I’ve been talking about change a lot lately and the need for innovation at our institution. The simple fact is that advances in technology have drastically changed the way we learn today. Thanks to mobile devices and digital media, we have access to a plethora of information, on every subject imaginable, in the palm of our hands. It’s no secret we live in a world of constant change and our learning environments should mimic that.
I just finished reading an interesting book, “A New Culture of Learning” by Douglas Thomas and John S. Brown, that somewhat focuses on constructivist theories – “learning by doing”. It suggests that we can shift to a “new” culture of learning by creating significant learning environments for our students. It is a learning-based approach as apposed to a teacher-based approach to education. In addition, it’s a holistic view of education in that there are many factors in the learning environment that must come together in the right combination in order to make a positive impact on the learner.
“the teaching-based approach focuses on teaching us about the world, while the new culture of learning focuses on learning throughout engagement within the world”
The new culture of learning is based on three principles:
- Old ways of learning are unable to keep up with our rapidly changing world
- New media forms are making peer-to peer learning easier and more natural
- Peer to peer learning is amplified by emerging technologies that shape the collective nature of participation with those new media
Some of the fundamental ideas I suggest faculty incorporate in order to build significant learning environments are:
Embrace change – Knowledge is ever-changing; there is a constant flux of information. Change should motivate us to change along with it, not adapt to it. Incorporate “play”: engage students’ passion and imagination within constraints.
“In a world of near-constant flux, play becomes a strategy for embracing change, rather than a way for growing out of it” — Thomas & Brown
Peer-to-peer learning – it’s important to realize that people learn through interaction and participation. A prime example in higher education is the use of discussion boards or blogs.
Build a collective – In a collective, participation is key. Participants learn from one another and share their own knowledge within the group. Again, this could be accomplished by incorporating ePortfolios or blogs, professional learning communities and social networking sites.
I think LU workshops would be a great way to introduce the new culture of learning and the idea of significant learning environments that are engaging and media rich. It will definitely be a challenge convincing faculty that changes are needed in their current course structures. After all, at times we are all resistant to change and doing things different than we’ve always done. However, it only takes that first step to make small changes here and there so that you can personally begin to see the huge positive impact significant learning environments can have.
If we aim to create significant learning environments it will help us move closer to my vision of cultivating life-long learners that will thrive in this ever-changing world. The ideas in the book reinforce my current beliefs that digital media and mobile learning can spark changes in our learning environments and teaching culture. It also emphasizes that we must mesh with our environment, constantly using our experiences to shape and reshape our current knowledge and the knowledge we have yet to discover.
We can never stop learning because things will never stop changing.
Brown J. S. & Thomas, D. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.