Barnes and Noble as Adult Education Center

I’ve began working seriously on the syllabus and activities for my adult education for the fall. This is the first time in eight years that I’m getting back to my roots in adult learning, and preparing for the course is exhilarating and overwhelming at the same time. There’s lots of new literature to try to access and assimilate, much of it from sources outside the United States, and Web 2.0 has opened up avenues for personal learning that we considered science fiction when I was working on my doctorate at Syracuse during the 80’s.

The most overwhelming part is that the course preparation has heightened my perception and now I see adults learning everywhere I go. I stopped for coffee at the B&N yesterday, and the place was as alive with learning as any university library. As I wandered around, I could see people writing small business plans, studying anatomy, pitching Mary Kay franchisees, copying guitar chords and catching up with their magazine reading of every conceivable type. (I even saw a few people buying books.)

I overheard two teachers sitting next to me apparently planning a summer trip to Ireland. They had the Dummies guide, a pile of books and maps that I didn’t recognize, multiple highlighters, various colored post-it notes. From the snippets of conversation it seemed like this was pretty focused on learning more about the country, its history and how that shaped some of the literature that at least one of two taught in class. From my eavesdropping, it sounded like a perfect kind of high level-learning that we want teachers to be engaged in so that they can continue to grow and inspire students to become life-long learners.

I couldn’t be sure, but it also sounded to me like one of the two had to leave late for the trip because she had to take a required education course to complete the 150 points to get her permanent certification. Seemed a shame to me that after 35 years of research on self-directed learning, those of us in the education establishment still haven’t figured out how to credential and certify the authentic, engaged, real-world learning of our teachers. We should be clever enough to come up with a way to award some permanent certification points to an English teacher who self-planned a tour of Irish writers for her summer vacation and spare her another two weeks in school.

One thought on “Barnes and Noble as Adult Education Center”

  1. Great post. I sure wish you were a dean somewhere.

    We also need to figure out a way to make our learning spaces feel more like a B&N and less like a holding tank. 🙂 Interesting that no one in B&N seems worried that their customers aren’t seeing the store primarily as a factory, or even a retail outlet.

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