Thursday, June 16, 2011

A New Culture of Learning

You can read this book in a couple of hours, but to really integrate A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, you need to sit with the ideas in it for days and weeks and connect them to your teaching and leadership contexts. If the authors are correct, and I think they are, this is nothing short of a revolution in how we understand learning environments.

"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. The reason we have failed to embrace these notions is that neither one alone makes for effective learning. It is the combination of the two, and the interplay between them, that makes the new culture of learning so powerful" (19).

I'm especially intrigued by the authors' focus on Massively Multiplayer Online Games as learning environments, and the heuristic device (describing how youth and learners, actually anyone who "plays" engages their environment) in this fashion. Play is probably the most overlooked aspect in understanding how learning functions in culture, so it's worth analyzing in relationship to learning. They offer these three stages:

1. Hanging out- the first step in indwelling, asking, "What is my relationship to others?"

2. Messing around- tinkering, exploring, showing interest. "What am I able to explore?"

3. Geeking out- intense autonomous interest-driven engagement. "How can I utilize the available resources, both social and technological, for deep exploration?"

[Pause right now and imagine how these three function in your church, home, or workplace]

This is because, "in a world of near-constant flux, play becomes a strategy for embracing change, rather than a way for growing out of it" (48).

There are many other gems in the book, including analysis of collective learning. "The collective is, in the most basic sense, a group constantly playing with and reimagining its own identity" (58), which is, in my opinion, not a half-bad ecclesiological definition of the church!

"The new culture of learning nurtures collective indwelling. Until now, we have lacked the ability, resources, and connections to make this kind of learning scalable and powerful. With access to the nearly endless supply of collectives today, however, learning that is driven by passion and play is poised to significantly alter and extend our ability to think, innovate, and discover in ways that have not previously been possible. Most of all, it may allow us to ask questions that have never before been imaginable" (89).

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