Dixie Darr

Archive for September, 2008|Monthly archive page

In Learning on September 30, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Failure to Communicate

My initial contact with Western Governors’ University was not especially positive. As I was searching the website for information about its Instructional Design program, I was annoyed by a pop-up enrollment counselor who wanted to chat. I ignored her.

I had a few questions that were outside the usual how to enroll genre, and I found a list of academic leaders, but it contained no contact information. Back to the pop-up counselor, I asked how to contact the person whom I thought could help me. Unfortunately, she had never heard of him and had no information about him. Her explanation was that he was “too high up” for me (or presumably, anybody) to talk to. Fine. I called the general information number, entered voice mail hell and discovered that, unless I had the person’s extension number, I couldn’t reach anybody but enrollment counselors.

Finally I googled the person I wanted, found an article he had written which included an email address and wrote him. He answered my question within a few hours, but I had to work MUCH too hard to contact him.

I don’t really understand the philosophy behind making it so difficult. If anybody has an insight into this, I’d love to hear it. Still, I’m very interested in learning more about WGU. Stay tuned.


In Learning on September 5, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Education Pyramid or Landscape?

It has always bothered me that traditional education is represented by a pyramid, with high school forming the broad base and successive degrees from associate’s to Ph.D layered above. Somebody defined education as learning a little about a lot and a lot about a little. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for all of us. It doesn’t make sense to me to continue to narrow my focus when there are so many fascinating things to learn in the world.

My style of learning, which Barbara Sher has brilliantly described in her book, Refuse to Choose, looks more like a mountain range, with peaks of all different sizes and shapes, and the occasional lake and stream. I call it a learning landscape. My pastor, who shares a similar learning style, says she is more interested in breadth than depth.

I’m a little annoyed that our education system doesn’t recognize landscape learning, but maybe that is changing. Author Frans Johansson, in The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts & Cultures, reports that “(college) students today have more hyphens in their majors than in the past.”

He also quotes Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who said, “Most major advancements involve multiple disciplines.” That’s music to my ears. I’d like to see colleges offering more inter-disciplinary, individually-designed degree and certificate programs, breaking out of the single-discipline boxes.

Over the next few weeks I will examine some educational innovations and the cultural changes that both demand and allow them.


In Learning on September 1, 2008 at 8:40 am

Another Bookworm Gadget

The ThumbThing is an elegant little piece of plastic that fits over your thumb to hold books open with one hand. Simply slip it on your thumb and position it in the center of your open book. The wings hold the pages open without damaging the spine. Flip it over and use it as a bookmark. Manufactured in the UK, it comes in four sizes and several colors. At only $2.95, this handy tool would be a fun stocking stuffer for all the booklovers on your gift list. Available in bookstores and through many online outlets.