Alan November

Senior Partner and Founder, November Learning


When students own the learning, they take more responsibility for quality.

My sense from visiting schools around the world is that amazing things can happen when students own the learning. Teachers who have empowered students to take more responsibility for shaping the design of assignments and assessments, and to contribute to peer learning, report that their students are more motivated, take more care in the quality of their work and become more reflective of how they learn best.



When students have purpose in their work (e.g. making a contribution), they take more responsibility for quality.

Dan Pink has written about the research that shows that purpose in work is a very powerful motivator for quality. We now have the opportunity to tap digital tools to give students much more purpose in their schoolwork. Many students will work harder when they are challenged to make important contributions to their classrooms and the world. Whether it’s by developing a globally accessible database of math tutorials, writing an online study guide with classmates or collaboratively building a knowledge library using advanced social media tools, students understand that building these important tools are important to others, and therefore, most strive to do their best work.


When students are given a global audience, they take more responsibility for quality.

It’s no surprise to anyone that many of our students are captivated by the communication power of their cell phones and online networks such as Facebook.  Many teachers have creatively tapped the allure of online social connections to support student learning. We know that responsibility, motivation, excitement and engagement can flourish in online learning communities. Instead of asking students only to pass in their work for a teacher’s review we can also challenge them to publish their work for the world to respond. It is a very exciting time.


When teachers manage their own learning, there is an explosion of ideas.

Wherever I go, the number one barrier I hear about from teachers, regarding change, is lack of time to try and develop new things. It’s no wonder. Schools are generally very good at trying out new initiatives, but where will the time come from to support teachers? As with students, we need to allow teachers more time to focus on their success and then build strategies to broaden that success. Sometimes we do not need a new initiative. We need to ask teachers, “What works?” – when we do, excitement builds and new ideas aren’t far behind.


When leaders role model, the whole school benefits.

There is no doubt in my mind that the engagement levels of school leaders can make or break efforts to change processes within a school building. All around the world, school leaders are beginning to role model the effective use of digital tools. For example, leaders are using collaborative online writing tools with teachers to develop new policies as a learning community. Some leaders are Tweeting to parents and others are video conferencing outside experts to present ideas during a faculty meeting ­– while others are using online communities to form faculty book clubs. The digitally empowered leader can be the most powerful catalyst for faculty growth.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Alan November is an international leader in education technology. He began his career as an oceanography teacher and dorm counselor at an island reform school for boys in Boston Harbor. While Alan was a computer science teacher in Lexington, Mass, he was probably the first teacher in the world to have a student project online in 1984, a database for the handicapped. He has been director of an alternative high school, computer coordinator, technology consultant, and university lecturer. He has helped schools, governments, and industry leaders improve the quality of education through technology.

Alan’s areas of expertise include planning across curriculum, staff development, new school design, community building, and leadership development. He has delivered keynotes and workshops in all fifty states, across Canada, and throughout the UK, Europe, Asia, and Central America. Audiences enjoy Alan's humor and wit as he pushes the boundaries of how to improve teaching and learning.

Alan’s writing includes numerous articles and two best-selling books, Empowering Students with Technology and Web Literacy for Educators. In June of 2012, he released his latest book, Who Owns the Learning?. Alan was co-founder of the Stanford Institute for Educational Leadership Through Technology and is most proud of being selected as one of the original five national Christa McAuliffe Educators. Each summer Alan leads the Building Learning Communities summer conference with world-class presenters and international participants.