Monday, July 18, 2011

Two Professional Texts That Influence My Thinking

I want to recommend two texts that currently are influencing my thinking and hope you might leave a few recommendations.

1.  Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown's (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.

Here are a few quotes from the text:

The new culture of learning actually comprises two elements. The first is a massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is a bounded and structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries. The reason we have failed to embrace these notions is that neither one alone makes for effective learning. It is the combination of the two, and the interplay between them, that makes the new culture of learning so powerful (Kindle Locations 78-81).
The ultimate endpoint of a mechanistic perspective is efficiency: The goal is to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can. In this teaching-based approach, standardization is a reasonable way to do this, and testing is a reasonable way to measure the result...We believe, however, that learning should be viewed in terms of an environment—combined with the rich resources provided by the digital information network—where the context in which learning happens, the boundaries that define it, and the students, teachers, and information within it all coexist and shape each other in a mutually reinforcing way (Kindle Locations 331-338).
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 derive theirs from participation (Kindle Locations 622-623).
Students learn best when they are able to follow their passion and operate within the constraints of a bounded environment (Kindle Location 1055-1056).
 2. James Paul Gee & Elizabeth Hayes's (2011). Language and Learning in the Digital Age.

(The entire section about School Content is important: Here are some highlights:)
academic disciplines produce content with methods, tools, practices, and controversies that are essential to its production and necessary for evaluating that knowledge (as “content”). But schools present the content without the methods, practices, and controversies (p. 66).

cutting edge academics today often work collaboratively on themes or challenges that transcend a single discipline (p. 66).

a considerable amount of important knowledge today is produced outside of academic institutions, sometimes well outside them...Today students can engage in knowledge production outside of school, but often only engage in fact and information consumption in school (p. 67).

“content” (meaning information and facts) is today “cheap,” that is, easy to get. It can be found all over the Internet. Understanding the methods for producing such content and reasons for trusting it (or not) is, however, not cheap or easy. School is still often about the former and not the latter (p. 67).

a tremendous amount of school “content”—“what every educated person should know”—is, in fact, not true or it is so oversimplified as to be misleading (p. 67).

School abstracts the content from the problems and we get students who can pass tests, but not solve problems (p. 67).
Much of the “content” any educated person will need to know in the future, out of school, has not yet been discovered. People need to be more adept at learning new things than storing old, oversimplified, sometimes false “facts.” Increasingly school needs to prepare students for future learning (Bransford & Schwartz 1999) (p. 67).


  1. Will get both of these for our professional collection.

  2. Any others you would recommend? Lining up my books for holiday.