Thursday, June 16, 2011

A New Culture of Learning

More than the reviews that I had read on this book, the title itself attracted me to read the book. I could not sustain my curiosity of getting to know what exactly is described in the book through those excellent reviews. In fact this book has been quoted as one of the must read books for this year.

It is a very small book and is power packed with a lot of ideas for the world that is in constant change. It addresses the current world and the current state of minds when it comes to learning. The kind of exposure that we get in these internet advanced societies has transformed the whole culture of learning. While reading the book, I used to think about myself and compare it with my own ways of thinking and learning habits these days. And the kind of access I get with respect to the technology is unbelievable.  I can read a lot more stuff by a click and even express my thoughts through my networks. Sharing has become easy too. It used to be so difficult a few years back to share something what I have newly learnt. Now it is just a click away! I feel I am always connected to my environment in one way or the other.

Douglas Thomas and Thomas Brown have beautifully captured the essence of what it means to learn and play in a world that is constantly changing. The book ends with a statement that effectively communicates the meaning of the book – “And where imaginations play, learning happens”.

Here is a short excerpt from the 1st chapter of the book.

When people think about learning, they usually think about schools. And when people think about schools, they usually think about teachers. In this book, we take a different approach. In our view, the kind of learning that will define the twenty-first century is not taking place in a classroom – at least not in today’s classroom. Rather, it is a happening all around us, everywhere, and it is powerful. We call this phenomenon the new culture of learning, and it is grounded in a very simple question: What happens to learning when we move from the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century, where technology is constantly creating and responding to change?

Seriously, that is what most people still think. And we all are beginning to realize this phenomenon now because the growing networked infrastructure is amplifying our ability to access the unlimited resources. It is the combination of the information network around us and the structured environment making the new culture of learning so powerful.

The book begins with a lot of good examples or stories. Those stories are focused on the kind of learning that is happening across all the age groups. Be it a school going kid or a grandmother sitting at home. They talk about how the current infrastructure is enabling them to learn things in a faster way and in a more efficient way. Learning through games and plays is one of such examples. Each of the stories illustrates how the new culture of learning is taking root and transforming the way we think about information, imagination and play.  

The authors argue that, for most of the twentieth century our educational system has been built on the assumption that teaching is necessary for learning to occur. Accordingly, education has been seen as a process of transferring information from a higher authority down to the student. And I completely agree with what they say. The old model just can’t keep up with the rapid rate of change in the twenty first century. We believe, learning should be viewed in terms of an environment-combined with rich resources provided by the information network and the context in which learning happens. Teachers, students and information are all being party to the environment and are all expected to grow.

The book also highlights on the critical aspect of embracing the change. Embracing change means viewing the future as a set of new possibilities, rather than something that forces us to adjust. It is so hard to believe that we can be taught or trained to handle each new change on a case by case basis. One example I can quote is about the social networking. There are so many new things happening around and people are trying to learn day in and day out through their own ways. Who taught us to use Wikipedia, facebook or twitter to share, contribute and learn something from it? It was very interesting for me to learn about Wikipedia outperforming Britannica only because of making the change visible.

And one more very important shift that is highlighted in the book is of how we think about our presence? As the authors address this as the ‘personal’ combined with the ‘collective’. The balance between the personal and the collective is the key. And the distinction between the collective and the community is also important to know. Authors assert that the communities can be passive but the collectives can’t. Their distinction in terms of learning is very much straightforward: “in communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn”. Blogging can be a better example here. I blog whenever I want to. It is my personal experience. And it is always subject to change and revision by others, the influence of collective can powerfully and meaningfully shape my views, just as a blogger, at the same time, can shape the collective.

In the chapter - ‘We know more than we can say’ the authors highlight the difference between the explicit knowledge and the tacit knowledge. While the old culture used to focus almost on the explicit knowledge, the new culture has the ‘tacit learning’ as its core. The reason for the difference is that learning tacit knowledge happens not only in the brain but also in the body, through all our senses. It is an experiential process as well as a cognitive one. It is not about being taught knowledge; it is about absorbing it. We learn by inquiries and we learn by dwelling into something.

Authors also highlights on the three dimensions of learning. They are - Knowing, Making and Playing. They say that they are already beginning to emerge and are happening if we just observe around. The same examples of what kids do today on social network and social media sites. In addition to all these some more tools that can help amplify the learning experience are by hanging out, messing around and geeking out. We see a lot of people following these tools these days and they will be in complete flow and the learning will be at it best when they are at it.

