Creating a Significant Learning Environment

There are four quotes from Albert Einstein that I absolutely adore:

  1. “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
  2. “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
  3. “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
  4. “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

Albert Einstein understood how learning really occurs and how traditional education can squash it. Einstein’s passionate curiosity is what kept his learning alive. I’ve heard these quotes before, but the meaning didn’t click for me until I read “A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change”. The book describes how as educators, we need to make play, questioning, and imagination the foundation for a new culture of learning.

The book gives several examples of how gaming (play) cultivates imagination and connects people who can work together to learn and solve problems. The book argues that in a world where information is constantly changing, learning should be seen as an environment. One can combine online resources, the boundaries that define it, and the students, teachers, and information work together to shape each other in a meaningful way (Brown & Thomas, 2011).4_3

The authors discuss the pitfall of the twenty-first century’s teaching model: that some facts may hold true, but change is occurring rapidly, and we need to embrace it rather than fight it. “In a world of near-constant flux, play becomes a strategy for embracing change, rather than a way for growing out of it” (Brown & Thomas, 2011). In discussing the imminent and necessary new culture of learning, three key principles are presented: “(1) The old ways of learning are unable to keep up with our rapidly changing world. (2) New media forms are making peer-to-peer learning easier and more natural. (3) Peer-to-peer learning is amplified by emerging technologies that shape the collective nature of participation with those new media.” (Brown & Thomas, 2011).Gaming560


Some of the ideas I really want to bring to my classroom are:


  1. Teaching the students how to learn through constructing good questions
  2. Introducing more games in the classroom that reinforce the material and cultivate passion
  3. Encouraging peer-peer learning

In the chapter on “Inquiry”, it is explained that students learn best when they follow their passions. The problem is a lot of people don’t know what their passions are because they have never been encouraged to explore them. However, you can’t just tell students to follow their passions without constraints that allow them to act within certain boundaries. Brown and Thomas (2011) pose the idea, “What if, for example, questions were more important than answers?”. This is where Einstein’s passionate curiosity came into play. He never stopped asking questions. Each question would lead to another one. Students need to be taught to come up with good questions. We could play games in class where students are given a question, find answers to that question online, and then they have to construct new questions based on what they learned. That process would turn them into active learners instead of just passively listening to a teacher feeding them all the answers.

I’ve always noticed how much the students love playing games in class like Kahoot and Socrative, even though it’s based on the same old summative assessments. We spend a lot less time playing games than we do on lecture because “we have to get through the material”, but maybe they should be flip-flopped; we could spend more time playing and less time lecturing. As far as I know, there are no online games that are specific to dental hygiene. However, I could give them a treasure hunt to see how many intelligent questions and answers they can find on all types of websites- including message boards. There is a great website called HygieneTown that is rich with information on all kinds of hygiene topics; surely, the students will be able to find something they can be passionate about.cl2

HygieneTown can also help with peer-peer learning. In the message boards, they can interact with hygienists at all levels: new and seasoned. Another forum could be online discussions where the students post questions to each other and help each other understand information that isn’t clicking for them. I think a search for interesting information that they care about, followed by a discussion where they share what they found would be very interesting and educational.

My innovation plan revolves around the goal of collaboration between hygienists and other healthcare providers. I think it’s important for healthcare professionals to know how to search for information in a world where they can’t possibly always know all the answers. Learning how to ask the right questions and how to search for answers will allow them to function at a high level in this constantly changing environment in healthcare. Maybe they can keep the doctors and nurses on their toes!



Brown J. S. & Thomas, D. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the imagination for a  world of constant change. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 1456458884

Moncur, M. (2015). The Quotations Page. Retrieved from

Author: CruzN

I'm a Curriculum Specialist, Dental Hygienist, and Goldendoodle breeder. I want to share my passions with others so we can collaborate. I have an A.S. and a B.S. in Dental Hygiene, and a Master's in Education with a focus on Digital Learning. I have a passion for Goldendoodles, and have taken courses in breeding and genetics through AKC. I'm also a member of GANA. I have an amazing husband and three kids: Matt, Chloe, and Silas. I also have 3 dogs and a cat. Definitely a full house! When I'm not editing curriculum or fighting plaque and gingivitis, I like to hang out with friends and family (a little BBQ here and there), garden, play with the kiddos and my dogs, travel, and remodel our house (a never-ending project!). Most of all, I love to learn and share ideas. Thanks for stopping by!

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