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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
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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.

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Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

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Jim Moulton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Oh, my goodness! What a wonderful collection of responses. Thanks to all for sharing so far, and I look forward to reading many more.

My wife and I often said that one of our greatest wishes for our kids in terms of their school experience was that they would, each year, be "apprenticed to a learner." Just as I often wonder how someone who does not write can effectively teach writing, isn't an adult learner best suited to support young learners in their growth? We saw the difference it made for our children. How about you?

Yesterday I did the keynote at a local district's professional development day, and then sat in on a session where a school district's business manager, self taught in the use of Microsoft's Access, introduced educators to how it works... I "sort of understood" relational databases before, but Jim's facilitation of our experimentation as a learning community for the afternoon took me far closer to really getting it. It felt so good to apporach understanding, and to begin to visualize what I might be able to do...

I agree, Valerie - "Learn on!"

Karen Veit's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm a true believer in the importance of continuing to learn. I'm 55 and this past school year I joined band class to learn the clarinet. My students got a kick out of that! I read two daily newspapers to find information that pertains to the subjects I teach (Social Studies, Texas History, American History) and then pass that along to my students (trying to make it relevant to them, you know!). It's a definite learning experience to go beyond the textbook and seek out more information. I am also an avid reader and crossword puzzle fan. Keep the brain working!

Donna McCaw's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been learning how to be reflective and not reactive. To step back and ask myself what I am feeling and why? I have been avidly reading everything I can on spiritual centeredness. It is not that I have a problem or have been asked to become more than I was - it is simply that there were times when I didn't like myself - even once in a while is not an acceptable rate. We tell our students to "grow up" through our many little "sermons" and yet too few of the adults in their lives model a calm, reflective, gentle, caring person. I want my students to see that in me. More importantly, I want to see it in myself. I have to tell you that this learning is some of the most difficult learning that I have under taken for myself.

Diane Demee-Benoit's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm so glad that Jim Moulton did this blog post. The readers' comments are so interesting and so honest.

We all bring something personal to the learning process, and it depends on where we're at in our personal and professional lives. I want to comment on Donna McCaw's reflections (above). Donna, your words really resonated with me. Like you, I think what profoundly interests me these days is learning about things that are difficult to assess, and looking at things in different ways than I have. I've come to explore subjects outside of my normal areas of interest. This introduced me to new people and even the people I've known for years seemed "new" because I started learning that they had interests I never knew existed. And, they introduced me to books and ways of growing (learning) that I might not have considered just a year ago.
A new friend, who is not an educator, thought I would like Stephen Levitt's book, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. It really pushed my thinking outwards to see unusual patterns and to think through seemingly ordinary things in unusual ways. Levitt's book is sometimes politically incorrect, sometimes frightening, sometimes hysterical, and sometimes far-fetched. But, it pushes you to really think (um...learning?).

Here are two other books I recently read which have caused me to expand my own thinking. They made me open to really look at life and life purpose in a new and different way. My first impression, was that they were just spiritual/religious mumbo-jumbo. But, believe me they aren't. Interestingly, people from all walks and occupations find meaning in them. Look at this post on the 800-CEO-READ blog and go to your local library and see if you can find Anthony de Mello's book. The other book is Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now".

Now, you won't agree with everything de Mello and Tolle talk about in their books, but be "open" to what is probably outside of your ordinary sphere. These books made me get out of my analytical learning mode and be really open to ideas outside of my comfort zone. Being open to learning, wow!

Judith Macachor's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

When Educational Assessment as a course in teacher training was first assigned to me to teach I was a mixed up feeling. I like the course as an education student and as a faculty. It is a course not easy to learn and to teach. If I think of myself as a student and that I need to know and understand deeper, learning becomes attractive. I used different styles of learning: I read a lot on the topic from different sources. I compare one idea to another and find what's the difference or new about it. I take notes a lot and classify them. I also up-date my resources and take note on the new concepts. I collect books and update my bibliography and take note where to find these books. I also try to attend to seminars about new things. I read new researches about the topic. My course portfolio is getting richer and richer every semester that I teach the course. If I think of myself as an expert I feel I am satiated already and learning becomes boring. My strategy of learning to learn is attitudinal and reflective.

Jennifer Jenkins's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree Jim that we all need to practice what we preach. However, I don't have time with two children, papers to grade, and education to pursue, and a household to support, comfort, and rear to do a science experiement in my backyard simply because I teach my students to appreciate science. It is so true that the perfect teacher could do all those things mentioned in your blog as it sounds great on paper, but I believe it isn't realistic. It's like the standards that we are asked to teach the students to master. I believe it MUST be important to them personally for them to truely master it and so it is my job to be creative and to figure out how to make it that way. However, I believe what they don't know won't hurt them. If I can encourage them that they need to know about habitats and organisms that dwell there as it will influence their future, then I will tell them what ever they want to hear (for encouragement purposes only). I won't make up lies, no way! But I just felt I needed to respond with truth, my initial reaction. I am a life-long learner. We all are wether we want to be or not. It's our nature to learn, thank goodness. However, I can't do many of the suggestions you listed in your blog that will most likely make me a more effective teacher...and this is only because of my busy schedule. Let me know if you think I am wrong for saying this. Thanks.

Yvonne Brooks's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with you Jim.If we practice what we preach, we get better result from our students.When teachers portray the qualities that they want their students to emulate, it gives the students a chance to see the work in action. Teachers become in Kottler, Zehn, & Kottler, (2005), words "living example" (Pg 23). Modeling the qualities is the most significant way to motivate the students to put forth the same effort. Students get to see us as learners too.

Kristen 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently learning how to get more involved with my local and national teaching professionals. This is the first time I have blogged. I am very excited to expand my horizons and open the window to greater possibilies and opportunities. I truly believe that educators must be lifelong learners. For this reason, we must stay up- to-date with the latest technology. That is what I am currently learning....how to survive in a technological world.

Brittany N.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I couldn't agree more with the fact that teachers should constantly be learning and trying to better themselves. This is not only something that is important to me personally, but something that I want to model for my students. Right now I am back in school earning my Masters degree so I am continuing to learn. I also am learning right now as this is my first blogging experience. Great blog! I enjoyed reading it!

bangman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe it isn't realistic. It's like the standards that we are asked to teach the students to master. I believe it MUST be important to them personally for them to truely master it and so it is my job to be creative and to figure out how to make it that way. However, I believe what they don't know won't hurt them. If I can encourage them that they need to know about habitats and organisms that dwell there as it will influence their future, then I will tell them what ever they want to hear (for encouragement purposes only). I won't make up lies, no way!

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