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

by Douglas Thomas, John Seely Brown
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 4, 2011 1456458884 978-1456458881 1

The twenty-first century is a world in constant change.  In A New Culture of Learning, Doug 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.

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, 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. 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.

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



“A provocative and extremely important new paradigm of a ‘culture of learning’, appropriate for a world characterized by continual change. This is a must read for anyone interested in the future of education.”

James J. Duderstadt, President Emeritus, University of Michigan


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

Cathy Davidson, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Duke University


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.”

Henry Jenkins, Provost’s Professor, USC


A New Culture of Learning is at once persuasive and optimistic — a combination that 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.”

Paul Courant, Dean of Libraries, University of Michigan


“Brilliant. Insightful. Revolutionary.”

Marcia Conner, author of The New Social Learning


“Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown portray the new world of learning gracefully, vividly, and convincingly.”

Howard Gardner, Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education


“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.”

Clay Shirky, author of Cognitive Surplus


“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. It is a welcome departure from all the school bashing.”

John Merrow, Education Correspondent, PBS NewsHour


“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.”

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


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A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change + Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative + The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Douglas Thomas is an associate professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. His research focuses on the intersections of technology and culture. It has been funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, and the Annenberg Center for Communication.

Doug is also the author of the book Hacker Culture and a coauthor or coeditor of several other books, including Technological Visions: The Hopes and Fears that Shape New Technologies and Cybercrime: Law Enforcement, Security and Surveillance in the Information Age. He is the founding editor of Games and Culture: A Journal of Interactive Media, an international, interdisciplinary journal focused on games research.

John Seely Brown is a visiting scholar and an adviser to the provost at the University of Southern California and an independent cochairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge. He is an author or a coauthor of several books, including The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion; The Only Sustainable Edge; and The Social Life of Information, which has been translated into nine languages. He has also authored or coauthored more than 100 papers in scientific journals.

Prior to his current position, John was the chief scientist of Xerox and, for nearly two decades, the director of the company's Palo Alto Research Center. He was also a cofounder of the Institute for Research on Learning. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Education.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 140 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1456458884
  • ISBN-13: 978-1456458881
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.8 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
77 of 88 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I can't in good conscience recommend this book. It is weak, simplistic and in some cases flat wrong.

I was hoping this work would reflect the same reasoned insightful treatment Seely Brown and colleagues provided in earlier works such as "The Social Life of Information".
But this book - if you can even call it that - is 180° in tone and tenor from that earlier work. The only thing this book does is make it clear that people who write pop management tomes should stick to what they know and leave the important issues of learning and education to those who know how - not just know about.

Thomas and Brown offer some enticing examples of what they call "The New Culture of Learning" but the subsequent discussion is simply a stringing together of aphorisms, overly enthusiastic interpretations of anecdotes and an almost total lack of familiarity with cognition, learning and education research. Their "evidence" is almost all anecdotal based on their own limited experience. It is most noteworthy by the absence of truly key work by recognized experts, scientists and the very academics they criticize. But this doesn't seem to be a problem for the authors. They preach. predict and prescribe with abandon.

Using terms from The Social Life of Information, these authors preach from a standpoint of "knowing about" rather than "knowing how". The fact that they hold positions at a university does not make them educators. To me - this work smacks of a rushed attempt to crank out something to sell consulting and speaking services - not a serious view of learning. It is rife with trendy thoughts - not a serious work examining actual trends. There really is nothing new here and quite a bit that is very old - yet no credit is given to original sources.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing insights January 24, 2011
Standardized educational systems face the great challenge of adapting to a time where facts, knowledge, research, methods, tools, interpretations, applications, and contexts available regarding any piece of information are expanding and changing by the moment. "A New Culture of Learning" gives insights into how, what, and why we learn in the information age, including a powerful message that we "know more than we can say" when learning is approached intuitively, with intrinsic motivation, and with the interplay between peers learning and working naturally toward common goals. How the educational system can guide and evaluate such tacit learning, which seems more effective and valuable in many contexts than rote memorization, seems to be the core of the dilemma the system faces. As a medical student at an institution undergoing some radical changes to the curriculum structure, I'm making sure a few copies get into the hands of the administration.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the opportunity for liberal arts education March 10, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anybody who cares about how we might engage a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty, and possibility needs to read this book. Educators especially need to pay attention.

