Final Thoughts on Who Owns the Learning

Today concludes our blog discussion of the book Who Owns the Learning? Feel free to go to Laura Komos’s blog to find all the links to others who are blogging today.

“To manage complex projects, we need people who can understand other points of view,” a CEO of a large bank told the author of this text. The point of teaching “global empathy” was consistent throughout Chapter 5, i. e., teaching kids to see that every issue can be seen from various perspectives. November mentioned that Europeans and several other countries were raising children with more of this understanding than our U. S. students. However, November was able to provide us with many examples from classrooms where students were interviewing children from other countries, or experts on a particular topic, through Skype video conferencing.  I know of several examples myself where skyping is being done and can only hope that it will catch on more. If you don’t already Skype, November gives explicit instructions on how to do it.

With the last chapter, I felt like I got a good glimpse into the future of education.  What’s going on in the classrooms of the two teachers he described is most likely NOT happening in many other places.  But it’s certainly a start to hear about these teachers who are incorporating all the parts of the Digital Learning Farm into their on-going projects.

Last night I reflected on the experience of reading this book with a group of other professionals through blogging and commenting.  I believe it has many positive aspects: 1) by using our online sources, we were able to “chat” with teachers from all over, and 2) our blogs are now posted for others to see all over the world.  BUT I really miss the face-to-face interaction.  We all wrote reflections (or did these fabulous digital responses! Duh, not me:) and then commented after reading each other’s ideas. I contrasted this experience to last summer when I invited 11 literacy friends to read What Readers Really Do (a fabulous book, by the way)Though only 7 could make the discussion day at my house, we had a wonderful conversation.  We bounced off each other’s comments, built a conversation about what this book meant for us in our classrooms, got immediate feedback/response to our ideas, thumbed through the book and referenced various pages, read favorite quotes aloud to each other, and so on. I might be old fashioned, but I still like that kind of book discussion!

Looking back over my notes and underlinings, I noticed two things I thought I would get from this book.  The first was “Imagine a school where every learner is valued for making a contribution to benefit the whole class” p. 6. I definitely think that Alan November provided us with multiple examples of this statement.

My second big underlining that I was hoping to find in this book, but didn’t, comes from this paragraph:

“Society gains a new generation of lifelong learners with a strong work ethic, a critical understanding of how to use technology to solve problems, and a well-developed sense of global empathy that enables them to communicate and collaborate with people from any geographic area or culture in the accomplishment of tasks and goals” p. 7

I felt the “solving problems/accomplishing a task” was missing. I guess I was hoping to find an example of a class who did something like…. I don’t know…. maybe a group of middle or high school students who found a way to get fresh water to a village in Africa that had none.  I guess that was too much to expect.  OR maybe that will be in his next book!  All in all, a great read…. and an inspiring discussion with others.


  1. Oh, Pat, you made me smile. There are some aspects of digital learning I love. For example, I am a slow thinker. I like being able to read and reread the thoughts of others before commenting. I like being able to return to revisit what people have written to think about it in new ways. It is hard to capture that in a conversation.

    However, learning on a live conversation is so different. Ideas build quickly, leaps in conversations take you to new places, and there’s something about being able to infer from tone and body language that is lost here.

    Like you, I would love to gather everyone into a room for conversation. I think it would be an amazing group. I think participants have really elevated the learning from this book.

    I am glad you joined the conversation. You have asked hard questions and shared thoughtful responses that I will be thinking about as the new year begins.


  2. I whole-heartedly agree that live, and in person conversations are a joy to be a part of. Nothing takes the place of the physicality of face to face, not even a Google Hangout. And yet, without the ability to ‘talk’ on-line through Twitter, posts, comments, and yes, Google Hangouts, I would often be talking to myself. I work in a very small school district, and so the actual number of “freaks and geeks” (as a fondly think of myself and my PLN) is very low. A few of my colleagues may be involved in traditional upgrading this summer via educational courses, but none are involved in on-line pd, chats, or conversations. I envy your ability to pull 7 literacy educators together for a professional conversation.

    On the issue of a lack of specifics for problem solving etc, you might be right about a next book. Alan’s goals or expectations for the Digital Learning Farm model (pp 6-7) can only be reached if we move from traditional education to what some are calling modern teaching (rather than 21st century teaching).

    Thanks for bringing me back to the beginning of the book and helping me think about those goals one more time.


  3. I was so grateful to have your voice in this conversation. All too often, I jump into something without stepping back to question it. I need to remember to do that so I can stay grounded in my beliefs as an educator while still moving forward and trying new things. I thank you!

    I’d love to see that final question answered, too. While Alan gave us a great framework and possibilities for structures within our classrooms, we have to piece together how that will help children accomplish tasks while solving problems.

  4. Pat,
    I know what you mean about having Face to Face discussions-live conversations have a much different flavor…I’ve participated in and facilitated e-learning courses and most teachers I’ve worked with agree that Face to Face adds another dimension to the learning…
    I think the global examples of problem solving will come along as more educators aspire to this type of learning…we’ll see…

  5. Pat,

    I, too, was hoping for more about the problem solving angle that was shared early on in the book. That is where I really want to go since that is a big focus at my Expeditionary Learning school. I will be keeping an eye out for opportunities and watching what other people share. Like Amy, I am hopeful that more of this type of “problem solving will come along as more educators aspire to this type of learning”.

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