In the end authors say - the new culture of learning is a culture of collective inquiry that harnesses the resources of network and transforms them into nutrients within the petri dish environment, turning it into a space of play and experimentation.  Only when we care about experimentation, play and questions more than efficiency, outcomes and answers do we have a space that is truly open to the imagination. And there learning happens!

It is a must read book for all of us to understand and explore the new ways of learning and connect ourselves to the environment around us. Perhaps, I wish all the educational institutions will embrace this new culture and create a world of possibilities.

Book: A New Culture of Learning
Authors: Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown
Published: January 2011
Pages: 140


Friday, June 10, 2011


ಎಲ್ಲರಂತಲ್ಲ ನಾನು
ಎಲ್ಲರಂತೆಯೇ ನಾನು 
ಎಂದೂ ಎನಲಾರೆ 

ಎಲ್ಲರಿಗೂ, ಎಲ್ಲರಂತಾಗುವ
ಬಯಕೆಯೂ ಇಲ್ಲ 

ನಾನು ನಾನಾಗುವ 
ಜೀವನದ ಮಾಯೆಯಲಿ 
ನೀನು ನೀನಾಗುವ 
ಮಾಯೆಯೇ ನನ್ನ ಪ್ರತಿಬಿಂಬ 


ಮೂಕ ಜೀವ

ಮನಕೆ ಇಷ್ಟವಾದ 
ಯೋಚನೆಗಳೇ ಬಾರದ 
ಆಲೋಚನೆಗಳ ಮಧ್ಯೆ 
ಬಯಸಿದ ವಿಷಯಗಳಲ್ಲಿ 
ಕನಸು ಕಾಣುವ ಬಯಕೆ!

ಮನಕೆ ಬೇಡದ ಕೆಲಸವ 
ಹಿಂಸೆ ಸಹಿಸಲಾರದೆ
ನಗುವನು ನುಂಗಿ 
ಕಪಟ ಮುಖದಿ ಕಲಿತು 
ಕಣ್ಮರೆಯಾಗುವ ಕಾತುರ!

ಅಡೆ-ತಡಗಳಿಗೆ ಸಿಲುಕಿ 
ಮುಖದಿ ಅರ್ಥವ ಹಿಂಗಿ 
ವಿಧಿ ಇಲ್ಲದೇ ಬದಲಾಗಿ 
ಮನದ ಬಯಕೆಯ ಮೀರಿ 
ಕಪಟ ಮುಖದಿ 
ಮೂಕವಾಯಿತು ಜೀವ!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Poke yourself!

I recently read this power-packed little book titled Poke-The-Box by the well known entrepreneur and a popular blogger Seth Godin

The title of the book and Seth's interview on the domino project site made me read this book without fail. After reading it I felt, oh, well, this kind of poking is very much required for myself. 

The author, at the beginning of the book, asks a very fundamental question that we may fail to ask ourselves - When was the last time you did something for the first time? and the question made me think for a while and all my answers were filled with some guilt of not being completely honest. 

Poke the box is the manifesto about 'starting'. Starting something, making a ruckus, taking what feels like a risk, leaping, committing or making something happen. If you haven't been doing something that you planned to do and waiting for something, this book pokes you to start. Starting is everything. If you start, you will get moving, no matter you fail or succeed.

There will be many examples in our lives for which 'poking' is necessary. We need to initiate something somewhere. And why we do not start? or why we do not initiate? is not to be answered anymore. Go! is what is required.

The book also answers a lot of questions like what can we start? When to start? and some very good real time examples for us to grasp the importance of 'starting'. It also highlights some of the happenings all over the world in terms of excellence, mediocre performance, hard work, quality and related concerns. 

Why do we have fear in starting something? why do we hesitate taking risk? and what makes us really start? all such questions will be never asked after reading this book. Getting into the habit of shipping things is what matters in the end. 

We certainly do not like to regret for not doing certain things or for missing opportunities. Seth advises us on not missing them. Start the thing that you are thinking of doing. Let us fail at something or do something worth doing. But for that to happen, we need to start. 

While reading the book, I recalled a statement by one of my very good friend - "Give us an opportunity to fail". It made more sense to me. 

His (Seth's) own recent experience of initiating a new book publishing project itself is a terrific example for us. Read about it here - The Domino Project. 

I have extracted some interesting excerpts here. And this book made me think and 'start' on all those things that I was sleeping on since a long time. I poked myself for a better Go.

