Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown talk of a new culture of learning: one focused on process and engaging within our environments, and using digital media as a tool to enhance the experience. The various schools highlighted in the video Digital Media- New Learners of the 21st Century are living this new culture of learning. The stories shared in this documentary are compelling. Students are using various forms of digital media to showcase their knowledge of traditional K-12 topics in engaging ways. Seemingly, quite successfully at that.
I am sold. I have been sold for some time. My personal philosophy of teaching and learning follows this new culture of learning. I believe in this approach wholeheartedly and live it as congruently as I am able. I am invested.
Are educational institutions invested? I’m not very sold on that one. And here is where I digress a bit.
I want to believe that such all educational institutions, primary through higher, would be invested in adjusting their approach to something more meaningful…and dare I say, effective. I am continuously frustrated by what I see in classrooms closest to me. In higher education, greater value is placed on bringing in substantial funding for research. Faculty are hired, especially in Research-1 schools, to conduct research. I am certainly not downplaying this essential activity. Research must continue to happen. It should be valued. But at the expense of our students’ learning?
In my experiences, personally and professionally, I have found that value is not placed on quality teaching in higher education. Faculty who conduct phenomenal and incredibly important research are not always the best teachers. Even if they are devoted to providing a learning environment in line with this new culture of learning, their time is precious and inflexible. How can they put in the time and effort to cultivate this culture when they barely have time to eat lunch some days? How can they foster the process and learning within environments with 100+ students in a class? Hence, lectures become the easiest way to get through.
Despite my somewhat negative statements thus far, I fully believe that the vast majority of educators want their students to actually learn something in their courses. Unfortunately, we do not have the support and tools to fully implement the new culture of learning Thomas and Brown speak of. How do we convince the powers above to invest in this culture with us to provide us what we need? I am encouraged by a growing movement of Collegiate Professors- faculty primarily hired for their pedagogical practices. Virginia Tech has recently joined this trend. I only hope that other colleges and universities will follow suit, and begin to equally value teaching alongside research.
American Association of University Professors- Virginia Tech Chapter. (2016, April 15). Comments on collegiate professor series. Retrieved from https://vtaaup.org/chapter-actions/comments-on-collegiate-professor-series/
Public Broadcasting Service. (2011). Digital media: New learners of the 21st century [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/20018135
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Retrieved from http://www.newcultureoflearning.com/newcultureoflearning.pdf