Siobhan Curious from Classroom as Microcosm has offered a second writing prompt as part of her Writing on Learning Exchange: What I Want to Learn Now. My response is below, but check out other responses on her site—and consider adding your own.
I love learning! To paraphrase Andy Defresne in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy learning or get busy dying.” If you are not learning, you are not living life to the fullest and you are bound to die, perhaps a bit sooner than you’d expect. But being open to learning is fairly easy—you just need to fully engage with the world around you.
I just finished reading John Grisham’s The Appeal and learned through one storyline how relatively easy it is for someone with lots of money and little conscience to manipulate elections and the general population. I cannot say I am thrilled about having this lesson thrown in my face, but it does serve as a cautionary tale. It also demonstrates that if you keep your mind open, you can learn something from just about any encounter, be it book, movie, tv show, new neighbor, store clerk, church sermon, whatever.
Recently, I have picked up a new recipe from a friend’s blog, discovered some book titles I want to read, and am gaining a better understanding of the concerns and problems surrounding engineered food. I’m eager to see the new movie 42 to get a better sense of the details surrounding Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier in baseball—and I figure that seeing the movie will spark some reading and learning to verify details.
My most recent intentional learning project has focused on mastering the technology needed to teach effectively online for the American Public University System. I have not been assigned a class yet as an adjunct but will be soon. In preparation, I took a three-week class to learn the technology the campus uses to enable teachers to engage the students and the material. Part of what I learned was the mechanics of the college’s Sakai system, so I can—among other things—post assignments, insert video clips into messages, respond to students individually or as a group, grade assignments and then post grades for the students. I also learned about the services available for faculty and students through the online college library system.
By the end of the three-week course, I mastered the basics, so now know that I can use the technology effectively, and I gained confidence in my skills so now know that I can engage the students through the technology. I also know that I have more to learn! When I am finally teaching my first class with this system as an adjunct professor, I will be able to experiment with and perfect how the technology can help me help the students learn. Taking this class also taught me (reminded me?) what it feels like to be a student in an online environment—the worry about using the technology; the concern that you’ll not get “it,” not get whatever the lesson is that day/week; and the hassles of staying engaged and motivated even when life interrupts the class.
The best part about learning is that it is an ongoing process. It is not surprising that Aristole was right: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Obviously then, there is always more to learn. Learning keeps pushing you forward in life! Of course, you do have to keep an open mind and look for learning opportunities. As William Dewar said, “Your mind is like a parachute. It only functions when it is open.”
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN LEARNING LATELY?
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SOME OF MY FAVORITE QUOTES ON LEARNING
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss
“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” Vernon Howard
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Harry S Truman
“Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes along.” Samuel Butler
“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think—rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men.” John Dewey
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Henry Ford
“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” Lloyd Alexander
“If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” Mark Twain
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius
“Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.” W. Edwards Deming
“It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.” Alec Bourne
“He was so learned he could say horse in nine languages; so ignorant he bought a cow to ride on.” Benjamin Franklin