Quote: "The bridge between them--and what makes the concept of the new culture of learning so potent--is how the imagination was cultivated to harness the power of almost unlimited informational resources and create something personally meaningful" (Thomas and Brown, 31). I chose this quote because it represents the theme of this chapter, which is how several different people had powerful learning experiences by using the Internet to connect to others. The story that stood out to me the most is how Tom visited a website to learn how to manage his diabetes, but he got so much more as the website connected him to a community that enabled him to understand his medical condition and how to cope with it.
Question: How do I help my students use the Internet to bring out their creativity and enhance their learning experiences?
Connection: In the section "Gaming Across Generations," Thomas and Brown describe how children, parents, and grandparents play online games together as a means of maintaining contact. As I was growing up, my cousin and I typically spent a week or two each summer with our grandparents, and sometimes several days around Christmas. We always played games with my grandmother, such as Canasta, Uno, Yahtzee, and Clue. But we were only able to play games when we were physically together, which wasn't more than once or twice a year as my cousin lives out of state. Multiple generations playing online games together isn't much different from my "gaming experience" with my grandmother and cousin, except that children and their grandparents can have contact when they are physically far apart.
Epiphany: My big Ah-ha! moment with this chapter is that it sheds more light onto why my instructor has us using several platforms for online communication. By posting messages in Google+, Twitter, and in our blogs, my colleagues and I have found that there are many things we're learning from each other in the online community that we were not able to learn in our textbooks.
Quote: "We believe, however, that learning should be viewed in terms of an environment--combined with the rich resources provided by the digital information network--where the context in which learning happens, the boundaries that define it, and the students, teachers, and information within it all coexist and shape each other in a mutually reinforcing way" (Thomas and Brown, 35). I chose this quote because it describes how the authors view and define schools. Thomas and Brown see schools as more than buildings where kids spend part of their day, more than machines that produce educated people. They see schools as environments where students and teachers edify each other and help each other to grow.
Question: How do we convince others to change their mechanistic views of school to a perspective that sees schools as learning environments?
Connection: In the section "Learning Environments," where I found the quote above, Thomas and Brown describe the learning environment and how students and teachers shape each other. This reminds me of my early days as a tutor. In my first year tutoring high school math, I had a student who was learning how to factor trinomial quadratics. I had learned only one method, which was a guess and check approach. My student showed me the ac-method that I had never before seen, a method that I still use. This was the first time I realized that my students won't just learn from me, but that I will also learn from them. And you know what? To this day I still tell my kids that I learned the ac-method from one of my past students.
Epiphany: The end of this chapter presents something about which to ponder. The authors discuss differences between the teaching-based approach to education and the learning-based approach. In the teaching-based approach, culture is the environment in which students learn and the focus is on teaching students about the world. However, in the learning-based approach, culture emerges from the environment and grows with it, and the focus is on learning through engagement with the world.
Quote: "The challenge is to find a way to marry structure and freedom to create something altogether new" (Thomas and Brown, 49). This quote stood out to me as most representative of the theme of the chapter. Structure is vital to education, but it can also act as a hindrance. If people are to innovate in our world, they need the freedom to explore their creativity. Unfortunately, structure and freedom can easily be at odds, and this often happens in education. Thomas and Brown acknowledge that it's challenging to get structure and freedom to work together instead of against each other.
Question: How can I be an educator who enables my students to explore their creativity without letting it be hindered by the very structures of the education system?
Connection: Thomas and Brown talk about the Harry Potter series and how children were so engaged with them. I used to work at Huntington Learning Center in Temecula, California. Each summer we held the Summer Reading Adventure program to promote reading to our students. Students could read whatever they wanted, but the idea was for students to improve their reading skills while reading books that interested them. In order to help motivate students to read, the teachers participated as well. One of those summers I decided to read the Harry Potter series, and it was a lot of fun. All through that summer I was able to connect with several of my students in a new way as we talked about the books we were reading for the program.
Epiphany: The authors discuss that "as children encounter new places, people, things, and ideas, they use play and imagination to cope with the massive influx of information they receive" (Thomas and Brown, 47). I've never considered this purpose for play in children. For me, this reinforces the fact that children need to go outside and play, that it is a healthy and necessary part of growing up.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, KY. Createspace?