Readybrek metaphor for smart learning literacy

I’m late to the John Seely Brown party. It’s one of those names I’ve come across so many times in passing and finally I followed the citation. On this occasion JSB was cited by Spires et al. (2012) – another great find.
I was interested in the notion of learning ecology, but more than that I am grateful for the following passage, which would have been a fantastic source for the Digital Voices book, but, as with learning ecologies theory, informs my current focus on media-enhanced learning environments and smart media in particular. It also explains my interest in academic literacies (this would have been useful for a paper I have just submitted on Digital Posters and the student’s “contract” with learning about the academic voice – let’s hope it comes back for revisions!).
Brown (1999) says,
“Our current concept of literacy grows out of our intense belief in text, a particular focus that probably resulted from the power and omnipresence of one particular technology—the typewriter. Over the last 50 to 100 years it has become the primary authoring tool, a tool uniquely suited for text but terrible for sketching, painting or even writing music or mathematics. Indeed, almost all our past technology for helping the authoring process has been aimed at one particular kind of intelligence.”
Brown then goes on to talk about the opportunity that the emerging Web of 1999 provided educators in terms of rethinking the media we use to teach and learn.
“With the Web we have for the first time a medium that could truly honor multiple forms of intelligence—abstract, textual, visual, musical, social and kinesthetic.”
But pretend for a moment he was writing two years ago in 2011. Pretend he is writing, not about the Web, but smart technologies and BYOD4L:
“The kinesthetic is the last to be served. So now we have the chance to construct, with almost no extra work by the educational communities, a medium that enables a kid to become engaged in his or her ideal way of learning—enabling a good impedance match between the medium and how a particular kid thinks. (This capability may be especially important as a child starts his learning journey. Afterwards, and after a sense of self confidence about being able to learn has been established, mastering a broader set of learning media will be easier). We may be at an inflection point where visual, musical, spatial and kinesthetic intelligence can be as easily served by technology as abstract and textual intelligence. This opportunity is a discontinuity on how we might leverage technology for learning in the future.”
The article goes on and you can read the whole piece for yourself.
Now, in passing, it’s worth making what I believe is a very important point here: this is not about learning styles, this is about multiple intelligences. I am aware of other writers on multiple intelligences and multiple literacies, and as with any theory you have to tread carefully to make sure you don’t start sticking the theory to anything that moves! The term academic literacy has much in common with the notion of multiliteracies (Kress, 2010) and multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983) in which it is understood that all individuals have “an array of intellectual capacities” (Robinson, 2001, p.107) and that literacy, in this sense, grows out of being – being a learner, learning to be or become a professional, and so forth.
Back to the point I wanted to make. The “smart” learner, using their own device, exists as a learner with multiple ways of being supported by their technology; ways which echo their preferences, needs, literacies and possibly intelligences through the personalised functionality they have brought to their interface on learning.
To introduce another metaphor (hopefully not one too many) this pervasive idea of personalised technology can almost be thought of as an ectoplasm. Bear in mind I really am not a scientist or spiritualist, but in my mind I imagine this as an outer invisible layer or field that creates a learning interface between our corporal state and technology as visualised in Readybrek adverts!
This little post has taken a few slightly bizarre twists and turns, but I’m afraid I have this tendency when I’m feeling inspired. Ironically, some of this would have been better drawn but I’m on my iPad on a train and text at this moment is as good as it gets!


Brown, J.S. (1999). Learning, working, and playing in the digital age. Online at:
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: the theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books
Kress, G. (2010). The Profound shift of digital literacies. In: Gillen, J. and Barton, D. (2010) Digital literacies: a research briefing by the Technology Enhanced Learning Phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme. TLRP, London Knowledge Lab, 6 – 7
Robinson, K. (2001). Out of our minds: learning to be creative. Chichester: Capstone Books.
Spires, H. A., Wiebe, E., Young, C. A., Hollebrands, K., & Lee, J. K. (2012). Toward a new learning ecology:Professional development for teachers in 1:1 learning environments. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 12(2). Retrieved from:


About amiddlet50

Educational developer working in academic innovation in higher education in the UK
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