Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Culture of Learning

I wanted to share an excerpt from Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown's, A New Culture of Learning. I read through this section of the text several times before setting my iPad down to think about ways to foster schools that honor recommendations offered by Thomas and Brown.

When we think about what a new educational environment might look like in the twenty-first century, we can imagine a number of things. Imagine an environment that is constantly changing. Imagine an environment where the participants are building, creating, and participating in a massive network of dozens of databases, hundreds of wikis and websites, and thousands of message forums, literally creating a large-scale knowledge economy. Imagine an environment where participants are constantly measuring and evaluating their own performances, even if that requires them to build new tools to do it. Imagine an environment where evaluation is based on after-action reviews not to determine rewards but to continually enhance performance.- New Culture of Learning

What particularly resonated was the concept of constant change. Academic institutions are shaped by the unique perspectives of students, teachers, members of the community and through connections made with individuals scattered throughout the world. Each year the dynamic shifts as new connections are made, class make-ups are altered and opinions evolve. Participants are driven by inquiry and possibility and learning is the result of open conversations between committed stakeholders.

Commentary about the meaning of evaluation triggered critical reflection as well. Unfortunately, our assessment system is built on reward in the form of a grade (for students) or measurement (for teachers). What is lost is the concept of nurturing growth. How many of us are finished products? Skills can always be developed, knowledge deepened and talents honed. Evaluations should not be used to determine a final statement, but instead foster reflection and stimulate further inquiry and action.

We can all imagine a different environment. I guess the real question is how do we get there?