Saturday, December 05, 2015

Building Personal Learning Habits - Solving Complex Problems

In many of my articles I've shown media stories from the 1990s that show the same problems facing Chicago 20 years ago are the same as we are facing now. My comments focus on the lack of consistent, long-term, strategy that engages people from throughout the region in solutions.

At the same time, I've used graphics like this to illustrate the constant learning and innovation needed to bring comprehensive learning supports to youth in all high poverty neighborhoods of urban areas like Chicago, and keep them in place for  many years.

In articles focused on learning, I point to the massive amount of information available, but the lack of time and motivation limiting most people from digging deeply into this information.  

Others are thinking and writing of the same problems, so I was pleased to see an article on Twitter yesterday, titled "Personal Learning Networks: Learning in a Connected World".  I read it, and added it to this section of my web library, so others could find it and read it, too.  The article emphasizes the importance of building your own PLN (personal learning network), saying, "Social learning and collaboration is a mindset, an attitude and not just a set of tools."

While I led the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program from 1992-2011 I tried to create a culture of learning, engaging youth, volunteers, staff, board members and donors. I started doing this in the 1970s when I was a volunteer leading a tutor/mentor program that grew from 100 pairs of youth/volunteers in 1975 to 300 pairs by 1990, while holding a full time advertising job at the Montgomery Ward Corporate Headquarters in Chicago. I could not teach each volunteer everything they need to know so began to build a library of information and started using my weekly newsletters to encourage them to visit and draw ideas from the library. I also encouraged social activities, including field trips with youth, so volunteers would begin to network and build relationships with other volunteers, encouraging the relationships necessary for social learning to occur.

When the Internet became a tool in 1998 I moved my library to the web, and expanded it as I found new ideas that interested me, and which I thought might interest my own organization, and in any other tutor/mentor organization in the country. I added the PLN article to the library today.

As the Internet library grew, the habits of personal learning did not grow nearly as fast as I hoped. Adults who have grown up without the internet, and without learning habits of Personal and Social Learning, are slow and resistant to spending time in on-line learning.

I created the graphic below in 2006 or 2007 to visualize the goal I hoped leaders at the tutor/mentor program I was leading would adopt and that donors would support. You can find it here.

I think this strategy could be supported in many formats, ranging from public school, to non-school tutoring/mentoring and learning, to home and to work. Some of the links I point to in my web library show that this is already happening in many places.

However, if we want to solve complex problems, I feel we need to teach learners to dig into web libraries, like the one I've been building, so that we're all looking at the same maps, and same range of information. If such libraries are supported by cMOOCs and other formats that encourage people to connect and share ideas with each other, I feel they can accelerate the relationship-building among people who already are concerned about the same issues...because they made the effort to enter the MOOC or the library in the first place.

While I've been collecting and sharing these ideas for nearly 20 years, this work is far to large for any single person. The problems we face are complex, and will take decades of consistent effort to be reduced. Thus, while I seek partners, volunteers and donors to help me maintain my own web platform, I also seek philanthropists who might bring the Tutor/Mentor Institute into one or more universities, where more people can do the work I've been doing, in many more ways.

If you're interested in these ideas connect with me on Twitter, Linked In or Facebook and make me part of your own PLN. I keep reaching out through the same network to find others who I can learn from.

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