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A New Culture of Learning

Play, imagination, questioning, and intrigue. When was the last time you saw these things in action in a traditional classroom? Or, due to COVID-19, in recent hybrid or blended learning scenarios? The previous year exposed and disparaged the “one size fits all” mechanized education system. In this system, memorizing and regurgitating facts is often believed to be a demonstration of learning. But unfortunately, this system also perpetuates the ideals of the industrial age and the preparing students for manufacturing or factory jobs. It has been suggested “factory owners require docile, agreeable workers to show up on time and do what their managers tell them” (Schrager, 2018). Current education practices and performing satisfactorily on a standardized test are good training for this scenario. However, lower-level manufacturing and factory jobs are dissipating while high-tech jobs of AI/Machine Learning Engineer, information security, software engineering are rising. If the US education system relies on antiquated practices, how can we prepare students for a futuristic global market?

In A New Culture of Learning, authors Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown suggest that first, we must shift our thinking from the old teaching model to a new model of learning (Thomas & Brown, 2011). Second, the authors suggest that play, imagination, and the ability to create allow learners to learn, which is the purest form of authentic learning. Third, students should be free thinkers while discovering and asking questions to produce this significant learning environment. However, therein lies the problem…the term “free.” Let’s look at these more in-depth. “It’s time to shift our thinking from the old model of teaching to a new model of learning. Douglas Thomas & John Seely Brown

  • Bloom where you’re planted. This statement immediately comes to mind when shifting our thinking from old teaching methods to new learning models. Texas has entrenched itself in the STAAR testing and accountability system. A high percentage of the grading for the accountability system for elementary and middle schools relies heavily on their students’ test scores. As a result, Texas educators often are restricted in their ability to create a significant learning environment. For example, some teachers are required to read scripted lessons. Therefore, the entire school may have the same lesson presented simultaneously and in the same way. So much for differentiation. To overcome this, we as educators will need to think outside the box and find unique opportunities for our students to experience significant learning environments and leave them hungering for more. The Texas education system isn’t changing anytime soon. Therefore, bloom where you are planted and create something better for your students.

  • ​​Play, imagination, and the ability to create allow learners to learn, which is the purest form of authentic learning.

How do we do create the type of learning environment that will make a positive impact? We must incorporate play. When children play, they don’t know they are learning. All they know is that they are having fun. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a clinical report stating that play is not frivolous; it is brain building. Play is often overlooked in education because there will likely be fun, and surely learning cannot be fun. Authors Thomas and Brown spoke of Sam, a nine-year-old, who learned to program while playing a video game. His curiosity led him to take classes, create an avatar, and engage in an online community of like-minded individuals. In 2014, I found myself teaching a middle school math class with students lacking varying degrees of fundamental basic. For example, most of the students didn’t know multiplication facts. So, every two weeks, we used iPads to play a game called Math Duel. Math Duel is 1 or 2 Player Math Game is a fun math exercise app for boosting alertness and training math skills. Each player’s level is adjusted in the settings. You could have students playing each other on two different levels. The students had a blast and often challenged administrators or other teachers. You could increase the rigor by changing the settings. Over time, the students’ confidence in their math skills improved, and slowly some scores increased. They learned and grew their math skills and mental agility while playing a fun game. Who would have thought it was possible?

  • Students should be free thinkers while discovering and asking questions to produce this significant learning environment.

This statement would make most educators cringe. Often because they term “free”, they believe that aren’t parameters or boundaries. But that isn’t true. All lessons must align to the standards of the TEKS. However, it will be more challenging to create a culture of “free thinkers” where students have choice, ownership, and participate in an authentic learning experience. So how do we do this?

  1. Establish clear learning objectives.

  2. Ensure choices are meaningful and connect to real-world situations

  3. Give meaningful and timely feedback

My innovation plan is to develop a system for professional development for our members which consists of education faculty and staff for 43 school districts. We developed UEA University last year. We upgraded and perfected this year. Our plan for Summer 2022 will be to add a PBL and community component for more CPE hours. ​References

King, V. (2012, March 23). Your child will never compete in the global market unless you do this. MoneyNing. Retrieved November 2021, from

Schrager, A. (2018, June 29). The modern education system was designed to train future factory workers to be “docile”. Quartz. Retrieved November 2021, from

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of Constant Change. CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

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