Chapter 1: Arc-of-Life Learning
“Play, questioning, and--perhaps most important--imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning.”
Thomas and Brown (2011) provide examples of how people, of various ages and settings, willing choose to engage in learning that involves “play, questioning, and...imagination.” As I continue to read the book, I expect to learn how to bring these types of learning experiences into my classroom and school.
“The new culture of learning gives us the freedom to make the general personal and then share our personal experience in a way that, in turn, adds to the general flow of knowledge.”
What about the voices of students who are institutionally blocked from adding “ the general flow of knowledge”?
“The connection between resources and personal motivation led people to cultivate their imaginations and recreate the space in a new way.”
20time projects are a simple way teachers can motivate students to use their imaginations. In order to solve what Kevin Brookhouser calls “wicked problems,” students will need to utilize resources and their imaginations. Additionally, by selecting their own 20time project ideas, students will be motivated because they can explore a topic of personal interest.
“In the new culture we describe, learning thus becomes a lifelong interest that is renewed and redefined on a continual basis.”
When I first began teaching, posters covered the walls of of many classrooms describing schoolwide goals of creating “lifelong learners.” However, the learning taking place inside of these classroom walls--lectures, movies, textbook questions, worksheets, and standardized assessments--was actually creating resistant learners and simply preparing them for the next phase of learning down the conveyor belt of public education. The idea of lifelong learning is nothing new. But, now technology provides increased access to learning.
Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Cultures
“The primary difference between the teaching-based approach to education and the learning-based approach is that in the first case the culture is the environment, while in the second case, the culture emerges from the environment--and grows along with it.”
Thomas and Brown use the two definitions of culture to frame their explanation of the way education is changing. They contrast the social science definition with the natural science definition. This figurative comparison helps me to link the growth of a culture in a petri dish to the learning of a student in a classroom.
“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.”
What about teachers who have not yet utilized “the digital information network” as a learner?
“The second difference is that 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.”
This aligns with the skills that are taught through project-based learning units. This focus on skills rather than content also aligns with Common Core State Standards,National Council of Teachers of English’s 21st Century Literacies, and National Educational Technology Standards. By teaching students skills instead of just content, we are preparing them to actively participate in the world.
“If we change the vocabulary and consider schools as learning environments, however, it makes no sense to talk about them being broken because environments don’t break.”
Honestly, over the past few months, I have engaged in many conversations about my school being “broken.” But, following Thomas and Browns’ perspective, I can see that my school may just be going through a bit of a drought.
Chapter 3: Embracing Change
“If the twentieth century was about creating a sense of stability to buttress against change and then trying to adapt to it, then the twenty-first century is about embracing change, not fighting it. Embracing change means looking forward to what will come next. It means viewing the future as a set of new possibilities, rather than something that forces us to adjust.”
Thomas and Brown begin to prepare the reader for their arguments explaining how education by putting it in a broader context. It’s not just education that is changing--the whole world is changing.
“Yet while people in other adult learning cultures, such as amateur hobbyists, are innovating like crazy, workplaces have become relatively moribund.”
How can teachers be given opportunities to observe and understand innovative workplaces?
“What happens, then, when you are dealing with change on a weekly, daily, or even hourly basis?”
This reminds me of the popular explanation of the old industrial model of education in which teachers and schools did not adjust to their students--much less changes to content and tools. At this time, it was possible to simply reuse the same classroom behavior expectations, routines, and curriculum year after year. The social culture and environment did not change. Currently, educators are challenged to respond to constant changes.
“And therein lies the major pitfall of the twenty-first century’s 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.”
Textbooks are filled with knowledge believed to be “worth the effort of transferring.” I have heard many discussions around textbooks becoming outdated, but this statement deepens the conversation by explaining knowledge is changing instead of just updating.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky.: [CreateSpace?].