Deb's UTNE Reader/Journal Projects : LUSENET : MEd Cohort III : One Thread

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-- Anonymous, November 11, 1998


Article - 3How I Got My DIY Degree... at the University of Planet Earth2 by William Upski Wimsatt, June 1998, page 50.

This article caught my attention because I have a fifteen year old who would love to take on William9s idea of learning on his own. Needless to say, I have not shown him this article since I do not think he needs any encouragement in that area!

In the article, the author deals with the idea that we do not have to attend a formal school in order to learn. His first thoughts of dropping out of school came at age fourteen. William9s hero, a rapper, had dropped out and educated himself in the music business. The author did graduate from high school because his parents told him it was illegal to drop out. He also admits he was a little scared to drop out of high school.

William went on to college, but stopped attending classes after the first year. He realized, 3. . . there were no courses covering the things I most wanted to learn.2 To learn the skills William thought necessary, he enrolled in the University of Planet Earth. His curriculum is stated in the article and, of course, the tuition is free with endless courses. The author also includes his twelve strategies he has found useful as he continues to educate himself. The author9s plan is to continue this course for five years. At the end of this time, he will decide what he wants to pursue.

The article was interesting reading, but my skepticism crept in the further along I read. I feel a high school diploma is a basic necessity in this day. A college education is not a requirement, depending on the type of work a person is interested in. William9s plan to continue his self-education for five years seems rather strange to me. Others have chosen this way of life, but I do not think it is considered self-education. It is one thing to be unsure of what you want to do as an employable skill, but to plan to spend five years on a learning mission, I am not so sure.

I believe some of the strategies William mentions in his article are ones we tackle during the hours we are not working at our paid jobs. I think along the lines that we are life-long learners. As we gather a new area of interest, we seek out others who can assist us in learning just like in one of William9s strategies. We continue to learn through our jobs, through hobbies, or during our conversations with others. Just because we uncover an area of interest to study in hopes of employment, it does not mean we no longer have an interest in making new discoveries. The news often refers to how many different jobs we will have in our lifetime. I believe to spend five years trying to decide for a lifetime would be a tremendous loss of time.

Becoming an adult also means being more and more responsible for our own lives and how we manage today and prepare for our future. I question the ability of the author to account for his learning. Would employers find value in William9s methods of self-education? How would William cover those expenses such as health insurance? In order to life this lifestyle, does he need to rely on his parents or others to cover those types of needs? I definitely came away with more questions than answers about this article.

Through discussions, I found this article yielded the same sort of thoughts with others as I had plus a few others.

The author was seen as having a 3me first2 attitude. In order to cover major expenses, we wonder how much William has to rely on others to meet his needs. As the author gets older, how will he contribute as a citizen?

Employers may or may not look upon William9s self-education as being responsible. Would employers rather have formal schooling and job experience?

If the author decided on a profession which requires a four-year degree, will his age work for or against him?

These are some thoughts and questions we felt would have to be considered before this five year investment.

-- Anonymous, November 15, 1998

Deb: What an interesting idea William has. I, too, have similar questions to ask him. However, I believe a person should do some soul searching to find his/her niche in society and workplace. I took nine years off between high school and college, and I am thankful that I did. I accepted college much more readily, and I did my very best. I had to work nine years of minimum (or nearly so) wage jobs before I realized what direction my life was headed. I believe William has a valid point about being self-educated. I agree that we should all be life-long learners, but we are better learners if we are motivated to do so. He seems like he wants to find his interests and try to pursue them on his own. Unfortunately, we learn many important basic skills in school that are difficult to acquire outside of school. We can learn these skills if we can understand/comprehend all that we read and are willing to spend the time reading. I was not a person who could pick up a math book and understand what it was trying to teach me. I needed someone to deliver the message for me. Now, being a pretty well educated person, can learn much more easily by reading. I wouldn't recommend to anyone to drop out of high school, but I have personal experience in living for a while before making a life-long decision immediately following high school. You mentioned that you though five years was a lot of time spent looking for something of interest to William. I took nine years, and I learned a lot about myself and my desires. I found my direction in those nine years. I wish it hadn't taken me so long; however, I am more happy with my life than I ever have been before. Thank you for a thoughtful response to the article.

-- Anonymous, December 01, 1998

Debra Berntson - Journal reaction from MultiMedia Schools January 1999

The second article I read was 3Teachers and Media Specialists: Off to a Crisp Start in the Fall2 by Mary Alice Anderson. This article was published in the journal MultiMedia Schools, September/October 1998, pages 23-24. I chose this article anticipating helpful suggestions to improve the media center in which I teach. Instead, after reading the article, I felt the same frustration that lead me to this Master9s program.

The author presents her knowledge based upon her position as a middle school media specialist in Winona, Minnesota. Her ideas focus on how to improve services to teachers and students within the media/technology program. While there are definite differences between an elementary and a middle school media program, some of the author9s comments related to both. Of these, two comments seemed to surface as the most concerning for the media center in which I teach.

