What is learning? What does it mean to understand and what does it mean to be an educated person? You can give a definition, but your answer will be incomplete without going beyond a simple definition to include a specific a model of learning. Adding to a new model seems to be what Brown and Thomas are doing in A New Culture of Learning as presented by John Hagel’s blog post. (I’m still waiting for a copy of the book; possibly more to follow?) John says:
We all have the uncomfortable feeling that the education we received is serving us less and less well. The reassuring notion that the concentrated dose of education in our younger years would serve us well for the rest of lives appears increasingly suspect. . . . What if there was a different model? . . . (A) fundamentally different approaches to acquiring knowledge.
The meaning of the differentiation this book proposes came to me when reading a critique of social media learning by ryan2point0. If you think about technological changes in education when you are guided by old models, they will look much different then when they are seen through the prism of Brown and Thomas’ model. We need a new model of learning that embraces tension, imagination and play. John Hagel add these 4 claims that he draws from the book:
1. Tacit knowledge is becoming more important when compared to explicit knowledge.
(T)acit knowledge cannot be taught – it can only be learned, but only if the environment is designed to do that. In a stable world, focusing on explicit knowledge perhaps made more sense, but in a more rapidly changing world, tacit knowledge becomes increasingly central to our ability to thrive.
2. Questions are more important than answers. (Hagel, quoting from the book)
(L)earning is transformed from a discrete, limited process – ask a question, find an answer – to a continuous one. Every answer serves as a starting point, not an end point. It invites us to ask more and better questions.
3. Learning is a social process
Collectives provide the context for learning and the learning process involves a complex interplay between the personal and the collective.
4. Brown and Thomas’ new model of learning is derived from imagination and play.
Imagination is about seeing possibilities and generating the questions that frame the learning process. Play is about the engagement and experimentation that drives the learning process. Both of these become even more powerful when they move beyond the individual and drive collectives that can learn from each other.
This book seems to be devising a way that educators can think about learning processes when guided by the book The Power of Pull. It’s a much different from traditional educational processes and the organization of most educational institutions. I think there has always been a pedagogical distinction between passing on received stable knowledge and the generation of new knowledge where we don’t necessarily know the right answer. But most education is about learning what the teacher already knows. In traditional education, it is only after you have reached the pinnacle of learning that you deemed ready to venture out to find new stuff. What we are seeing more and more is that this is a false distinction. There may be some knowledge that we want to pass on in a stable form, but there is also room at all levels of education to explore new knowledge. This is not just a constructionist pedagogical trick. There really is room for new understandings at all levels. Discovery learning is really about finding new knowledge, not about finding knowledge and then testing the student to see if he really found the correct knowledge. The world of knowledge is very big indeed!
This looks like a good book. I’m sure there will be more thoughts to follow.