Thomas & Seely-Brown. (2011). A New Culture of Learning


Thomas, D. & Seely-Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Self-published.p. 17: “Ironically, the relentless pace of change that is responsible for our disequilibrium is also our greatest hope. A growing digital, networked infrastructure is amplifying our ability to access and use nearly unlimited resources and incredible instruments while connecting with one another at the same time. However, the type of learning that is going on as a result looks so different from the kinds of learning described by most educational theorists that it is essentially invisible.” (tie to Connectivism as network-age learning theory?) (Toefler’s Future Shock)

Interesting personal anecdotes. Most claims uncited, so unclear if valid. But, descriptions will be useful to frame play/agency/community/collectives.

Quasi-religious overtones to “offerings” and collectives – not sure if there is some fetishism for new media and Internet tech…

p. 17: “Ironically, the relentless pace of change that is responsible for our disequilibrium is also our greatest hope. A growing digital, networked infrastructure is amplifying our ability to access and use nearly unlimited resources and incredible instruments while connecting with one another at the same time. However, the type of learning that is going on as a result looks so different from the kinds of learning described by most educational theorists that it is essentially invisible.” (tie to Connectivism as network-age learning theory?) (Toefler’s Future Shock)

p. 19: “The new culture of learning actually comprises two elements. The first is a massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is a bounded and structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries.”

p. 20: “…the very things that are speeding up the rate of change in the world are also giving us those new tools.”

p. 31: “They shared their interests, developed their passions, and engaged in a play of imagination. They learned to participate and experiment. In that sense, something larger was always being address, built, created, and cultivated. Each of these stories is about a bridge between two worlds – one that is largely public and information-based (a software program, a university, a search engine, a game, a website) and another that is intensely personal and structured (colleagues, a classroom, a business, family, the daily challenges of living with a chronic disease).”

p. 31: “The bridge between them – and what makes the concept of the new culture of learning so potent – is how the imagination was cultivated to harness the power of almost unlimited informational resources and create something personally meaningful.”

p. 31: “…the connection between resources and personal motivation led people to cultivate their imaginations and recreate space in a new way.”

p. 32: “In the new culture we describe, learning thus becomes a lifelong interest that is renewed and redefined on a continual basis. Furthermore, everything – and everyone – around us can be seen as resources for learning.”

p. 34: “…a mechanistic approach: Learning is treated as a series of steps to be mastered, as if students were being taught how to operate a machine or even, in some cases, as if the students themselves were machines being programmed to accomplish tasks. The ultimate endpoint of a mechanistic perspective is efficiency: The goal is to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can. In this teaching-based approach, standardization is a reasonable way to do this, and testing is a reasonable way to measure the result.”

p. 35: learning as an environment. “…learning should be viewed in terms of an environment – combined with the rich resources provided by the digital information network – where the context in which learning happens, the boundaries that define it, and the students, teachers, and information within it all coexist and shape each other in a mutually reinforcing way. Here, boundaries serve not only as constraints but also, oftentimes, as catalysts for innovation. Encountering boundaries spurs the imagination to become more active in figuring out novel solutions within the constraints of the situation or context.”

p. 36: “Individuals can choose to join cultures, but no individual can create one.”

p. 36: “When individuals become part of a new culture, they are generally the ones who are transformed.”

p. 37: culture as a petri-dish organic growth. “…the entire point of the experiment is to allow the culture to reproduce in an uninhibited, completely organic way, within the constraints of medium and environment – and then see what happens. Unlike the traditional sense of culture, which strives for stability and adapts to changes in its environment only when forced, this emerging culture responds to its surroundings organically. It does not adapt. Rather, it thrives on change, integrating it into its process as one of its environmental variables and creating further change.” “In other words, it forms a symbiotic relationship with the environment.”

