A New Culture of Learning” by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown is a great book that will help any reader grasp present day thinking about how information technology provides a set of tools which will allow us to re-evaluate education.  The book does not produce a solution to what is the next step for general education.  What it does do is to bring together a range of thinking, aligning terminology, and thus providing all teachers who want to to discuss how technology can be used to cultivate the imagination of learners to help reach a deeper understanding of a changing world.

Unlike many school environments today, the book identifies locations where there is a genuine culture of learning within our digital age.  One of the first points acknowledged is that success should no longer be evaluated by an ability to retain information but an appreciation of accessing and evaluating the needed facts – the crucial “where” over “what”.

How your own personal learning network (PLN) represents your presence in a number of distinct learning collectives.  Furthermore the levels of involvement in these collectives can be described as follows;  knowing how and where to access reliable information; making,  which requires the remixing or synthesis to consider how information can be utilised and finally the opportunity to reach a learning epiphany through playing. The involvement in blogging models these phases.  A casual reader knows where to go to find a blog they deem as relevant.  A personal blogger is refining the thinking of others and making it relevant to themselves.   To take an active part in commenting and extending the dialogues within your own blog and beyond, surely represents play.

True inquiry based learning, not the polite acknowledgement seen in many schools, is celebrated and seen as analogous to the methods gamers learn through experimentation.  We are asked as teachers to consider what can be learnt from games to improve our student’s involvement of their own learning.  This is at the crux of the term  gamification in education, which should not be considered as a by-word for the dumbing down of education into Tetris like blocks but rather the search for new environments where people are motivated to learn, such as those found connected to a number of massively multiplayer on-line games.  This new culture of learning will take people through the stages, as identified by Mizuko Ito’s ethnographic studies, of involvement in new media. From hanging out, to messing around and finally to geeking out.

The book ends with a concluding message, which goes back to Johan Huizinga’s thoughts on play and its being a pre-requirement of culture.  For the writers recognize that where we find imaginative play, we observe active learning. I hope this brief synopsis encourages others to take the time to read this fascinating book.