New Culture of Learning


There’s a buoyant and palpable joy communicated through the writings of Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown in their book A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. It seems like an opening, like permission to create and learn through play whatever, wherever, whenever. It’s like Homeschooling for Library Dummies or something.

While I am typically resistant to the current zeitgeist of “Books are bad, m’kay” and thinly veiled critiques of the limitations of the tradition of books as critical technologies disguised in writings about the benefits of current emerging technologies, I found myself opening to the concept of a “reading practice” that incorporates and integrates various media to teach, to convey, to convene, to connect.

Facilitating learning through any media necessary is the surest way to encourage curiosity in the learner, which subsequently promotes greater aptitudes for lifelong learning. Agency is the key. We know that rote regurgitation on standardized anything does not promote cognitive transfer or recall. Intrinsic motivation does. As such, learners that become truly engaged desire more knowledge, become immersed in the knowing of a thing.

With a little ingenuity, libraries can be makerspaces, workshops, laboratories, and reading rooms. Libraries that seek to integrate traditional and emerging tech to foster discovery environments for their collectives and communities convey that they promote access to all while also meeting a plethora of learner needs. Why go elsewhere if users can create, share, learn, play, read, and also engage with peers? Joining with an active and participatory community to create and share “content” allows all to collaborate in new ways of learning.

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Melissa Eleftherion is a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & nine chapbooks, including the forthcoming trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa now lives in Mendocino County where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at

3 thoughts on “New Culture of Learning”

  1. Agency is key, as you say, and as all of this course’s material has me reflecting back on my own early educational experience I see that those times I was given agency in a learning scenario were decidedly the most fruitful. This acknowledgement is a real “aha” moment for me, yet I wonder why this now apparent fact has not been a mainstay in educational models of years gone by, although I’m very glad to see this finally shifting.
    I think this course is as enjoyable and eye-opening as it is because of the agency we’ve been granted in undertaking it….thanks for working ahead of the curve Michael!


  2. Reading A New Culture of Learning reminded me a bit of what I have heard from some children about GATE classrooms where children are more free to pursue their interests – I don’t have first hand knowledge though. We learn when we are engaged and pursuing answers to our own questions and can do the pursuing in our own way. I loved reading the example class on gaming taught be Douglas Thomas. The students followed their curiosity creatively and the result was amazing.


  3. I really appreciate this: “Facilitating learning through any media necessary is the surest way to encourage curiosity in the learner, which subsequently promotes greater aptitudes for lifelong learning.” That’s a well-stated way to say it’s about everything: books, digital creation, etc etc…


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