Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Learning Tools’ Category

Hungry Minds

In creativity, Learning, Learning Tools on October 23, 2017 at 6:34 am

Hungry Minds
“It is useful,” Leonardo da Vinci wrote, to “constantly observe, note, and consider.” To that end, historian Toby Lester says Leonardo used to travel with a small notebook hanging from his belt, and “whenever something caught his eye,” he would make a note, or begin “sketching furiously.”
While I never go anywhere without my journal, another discipline I follow is writing these posts every Monday through Friday. While millions of bloggers focus on trying to make money from their blogs, mine is really just a weblog, a way to force myself to follow Leonardo’s advice to observe and consider.
Popular blogger Seth Godin points out “If you know you have to write a blog post tomorrow, something in writing, something that will be around six months from now, about something in the world, you will start looking for something in the world to write about. You will seek to notice something interesting and to say something creative about it.”
Coming up with something to write every day isn’t always easy, but usually, if I just let go and pay attention to what’s on my mind, a topic presents itself. Today it’s keeping a notebook, tomorrow something about my church. Then the fun starts, trying to figure out what I think about the subject and what I can learn from it.
Writer Jonas Ellison agrees. “Blogging every day forces you to notice the details of your life. You need fodder for the day’s post. And you’ll scour your world to get it. You become hyper-aware. You find ways to turn little subtleties into big ideas. You start writing with questions only to be faced with answers by the time you reach the end of the post.”
To Ray Bradbury (and me) “It’s all mulch.”



In Auntie Flat, Home, Learning Tools, writing on May 24, 2017 at 10:39 am

Some things are just so essential that you have to have them with you at all times. No, I don’t mean my phone.

Reading glasses are a necessity for me. I have them in every room of my house plus a pair in my car and in my purse. I keep three pairs in the common room – one at my computer, one at my work table and one where I read and use my iPad or Fire tablet. I need readers because I may break out a book at any time.

Of course books live everywhere, too. The Kindle containing 600 books goes in my purse when I leave the house so I never have to face the predicament of being somewhere without reading material. Every flat surface in the house and some not-so-flat places hold stacks of books. As that wag Cicero said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” My car is home to several audio books as well as library books on their way to or from the library, plus I have the Kindle in my purse.

Writing materials also proliferate. I never know when I’m going to have a brilliant thought that I have to record. I keep several journals in different places including a small notebook at my bedside for things that pop into my head as I drift off to sleep.

My phone (you thought I’d forgotten about the phone, didn’t you?) goes with me when I drive, walk, or go to the gym. I use it to listen to audio books from the library. I could also use it to take or record notes, but I don’t. Instead, I keep an index card and a pencil in the case. I’m not a Luddite; nor am I addicted to my phone. Typically, on the rare occasion that it rings, I can’t locate it before the ringing stops. Oh, well.

As far as food goes, on heavy snow days when everyone runs to the store for milk, bread, and eggs, I stock up on popcorn, butter, and diet Coke.

With these necessities, I can make it through just about anything.

One Thing Leads to Another

In Books, creativity, Learning, Learning Tools, writing on May 18, 2017 at 11:59 am








I’ve taken a circuitous route through life, with eccentric interests, oddball jobs, and curious relationships. The organizing principle is lifelong learning, so I suppose it wasn’t surprising that I chose to earn a master’s degree in Adult Education.

Two books by Ron Gross, The Lifelong Learner and The Independent Scholar’s Handbook, had captivated my imagination because I wanted to learn everything, and I preferred to do it on my own. While working on my thesis, I found another book that encapsulated everything I wanted in life. The Adult’s Learning Projects by Allen Tough describes the deliberate efforts to learn undertaken by adults of all ages.

He found that an astounding 98% of adults participate in an average of eight learning projects per year. Those he called High Learners spent 2,000 hours per year in 15-20 learning projects.

I have found that one interest inevitably leads me to a number of related mini projects. In fact, the independent scholars’ motto is “One thing leads to another.”

Here’s a personal example.

A couple of years ago, I decided to write a cozy mystery. Although I had never before been interested in writing fiction, I certainly read enough of it.

