Improve Your Mind

As part of my graduate internship for St. Joseph’s University, I will periodically be blogging and reflecting on my progress.  During the closing weeks of the school year, I decided I needed to tighten up my Google Apps knowledge.  I had put off becoming “google certified” because I honestly wasn’t sure how valuable it would be.  After some reflection on the year and the needs of the staff at my school, I thought it would be a good idea to “beef up” my Google knowledge and the certification process seemed like the obvious avenue.  Despite the school year winding down and all the chaos that comes with that, I really enjoyed the process and the certification exam.  What follows is a reflection on my thirst for knowledge.  

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Pretend like it matters for a second: Is learning cool?

If you’re honest, most people probably don’t think so.  That’s why there is a nerd stereotype at all.  Its why when we are suddenly and passionately talking about our work we say that we are “nerding out” as if talking about our learning is reserved for so-called geeks.  Its why people act a little surprised when the star athlete and cool kid is also an excellent student.  Learning is so often associated with pouring over a textbook, writing a research paper, taking a test and going to a stereotypical-traditional-sit-in-rows-and-serve-your-time institute of education.  Learning frequently is equated with school. And school, for the great majority of people, does not equal cool.

In the modern world, learning does not have to follow this pattern.  School does not, and should not, either.  Let’s put a pin in that thought for now.  

Embrace learning, for yourself, right now.

A friend recently shared an incredible video of Isaac Asimov being interviewed and “predicting” the internet as we know it today.  When you have 10 minutes, I highly recommend you give it a watch.  At the 7:00 mark, Mr. Asimov states, “there’s no reason then, if you enjoy learning, why you should stop at a given age.”  While I write this in a coffee shop, there is a small group of elderly folks discussing a book and apparently learning Italian together.  How awesome is that?!

As we move forward as a society, there is more and more information available to us.  None of us can be an expert at everything but all of us can be experts at something.  Pick something you have a passion for: music, gardening, photography, whatever you like – and start learning more.  Just whip out that smartphone and start searching.  Soon you will start connecting with people.  Share your successes and failures.  Find an enjoyable route towards learning and then try to create that passion for knowledge within your students.  Model the learning process.  Learning does not have to lead to a degree, a certificate or a job.  Some of the best learning occurs without any of those incentives.  Become the lead learner in your classroom and ignite a fire in your students to want more.  

Ultimately, most of us don’t care if learning is perceived as cool.  Or we realize that the nerds actually are the cool ones.  But for kids – it can matter, and the whole concept can be upda.

We need to collectively move away from the old style notions of learning.  Learning is what sets us apart from other animals.  It is merely exercise for the brain and it should be done daily.  We have the tools and technology to allow for anybody to learn anything at anytime.

How is that not the coolest thing EVER?

In the Asimov video, he recounts a story about Oliver Wendell Holmes, who, at the age of 92, was asked by president Theodore Roosevelt why he was reading Plato.  “To improve my mind” he replied. Now go nerd out over something.

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