a whole bunch of amazing search strategy stuff, half of which I didn't know about. He also shared some of his favorite sites:
- easywhois.com - find the owner or publisher of a web site
- The Way Back Machine - view the history of a web site
- looking up country codes (country code AND internet) so you can search by domain name
It was great to leave feeling not annoyed or frustrated or discouraged but inspired and excited to try some of these strategies when I teach information literacy. I'm so glad I was able to hear him speak.