Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Learning for Living...

flickr CC image via scratanut

Learning for living... Find something you love to do, then find a way to make money doing it"


Life long learning is a phrase being used a lot lately. Educators everywhere are working hard to support life-long learning. They are responding to the perceived need in contemporary society for kids to become life-long learners in preparation for the twenty-first century... but what is a life-long learner, and furthermore, what is twenty-first century learning? 

I am wondering if the impact of both these terms is becoming neutralized by a lack of clarity and context. How we frame learning is key if we intend to create substance around these terms, and then once we have a clear grasp of learning, we can begin to contextualize a platform of support that sustains it over a lifetime that for the vast majority of us, will not extend beyond the 21st Century making life-long learning, and 21st Century learning, somewhat synonymous. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Zen and the art of early engagement...

flickr CC image via woodleywonderworks

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything;

it is open to everything.  In the beginner's mind there are

many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

I have been thinking about the way we introduce learning to kids at the beginning of the kindergarten to grade twelve spectrum. We are taught as preservice teachers to think of early learning kids as "tabula rasa," or blank slates. This is interesting considering that we are also taught during our preservice training that kids have learned an almost unbelievable amount in the first five years of life. We certainly don't seem to honor the widely accepted notion that kids have likely learned more before entering school than they will collectively for the rest of their lives. From the NYU Child Study Center...
During this time the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth, and children rapidly develop the cognitive capacity that enables them to become intellectually curious and creative thinkers.
It appears clear to me that we are very privileged as professionals to have such adept and capable subjects to work with right off the bat. Even if we accept that kids are born as blank slates... tabula rasa, I believe by the time they enter school, kids are chock full of knowledge, skills and attitudes enabling them to learn any number of things... each child is indeed tabula abundans; an abundant slate. Their "beginner minds" are primed and ready to learn. So how do we run with this and make it work for them?

Synthesizing energy...

flickr CC image via NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Some years ago I had the fortunate opportunity to participate in a three day (over three months,) leadership series with Dr. Leroy Sloan. During one of those days Leroy shared a venn diagram with three circles. In the middle of the circle on the left was the word job. In the circle on the opposite end was the word career. In the middle circle was the word life. Dr. Sloan used the diagram to make the following point...
In the measured contexts of our everyday lives, we know a lot about what people do in their daily jobs (the things they have to do), perhaps a little about their career aspirations (the things they want to do), and not very much at all about their lives away from work- the elements that make them who they are... their families, histories, passions, hobbies, fears, joys etc. There is something inherently defeating about this if we intend to work collaboratively and cooperatively from informed and synergistic perspectives.

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