Friday, March 4, 2016

A New Culture of Learning

If you know me by now, you know how much I love a 1:1 technology environment! There is just something very different that happens when you put technology at the finger tips of the ones you teach (yes, there are several concerns to address of which I am aware, but just roll with me here!).
Often we hyper focus on maintaining the stability of the infrastructure of education rather than responding to the change that is taking place in how our students learn today. After reading the book called "A New Culture of Learning" by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, I feel confident in the direction I have been going with my classroom, and can see clearly that it is imperative that we move toward a focus of creating significant learning environments (SLEs). 
Students are intuitive and creative. According to the book, this new culture of learning is made of two things: "The first is a massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is bounded and structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries." Along with this, "learning thus becomes a lifelong interest that is renewed and redefined on a continual basis. Furthermore, everything-and everyone-around us can be seen as resources for learning." An SLE is not necessarily focused on actual environment of the classroom, however that can play a role. It is the culture within and the context of learning, rather than the content, that shapes the learning environment.
In my 7th grade science classes we are exploring how our DNA communicates patterns information to shape our identity. In our exploration of genetics and traits, I felt inspired by a friend to incubate chicken eggs! Having the ability to ask my students a few questions like, "What do eggs need as they incubate? What do the chicks need as soon as they hatch? What happens if the chick eggs don't hatch? Where do they get their traits?" has given us a launch pad of exploration and learning. Soon, word began to spread about these chicks. Two of them hatched a day early. We have 2 live web cams set up on the babies and the eggs we are waiting on to hatch. The questions my 7th and 9th graders are asking are filled with inquiry! It leads us to search the internet for answers that automatically open the doors to more questions. Our live cams have allowed for the entire school, K-12, to join in on the learning. The ability to live chat in YouTube has given me the chance to also teach our younger grades. Field trips to my room and others from across the country and world are joining in to view the excitement. THAT is learning! 

Our response, and challenge, towards technology should be that it creates a culture of learning that is authentic and contagious. As the book says, "the new culture of learning focuses on learning through engagement within our world," rather that being taught about the world. Learning is participatory and technology in our 1:1 environment allows for us as educators and students to be reshaped by the participation, if we let it. 
Moving forward, it takes finding a true vision and goal of what this looks like. It will take building a collective of people that want to learn. It is not about learning from one another, but with one another. It is supporting each other and getting excited for each other's successes that changes the culture of the learning. It is that collective network that we build with others that challenges the culture to change. It will take us purposely building learning environments that foster and facilitate deeper learning with the tools we have. It will take coaching and mentoring to happen and for authentic feedback to yield the highest achievements.
I think this movement is possible. It is not easy to make a shift in education, but with a collective of willing people and open minds, passion and imagination within the given perimeters of our subjects and context will shift us to the next level or learning.
"Embracing change means looking forward to what will come next. It means viewing the future as a set of new possibilities, rather than something that forces us to adjust. It means making the most of living in a world of motion."
-A New Culture of Learning, Thomas and Brown

Harapnuik, Dwayne. "Creating Significant Learning Environments (CLSE)."YouTube. YouTube, 8 May 2015. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.
Thomas, Douglas, and John Seely. Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace?, 2011. Print.

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