My ex has often stated that he must be continually reading, in the same way that sharks must continually swim, in order to survive. I am just now coming around to see that what he meant was, he must always be learning. By exposing himself to words, concepts and perspectives that are out there, from sources he trusts and values, and by thinking and responding, he is a tremendously knowledgable fellow with a great deal to contribute back to his profession. He has a specific area of expertise, as many of us do, and he is continually learning about it and from it. I find myself in an age and time when I feel I must be continually learning, not just lifelong learning, but daily, hourly learning. Perhaps I have not settled in to what I consider my profession.
It’s a lot of pressure, actually. Once upon a time in the world we could learn, maybe even to the level of true expertise, and then spend the majority of our time doing. Let’s say we’re talking about a craft like baking. Obviously, even while doing, a baker learns, maybe even every day, if a customer asks for a new type of pastry and the baker tries it out. But the majority of his or her time is spent preparing and baking tried and true methods and recipes, maybe selling to customers, and coming back the next day to do it all again. This still happens in places without a lot of access to the Internet and even in places with the Internet.
I’m going to start seeking some kind of balance in learning and doing. I believe some people in developed countries with access to all the information on the Internet have painted themselves in to a tricky corner (I include myself here). We mistakenly believe that we can be experts at everything in the world just because we’re capable learners and have access to the learning. There isn’t enough time in a lifetime for that to happen.
How many of you, for instance, believe you are expert photographers? Is this your profession? How many are expert web designers? Is this your profession? Do you believe you “get” social media. Is this your profession? Like me, you may comprehend these things, and even have a half-decent, acceptable skill. But expert? Professional? Probably not.
With respect to the attractiveness of learning in the world, this is an especially difficult time to be an online instructional designer in higher education, or maybe it’s just tricky to be me.
My typical day looks like this, wake up at 6am or so, often because ideas won’t let me sleep. Work on revising the final version of my masters thesis, check some emails, see what’s on Twitter, if there’s something that catches my eye on Scoopit, click and read. If there’s some bit of business happening at my church that needs my attention (I’m incoming Chair of the Board for a really amazing, inclusive, social justice church in Toronto called http://www.trinitystpauls.ca), make coffee, toast, eat, shower, get out the door to work. Work most of the day on the Internet researching about high quality online learning, sharing new ideas with my team, learning from them, project managing course developments, eating lunch, reading through the Coursera MOOC I’m currently taking (eLearning and Digital Cultures), working on my writing course (WYBA – Write Your Book Already with Chris Brogan), commute home, wave to my teen boys and husband, help with dinner, interact with the dog and the humans, open my laptop and get lost in the information, thesis, writing course, book writing, collapse to sleep, and repeat the next day.
I’ve applied for a doctor of education to follow on the masters, might as well keep going in order to uphold some credibility in the academic world I work in. Seems like enough really, but I want more.
I want to write a book, because I feel it’s important that global learners start to feel some sense of empowerment, choosing what, how, when, why they spend time and money learning. This stems from working in a formal, tuition-based system that may not be delivering everything to paying learners that it could. It also comes from exposure to all the amazing and wonderful things to learn available for free on the WWW. But writing a book requires a new skill set.
I want to write the book and support it with well crafted messaging and a clear plan for attracting an audience and colleagues with similar mindsets. But attracting an audience requires a new skill set.
I eventually want to spend my full time and talent developing open education for global learners, that is good quality and costs them nothing. I want to encompass the largest number of engaged and interested people possible to learn the things that will help them thrive in the places they are. But I’m doing a lot of these other things I do because there’s really no money in open education, that’s the whole idea of it. And while there are large and lovely organizations like UNESCO thinking on the same issues and working on it, they seem to be contracting out work like global education to powerful NGOs (non-government organizations) and consultants. Do I want to work for a powerful NGO? I’m more of a grass roots kind of gal, and I think in the long run, grass roots efforts in developing countries get 90 times more work done.
I believe (possibly mistakenly) that I need to sell a book to those with means, to support the global education dissemination that is my passion, for help those without means get the learning they both need and want. I believe I need to communicate with large numbers of humans to “sell” my idea.
I might just spend a short while meditating on what I’m spending my energy doing, and figure out what’s really going to get me to my goals. What might a different path look like? What is possible? Continual learning of a different kind.