Blog Post

Petri Dish Culture of Learning


We are members of a class at University of Maryland, called Networked Intelligence. This semester we are wrestling with ideas about how networked technologies and our information-rich worlds change the way we learn, live, and collaborate. In response to a wonderful letter that Dr. Davidson sent us, we will post a weekly blog that summarizes the big thoughts from our own peers’ writings and class discussion. Please feel free to connect with us and add to our networked learning.

Authors: Jenna Chusid, Traci Siegel, and Jewell Briscoe

Most of the time when we talk about culture we mean a group of people and the things that define them. However, there is a different kind of culture that can be created (like a petri dish in a lab) (Delaney). Thomas and Brown’s book  A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change discusses the new culture of learning and how it can be cultivated.

This new culture of learning means incorporating “play”, meaning things like multi-media into education (Vineet). This gives us an opportunity to learn from others outside our classroom environment. We are no longer restricted and we have seen that real-world learning can be all the more beneficial (Joel). Thomas and Brown focus on “the collective” meaning that everyone brings in their own information and takes away their own information, rather than in the traditional classroom where everyone learns the same thing. In a collective setting people learn through their own lens.

New technologies enable a new way of group learning in a collective. We now use Facebook to collaborate on projects, and make it easier to voice everyone’s opinions. Even though Facebook is usually incorporated with social interaction, it can be used to a student’s advantage by using its social abilities for a learning environment (Pamela).

Sometimes people doubt whether this new culture of learning is actually feasible. In the book, there was a classroom that played a game. The teacher would lecture and at the end of each class they would talk about the game. In the end, they ended up talking about the game much more than the lecture itself, but the teacher saw that they had learned a lot from the game and were able to relate it to the class (Ciara). So we are able to see that this new culture is a feasible option, but we have to be constantly evaluating it as we create it.

Students may also learn better when information of interest is being incorporated into the lesson. Interest in a topic causes more concentration on what is being learned and will also lead to meaningful discussions as well. Instead of dreading going to class, students may look forward to what’s to come, and their peers will benefit from the positive energy (Hae Ree Lee). In a system where everyone puts something in and takes away something different, we are better able to cater to individual interests.

In some ways this new culture of learning can be a challenge. It is harder for students to assess the information they are receiving, but that challenge may be a good learning exercise. If you
give a man a fish he will eat for a day but if you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime. Similarly, now rather than throwing information at students for them to absorb, we are teaching them how to think and learn on their own, which can be much more valuable in the long run (Amy).


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