What is going on with kids who are growing up digital? How do they learn? How do they like to learn? How do they problem solve? And most importantly, what creates meaning for them and helps them to construct their own sense of self?
Since nearly all of the significant problems of tomorrow are likely to be systemic problems – problems that can’t be addressed by any one specialty – our students will need to feel comfortable working in cross disciplinary teams that encompass multiple ways of knowing.
Imagine a hybrid model of learning, where we combine the power of passion-based participation in niche communities of practice with a limited core curriculum for teaching the rigorous thinking and argumentation specific to that field. Designing such a curriculum would require an “elegant minimalism.” It is implicit in this new learningscape that, given the nearly infinite number of niche communities that exist on the net, nearly every student of any age will find something that he or she is passionate about. For middle and high school students, finding and joining such communities could well happen outside formal schooling and could even become a new role for community public libraries. In college, such communities most likely would be campus-based – whether on the student’s own or another campus
One would also expect a form of spiral learning to evolve, initially rooted in one community but then branching out to encompass expanding interests and skills. The spiral would weave a tapestry between activities in the niche communities of interest and the core curriculum, with both serving to ground and complement the other. This new learningscape would be supported by an understanding of the interplay between the social and cognitive basis of learning, and enabled by the networked age of the 21st century. Such an educational experience would undoubtedly build a strong foundation for life-long learning in a world of accelerating change.
John Seely Brown
New Learning Environments for the 21st Century