Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where imaginations play, learning happens - A Great Interview

I've always been intrigued by the concept of learning. It's one of the reason I like blogging so much and social media in general. It's a great way to learn!
Every now and then I bump into a great post or interview about this topic. Just recently I read a great interview with John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas about their new book 'A New Culture of Learning' (part 1 and part 2). I was planning to read the book. After reading this interview I'm going to push it up on my to-read list. Thanks Henry Jenkins for sharing this interview with us.
I'll share some interesting statements from the interview with you here:
  • One of the key arguments we are making is that the role of educators needs to shift away from being expert in a particular area of knowledge, to becoming expert in the ability to create and shape new learning environments.
  • Our argument brings to the fore the old aphorism "imagination is more important than knowledge." In a networked world, information is always available and getting easier and easier to access. Imagination, what you actually do with that information, is the new challenge.
  • The force that seems to be pushing the knowledge curve forward at an exponential rate is two fold. First, it is the generation of new content and knowledge that is the result of simply participating in any knowledge economy. This leads to a second related dimension: while content may remain stable at some abstract level, the context in which it has meaning (and therefore its meaning) is open to near constant change.
  • Learning is not a binary construction which pits how against what. In fact, throughout the book, we stress that knowledge, now more than ever, is becoming a where rather than a what or how.
  • In our framework, we stress that every piece of knowledge has both an explicit and a tacit dimension. The explicit is only one kind of content, which tells you what something means. The tacit has its own layer of meaning. It tells why something is important to you, how it relates to your life and social practices. It is the dimension where the context and content interact. Our teaching institutions have paid almost no attention to the tacit and we believe that it is the tacit dimension that allows us to navigate meaning in a changing world.
  • The key difference for us is that in the new culture of learning mentors are very likely to be peers who may have picked up something a little ahead of the curve or who may have more experience in something than their peers. Mentorship is a much more flexible concept and one which is tied less tightly to authority. Since so much of what we see as the key to future learning is passion-based, we think it makes more sense to understand the process of learning as something that can be guided by a mentor, as opposed to being taught by a teacher. No one can teach you to follow your passions, but they can help guide you once you discover what motivates you.
  • What we were able to identify were two radically different learning environments, one which was overly structured (such as the contemporary classroom) where boundaries are put in place to actually discourage play, experimentation and real inquiry based learning. The other environment is completely unbounded and unlimited, best represented by the information explosion on the Internet. Absent some sort of structure or boundaries, learning is not any more likely to happen in an unrestricted space than it is in a tightly controlled one.
  • Where imaginations play, learning happens.
  • What no one seems to pick up on is that innovation by its very nature runs counter to the idea of standardization.
  • Another key distinction we are trying to make is to understand the difference between creativity and imagination, two terms that are often used interchangeably. Creativity is a much later stage and something that can not be taught. It is the product of a fertile imagination.
  • Inquiry as a core principle of the new culture of learning
  • In large part, the role of the teacher needs to shift from transferring information to shaping, constructing, and overseeing learning environments.
  • You don't teach imagination; you create an environment in which it can take root, grow and flourish.
  • This new culture of learning only works if it can be fed by an enormous influx of constantly updated information.
  • We talk repeatedly about the questions being more important than the answers and the idea that solutions to one problem are gateways to dealing with increasingly more sophisticated problems and deeper questions.
  • First, play is not trivial, frivolous or non-serious, in fact, quite the opposite. Play can be the place where we do our most serious learning. And second, it is something we do all the time. When we explore, we play. When we experiment, we play. When we tinker or fiddle, we play. Science is play. Art is play. Life, to a great extent, is play.
Good stuff eh?! There's much more in the interviews. And surely even more in the book.
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