I started making notes and decided I needed to learn about writing fiction, which led to reading dozens of books (my preferred learning method) on the topic.

I learned to use Scrivener software for writers.

My story was set in the imaginary town of Mayhem Gulch, located in Clear Creek County, near Empire and Idaho Springs. Yes, I know Mayhem Gulch is a trail head in Jefferson County. Work with me, people; this is fiction. Anyway, that meant I had to learn about that part of the world. More books and a few trips to the mountains. Now I have a Facebook friend who lives there and has agreed to answer some of my questions.

My plan is for a series of Tiny House Mysteries leading to an online study of tiny houses and the people who live in them.

Since I want to draw the book cover, I need to learn how to draw and how to design book covers. I also want to draw a map of my fictional town.

Finally, I will have to acquire knowledge of indie publishing.

Unfortunately, all these side paths have distracted me from the original goal of writing the book. And I haven’t even mentioned the things I want to learn that don’t have anything to do with the book. You probably won’t be surprised that I’m now reading about how to juggle many projects.

It’s always something.

Words of Wisdom

In Learning, Learning Tools on April 28, 2017 at 3:32 pm

When I first went to college in 1966, colleges commonly required two years of a foreign language for a bachelor’s degree. By the 80s, however, computer science began to replace that requirement although many competitive colleges require at least two years of a foreign language for admission. Now some colleges are again exploring adding foreign language requirements to the requirements for a bachelor’s degree.

Language learning offers many benefit including a sharper mind, increased career choices, improvement of the first language. I learned more about English from studying American Sign Language than any other class I ever took. Nevertheless, college students are resisting this change, and, in their defense, the classroom is not the best place to learn a language. In fact, it may be the worst.

Google “learn language fast” and you will find many alternative self study methods that promise to give you a working knowledge of virtually any language in just a few months. Brushing up on a language you studied years ago is even faster. And it doesn’t matter how old you are. Some recent studies indicate that it may actually be easier and more rapid for adults than for children. Plus, bilingualism can help stave off dementia.

Learning a language is about learning a culture,” Lisa Frumkes, senior director of content for Rosetta Stone, said. “It can take you in so many directions: literature, travel, learning to understand the news of the day or just being able to be in contact with people in other cultures. Once you think about these things, they change the way you see the world.”

When is an Arapaho not an Arapaho?

In Learning, Learning Tools on April 27, 2017 at 6:53 am

It started when the government established missionary schools, which suppressed the use of Arapaho and spread English.

Television and technology reinforced English as the dominant language, especially in the home, until only a few dozen elderly Arapaho still spoke their native language among 10,000 registered tribal members of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

If you don’t understand the language it’s very difficult to practice our cultural ways, our values, our world views, our political conscience. All derives from the language,” says William C’Hair, chairman of the Arapaho Language and Cultural Commission.

If you’re Arapaho, you should speak the language,” elders told Marlin Spoonhunter who lost his language after decades working as an educator in Montana.

Now, with the help of Andrew Cowell, a linguist at the University of Colorado Boulder, and the the Arapaho Language Project the technology that figured in the decline of the language is helping to sustain it. The Project website directly provides resources audience of all ages, including an online (downloadable) dictionary that includes an English-Arapaho translator as well as links to more than 80,000 lines of Arapaho narratives to illustrate how a given word can be used in a sentence. It also has language lessons, curriculum materials, the Lord’s Prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and NFL team names in the Arapaho language.

Sometimes technology giveth what technology taketh away.

Universally (Mis)Understood

In Learning, Learning Tools on April 24, 2017 at 3:55 pm

An Italian pilot flying an Italian airline into an Italian airport speaks English. English is the universal language of air control. It’s the language of more than half the world’s newspapers. The prevalent language for communication on the Internet is English, a language without frontiers.

English is without a doubt the actual universal language,” reports Brazilian writer Carlos Carrion Torres. “It is the world’s second largest native language, the official language in 70 countries, and . . . . can be at least understood almost everywhere among scholars and educated people, as it is the world media language, and the language of cinema, TV, pop music and the computer world. All over the planet people know many English words, their pronunciation and meaning.”

