Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age

John Seely Brown (Brown was Chief Scientist at Xerox PARC, where many of the technologies we use today, including, ethernet, Laser Printers and the GUI were invented):

My interest here today is in looking at the notions of learning, working and playing in the digital age and how today’s kids—growing up digital—might actually be quite different from what we might first think. But, more particularly, how by stepping back and looking at the forces and trends underlying the digital world, we may have a chance to create a new kind of learning matrix, one that I will call a learning ecology.
I became interested in learning ecologies because of their systemic properties. We need to view higher education from a systemic perspective, one that takes into consideration all of the components—k-12, community colleges, state and private colleges and universities, community libraries, firms, etc.—that make up a region. This, in turn, raises additional questions about how we might create a regional advantage such as in the Research Triangle in North Carolina or in Silicon Valley. For example, is there a way to extend science parks, that typically surround universities, into also being learning parks and from there into being learning ecologies by combining the knowledge producing components of the region with the nearly infinite reach and access to information that the internet provides? And, if so, might this provide an additional use of the internet in learning—one besides just distance learning. But first, let’s consider what the Web is and see how it might provide a new kind of information fabric in which learning, working and playing co-mingle. Following that we will then look at the notion of distributed intelligence which has a great deal to do with the social basis as well as the cognitive basis of learning, and how those fold together. Then we will look at the issue of how one might better capture and leverage naturally occurring knowledge assets, a topic as relevant to the campus as to the region or to the firm. Finally, we will come to the core topic of how all this folds together to lead to a new concept of a learning ecology.

Background on John Seely Brown: Clusty

2 thoughts on “Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age”

  1. Fascinating article, Jim. Thanks for sharing it. I recommend it to all, but especially the community growing up around this website.
    But when I think about how this plays out, it’s clear that many students would continue to lag behind. As a threshold matter, access to the technology/Web is not universal. In other words, this learning (r)evolution might lead to greater disparities, not less.
    I am simply wondering aloud how we capture the attention of students already lagging in the traditional framework who may already have bought out of there being any merit to participating, and therefore who may never know the joy and the rewards of learning to learn.
    On the other hand, this could be the salvation for gifted kids especially if no other in-school differentiation is available.

  2. We have many assets already in place here with UW’s Co-Lab and Learning Sciences program, WiscNet, etc.
    The Kaiser Family Foundation recently issued a national report on the role of media (both traditional and net era) in the lives of 8-18 youth. It is available at http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia030905pkg.cfm.
    It would be interesting to see what these numbers would look like in the city and regionally.

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