Dixie Darr

Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

In Learning on October 15, 2008 at 3:47 pm

More on Basic Skills

Once you have decided which skills you consider basic and which you need to add to your repertory, go directly to WikiHow and find a tutorial on your topic. EHow is another popular online learning community. Both feature easy-to-use tutorials on all kinds of subjects, from understanding politics to carving pumpkins. While you’re there, think about sharing your own expertise by contributing a tutorial. The directions, of course, are right there.

If you’re a learning junkie like me, click on the Random Article link and see what you find. I subscribe to the WikiHow “How to of the day,” which frequently yields an fascinating juxtaposition of topics. Monday, for example, I could have chosen either How to Stop Feeling Like Your Life Isn’t Good Enough or How to Make a Beaded Lizard. Tuesday’s choices included How to Reuse an Empty Altoids Tin.

Whatever you want to learn, chances are good that someone online wants to teach you.


In creativity, Learning, work on October 14, 2008 at 9:29 am

Getting Down to Basics

Lifehacker, the blog offering tips and downloads for getting things done, recently ran a poll to determine their readers’ top basic skills. Among the top vote getters:

  • Iron a shirt 4% (10598 votes)
  • Put out a fire 4% (10468 votes)
  • Install a graphics card 4% (10167 votes)
  • Move heavy stuff 4% (10060 votes)
  • Change a tire 4% (9750 votes)
  • Jump start a car 4% (9495 votes)
  • Grill with charcoal 4% (9142 votes)
  • Tie a necktie 4% (8858 votes)
  • Ditch your hard drive 4% (8821 votes)
  • Fix a toilet tank flapper 4% (8526 votes)
  • Sew a button on a shirt 4% (8512 votes)
  • Shoot a home movie 4% (8500 votes)
  • Shine shoes 3% (8067 votes)
  • Perform the Heimlich 3% (8036 votes)

I’m not sure how many of these skills I would consider necessary. I mean, who irons shirts? It reminded me of a very different list from Robert A Heinlein’s book, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

My personal list would have to include keyboarding, and my students who never learned it agree that it is one skill that would really help them.

However, I recently found a quote from Steven Snyder that I might adopt as my personal mantra:

“The primary tool that one needs in modern day culture are to know how to make things up and how to figure things out. This is creativity in two of its forms. These are called imagination and problem-solving.”

In creativity, Learning, work on October 6, 2008 at 2:08 pm

“Success in life may have more to do with how you can accept and get started on the new game than with how good you got at playing any of the old ones.” David Allen

In the updated paperback version of Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, he has added a chapter on marketing. In the world of social networking, blogs, and search engine optimization, most college marketing curricula are hopelessly out of date. Businesses, of course, are desperate for people who understand the new media and can use it to promote the organization. Until the universities catch up, Anderson suggests a curriculum for in-house social media coaching:
• Who’s influential in our space (and how we know)
• What/who influences them
• How to get Digged
• Effective blogging
• Using beta-test invite lists as marketing
• The art of begging for links
• Stunts, contests, gimmicks, memes, and other link bait
• Sharing versus oversharing; how to know when what you’re doing is ready to be talked about.
The increasing pace of change guarantees that the business world cannot rely on academic institutions to keep their employees current with the latest technologies, attitudes and models. The lesson is that those who wish to stay in the forefront of their industry must learn to seek out resources and design their own customized learning projects.

In creativity, Learning on October 3, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Individualized Learning

If you read my previous post about my difficulties in communicating with Western Governors University, you might well wonder why I’m still interested in finding out more about it. Three words: competency-based learning. Students earn their degrees by demonstrating skills and knowledge instead of by taking required courses. Working independently with a mentor, students develop personalized action plans and complete their programs in their own time.

Quite simply, this is the way I think all education should be designed. I’m not alone.

John Medina, brain researcher and author of Brain Rules has found that “Every student’s brain . . . is wired differently. That’s The Brain Rule. You can either accede to it or ignore it. The current system of education chooses the latter, to our detriment. It needs to be torn down and newly envisioned, in a Manhattan Project-size commitment to individualizing instruction.”

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen applied his theory of disruptive innovation to education in his recent book, Disrupting Class. He touts computer-based learning as a significant development because it is

· Convenient and mobile

· Customizable for each student’s preferred learning style

· Flexible in allowing a student to move through the material at any pace

· More affordable than traditional education.

Western Governors University is currently the only accredited university in the U.S. offering competency-based, online degrees. That’s why I want to find a way to be a part of it.

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