A New Culture of Learning


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DOWNLOAD: Learning in and for the 21st Century (PDF)

Q&A: JSB on Interest-Driven Learning, Mentors and the Importance of Play

IDEASPARKERS: The Entrepreneurial Learner in the Internet Age JSB

Multiplayer High JSB and Douglas Thomas Boing Boing

Cultivating the Imagination: Building Learning Environments for Innovation Douglas Thomas and JSB (Feb 17, 2011)

From Community to Collective: Institution and Agency in the Age of Social Networks, Douglas Thomas (Feb 2, 2011)


A New Culture of Learning:
Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change


NOW AVAILABLE at Amazon.com

The 21st century is a world in constant change. In A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown pursue an understanding of how the forces of change, and emerging waves of interest associated with these forces, inspire and invite us to imagine a future of learning that is as powerful as it is optimistic. Our understanding of what constitutes "a new culture of learning" is based on several basic assumptions about the world and how learning occurs:

  • The world is changing faster than ever and our skill sets have a shorter life
  • Understanding play is critical to understanding learning
  • The world is getting more connected that ever before – can that be a resource?
  • In this connected world, mentorship takes on new importance and meaning
  • Challenges we face are multi-faceted requiring systems thinking & socio-technical sensibilities
  • Skills are important but so are mind sets and dispositions
  • Innovation is more important than ever – but turns on our ability to cultivate imagination
  • A new culture of learning needs to leverage social & technical infrastructures in new ways
  • Play is the basis for cultivating imagination and innovation

By exploring play, innovation, and the cultivation of the imagination as cornerstones of learning, the authors create a vision of learning for the future that is achievable, scalable and one that grows along with the technology that fosters it and the people who engage with it. The result is a new form of culture in which knowledge is seen as fluid and evolving, the personal is both enhanced and refined in relation to the collective, and the ability to manage, negotiate and participate in the world is governed by the play of the imagination.

Typically, when we think of culture, we think of an existing, stable entity that changes and evolves over long periods of time. In A New Culture of Learning, Thomas and Brown explore a second sense of culture, one that responds to its surroundings organically. It not only adapts, it integrates change into its process as one of its environmental variables.

Replete with stories, this is a book that looks at the challenges that our education and learning environments face in a fresh way.

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"The Global One Room Schoolhouse"



WATCH: C-SPAN >> Innovation Summit
“Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in a Connected World"


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Ethos, Pathos, Blogosphere

CEA: Playing to Learn

Henry Jenkins: A New Culture of Learning: An Interview with JSB and Douglas Thomas
(Part 1 | Part 2)

Forbes (Steve Denning): Q&A With The Authors of A New Culture of Learning

John Hagel: Reviewing A New Culture of Learning

Steve Denning: How education is infected by bureaucracy: We need a new culture of learning

Joi Ito: The New Culture of Learning: cultivating imagination for a world of constant flux

Will Richardson: A New Culture of Learning

Maria Popova: PICKED: A New Culture of Learning

Jonathan Collins: A New Culture of Learning

Critical Technology: A New Culture of Learning

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Manifesto for a New Culture of Learning



PBS Video: Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century

Aspen Institute
Aspen Institute 2011

GenConnect: The Real Problem With Education

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"Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown portray the new world of learning gracefully, vividly, and convincingly." more >>

"a must read for anyone interested in the future of education." more >>

“Thomas and Brown are the John Dewey of the digital age.” more >>


"Brilliant. Insightful. Revolutionary." more >>


Howard Gardner, Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education

James J. Duderstadt, President Emeritus, University of Michigan

Cathy N. Davidson, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Duke University

Marcia Conner author of The New Social Learning

"A New Culture of Learning is at once persuasive and optimistic — a combination that it is all too rare, but that flows directly from its authors’ insights about learning in the digital age. Pearls of wisdom leap from almost every page." more >>

"Thomas and Brown make it clear that education is too often a mechanistic, solo activity delivered to the young. It doesn’t have to be that way—learning can be a messy, social, playful, embedded, constant activity. We would do well to listen to their message." more >>

"This is not a book about school reform but rather an exploration of how people of all ages are learning by doing... a profoundly optimistic book" more >>

"This is a mind-bending and optimistic look at the future of education. It is filled with so many brilliant ideas that I immediately read it through a second time." more >>

Paul Courant, Dean of Libraries,University of Michigan

Clay Shirky, author of Cognitive Surplus

Jonathan Fanton, former president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Steve Hargadon, Founder, Classroom 2.0

"A New Culture of Learning may provide for the digital media and learning movement what Thomas Paine’s Common Sense did for the colonists during the American Revolution— a straightforward, direct explanation of what we are fighting for and what we are fighting against." more >>

"Anyone who fears, as I do, that today’s public schools are dangerously close to being irrelevant must read this book. The authors provide a road map—and a lifeline—showing how schools can prosper under the most difficult conditions.
...a welcome departure from all the school bashing."
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"American education is at a crossroads. By illuminating how play helps to transform both information networks and experimentation, and how collective inquiry unleashes the power of imagination, A New Culture of Learning provides an irresistible path to the future." more >>

"As an informal learner myself, I particularly appreciate the framework that A New Culture of Learning provides.

If it had been around when I was still in school, I might not have dropped out. This book is essential reading for anyone who hopes to thrive in the twenty-first century." more >>

Henry Jenkins, Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts, USC

John Merrow, Education Correspondent, PBS NewsHour

Joel Myerson, Director, Forum for the Future of Higher Education

Joi Ito, Chairman and CEO of Creative Commons

"A New Culture of Learning transcends the current education debate and puts forward a bold vision of lifelong learning. To inspire the next wave of entrepreneurs and change agents, we must transform our education system. This book is a great start." more >>

"Into the fray step Thomas and Brown, whose ideas will open minds and help us get beyond the arguments that are holding back our ability to see and understand what is already happening in front of our eyes." more >>

"Thomas and Brown provide insights for engaging in the new learning paradigms all around us, which are indeed unique, nontraditional, and something that all leaders need to understand." more >>

"Thomas and Brown empower us with ways to boost our imaginations and harness change. Their powerful insights give us the escape velocity to get past old learning debates and get on to using our minds collectively to conceive and invent an awesome future." more >>

Jack D. Hidary, Chairman, National Lab Network

Richard P. O’Neill, President, Highlands Group

Stephen Gillett, CIO, Starbucks

Tara Lemmey, CEO, Lens Ventures

read the full-length reviews >>

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