Book Report – From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments

“From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments”, a treatise by Thornburg (2013), has impacted immensely on my personal view regarding education. Thornburg (2013) has markedly persuaded that technology should take a central stage in every learning environment, rather than being a mere appendage to the learning process. The descriptions of the numerous, helpful ways of incorporating technology into learning spaces tendered by Thornburg (2013) have made it clear to me that technology bolsters the utility of learning processes, especially the project-based learning processes. Prior to reading to the book, I held firmly to the view that learning processes are effective when learners are motivated recipients and critiques of knowledge. However, Thornburg (2013) convinces me that the processes are effective when learners construct own knowledge. Clearly, learners who construct own knowledge feel that their unique dominant intelligences and learning styles are honored. They are highly likely to remain engaged in learning processes.

The treatise relates to various facets of education: diversity, alternate views, and future. Thornburg (2013) comes off as rather awake to the actuality that the stakeholders in any given learning process are from diverse backgrounds, have diverse competencies, and have diverse persuasions. Diverse learners are best served by different learning environments, or spaces, at different times. At times, some students learn best when their instructors adopt storytelling or lecture teaching styles. Thornburg (2013) characterizes the spaces where instructors employ storytelling or lecture teaching styles as being “campfires”.

At times, some students learn best when they engage in social learning, discussing particular concepts among themselves in learning spaces christened “watering holes” by Thornburg (2013). At times, some students learn best when they engage in social learning, discussing particular concepts among themselves in learning spaces christened “watering holes” by Thornburg (2013). At times, some students learn best when they independently engage in quiet reflections in learning spaces christened “caves” by Thornburg (2013). Lastly, at times, some students learn best when they apply, as well as transfer, knowledge in learning spaces christened “life” by Thornburg (2013).

With respect to alternate educational views, Thornburg (2013) emphasizes that instructors should not shy off from venturing beyond the front-of-the-class, or traditional, instruction and collaborative type of work. For instance, he encourages the instructors should try their hands on quiet reflections as ways of building learners’ problem-solving competencies. Thornburg (2013) projects future education as having technological applications at its core. Thornburg (2013) urges instructors and learning institutions to utilize technological applications in the implementation of traditional instructional strategies rather than replicating what they have done in the past. Instructors and learning institutions should utilize emerging technological tools in executing instructional processes differently.

The book has on obvious focus on various extant, or current, educational practices. The overall educational theory expressed in the book is that the practices are most effective when learners construct own knowledge. As earlier indicated, I previously held the position that learning processes are effective when learners are motivated recipients and critiques of knowledge. I concur with Thornburg (2013) that pedagogy and learning spaces should be considered concurrently to ensure that learners get immersive, as well as interactive, experiences in educational processes.

Several current instructional, or educational, practices are related to the treatise. The practices include hands-on form of learning, self-directed research as well as learner-generated questions. Notably, these three practices typify many middle schools. Thornburg (2013) addresses the practices in varied ways. He advises that the practices can have their utility bolstered by ensuring that classrooms are not only redesigned to accommodate instructor-directed presentations but also the other forms of learning spaces. The redesigned classrooms would enhance learner engagement, facilitate project-based learning, allow for the incorporation of technology, and support learner-led learning.

Commonly, education’s future is thought to be defined by the extensive adoption of technological tools into instructional processes. As noted earlier, Thornburg (2013) projects future education as having technological applications at its core. He urges instructors and learning institutions to utilize technological applications in the implementation of traditional instructional strategies instead of merely replicating what they have done in the past.

For instance, he indicates that in future, more and more schools will adopt the use of whiteboards with interaction capabilities. Whiteboards can be utilized in implementing traditional instructional strategies. Especially, they can be used in giving a feeling of instructor-directed presentation spaces by keeping learners focused on their classrooms’ front sections. Clickers can be applied in learning processes to engage learners in the traditional multiple-choice ways of thinking. Thornburg (2013) advises that, in the future, schools and instructors should employ new technological tools to execute different instructional processes and activities rather than carrying out instructional processes and activities differently. The book suggests that in the future, schools will see marked sense in developing different learning spaces for use at different times by different students. The schools will progressively move towards the development of the spaces characterized as being “campfires”, “watering holes”, “caves” or “life” by Thornburg (2013).

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