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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Practicing Learning by Learning: The Importance of Continually Educating Ourselves

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

When one-to-one computing comes to a school, teachers, librarians, administrators, and technical staff have plenty to learn. A project's kiss of death can easily arrive in the form of feeling completely prepared, of already knowing everything that needs to be known.

I was sitting in the Anytime Anywhere Learning Conference in Boston, listening to John Bransford talk to us via video feed from Redmond, Washington, about learning. He used one slide that really got me thinking. It discussed the difference between learning how to be efficient and learning how to get better, how to innovate.

The short version of what I took from it is that if we accept learning to be efficient as proof of success, we will naturally fall short of our possible achievement. The only way to be sure we achieve to our highest level is to keep on learning -- to keep on practicing, always using a willingness to innovate with an ability to hold onto what we learn about how to do anything well. In short, don't be willing to rest on your laurels -- and, oh, yes, stay involved with the world and the people that surround you to receive feedback on how you are doing on your journey.

Which prompts me to ask this question: How are you practicing learning by learning? What are you learning right now? A musical instrument? A new language? Please share.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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Jan Jacobs's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I am learning how to be more open to my students and colleagues. I am learning more about utilizing technology in my classroom. I put together my first webquest for my AP U.S. History Class and I thought one way I could learn is by doing the project along with my students. This year I will be learning how to publish a high school newspaper; one goal is to get it off paper and onto the web.
mike huhndorf's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
It sounds so simple to learn by learning but you just need to start doing it (i.e. learning anything). Nothing makes sense at first and there is a lot of disequilibrium but as familiarity with something becomes prevalent there is an awareness of having learned. It takes time, diligent focus, and a will to succeed but it happens. It seems to happen if the will to learn is there. Pretty soon one can see and reflect on how that happened and after reflection an experienced learner gains confidence in his abilities to learn most anything because he sees HOW he learned. I personally ascribe persistence but the joy knowing that one knows how to learn opens up many vistas.
Phyllis Uchtman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I am learning how to turn pieces of crocheted yarn and leather into purses, vests, jackets, etc. There are several layers to this learning. I am learning how to crochet new stitches all the time. I am learning what happens when I combine those stitches in new and different ways. I am learning how to use different colors and textures of yarn artistically. Finally, I am learning how to make a functional and beautiful item without a pattern. Learning is really an exciting activity, isn't it!
Jim Burke's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
This topic reminds me of John Holt's book, Never Too Late, which among other things, speaks of his experience learning how to play the cello at age 50.
Woody's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I have been in active learning mode on guitar for 40 years. Presently I have been concentrating on both flat-picking and finger-picking techniques. I have been learning fiddle tunes both new ones and old ones that I have forgotten. The practicing includes ear training: listening to the melodies numerous times on downloaded MIME files from the internet as well as listening to myself playing them. Occasionally, I will record myself to listen to how I sound. This is significantly different from the sound I hear when I am actually playing. To successfully learn a tune, I must convert what I learn in my head via my ears to the physical manipulation of my fingers. I intermix alternating and cross picking with my right hand with ever-changing positioning of my left hand up and down the fret board. To successfully accomplish this multi-tasking activity, I must be really relaxed. I try and spend at least some of the practice time for each tune playing very slowly. This allows me to closely listen as I improvise more than I would feel comfortable with playing much faster. By improvising in this way, I seem to feel a lot more freedom in exploring the notes on the scale around the melody as well as introduce subtle timing nuances that make the music more interesting to my ear. When I fingerpick, I usually practice two things: 1. set pieces that I have been working on anywhere from a few days to 10 years and 2. new arrangements of old jazz standards that I compose using original chording positions with melody lines found within the chord voicings I select. I usually work toward finished pieces rather than just playing parts of pieces. There is something very satisfying about being able to play a piece that has a beginning, a middle and an end. I do work on parts of pieces when there is a passage that is not progressing at the same speed as other parts of the piece or when it just becomes a finger exercise that I repeat in a disembodied fashion to make my fingers do something that is hard for them to do. This type of practice is definitely not heavy on the ear training part of practicing but rather working on the physical mechanics of playing.
virginia malone's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I am learning about how I learn, by a reflection process I learned at a convention. When I learn something, really new, I write down what I did first to learn, what I did second and so on. A pattern appears after doing this several times. Now I can learn more because I know some of the ways that I learn and the steps I need to follow to learn. What I learn every day is I have a lot to learn.
Christina Guerrero's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
Last year, after 20 years in the classroom, I took a position teaching English teachers how to integrate technology in their practice because I thought I'd get to learn a lot about technology. Boy, did I underestimate the learning curve! In addition to the technology tools that we're working with, I've learned that technology is not learned in the same way most of us were taught to learn. To learn technology you don't sit down by yourself and follow a list of directions. You have to take risks, try new things, make mistakes. It also helps to be working with someone else, not necessarily an expert. And the more you learn, the more new ways you think of to use the technology, so you have to go back and take more risks, try more new things, make more mistakes. I've also been giving a lot of thought to WHY we should learn something. This year, my responsibilities are expanding to include the Math teachers at my schools. Some of them are on the brink of retirement and have never used computers or the internet. When they ask me why they should learn all this new technology to use for just a year or two, what will I say? For me, it's the thrill of cresting that learning curve. I'm creating new neural pathways, staving off dementia and having a lot of fun.
Betsy Hanselmann's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I am learning about education in the USA. I have been abroad for many years and now am working on my Masters on-line - which is in and of itself a learning process. It is fun to "meet" people and share opinions about schools and how they can best work - we all have to learn to work together and accept new information from others with their personal experiences. It is fun learning something new, and I wonder what I will do with my time after the program is finished. It is actually through this program that I came upon this website, and have been learning new things ever since - thanks!!
Valerie Chernek's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I am learning by slowing down, reconnecting with nature, taking time to reflect my life's journey and getting firmly grounded in what I have to give to others. Yoga is a great outlet for thinking about these things or learning how to just "be". I am also interested in all of the new sciences of learning, such as Universal Design and anchored instruction, how the brain works when we strive to gain knowledge and what makes a good class environment to best meet the needs of kids with differentiated learning styles. Learn ON! Be well!
Dave Ramage's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I took the opportunity to create a podcast for professional development in our school system as a way to stretch my own learning. We often overlook the chance to include this kind of recursive experience in our own professional learning – modeling the kinds of learning we desire to see in our students in our ongoing learning. I love the National Staff Development Center's simple statement, "At school everyone's job is to learn". Ironic that K-12 schools have trouble being learning organizations themselves. I find great fulfillment in trying to turn that around.....

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