who are growing up in the digital age.
We hope our contribution will illuminate the strange and wondrous learning styles
of the next generation.
- Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown
Part 2 of my interview with John Seely Brown
In Part One, Shaping Serendipity for Learning, we talked to John Seely Brown (JSB) about explicit vs. tacit learning and knowledge from his book,
A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.
Here's another excerpt for a refresh:
Explicit knowledge, as we have seen, lends itself well to the process of teaching - that is, transferring knowledge from one person to another. You teach and I learn. But tacit knowledge, which grows through personal experience and experimentation, is not transferable - you can't teach it to me, though I can still learn it. The reason for the difference is that learning tacit knowledge happens not only in the brain but also in the body, through all our senses. It is an experiential process as well as a cognitive one.The second pre-requisite for The New Culture of Learning for a world of constant change is "learning in the collective":
It is not about being taught knowledge; it is about absorbing it. (p 77)
A collective is very different from an ordinary community. Where communities can be passive (though not all of them are by any means), collectives cannot. In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn. Communities derive their strength from creating a sense of belonging, while collectives drive theirs from participation. (p 52)
In fact, JSB points to a "line of research begun by Harvard University professor Richard J. Light which demonstrated that study groups dramatically increase the success of college students in the classroom. Further studies have shown that virtual study groups also work . . . "
So now, let's apply learning with the collective as it applies to college residential experience and
Schools as institutions can no longer be citadels of learning (bold emphasis added by editor):College campuses illustrate the phenomenon clearly. ...
But in universities today, as in other educational institutions, learning is happening outside as well as inside the classroom - in late-night discussions among students, in study groups, during campus events, and in student organizations.
When that tacit dimension is taken into consideration, the value of a university education grows to include the learning that happens when students are immersed in an environment that values learning itself. . . (p78)
Cultivating the entrepreneurial learner (and not "how to create an entrepreneur which JSB distinguishes in video #1 below) has to do with learning through collectives:Throughout life, people engage in the process of continuous learning about things in which they have a personal investment. Learning that occurs outside of schools or the workplace - though hobbies, reading, the media, and so on - is almost always tied to their passions. Yet although they are constantly learning about the things that really interest them, those things are rarely acknowledged in educational environments.
. . . A growing digital, networked infrastructure is amplifying our ability to access and use nearly unlimited resources and incredible instruments while connecting with one another at the same time. However, the type of learning that is going on as a results looks so different from the kinds of learning described by most educational theorists that it is essentially invisible. (p 18)
A website dedicated to gardening, for example, makes no demands on its users; there are no tests or lectures. There is no public influencing of private minds. Yet learning happens all the time. And because there is no targeted goal or learning objective, the site can be used and shaped in ways that meet the needs of the collective - in this case, a group of people with a shared interest in gardening. Identity and agency within that space are both fluid, but they are defined by how the personal meshes with the collective. And that meshing, when it occurs, is likely to transform both the individual and the collective he or she is interacting with. (p 58)
Project-based learning (PBL) in schools needs to go beyond this scenario:Such a transformation embodies both play and imagination. (p 58)
If the quest to create lifelong learners is a goal:When considering the personal and the collective in the context of education, similar principles apply. Take, for instance, one of the most difficult and dreaded classroom activities: the group project. Students struggle to complete the exercise and teachers struggle to grade it. Why? Because our models of how a classroom works have no way of understanding, measuring, or evaluating collectives. Even worse, thy have no means of understanding how notions of the personal may engage students. As a result, group work is almost always evaluated by assigning individual grades to students based on their contribution..." (p 62)
Now surf the web and look at any social networking environment, video, or art site. They are all group projects. No one dreads them, and no one has any trouble evaluating them at all. . . . (p 62)
One need look no further than today's education Twitterverse and blogosphere to hear and see JSB's work, thinking and contribution - - - connected learning, inquiry-based learning, taking project-based learning to the next level, the importance of the arts and play in education - and the newest meme, serendipity. The beat goes on.The connection between the personal and collective is a key ingredient in
lifelong learning. Amateur astronomers looking to the sky for new discoveries,
Andrew Sullivan blogging, college students studying, and kids reading over their summer break all demonstrate how pervasive this dynamic is in our contemporary landscape for learning.
They also all point to the same thing: the fact that technology has now made connecting personal interests to collectives possible, easy, fun, and playful because people are inspired to think past the boundaries and limitations of their current situations. Kiva's funding of microloans, for example, does more than make new businesses in the developing world possible; it makes them imaginable. (p 72)
Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Learner in the 21st Century - Beyond Educational Technology
Diana Rhoten - moderator
(it is over an hour but one can start at the 15 minute mark to exclude introductions)