The author writes, 3Teacher9s want technology-savvy media specialists.2 I know this is true at Lowell where I am the media generalist. Teachers in the classroom feel frustrated with technology, some finding it does more to hold them back. Problems continue to occur with hardware and software and the staff feels there is not enough support within the school. As a media generalist, this is also the area I have been struggling with. I feel some changes within the media program are imperative. In discussions with other media generalists, needs and objectives for this program are in a state of flux. Changes are needed within the curriculum to meet the needs of students in their use of technology and print materials. I also need to gain more knowledge on the technology end to support teachers who do feel blocked.

The second author comment, 3Good service to teachers provides a link to student learning.2 I feel the need to branch out to more teachers to coordinate our areas of expertise. In the rush of the library computer conversion this fall and the referendum funds for materials, some of this collaboration has been put on the 3back burner.2 The implementation of the Graduation Rule has also impacted the media centers and invites needed changes.

Programs and personnel change within each school district. The article clearly conveys a difference in the author9s day in comparison with mine, but the above two issues are important factors to keep in the forefront.

-- Anonymous, January 02, 1999

The second Utne article I read was 3The Art of Genius: Eight Ways to Think Like Einstein,2 July-August 1998, pages 73-76, written by Michael Michalko.

A review was made of the attempts to study the relationship between genius and intelligence. According to this article, it has been shown that, 3creativity is not the same as intelligence.2 There appears to be a correlation between the way people think and the success they have in solving problems.

Scholars, after studying works of those individuals considered to be 3great thinkers,2 have listed eight thinking strategies through which geniuses create their ideas. As the article briefly describes the eight strategies, the author also gives examples of individuals who used that specific strategy to create.

Through discussions with others, it is common to find experiences in which our thinking is challenged. Attempts to solve problems in the usual way are not productive. We have had to access different ideas which often times seem unnatural and anxiety producing. In relating this article to teaching, it is the strongest reason to challenge students by using higher level thinking skills.

-- Anonymous, February 10, 1999

Deb, I am sorry I didn't read your article summary about "William" sooner than this. I have just about finished raising three children;actually my wife has just about finished the job with my meager assistance, and I have some very definite opinions about this subject. Unless a child has absolutely no doubt as to their future career, I am a firm beleiver that they should take one year off from school after high school graduation to experience life. There is no question about high school graduation; it is a must! What your author is referring to is the old stand-by for people in my parents generation, the "school of hard knocks"-LIFE. While this may have been good enough for grandpa, it is not good enough today, in fact, it really was never good enough. The one great benefit of belonging to a species of a "higher order" is that we have a written language. This means we have the advantage of a suppository of previous knowledge passed on to us from our forebearers. In this way, we can hopefully avoid many of the mistakes they made, and thus progress to a better future. Education is the way we have formulated to pass on much of this invaluable material. To bypass this opportunity is to condemn ourselves to the mistakes of the past. This is the fate of the lower orders. Do we want to replace them on the food chain? I THINK NOT.

-- Anonymous, February 22, 1999

Deb: I agree wholeheartedly with your questions about the author's method of living. Who exactly is he living off of and paying for food, clothing, rent and (as you mentioned) health insurance? I would love the luxury of living life as it happens and aimlessly pursuing my interests. However, I, like most people, must live up to certain commitments.

I believe there are two types of learning in life: structured and life experiences. Structured learning is getting an education that will add to your life skills through an university, college or other school. Life experiences are just that -- events that shape and mold your values and morals system. I believe the author is only living through life experiences. One glaring problem with that is that society as a whole recognizes structured learning as a method of individual success. The author may then be dismayed to learn a college degree is needed to land a decent job.

-- Anonymous, February 23, 1999

Deb, I am responding to the first three articles, regarding DIY, Media, and Einstein. I enjoy the way you have summarized the articles and how you have carefully crafted your responses into questions and reactions. It shows good thoughtfulness and analysis. In Graduate School, we are trying to push beyond descriptiveness into analysis and synthesis of one's thinking.

Gaining experiences, as cited in DIY, seems like a youthful approach to gaining experiences rather than gaining learning. Learning requires critical reflection, taking time to pause to assimilate and incorporate. Experiences by themselves may have limited learning benefits.

Your comments about employers hiring those who gain many experiences is a good observation, however, many employees today, if there is no need for some certification, are looking for people with critical thinking skills, and not just experiential skills. If your son ever gets a hold of this article, be sure to emphasize incorporating the critical reflection piece. There are two good articles out about the role of reflection in learning: "The Getting of Wisdom: What Critically Reflective Teaching is and Why It's Important" by Stephen Brookfield and "Reflection: Bridging the Gap Between Service and Learning" by Julie Hatcher and Robert Bringle.

Creativity and intelligence are also two very important aspects of learning, motivation and achievement. Often the history of our school system has placed an emphasis upon intelligence and achieving knowledge. The more we learn about learning styles and the influences of varying cultures, the more we are moving toward diversity is content and intent. Creativity is indeed an aspect of learning that is often emphasized in the younger grades and seems to diminish in value in the older grades.Experiential, service, project, and transformative learning theory are all valuable ways to emphasize creativity and learning. Also, there is a great difference between performance goals and learning goals, as the latter emphasizes life long learning, and the former emphasizes the competitive qualities of learning.

Keep up the good work, Deb.

-- Anonymous, June 21, 1999

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