It is a must read for all of us.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Laufen gut

Well, I can say that this was a good start to begin the monsoon this year. The weather was absolutely beautiful and it was a perfect day for running. I just want to post some of the random running thoughts that came to my mind while running this year's TCS World 10k Marathon. 

I entered at the Gate number 6 and it was completely crowded with corporate category runners. They were then sent to a different venue as the Gates 5 and 6 were for Open 10k runners. Initially I wondered at such a huge participation. 

We were about the start the run, I noticed a lot people jumping the fens rather than waiting in the queue to start the run. Policemen were trying to avoid those people but they hardly could succeed. I said to myself, we were supposed to be responsible citizens and what is the urgency to start the race when you know that the run will be anyway considered as per the start time at the first beep till the last beep? And I just moved on. I also overheard someone saying "The whole nation has this mindset of letting down themselves." (I have forgotten the actual words. But this is what he meant)

By the time I reached the flag off point, it was 8.10 am. And at the first beep I said to myself, 'you will finish the race.'

It was a beautiful day and a perfect weather for running. I went past 1 km mark and heard somebody saying, 'Hey, 1 km got over, lets go!'. I just continued to run.

Every 1 km the drinking water arrangement was made. But I did not feel like drinking at the first km. 

At the 3rd km there were a group of drummers playing the typical regional folk 'death beat' kind of stuff. It was a real motivator for many folks for sure. Instant energy listening to those beats and that kept me running.

Between the 4th and 5th km, I overheard a guy telling his friend - "dude!, there are so many people out here, and there are so many body shapes; each body is in a different shape. Some look like a pear, some are like mangoes and some are like apples." I looked at them and smiled. They laughed and I moved on. 

I wanted to stop at the 5th km and drink water. I did and I continued my run. (that was my first break; although I was running very slow)

A lot of people were walking. I was running. I had not given any other option to myself.

I gave the empty water bottle to a lady who was collecting all the bottles thrown away by many folks. She smiled at me. I smiled back. 

I noticed a guy with a T-shirt saying "Save Water" and saw him throw away water bottle with half the water left in it. I said to myself, I wish I had my camera to capture the ironical moment. I also thought whether people are ignorant of what they are trying to communicate? 

At the bus stop opposite to the Chinnaswamy stadium, a beautiful lady with her little kid were cheering for us. She was saying "Come on! you guys can do it". I said to myself, yeah! and continued to run.

I noticed a lonely crow sitting on the rain tree and watching us run. It looked cute.

At the 8th km, I saw Oranges on the table. It looked very tempting. I picked one and enjoyed eating it while running. 

When I was on the road in front of Vidhanasoudha, I noticed two wheel chair participants running faster than us and asking for the way. I said, it is all yours and cheered for them. 

There were huge flocks of doves flying in front of the High Court. May be they were cheering for us saying, just fly off. I said to myself, I wish I could. 

When I reached the Cubbon Park entrance, I stopped looking at the Km marks as I knew where the end point was. In fact my mind had already finished the race and it was just waiting for my body to complete it physically

Inside the Cubbon Park I noticed a small kid waving hands at us and cheering for us. I thought may be the kid was not aware of what exactly is happening. He might have thought this is an event to support Anna Hazare or Baba Ramdev against the corruption. I thanked him anyway. 

I noticed a guy wearing a T-shirt saying "It is tough, Are you?" I said to myself - What is tough? 

When I was nearing the Cubbon Park exit gate towards the Hudson Circle, I noticed a group of old people cheering for us. I felt good. 

I was almost 300 meters away from the finish line and I noticed a guy wearing a T-shirt that said - "Born to run, forced to work". I agreed. 

Shakira was welcoming us with the famous Soccer World Cup 2010 song 'Waka Waka' which gave a perfect spirit to end my race. I touched the final beep and felt heavenly. 

I collected my finisher medal. And I asked for one extra bun to eat at the refreshment counter. I offered them to take back the glucose biscuit packet. They said they cannot. I said, ok sorry!

Today is supposed to be the World Environment Day and most of the people who took part in the event were (at least in my understanding) responsible citizens. But it was disheartening to see them waste water (people were celebrating their run by pouring water on themselves) and throw away plastic on the roads without even thinking that there are designated garbage bins (or at least search for it?). I am glad my friends Abhi and Kowshik tried telling them not to waste water. I tried telling the same to some folks. But I don't think it worked. 

Ich bin laufen gut! :)

And the eighteenth horse ran with me till the end!