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Learning About Learning

Summer 2010


We have three prongs to this course. First is an ongoing conversation about a series of learning issues. This part of the course starts with me. I will send you something I’ve written about a particular issue. Sometimes this will be pretty full, but at other times it will be more of a sketch. Having read these notes/entries towards (let’s say) a dictionary of learning concepts, you will then write a response back to me. I don’t know what the ideal response will be—I will happily suggest some questions I would have for you along with any of these, but what I need most is your own response to what I’ve sent you. I want you to be honest and thoughtful. I hope that what I write will suggest stories about the concept you could tell me from your own life of learning.

Or maybe you won’t understand what I’m trying to say, in which case I would be very happy if you started with that: “I’m not sure I get what you are talking about here, but it sounds like you are saying … (fill in the appropriate blank).” For these write-backs there are no RIGHT or WRONG answers. None. All I ask is what I call “Engaged Critical Intelligence,” or ECI. That means you try to make sense, and when you don’t understand something, you describe as best you can what doesn’t make sense to you.
This will eventuate in what I shall call a “Learning Autobiography.” We’ll write a few bits of it as we go along, and then, for the end of the course we’ll rewrite those into an essay of something like 1000-1500 words describing what our strengths and challenges as a learner are, and telling the story of how we came to be that way, and what, if anything we want to change. (I say “we” here because I mean exactly that. I will be writing right along with you.)

Second prong is a series of 6-8 articles or videos you’ll read that are about key learning issues. These will mostly NOT be written by me. For these, the best way of responding I’m imagining is with conversation. I’d like to meet with you for these—this will be easier for the group of us when Sadena gets back from Alaska (though maybe we can try Skyping in a week or so), so we’ll wait a bit before we start reading those. These articles, along with the writing I’ll be sending you over the next few weeks, will supply us with the concepts/understandings we will need to look at our learning lives and make sense of what we have done to this point and what we can do in the future.

Third prong is your term learning project. I gave Anya and Sadena each a book; I’ll give Darcy one when I see her next. You don’t have to use this book for the project—if the one I give you doesn’t capture your interest I’ve got others I can suggest. The task here will be a sort of “end of quarter show what you know” exercise. You’ll do this by identifying three or four key learning issues you see being played out in the book, and you’ll write a paper explaining what you see and what you make of it. You won’t have to fly solo on this one; you’ll have a chance to talk with me about it as you develop your ideas. I will be doing this assignment along with you, too.



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