Personal Learning

Sara and started reading this book to each other on 2 January:

I read the Preface and Chap. 1 (out loud) the first evening. As of Thursday night we are through chapter 4. We have more or less alternated reading to each other since then.

This book is on my 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge list.  I began reading it last April but about 3 chapters in it got interrupted by wedding planning/prep, getting married, and moving. I still wanted to read it, and hopefully apply some of it in my life, so I added it to my 12 Books list.

The reason we are reading this book and that I mention it here are that Sara and I are trying to get a little more serious about taking our personal learning and growth into our own hands.  This, of course, also includes professional learning and growth.  Sara’s opportunities are a bit more limited here than where we were previously, and with me unemployed mine are severely more limited.

An apropos epigraph from the book:

“Learning is not a task or a problem—it is a way to be in the world. Man learns as he pursues goals and projects that have meaning for him.” – Sidney Jourard (44) [Info on who he is. I had to look him up. His sexist language is reportedly a product of his time; not his beliefs.]

Contents:

  • Peak learning: skills for today and tomorrow
  • Science confirms it: you are a superb learner!
  • Entering the flow state to overcome your learning fears
  • Building your learning confidence
  • Discovering your personal learning profile
  • Improving your learning, reading, and memory skills
  • Developing your critical and creative thinking
  • Designing your optimal learning environment
  • Peak learning in cyberspace
  • Setting up your own learning projects
  • L(earning) your living: self development for career success
  • The invisible university: learning resources from A to Z

The book is addressed to the adult learner.  It tries to show that the experiences you had in school are not applicable to learning now.  And unlike school, where you were simply told to learn, it attempts to help the learner learn not only how to learn but how they as an individual learn  best.

Some of the myths that it seeks to dispel are: Learning is a boring unenjoyable activity; learning deals only with the subjects and skills taught in schools; We must be passive and receptive to “absorb” knowledge; You must put yourself under the tutelage of a teacher; It has to be systematic, logical, and planned; and, It needs to be thorough or it’s not worth doing (47-50).

This book was last updated in 1999 and I really wish it would be updated again.  There have been big advancements made in the brain and behavioral sciences regarding learning since then.  As to the resources that are now available compared to the Internet of 1998 or so one can only respond, “Oh my!”

If you can get it from a library it might be worth a look. There seems to be an awful lot of extraneous fluff between, and supposedly in support of, the actual useful bits. I already owned a used copy so we’re making use of it.

My Topics of Interest

Some of the topics on my list are:

  • WordPress (WP, PHP, SQL, etc.)
  • HTML5, CSS3 & related web technologies
  • photography (how to use my cameras)
  • poetry
  • topics within language (rhetoric, grammar, …)
  • math
  • physics
  • philosophy (assorted topics)
  • the brain and cognitive sciences
  • Buddhism, Islam, Tao Te Ching
  • how to use our new food processor

No doubt there are many others that I have forgotten. I will leave Sara to spell out her interests in her own time and fashion, as she sees fit.

Tools

We are trying to find the tools and software that will work for us, whether it is something one or the other of us has already been using or whether we need to find something else instead.

For instance, she’s been a big user of Evernote.  Although I created an account almost 2 years ago I never took to it.  For assorted reasons we’ve been looking at DEVONthink as a replacement for Evernote and to assist in other ways. [  Mac only software ]  Somewhat sadly, it doesn’t have some features that we truly need.  Then again, not too sad as it saves us a fair bit of money.  Still, worth looking at if your needs are not the same as ours, and there is an educator/student discount of 25%.  They also have some free tools that look to be quite useful.

For now I am trying out Evernote a bit more seriously than the first time.

Resources

Here is a draft list of some of the books we are considering reading to each other as part of our individual personal learning plans (take your pick, goodreads or Open Library).  These are titles about literature, the “Great Books” and the canon.

These are all books that we already own, and there are several others that we also already own on the same subjects that could be added.  I also have plenty of books on mathematics, physics, and so on in our collection.  Some are books I have meant to read for several years now.  I just need to add them to the list(s).

We both have many interests and there is a plethora of quality resources available for free today, assuming one has an Internet connection.  Of course, libraries will also continue to serve our needs for the more tangible products and ebooks.

Without having begun a formal probe of resources, I am aware of iTunes U, free college courses & lectures from MIT and Harvard and others, the Khan Academy, and many, many other sources.  For more fully textual resources there is Hathi Trust, feedbooks, Project Gutenberg, libraries both public and academic, and other sources.

In fact, a good resource arrived in the mail this week: the spring catalog for the local community college, Western Iowa Tech Community College.  They have a lifelong learning program that has a fair few interesting looking programs, many of which are free.  And it costs all of $5/year.  Sara found things of interest too.

This morning (Sat.) we drove over and registered as Lifelong Learning members and we signed up for some things, most free.  I signed up for 2 tours, 3 lunch programs and a lecture.  Since Sara works full-time she was only able to sign up for 2 things.

  • 2 World Cuisine and Culture lunch programs:  New Zealand, and Malaysia.
  • Art & Sandwiches lunch program on John Singer Sargent’s Madame X. A favorite of Sara’s
  • Tour of the American Pop Corn Co. (Jolly Time)
  • Tour of Central High School and Apartments (the Castle)
  • American History: The Iranian Hostage Crisis (lecture)

I am interested in the Iranian Hostage Crisis lecture as I was a young soldier in the Army when this event happened.  It was a defining event in US international relations and still haunts us to this day.  I also met one of the hostages much later in my career and was able to help him in a small way that seriously pushed the boundaries of what I knew at the time.

Future posts?

I hope to have some more posts about assorted issues related to our adventures in personal learning in the future.  Some potential topics include:

  • Some of the ways I’ve organized and used (or not used) different tools at different times
  • List of resources in general, and by assorted topics
  • Updates on how things progress

Final thoughts

Plans will be made (but not over made), resources compiled, topics probed, things learned.

What are some of the things you would like to learn?  Any suggested resources that you would recommend?

One thought on “Personal Learning

  1. Pingback: 12 Books, 12 Months: Month 5 Round Up | latter day bohemian

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