Will Richardson on Becoming a Life-Long Learner

The New Face of Learning

Will Richardson’s article in Edutopia, the publication of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, is an excellent summary of his experience with the evolution of the web from a read-only word of static pages to a web filled with blogs, wikis and podcasts. The read/write web was the major catalyst to his own fullfillment as a life-long learner.

In this new interactive Web world, I have become a nomadic learner; I graze on knowledge. I find what I need when I need it. There is no linear curriculum to my learning, no formal structure other than the tools I use to connect to the people and sources that point me to what I need to know and learn, the same tools I use to then give back what I have discovered. I have become, at long last, that lifelong learner my teachers always hoped I would become. Unfortunately, it’s about thirty years too late for them to see it.

My ability to easily consume other people’s ideas, share my own in return, and communicate with other educators around the world has led me to dozens of smart, passionate teachers from whom I learn every day. It’s also led me to technologies and techniques that leverage this newfound network in ways that look nothing like what’s happening in traditional classrooms.

This is the world of lifelong learning that adult educators have been longing for at least since the publication of Allen Tough’s 1971 book The Adult’s Learning Projects. (Available as a free download). In 2001, Tough wrote:

I see the Worldwide web as the most exciting development in adult education in the last 30 years. As educators we need to take the web very seriously….

An understatement perhaps?

A Guide for the Stubborn Intelligence

Ron Gross’s book The Independent Scholars Handbook is one of the my favorite adult education works of all time. The book, which was first published in 1982 and then re-released in 1993, contains the stories of individuals from every background whose lives contained a serious commitment to research, investigation, theory building and other intellectual enterprises. In addition, the book provides a resource guide with specific suggestions on how to move from “Messy Beginnings” to the finished product of research–whatever your field of endeavor.

One of my favorite stories in the book comes when the author, beginning his career as the “lowest of the low” in the world of New York publishing, comes face to face with editorial giant Max Schuster…

Continue reading “A Guide for the Stubborn Intelligence”

How Mack Ended Up in Skinny Jeans

Swem Review of Technology
How to Explain RSS the Oprah Way

Mack Lundy has posted a nice example of how using RSS technology can lead to finding some excellent resources that you might otherwise miss. Using an RSS aggregator, like BlogLines, is one of the key skills for making the most of the collective wisdom of the blogosphere. His post refers to an article that introduces a complete novice to the idea of RSS in the “Oprah way” posted on the Back in Skinny Jeans bog.

When you go to Back in Skinny Jeans you might ask yourself, “What earthly reason does Mack have for going to a web site about beauty and weight loss?” My arrival there is an example of how information is distributed across the Internet and how unlikely connections are made. The sequence went like this:

  1. Stephanie posts the article to her blog
  2. Steve Rubel on the Micro Persuasion blog posts about it later that day.
  3. Jill Stover picks up the story from Micro Persuasion and blogs about it today on her blog, Library Marketing-Thinking Outside the Book. Jill is the Undergraduate Services Librarian at VCU, by the way.
  4. I’m a subscriber to Library Marketing, I read Stephanie’s “how to …”, and wrote this blog entry.

While I don’t read as many blogs as Mack–113 to his 154–I agree that it’s a good investment of some time each week to “read a lot, read broadly, and follow links – there is a lot of good stuff out there.”

A Competency Model for Lifelong Learning

Half an Hour: Things You Really Need to Learn

One of the key objectives of our adult education course is to develop and refine our long-term competency models of what it means to be adult learners. (The best way to think of this particular class is through the principle of recursion: a group of adult learners, learning to think more creatively and critically about how adults learn to be more effective in managing their own learning .) The competency model is the long term vision; one student nailed the concept in this way:

but I am trying to think of this in terms of what you said last night – that we are trying to develop a large number of competencies, and they are not all going to happen at once, but that we can create learning experiences to take them on a few at a time, so that over the course of a lifetime, we can become exceptionally competent.

I clipped this list from Stephen Downes earlier in the semester, and I think it’s really worth going back to. Stephen was responding to a post by Guy Kawasaki which included suggestions like learning “how to write five sentence emails, create powerpoint slides, and survive boring meetings”. Stephen’s list was much more appropriate adult and lifelong learners:

This is, in my view, what you need to learn in order to be successful. Moreover, it is something you can start to learn this year, no matter what grade you’re in, no matter how old you are. I could obviously write much more on each of these topics. But take this as a starting point, follow the suggestions, and learn the rest for yourself. And to educators, I ask, if you are not teaching these things in your classes, why are you not?

Some of the items on the list are things that most courses don’t begin to address, but that are crucial to successful lifelong learning. (The comments to the post are worth a read as well.)

  1. How to predict consequences
  2. How to empathize
  3. How to be creative
  4. How to Learn

Not a bad long term competency model for the 21st Century.

Key to Successful Project Management

We’ve invested lots of time in the last few months cataloguing all the academic projects that we’re working on or could be working on if we had the time or money. The list of current projects is posted now on the TIP Community blog site, and we maintain a much longer list “awaiting evaluation”. (We define project as something that will take more than 10 hours, requires more than one person, and produces a “nonroutine” result.) The goal of our project management methodology is to keep the number of stealth projects to a minimum and to wring as much individual and collective learning out of the process as we can.

Moving to a more explicit project orientation has generated a few growing pains as we all try to form new habits. I’m sure we’ll learn more complex methods as we go along, but, for now, I still think one of the best guides is at Lifehack with 16 Steps to Project Management. The specific steps may differ from project to project, but there’s an underlying theme that is pretty clear. See if you can figure out what it is.

1. Determine the objective and specific desired outcome. Write it down.

4. Begin “brainstorming” and create scenarios on how to achieve the desired outcome (this may have be broken down into sub-tasks). Make a date when all this creative thinking will be finished and a written draft can be printed and shared.

6. Determine and identify the tools (capital, equipment, machinery), the people (administration, sales, suppliers, customers), and the time required to complete the objectives. Write this down.

12. The leader must follow-up on all dates and compromises. Make this information public to all others involved in the project. Communicate all deliveries of sub-tasks, or lack of delivery, with the group.

The consequences of poor communication have been well documented.


A Noble Cause for Educators–Scratching the Itch

Abject Learning: Wikipedia and Higher Ed – Glib Answers to Tough Questions

Brian Lamb has posted a great set of answers to questions about the use of Wikipedia. As Gardner points out, this is a wonderful synthesis of idealism about the promise of a connected community and the realities of our academic clutures. My favorite phrase is “scratching the itch of our habitual curiosity.” What a great line!

Does Wikipedia really encourage understanding, or is it just us scratching the itch of our habitual curiosity?

Oh, a bit of both I suppose. When you see an incredibly detailed Wikipedia entry on the Klingon language it’s hard not to laugh and roll your eyes. But such cultural quirks should not obscure the genuine pragmatic value of the resource. Nor does it invalidate the super-cool nature of tens of thousands of volunteers working worldwide in good faith to create the best reference work possible. I fail to understand how any public-minded educator can’t be excited and encouraged by this phenomenon.

Incidentally, I think that fostering a sense of “habitual curiosity” and tapping its energy is a noble and worthwhile mission, especially for educators.