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Relearning Learning--Applying the Long Tail to Learning

12/01/2006 8:30 AM Tang Center/Wong
John Seely Brown, Visiting Scholar, USC

Description: In a digitally connected, rapidly evolving world, we must transcend the traditional Cartesian models of learning that prescribe -pouring knowledge into somebody's head,” says John Seely Brown. We learn in and through our interactions with others and the world, he says, and there's no more perfect medium for enabling this than an increasingly open and organized World Wide Web. While the wired world may be flat, it now also features -spikes,” interactive communities organized around a wealth of subjects. For kids growing up in a digital world, these unique web resources are becoming central to popular culture, notes Brown. Now, educators must begin to incorporate the features of mash-ups and remixes in learning, to stimulate -creative tinkering and the play of imagination.” With the avid participation of online users, the distinction between producers and consumers blurs. In the same way, says Brown, knowledge 'production' must flow more from 'amateurs' _ the students, life-long learners, and professionals learning new skills. Brown describes amateur astronomers who observe the sky 24/7, supplementing the work of professionals in critical ways. A website devoted to Boccaccio's Decameron welcomes both scholars and students, opening up the world of professional humanities research to all. The challenge of 21st century education will be leveraging the abundant resources of the web _ this very long tail of interests _ into a -circle of knowledge-building and sharing.” Perhaps, Brown proposes, the formal curriculum of schools will encompass both a minimal core -that gets at the essence of critical thinking,” paired with -passion-based learning,” where kids connect to niche communities on the web, deeply exploring certain subjects. Brown envisions education becoming -an act of re-creation and productive inquiry,” that will form the basis for a new culture of learning.

About the Speaker(s): John Seely Brown left as Director of Xerox-PARC in June 2000, and stepped down as Xerox Corporation Chief Scientist in April 2002. He has published more than 100 papers in scientific journals and was awarded the Harvard Business Review's 1991 McKinsey Award for his article, "Research that Reinvents the Corporation" and again in 2002 for his article (with John Hagel) -Your Next IT Strategy.”

His latest book, The Only Sustainable Edge: Why Business Strategy Depends on Productive Friction and Dynamic Specialization, written with John Hagel, was published in the spring of 2005 by Harvard Business School Press.

Brown is a member of the National Academy of Education and a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence and of AAAS, and a Trustee of Brown University, the MacArthur Foundation and In-Q-Tel.

He received an A.B. from Brown University in 1962 in Mathematics and Physics and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1970 in Computer and Communication Sciences.

Host(s): Office of the Provost, iCampus

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MIT World — special events and lectures

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