At OEB 2011, Douglas Thomas, author of “A New Culture of Learning” and professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, delivered a keynote speech about cultivating the imagination and the developing new cultures of learning. Prior to delivering his keynote speech, Douglas Thomas spoke to OEB about his view of new cultures of learning, the relationship between technology and our behaviour, and the move towards a participatory culture.
What does “new cultures of learning” mean to you?
One of the things that I have been looking at recently in my research is not only the way in which technology is transforming the landscape for education, but how there’s an overall shift in the context for learning; partially having to do with technology, and partially having to do with the fact that we’re living in a world that’s really in a state of constant flux, so most of my research is really trying to understand how it is that we adapt learning to that new environment, and the new world that seems to be changing all of the time.
How can we see the behaviour change?
One of the things that is interesting in looking at the behaviour change in people is that the entire context is shaped not only by the things that people are doing, but also the technologies that are being invented, so there’s a kind of symbiotic effect between the two. What we are trying to understand is the way in which participation in online environments is actually creating the kind of change that we’re looking at, so it’s not so much the environment affecting people in terms of change, as much as it is the entire interaction between the way people use technology and the technology itself that’s creating a kind of state of flux and change in the world that we think we need to respond to.
Is there a role for the expansion of social media?
Social media has been one of the foundational elements that are creating that sense of change. In a large part what we’re seeing is a move towards what one of my colleagues – Henry Jenkins – calls a “participatory culture”, so that notion of participation is becoming really central to understanding how it is that we live our lives in an online world.
What other sessions are you looking forward to seeing at OEB?
I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of the sessions here at OEB because it’s one of the few places where I think you can find a global perspective, where people are coming together from all over the world, so I think you see everything from learning in developing nations, to learning at the highest end of technological development. It’s also a really interesting fusion of people who are actually doing a lot of work in training, and actual work in organisations, along with educational theory, and people who are thinking about this at the highest levels, so I think that we’re in a position at a conference like this to see the very best of all aspects of technology and education coming together at once.