John Seely Brown


John Seely Brown is currently a visiting scholar at the Annenberg Center at USC. He was the Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation until April 2002 and also the director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) until June 2000—a position he held for twelve years. While head of PARC, Brown expanded the role of corporate research to include such topics as organizational learning, complex adaptive systems, micro electrical mechanical system (MEMS) and NANO technology. His personal research interests include digital culture and rich media (both of which he pursues at USC), ubiquitous computing, web service architectures and organizational and individual learning. The recipient of honorary PhDs from Brown University and the London Business School, Dr. Seely Brown is the author of many influential publications on learning, including "Learning in the Digital Age" (2002) and "The Social Life of Learning: How can Continuing Education be Reconfigured in the Future" (2002).



The Play of Imagination

The relationship between play and learning is both a complicated and fundamental one. As education, play is way of thinking about more than simply what we know; it is a comportment towards the world, a way of not only seeing the world, but of seeing ourselves in it.

As games, particularly virtual worlds, become increasingly popular and as they begin to approximate large scale social systems in size and nature, they have also become spaces where play and learning have merged in fundamental ways. More important is the idea that kind of learning that happens in the spaces of these massively multiplayer online games is fundamentally different than what we have come to consider as standard pedagogical practice. The distinction we make is that traditional paradigms of instruction has addressed learning as "learning about," while these new forms of learning deal with knowledge through the dynamic of "learning to be."

This paper is an effort to deal with four inter-related issues. Problems with education as currently conceived, the power of games as imagination and as tools for productive inquiry, the development of a theory of transfer and the connections among play, innovation, and learning.

It is our contention that the experiences offering MMOGs provide a fundamentally different way of thinking about learning which may provide some keys to the development of future pedagogical practice.

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