Teaching-based: culture is the environment

Learning-environment-based: culture emerges from the environment, and grows along with it.

p. 38: “…the teaching-based approach focuses on teaching us about the world, while the new culture of learning focuses on learning through engagement within the world.”

p. 38: “…in the teaching-based approach, students must prove that they have received the information transferred to them – that they quite literally “get it.” …in the new culture of learning the point is to embrace what we don’t know, come up with better questions about it, and continue asking those questions in order to learn more and more, bot incrementally and exponentially.”

p. 40: “…the major pitfall of the twenty-first century teaching model – namely, the belief that most of what we know will remain relatively unchanged for a long enough period of time to be worth the effort of transferring it. Certainly, there are some ideas, facts, and concepts for which this holds true. But our contention is that the pool of unchanging resources is shrinking, and that the pond is providing us with fewer and fewer things that we can even identify as fish anymore.”

p. 42: “The things that are commonplace in 2010 were unthinkable just ten years ago.”

p. 42: “The Internet, in particular, has changed the way we think about both technology and information. Technology is no longer just a fast way of transporting information from one place to another, as the information it moves is no longer static. Instead, information technology has become a participatory medium, giving rise to an environment that is constantly being changed and reshaped by the participation itself.”

p. 42: “Just reading the story literally changes the shape of the news of the day. As more people show more interest in it, the story is moved higher up on the page and is displayed more prominently. As even more people then become exposed to it, it gains yet greater prominence and the significance of its impact continues to grow.”

p. 42: “When change comes slowly, adaptation is easy. Many of the daily routines and practices during the past century involved managing change on a gradual basis. For instance, when a new technology came along in the workplace once every ten or 20 years, business could offer classes, retrain employees, hold seminars, or schedule retreats to bring everyone up to speed. In short, they could create structured, centralized learning tools to help people adapt. With shorter time frames, this has become more difficult: Retraining every year, for example, is burdonsome (and is apt to create an alienated workforce). What happens, then, when you are dealing with change on a weekly, daily, or even hourly basis?”

p. 43: “Change motivates and challenges. It makes clear when things are obsolete or have outlived their usefulness. But most of all, change forces us to learn differently. If the twentieth century was about creating a sense of stability to buttress against change an then trying to adapt to it, then the twenty-first century is about embracing change, not fighting it. ”

p. 48: “Traditional approaches… have yet to find a balance between the structure that educational institutions provide and the freedom afforded by the new media’s almost unlimited resources, without losing a sense of purpose and direction.”

p. 49: “The challenge is to find a way to marry structure and freedom to create something altogether new.”

p. 50: “The new culture of learning is based on three principles: (1) The old ways of learning are unable to keep up with our rapidly changing world. (2) New media forms are making peer-to-peer learning easier and more natural. (3) Peer-to-peer learning is amplified by emerging technologies that shape the collective nature of participation with those new media.”

p. 50: “In the new culture of learning, people learn through their interaction and participation with one another in fluid relationships that are the result of shared interests and opportunity. In this environment, the participants all stand on equal ground – no one is assigned to the traditional role of teacher or student.”

p. 51: “Learning from others is neither new nor revolutionary; it has just been ignored by most of our educational institutions.”

p. 51: “With just a computer and access to the Internet, one can view or consume an almost unimaginably diverse array of information and points of view. But equally important is the ability to add one’s own knowledge to the general mix. That contribution may be large, such as a new website, or it may be a series of smaller offerings such as comments on a blog or a forum post.” (DN: Interesting use of “offerings” – religious overtones?)

p. 52: “A collective is very different from an ordinary community. Where communities can be passive (though not all of them are by any means), collectives cannot. In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn. Communities derive their strength from creating a sense of belonging, while collectives derive theirs from participation.”

p. 56: “The personal is the basis for an individual’s notions of who she is (identity) and what she can do (agency). It is not necessarily private, though it may be, and it does not exist in a vacuum. We shape and define the boundaries of our agency and identity within the collective.”

p. 56: “Collectives are made up of people who generally share values and beliefs about the world and their place in it, who value participation over belonging, and who engage in a set of shared practices. Thus, collectives are plural and multiple. They can both form and disappear regularly around different ideas, events, or moments. Collectives, unlike the larger notion of the public, are both contextual and situated, particularly with regard to engaging in specific actions.”

p. 57: “Sharing something personal with a collective, therefore, is very different from taking something private and putting it into the public domain. Collectives are not simply new forms of public spaces. They are built and structured around participation and therefore carry a different sense of investment for those who engage in them.”

p. 64: “Blogs, by their very nature, are tentative works in progress. They have the character of playfulness, which is core to the new culture of learning. They can be experimental in nature, used to test and refine ideas. But at their base, they serve as a means to kick-start a collective around conversations about ideas that spring from the personal.”

p. 66: “Jazz merely demands a different way of playing and listening, just as blogging requires a different mode of writing and reading. Jazz and blogging are intimate, improvisational, and individual – but also inherently collective. And the audience talks over both.”

p. 67: “Because learning with digital media occupies a space that is both personal and collective, people can share experience as well as knowledge. Here, people are not just learning from one another, they are learning with one another. University study groups provide a classic example.”

p. 77: “Explicit knowledge… lends itself well to the process of teaching – that is,, transferring knowledge from one person to another. You teach and I learn. But tacit knowledge, which grows through personal experience and experimentation, is not transferrable – you can’t teach it to me, though I can still learn it.”

p. 79: “Different people, when presented with exactly the same information in exactly the same way, will learn different things. Most models of education and learning have almost no tolerance for this kind of thing.”

p. 79: “Students learn best when they are able to follow their passion and operate within the constraints of a bounded environment. Both of these elements matter. Without the boundary set by the assignment of playing the prelude, there would be no medium for growth. But without the passion, there would be nothing to grow in the medium.”

p. 81: “If you give them a resource like the Internet and ask them to follow their passion, they will probably meander around finding bits and pieces of information that move them from topic to topic – and produce a very haphazard result. Instead, the new culture of learning is about the kind of tension that develops when students with an interest or passion that they want to explore are faced with a set of constraints that allow them to act only within given boundaries.”p. 81: “If you give them a resource like the Internet and ask them to follow their passion, they will probably meander around finding bits and pieces of information that move them from topic to topic – and produce a very haphazard result. Instead, the new culture of learning is about the kind of tension that develops when students with an interest or passion that they want to explore are faced with a set of constraints that allow them to act only within given boundaries.”p. 81: “If you give them a resource like the Internet and ask them to follow their passion, they will probably meander around finding bits and pieces of information that move them from topic to topic – and produce a very haphazard result. Instead, the new culture of learning is about the kind of tension that develops when students with an interest or passion that they want to explore are faced with a set of constraints that allow them to act only within given boundaries.”p. 81: “If you give them a resource like the Internet and ask them to follow their passion, they will probably meander around finding bits and pieces of information that move them from topic to topic – and produce a very haphazard result. Instead, the new culture of learning is about the kind of tension that develops when students with an interest or passion that they want to explore are faced with a set of constraints that allow them to act only within given boundaries.”p. 81: “If you give them a resource like the Internet and ask them to follow their passion, they will probably meander around finding bits and pieces of information that move them from topic to topic – and produce a very haphazard result. Instead, the new culture of learning is about the kind of tension that develops when students with an interest or passion that they want to explore are faced with a set of constraints that allow them to act only within given boundaries.”p. 81: “If you give them a resource like the Internet and ask them to follow their passion, they will probably meander around finding bits and pieces of information that move them from topic to topic – and produc

p. 94: “When we build, we do more than create content. Thanks to new technologies, we also create context by building within a particular environment, often providing links or creating connections and juxtapositions to give meaning to the content. Learning now, therefore, goes far beyond the simple transfer of information and becomes inextricably bound with the context that is being created. When one chooses to post, where one links to, or where one is linked from does not just serve as a locus for finding content. It becomes part of the content itself. ” (DN: MCLUHAN LIVES!)

p. 97: “But thinking about play as a disposition, rather than as merely engaging with a game, reveals something more fundamental at work. Much of what makes play powerful as a tool for learning is our ability to engage in experimentation. All systems of play are, at base, learning systems. They are ways of engaging in complicated negotiations of meaning, interaction, and competition, not only for entertainment, but also for creating meaning. Most critically, play reveals a structure of learning that is radically different from the one that most schools or other formal learning environments provide, and which is well suited to the notions of a world in constant flux.”

p. 100: Mizujo Ito. “Ito and her team constructed a typology of practices to describe the way young people participate with new media: hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. We believe that these three practices could frame a progression of learning that is endemic to digital networks.”

see:

Ito, M, et al. (2009). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge, MA. MIT Press.

Hanging out: what is my relationship to others? developing a social identity.

Messing around: what am I able to explore? acquiring a sense of social agency.

Geeking out: how can I use available social/tech resources to explore more deeply?Geeking out: how can I use available social/tech resources to explore more deeply?Geeking out: