by Rebecca Hightower

Alan November was the featured guest speaker for the Dag Folger Speaker Series Critical Topics in Education  at the Townsend Center for the Performing Arts. Alan is a renowned professor, speaker, and is the author of the book Who Owns the Learning: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age.

Dr. Dianne Hoff and Alan NovemberThe process for selecting a speaker to present to future educators was done with a nod to the digital age itself. The Dean of the College of Education, Dr. Dianne Hoff, explained that a committee watched presentations of over 35 potential speakers on YouTube and easily decided on Alan.

Addressing over 200 students in person, and many more tuning in via Livestream, Alan spoke to the importance of questioning how educators use assessment models and digital tools in classrooms by looking at the classroom itself in a fundamentally different way.

“I’m worried the technology that we are buying is freezing a culture in place that does not deserve to stay the same,” explained Alan. “A lot of the use of technology that I see as I work with universities and schools around the world I could call the ‘one thousand dollar pencil plan.’ We are doing old work with new tools.”

Alan stressed the need to look at the past, to improve the future. Although most modern educators have never visited a one-room schoolhouse, let alone taught in one, Alan explained that there are lessons to be learned from the past. He believes that the proper use of technology can bring back the benefits of the one-room schoolhouse.

Alan engaged the viewers of the presentation by asking them to vote using their cell phones on an online poll asking: Who works harder in the classroom, teachers or students? He explained that with the change from a one-room schoolhouse to specialized grade teaching, we have lost the benefit of older kids teaching younger ones, and true ownership of the material.

Alan gave an example of an elementary school student who contributed to a math learning website with a YouTube video regarding factoring numbers. When Alan followed up with the student and showed her that over 70,000 people had viewed the video from around the globe, the student said she needed to make another tutorial immediately. When asked why, she replied, “The world needs me.”

Educators should be fostering an environment that helps students use technology to recreate the one-room schoolhouse and grow a global community of learning. This will help students gain a sense of responsibility for sharing knowledge, explained Alan.

Dr. Hoff encouraged the future educators in the room to take heed of Alan’s words and go out to schools and make a difference.

To see the entire presentation, please visit

Posted on January 21, 2015