Creating a Significant Learning Environment

This week, we had the opportunity to read and reflect upon the book The New Culture of Learning by Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown.

One of my favorite parts of reading the book and viewing the videos this week was the hope I felt reading and watching these videos! The ideas expressed in The New Culture of Learning are so simple, yet they have the potential to make such a huge impact on education.

In the first video, Thomas states “For most of our lives, learning is natural and effortless- everywhere but school.” This quote, less than a minute in, immediately drew my attention. It is so true! I had the opportunity to spend three weeks babysitting my three-year-old niece this summer. While the exterior teacher may have been on Summer Break, the interior teacher was drawn out during this time. I spent a great deal of time watching how she was viewing the world on each of our excursions. The times when I saw her learn the most, or demonstrate the most passion, were almost always when she was “playing”. Whether it be determining how to turn on the Splash Pad at the community park, learning how to open the battery door of her favorite toy using her toolkit, or simply drawing her version of a picture that she saw on the T.V., she was completely consumed by her task and mostly unaware of my presence, except to occasionally ask for assistance. This made me realize how different I would like my role as a teacher to look in my own classroom this year.

One of the other parts of the TedTalk that really struck a chord with me was the discussion of constraints. Rules have always seemed so cumbersome and intimidating to me. However, this section really showed that constraints, when coupled with play and imagination, can actually be just the opposite! Rather than being a rigid guide, rules can be a motivating challenge. The important thing is to ask the correct type of question, couple it with a matching constraint, and allow students to use their imagination through play to demonstrate their own understandings.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my teaching experiences this summer. I would definitely say that in the past, I’ve been more reactive in creating my learning environment. While I may have started the year with great ideas that I garnered from a period of extensive reflection in the summer, the insights are quickly lost in the whirlwind that is September. (The teachers that Thomas spoke to in California clearly did a terrific job of explaining how challenging our roles can be, but how much passion we carry for our profession!) However, armed with my knowledge from the book and the resources this week, I truly feel like I’m going to be starting off my school year in a very proactive place. As I wrote my curriculum this summer, I really tried to look at the whole picture. I definitely think that the keys to developing the components of the new culture in the classroom are flexibility and stamina. We need to pace ourselves, but also allow students the opportunity to build trust in us that they will have as much freedom to learn in our classrooms as they do outside of school. As teachers, we are adjusting to the new culture of learning as much as our students.

Next week, I will begin the task of implementing an Innovation Plan in my own school district. How will my understanding of the new culture of learning impact this plan? To read the full description on how I plan to put these ideas to use in Room 36 this year, please see the document below. (Click here to open it in a new tab.)



ChangSchool. (2015, December 14). Dr. tony bates on building effective learning
                     environments. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/3xD_sLNGurA
Harapnuik, D. (2015, May 8).  Creating significant learning environments. Retrieved from
Tedx Talks. (2012, September 12). A new culture of learning:
                   Douglas Thomas at tedxufm. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/lM80GXlyX0U
Thomas, D., & Brown J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the imagination
                    for a world of constant change. (Vol 219) Lexington, KY: CreateSpace

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