The spread of English began during the 16th century with the British Empire and continues today with USA influence.

That makes it easy for us to move around the world without making any effort to learn other languages, and results in our perception by others as arrogant, lazy, or even stupid.

Nevertheless, the ability for everyone to understand everyone else on the planet seems like a good thing. Beyond that, language influences the way we see the world, even the way we see color or gender. See Keith Chen’s TED talk for more information.

Unfortunately, speaking the same language does not guarantee understanding. For example, tonight I will attend a current events discussion group where some of the people there may be Trump supporters. I can almost assure you that we will not communicate.

Sometimes talking to “them” feels like trying to communicate with another species. Can the value progressives place on diversity expand to include right-wing conservatives?

To quote one of my favorite poems by Carl Sandburg,

How can we be pals

when you speak English

and I speak English

and you never understand me

and I never understand you?”

Stay tuned.

Illustrated Ken Robinson on Creativity in Education

In Books, creativity, Learning, Learning Tools, presentations on January 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I’m not always impressed with videos on the internet. They are usually little more than talking heads. Too many people use video just because they can, not because the video adds anything to the presentation. When I run across these videos, I tend to treat them as audios and just listen. Sometimes, though, people understand that video is a visual medium and give us something more than a chance to see them on camera. Case in point: here’s a great new illustrated version of my favorite TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson about changing education paradigms. Ask me if I’m surprised that Ken Robinson “gets it.”


Learning vs. Education

In creativity, degrees without debt, Learning, Learning Tools, work on October 5, 2010 at 8:46 am

Universities are full of knowledge; the freshmen bring a little in and the seniors take none away, and knowledge accumulates.” Lawrence Lowell

Okay, I admit I’m a cynic about education. While I’m a passionate lifelong learner, I’m skeptical about how much learning comes from institutionalized education. Too much bureaucracy. Too much compartmentalization. Too much homogenization. Too little time for reflection and curiosity and pursuit of passion.

I started this blog to show people how they could learn outside the walls of higher education. I don’t want to discourage people from attending college because I know good things (like self-confidence) can come from having a college education. However, I think the world of higher education is broken. Colleges have priced themselves out of the reach of too many people and become places for the elite or those who are willing to take on enormous debt before they’re old enough to know what they really want to do with their lives. It’s crazy.

I see too many stories about people who graduate at age 22 with $80,000 of debt before they even start their adult lives.

In our world of globalization and the Internet, it is now possible to bypass the traditional sources of higher education and save both time and money in the process. DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamanetz provides a comprehensive overview of some innovative and forward-thinking options, but even more have  appeared since her book was published earlier this year.

So, I’ll be looking at some of those and profiling creative learners in my posts here. To get started, take a look at this video by the author of Brain Rules 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina.

In creativity, Learning Tools on January 21, 2010 at 11:22 am

Learning Art Journaling Online
I’m sold on online courses. These are not college courses, which have their place, but not in my universe right now. I’ve been finding courses on all kinds of things offered by ordinary people with expertise in certain areas. My current passion is art journaling, through a class offered by Kelly Kilmer. You can see examples of her work at her blog.
She charged only $50 for six months worth of prompts, templates and community with other students. The members post photos of their efforts and we all comment on them. Everyone is very supportive–I haven’t seen a snarky comment yet–and I’m making friends across the country and around the world.
The photo to the left is my latest collage. I’m still waiting for that sunshine.

In creativity, Learning Tools on August 19, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Innovation Corral

Recent resources for creativity/innovation

How to grow ideas. Tamsen at ’Round the Square compares the creative process to gardening. Hint: It takes more than planting seeds.

Extra little touches can make all the difference. Management guru Tom Peters on the importance of design and making your products/services stand out.

Five creativity killers and how to get your creative juices flowing again.

Jon Phillips at Freelance Folder describes bad habits that interfere with creativity and how to beat them.

Blog for Creativity: Ten Reasons Your Muse Will Love Blogging. Cynthia Morris at Journey JuJu lists ways to use blogging to spark your creativity.

Addicted to the search. Emily Yoffe at Slate magazine explains why it’s so easy to lose time online and get addicted to things like Twitter and texting.