We want to instill a passion for learning, but we typically address our desire by first thinking about designs - of syllabi, curricula, distribution requirements and more. Thomas and Brown invite us to change our starting point by asking how people learn today in a world with unprecedented access to information.

The authors invite us to recall that disturbing memory - even when America was poised to invade Iraq, most US citizens could not find Iraq on the map. But some, Thomas and Brown suggest, would simply draw on their internet facility to find the answer. While we should expect more of a citizenry in what they know, we should also think anew about how people learn.

Yes, people learn in classrooms, but the authors encourage us to think about how people develop their knowledge beyond the classroom. Colleges are great not just for what the professors offer, but what the students do with their assignments off hours. To be immersed in a world of learning, as Thomas and Brown say, is the real inspiration I recall from my college days at Davidson, and what I now see among my students at Brown. But thirty years make a difference.

My college learning depended on terrific anchors - an honor code that assured integrity, a set of distribution requirements that inspired breadth, and a college culture that could move my passion from golf to sociology. Today's culture of learning, the authors propose, flows more, relying less on preexisting stocks of knowledge or fixed cultures of intellectual authority and more on a passion for learning that itself is a form of play.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How We Can Savor Learning and Inventing Together January 21, 2011
Haven't some of your most meaningful memories been of times when you accomplished something greater with others? Didn't it bring you closer in the flow of camaraderie - even when someone in your group didn't act right - like you?'

What we learn from those times is vital in an information-flooded, connected world - and that's a good thing.

The most common and satisfying ways we learn and invent are not from sitting in a classroom seat being taught or trained. The world is too complex and fluid now to keep up with everything all by yourself. That doesn't mean that we aren't sought-after for our mastery of a topic or skill. It simply means we stay relevant when we engage in projects with diverse others, learning and experimenting as we go. Like children we still learn best by observing, imitating, re-mixing, making fresh mistakes and, most of all, by playing and using our imagination - with others.

That's why this book by two long time lovers of social learning-by-doing is so relevant today for students of all ages, in school, at work and involved with the causes and projects that most matter to us.

While their book is aimed at transforming learning in schools every concept I read can be equally applied to any part of our lives - lived well with others.

If you'd like to see the next chapters of your life as the kind of adventure story you co-create with others and want a bigger voice in the role you play - literally - read and share this book with those you think will make engrossing, imaginative playmates.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A new culture of learning
The book was good but only offers ideas. Focuses on collaboration and backs up theories by stories. Douglas Thomas presents good theories on where the future of learning might be... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Denise
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
AUTHORS PROVIDE a good foundation for change of our educational system in the new age of social media, electronic gaming, and the abundance of changing «knowledge» . Read more
Published 1 month ago by Merry Edmondson,Ed.D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Very informative and relevant information for any educator. I think all teachers and administrators should have to read this book.
Published 1 month ago by Daniel Reyes
3.0 out of 5 stars Sound content, missing index
Authors of this caliber should be ashamed to publish a book without an index. The content is right on target. Read more
Published 1 month ago by BJ
5.0 out of 5 stars book
The book was absolutely brand new looking with no marks on it! Recommended to anyone who needs to purchase this book :)
Published 2 months ago by Jenny Thao
4.0 out of 5 stars read it now- it is already tomorrow.
Even if you are retired you need to read this- you cannot stop learning or teaching- the brain needs to be fed--figure out what makes it hungry and feed it. It is not leftovers!
Published 9 months ago by hatjes
3.0 out of 5 stars Educational prognostication.
Seely Brown and Thomas hit the nail on the head when they talk about knowledge in the context of education: "In the twenty-first century... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Corrie Campbell
4.0 out of 5 stars In my view
I thoroughly enjoyed the simple and succint style of presenting information in this book! No end to learning, great to see the support for continuous learning and the need to... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Dulcie Nia
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading
"A New Culture of Learning" by Thomas and Brown should be a required read for all educators. The text walks us through how students interact in today's world. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Phil Vice
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book
This book is an excellent and well researched of how, due to technological change, it is now possible to envision a school system that moves from a teaching centred model to a... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Donald N. Philip
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