Alan November’s “Digital Farm”

Photo credit: Barrett.Discovery on Flickr

In Cur­ricu­lum 21: Essen­tial Edu­ca­tion for a Chang­ing World, Alan Novem­ber describes what he calls “dig­i­tal farms” as a way of chang­ing the cul­ture of teach­ing and learn­ing.  He begins by writ­ing about how prior to the indus­trial rev­o­lu­tion chil­dren were respon­si­ble for mean­ing­ful jobs that were impor­tant to the suc­cess of their fam­ily.  These chil­dren later went on to become pro­duc­tive cit­i­zens within their com­mu­nity as adults.  Novem­ber goes on to describe how for many chil­dren there is now a real loss of work and con­tri­bu­tions to the com­mu­nity.  The heart of his chap­ter out­lines six jobs that give stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ties to make valu­able con­tri­bu­tions to their learn­ing com­mu­nity.  Those jobs include:

  • Tuto­r­ial Designers-Students record them­selves solv­ing prob­lems using tools such as Cam­ta­sia or Jing.  I also really like Screenr!
  • Offi­cial Scribes-Students build class notes using a col­lab­o­ra­tive writ­ing tool such as a blog, wiki, or Google Docs.
  • Researchers-One or two stu­dents each day act as the offi­cial researcher and answer class ques­tions using a com­puter (A one-to-one class­room could cer­tainly change the dynam­ics of this job.).
  • Col­lab­o­ra­tion Coordinators-Students are respon­si­ble for find­ing and orga­niz­ing vir­tual meet­ings with out­side experts or oth­ers from around the world.  Meet­ings could occur on Skype or another video conferencing tool.
  • Con­trib­u­tors to Society-Encourages indi­vid­u­als to be more socially respon­si­ble and aware using sites such as
  • Cur­ricu­lum Reviewers-Students cre­ate mate­r­ial for con­tin­u­ous review com­bin­ing visual and audio com­po­nents that can be posted online.  Click here to check out an example!
These are some very sim­ple exam­ples of ways to get stu­dents actively involved with their learn­ing.  Not only can indi­vid­ual stu­dents ben­e­fit from this work, the entire class can ben­e­fit from the resources that stu­dents gen­er­ate.  If you’re not doing these things already, they may be a great addi­tion to your plans for the upcom­ing year!
Nick Sauers



  1. Rob says:

    Alan Novem­ber has great ideas, but I started think­ing heav­ily about the first point: kids becom­ing tuto­r­ial design­ers. I think that is a won­der­ful idea, and I am going to work that into my lessons this year.

    There are many pos­si­bil­i­ties with tech­nol­ogy in the class­room, and becom­ing more active with the learn­ing com­mu­nity by pub­li­ciz­ing prob­lem solv­ing gets the stu­dents to become (intended or not) more self-aware of their dig­i­tal footprint!


  2. Nick Sauers says:

    Thanks Rob! Some edu­ca­tors have cre­ated their own chan­nels on YouTube or other places in order to cap­ture the solu­tions to com­mon tech­nol­ogy prob­lems. They have shared that stu­dents are typ­i­cally very will­ing to con­tribute to those resources.

    Nick Sauers

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