My Thoughts on Mr. November

Friday, at TechForum New York, the keynote speaker was Alan November, of November Learning. Alan is someone whom I have read much about via other’s experiences in meeting him, attending BLC, or hearing him recently in Shanghai, but never really did any focused research on myself. Who was this guy, and why did he always leave behind a wake?

His bio in the conference program started off with a great piece of information: his first professional gig was that of an oceanography teacher at an alternative high school in Boston Harbor. Where can’t you go after that?

Needless to say, I was impressed, and tried to take notes on his presentation, but when your network shows up, it is difficult to stay focused on much other than your twitterstream. Also, however, I find it hard to take notes any more unless the speaker is talking about something other than tools. Thankfully, Alan seemed to care less about the tools, even at one point, throwing a jab to the aggressive vendor crowd assembled.

What he did give me was this:

Turn your fears into goals.

That sounds simple enough, but let’s put it into practice for a minute. Here are a list of fears/obstacles that I often hear when working with staff:

  • I am not technologically savvy.
  • There is no time to implement this into my curriculum. I am held to state standards on tests like Regents/GEPA/HSPA; I need to focus on that.
  • The students will not take this seriously.
  • They (the students) just copy and paste everything anyway.
  • I can’t add one more thing to my list of responsibilities.

And as Alan was speaking, he impressed me less with his rehearsed ideas, but more with his spontaneous addressing of crowd concerns, taking direct questions from several people who iterated some of the same fears/obstacles above. Looking at that list, I can do that. Here is my revised version:

  • I will become comfortable teaching in a manner that appeals to the learning needs of my students.
  • I will use resources contributed by teachers who are using technology to help students reach state standards on tests.
  • I will create lessons that matter to my students, ones in which they will work on without realizing it as work.
  • My assessments and assignments will be authentic, so that students cannot merely take the work of others and pass it off as their own.
  • I will focus on adding one new method to my teaching repertoire this year.

As I ready myself for a switch in job titles (more on that as the time nears), these type of semantic shifts are things I want to embrace. I have long thought that leadership determines institutional attitude more than any other component. My experience in the schools I have worked in bears this belief out. If I am to be someone who expects change, pushes innovative measures through, and enlists the creative forces of my staff, then I have to able to transform negativity into a goal-setting mentality like Alan prescribed.

This is the first in a series of posts I am generating from his session, and from the subsequent round tables and discussions from Friday.

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4 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Mr. November

  1. Patrick I certainly hope u get to attend a BLC. I have wanted to for the last three summers and have yet to attend, other than virtually via Skypchats compliments of my network. (They can be pesky, so i apologize if I contributed to your distractions.) But Alan November, who seemingly starts dull seems to come alive and animated when talking about what kids need to be learning (and what the adults need to do too) and he is quite infectious!! Last spring he was a speaker at our state school library conference (SCASL) and he was trying to demo skype, but none of his contacts seemed available. So I skyped him from the audience to bail him out of his predicament (like I really needed to–I’m sure he had hundreds on his list to call.) But shocking he looked up and asked if I was in the audience since my ID sort of let him know I was from SC. Of course I raised my hand, and suddenly he accepted my call, and my mug was on the gargantuan sized screen for everyone too see. Talk about embarrassed! But he continued skypechatting w/ me long after that conference, and I found that he was insightful, friendly, and quite normal. Too bad he doesn’t seem to take part in Twitter. Still he is one of my favorites. I know he will stretch my mind and make me think.

  2. “I will focus on adding one new method to my teaching repertoire this year.”

    This is something I live by. I think it is so important to add one new method – at least – each year…and not just necessarily tech related. I can’t believe how far I’ve come with the students over the last six years. The new web tools make it easier still.

    I’ve watched part of lParisi’s video and have to go back and finish up over the weekend. I’m looking forward to your continued commentary on the conference. Someday I’ll work in a school where I can attend these conferences live. It’s so amazing to be able to participate from afar.

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