Week 4 – The New Ecology of Learning

5501637623_dd41e0b754The first two chapters (“Arc-of-Life Learning” and “A Tale of Two Cultures”) in Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change brings to life a very fascinating view of a new ecology of learning. Brown and Thomas describe arc-of-life learning as fundamentally simple as play, questioning, and imagination. “This new type of learning…takes place without books, without teachers, and without classrooms, and it requires environments that are bounded yet provide complete freedom of action within those boundaries” (Thomas 18). Thomas and Brown indicate that this new culture of learning is made up of a framework comprised of two elements (19):

  1. A massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything.
  2. A bounded and structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with tings within those boundaries.

The notion of play, questioning, and imagination got me excited. I really enjoyed reading about arc-of-life learning. The section, “Teaching in a Galazy Far, Far Away”, in which it described Douglas Thomas’ course he taught reminded me a lot of my class I took last semester, Design Studio. Throughout the course of the semester, we developed a sort of “show-and-tell” aspect. At the beginning of each class, or sometimes in email the day before or day of, someone in the class would share a new technology or something “techy cool” that we read about or discovered. The just happened one day when someone brought something up that they read about. And then it snowballed from there. By the end of the semester, it was expected that we spent the first 30-45 minutes of each class discussing new technologies that we either read about online or heard about somewhere. This became my favorite part of the class, and I know others as well enjoyed this part. In fact, it was such a great addition that the professor decided to incorporate it into future Design Studio courses.

Another section that caught my interest was “Click Here to Start Learning”. This section discussed a 41-year-old Tom who was diagnosed with diabetes. He discovered an online website, Diabetes Daily. Tom used the forums and the community on Diabetes Daily to learn more about his diagnosis and more-so how to live with the disease, an aspect in which the doctor’s office falls short in helping with. This reminded me a lot of the Reddit communities, which I also mentioned in the Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age article via Diigo. The article quotes Karen Stephenson in saying, “Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge.” This is exactly how Tom learned how to live with diabetes, from stories and experiences of “thousands of people who visit the site every day to share” (Thomas 29). This is the same for Reddit. I actively contribute to and read many subreddits on Reddit. A subreddit is simply a custom-made sub-forum, or a special area of interest. Subreddits are easily defined and found by adding /r/**** to the end of http://www.Reddit.com. One of my favorite subreddits is edtech, or http://www.Reddit.com/r/edtech. It is both informative and entertaining as there is a subreddit for just about everything. (The Education subreddit has over 35,000 subscribers).

To finish, I just wanted to include a table that I created from the two different approaches Brown and Thomas talks about in the end of  “A Tale of Two Cultures”. I liked it so much, I wanted to see the information clearer and remember it easier, so I included it in this blog post for easy reference.

teaching-based approach learning-based approach
1. culture is the environment 1. culture emerges from the environment
2. classroom 2. learning environment
3. focuses on teaching us about the world 3. focuses on learning through engagement within the world
4. students must prove they received the information, that they “get it” 4. students must embrace what they don’t know, come up with better questions, and continue asking those questions in order to learn more and more; the goal is to take the world and make it part of who they are, to re-create it

4 thoughts on “Week 4 – The New Ecology of Learning

  1. Thank you everybody for the comments on Reddit. I’m glad everyone enjoyed the connection and references I made to Reddit and I hope you find some valuable resources within the community to use! And if you’d like to look me up, my Reddit username is iFoundWaldo72.

    Aaron, to answer your question about “trolling”, I would say not so much on the edtech subreddit. I have experienced that on other subreddits, more-so on entertainment subreddits.


  2. Zach, great takeaways. I read your note on Reddit in the article and in your post, and I was wondering if you experience any type of “trolling”? I feel that the edtech subreddit might be a little more focused, and the common focus probably helps to keep wayward additions to a minimum, but have there been any instances of this? Great tie-in with Tom’s diabetic journey as well.


  3. I love the example you give about Design Studio and feel as though this allows students “our classroom” as opposed to a teacher feeling it’s “my classroom”. Giving up control was hard when starting out (as a teacher) but not long after I began to understand and apply the recommended strategies the results began to demonstrate success!

    Thank you for providing an example from the reading to introduce a new (to me) community! I’ll be taking a look at Reddit 🙂

    I also enjoy the chart you created. The readings were alot of new information and this quick reference you provide can assist to absorb and apply the main ideas.


  4. Zach,

    Thanks for the table at the end of your post—very helpful resource for a quick refresher on the cultures chapter from Brown and Thomas.

    Your discussion of Reddit is also a helpful example for the idea that networks can help the individual. Reddit represents an interesting study in how one virtual place can include such a diversity of content. There is lowbrow and highbrow and all degrees in between. There are memes and vigilantism—the Boston terrorist search—and your educational technology resource. For various governments and businesses, this potpourri quality makes the site difficult to categorize. The edtech subreddit will definitely be one I check out. Having a guide to Reddit makes navigating it more manageable for me.


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