This Week in LIS - 29 March 2014

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Headline of the Week: Learning Well to Learn – Essential Piece of the Value Proposition

Most days I receive in my inbox an installment of “infoneer pulse daily update” from Chris Barth, Librarian and Associate Dean at the United States Military Academy at West Point and former Executive Director of LIS at Luther College. Each installment includes approximately 1 to 10 links to interesting stories that “…comment on information, technology, libraries, education, media, culture, intellectual property, copyright, ethics, design, leadership, and the future.” I appreciate the aggregation and distribution that Chris does.

Saturday’s installment included a pointer to a commentary by Maria Popova about a newer book called “Don’t Go Back to School:  A Handbook for Learning Anything” by Kio Stark. Fueled by curiosity and competitiveness the book became this week’s morning reading.

Stark’s book is a crowed-funded Kickstarter project that captures dozens of personal stories of successful people who gave up on, skirted around or otherwise rejected school in favor of “independent” learning. “Independent” in this context is with respect to schools and does not refer to learning alone; the necessity of learning in community is a key takeaway. One might have rather called the learning approach “self-directed.” It is positioned as a “how-to” manual celebrating an alternative to going to college and the associated time and investment.

The book has four main sections. The first focuses on motivation. The culminating point Starks makes, joining a growing chorus of academics, analysts and futurists, is that to move successfully into the future it is essential for one to develop strong skills in learning the next or new thing. It takes the traditional commitment to lifelong learning to the next level and suggests one get intentional about developing a portfolio of learning skills and a deep understand of what works best for them. This is essential to a successful future because technology is fueling an acceleration of change in work, research, economies, and the boundaries between people and tools. This is why we in LIS are so passionate about information and technology literacy.

The second section includes the stories. The third section captures approaches; algorithms, advice and guidance on how to self direct your learning. The final section is a resource chapter; like a LibGuide for self-directed learners providing links and pointers to tools, lists, community websites, online lectures, journals and books - all available on-line and free.

I read it from a different point of view. I saw it not as an alternative approach to college but rather as just the kind of skills we would want a graduate of an undergraduate liberal arts college to have mastered during their experience and be able to perform going forward into the broader world to live out their life of service.  I’ve met few recent high school graduates that would have developed the interpersonal skills, maturity, confidence, discipline, and boldness to experiment and risk failure, tenacity and leadership that this book encourages and presumes. I imagine mastery of the “self-directed” learning approach and all the techniques the book calls for would be a consequence of their engagement in the transformational experience offered them during college – not an alternative for the 18-22 year old.

From this perspective the book could be used to help inform the value proposition conversation. Turn it around and use it as a checklist or scorecard. A student could say to themselves periodically and ultimately as a graduate of a liberal arts college,  “As a result of the transformational experience offered, have I mastered the learning skills the book suggests?” When the answer is “yes” we can be confident the graduate is well prepared to take on a dynamic future.

Suggested Reading/Viewing/Listening:

Don’t Go Back to School: How to Fuel the Internal Engine of Learning  - Blog by Maria Popova

Don't go back to school : a handbook for learning anything by Kio Stark

Kickstarter Project: Don’t Go Back to School: A handbook for learning anything

What Technology Wants - Kevin Kelly, Co-founder Wired Magazine

Seeing the Future: Joi Ito at TEDxMidwest

What Shall We Create


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