John Seely Brown: Innovation is around the corner: Learning in the digital age

Conference by John Seely Brown at UOC headquarters in the framework of the University’s Innovation Forums.

John Seely Brown: Creating a Culture of Learning. Leveraging and Extending Open Educational Resources

John Seely Brown

How to go beyond course material in the field of Open Access. Is there anything more in “open” and learning than Open Educational Resources?

Understanding is socially constructed.

Social software, especially social networking sites, are making possible more and better networks, groups to build understanding, knowledge together.

Michael Polanyi’s dimensions of knowledge: learning about (explicit) vs. learning to be (tacit). Normally, the flow is from explicit to tacit, but we should be able to reverse this flow, and first learn how to be and shape, then, how and what to learn about.

Open Source as a Participatory Learning Platform: writing code to be read, engagement through useful additions, social capital matters. A form of distributed situated learning (cognitive ‘apprenticeship’) enculturating to a virtual community of practice. Open code, open system, open community discussion.

(There are very interesting examples of such platforms at Atkins, D. E., Brown, J. S. & Hammond, A. L. (2007). A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities. (online): OERderves.)

Tinkering — enjoy fixing, experimenting — as a learning platform. We have to legitimate tinkering.

In the Digital Age, there is a culture of participation: tinkering, building, remixing, sharing. To create meaning by what one produces and others build upon. And sometimes this meaning creation happens without the original author of the work used as a basis for further meaning creation.

The Long Tail in Learning: leveraging and supporting each segment differently, supporting the rise of an ecology of learning/doing niches.

Open Participatory Learning Infrastructure: Open Educational Resources, e-Science, e-Humanities, Web 2.0 and beyond, etc.

Huge importance not on resources, but on how to blend them together.

My comments, thoughts

  • Are we preparing our students accordingly? But another (previous) question is: are we preparing our faculty accordingly? Are we taking for granted that faculty is either prepared or willing to be trained? How to engage people in tinkering? J.S. Brown answers that it is not a matter of knowledge, but a matter of attitude. And have to admit that we have to become mentors, not savvy priests. Admit that there are things we don’t know and that we will find out together. My question then becomes: how do we teach such an awareness that we don’t know and such a change of attitude (specially to faculty)?
  • How to legitimate tinkering within institutions and, more important, inside the academic system, where formality, traditional review is the Law?
  • How to deal with the traditional fears of traditional faculty: how to attribute authorship, how to correctly allocate reputation, how to assess tinkering?

More info


Video of the seminar:


Slides of the seminar:


If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2007) “John Seely Brown: Innovation is around the corner: Learning in the digital age” In ICTlogy, #51, December 2007. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from

Previous post: ALT-C 2008: Rethinking the digital divide

Next post: The Teacher’s Personal Portal: the Virtual Faculty or the Net behind the Classrooms

2 Comments to “John Seely Brown: Innovation is around the corner: Learning in the digital age” »

  1. Pingback: Education Futures » Learning as a social event

  2. Pingback: la sociedad del (des)conocimiento « e-rgonomic

RSS feed RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Your comment: