A New Culture of Learning

This week I read the book A New Culture of Learning.  I found this book extremely interesting, and it had me challenging some of my own thinking.  In this book, the authors looked at how our schools are currently set up, and how they feel like they should be changed.  Douglas Thomas, one of the authors, mentioned in a Ted talk that we currently are preparing students for the 19th century.  In most schools, teachers see themselves as the expert and the students are there to learn from them.  In reality, students can find almost all of the information you plan to share with them on the internet.  Instead, we need to look at ourselves as a coach or a mentor. To really change our classroom environments we should embrace three components: Passion, Imagination, and Constraint.

Passion drives people.  If you are truly passionate about something, you will not stop until you have learned everything about the subject.  I thought about my seven-year-old son a lot during this section of the book.  He is obsessed with Minecraft.  He started playing the video game about a year ago.  I remember the first time I watched him and tried to play along.  I had no idea what I was doing and did not understand the point at all.  Since then, he has found friends that play and they enjoy playing together.  He also watches others play the game on youtube.  It is truly fascinating to see how much he has learned and what he can build in this game.  I could not be his source since I had no idea how to play.  He used technology, youtube, and friends to learn the game.  If we can connect our student’s passion to learning, they will be unstoppable.

Imagination and constraint go hand in hand.  Kids, especially my students, can come up with some of the most creative ideas.  Just sit and watch kids play with a bag of Legos.  They can come up with some of the most amazing things, and all they used was their imagination.  In our classrooms, we need to provide them the opportunity to be creative and use their imagination, but it needs to have some constraint.  What if you give them a challenge?  I loved when Mr. Thomas mentioned in his Ted talk that you can give an architect a large flat land and tell them to build something, and they will fuss over it for a while, but give them a challenge such as to build something on a mountain or over a river and you will be astonished by what they come up with.  I see this in my classroom too, when students are given challenges.  I love to see how students solve a math problem.  In first-grade, we are working on beginning word problems, but if I allow students to solve how they see fit, it is incredible.  I love to have different students share and we can see all the different thinking that happens in our classroom.

Another piece of this book is looking beyond standardized testing and looking more closely at each student and their differences as well as each teacher and their differences.  This aligns directly with the innovation plan I am working on for my campus.  A new culture of learning and blended learning align quite a bit.  A teacher that is embracing blended learning sees themselves more of a coach than the expert.  After reading this book, I want to focus one of the stations in my station rotation model to be a problem-based station.  Students will work with peers to solve a challenge.  With implementing this station my students will be working on imagination and constraint.  This could be a challenge because I have some teachers working slowly on implementing blended learning.  I don’t want to add to their already full plate with another piece.  I hope to work this in as teachers become more comfortable with blended learning.


Thomas, Douglas,Brown, John Seely. (2011) A new culture of learning :cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change [Lexington, Ky. : CreateSpace?],

Ted Talk:

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