This is a guest post by Joanne Romano, a leader, mentor of instructional coaches, technology superstar and educational consultant. You can contact her at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @joanner.
Am I a Radical Learner?
No doubt about it, I am on a crazy quilt learning journey during which I question myself each day on how what I do impacts my learning, as well as how it impacts those with whom I interact. My quilt patches include classroom, county, district, and consultant/state positions and, as a non-quiet participant and observer, a voice for a focus on the learning experience for both teachers and students.
The Characteristics of Radical Learners
I can nod in agreement with Jim’s list of Radical Learner characteristics. I would add the following to reflect how I perceive myself as a Radical Learner.
Resilient—Radical Learners look at challenges and setbacks as opportunities and maintain a never-give-up focus when learning is the goal. For me, this includes decisions that deeply impact my professional life—like the one I most recently made—resigning from a successful project. Some might look at my decision and question my sanity, but I look at it as an opportunity to open another door, walk through it, and discover/rediscover the joy in learning new things. Change makes me even more resilient, as it challenges me to look closely at what I believe and what I will go after…fight for.
Intellectually Curious—Radical Learners find learning opportunities in every situation—reading, writing, discussing, participating, contributing—from the required, the most mundane, to the open-ended exploration.
My bookshelf, Kindle, and iPad are crammed with books that call to me to make time to find out what the pages contain that will enrich my learning. My most current hot reads include Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time by Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran, Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age by William Powers, and Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery by Kathleen Cushman. And favorite blogs are Larry Cubans’ blog:Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice, and to give me a quick leadership thought kick, Leadership Now: Leadership Now: Building a Community of Leaders.
Whatever I read influences my actions and interactions. Authors, bloggers, colleagues are the stitches in my crazy quilt. They hold the seemingly disparate pieces together. They help me make connections to the big idea, and, in turn, contribute to conversations, listen intently to others’ insights, and add to my knowledge and understanding.
Wonderers and Wanderers—This characteristic is related to the intellectually curious characteristic above—Radical Learners yearn to learn and share. They—I—question the status quo and look for opportunities to make things better through exploration of ideas from everywhere and everything. A colleague of mine recommended Marie Martin’s book Learning by Wandering, and while the book ties ancient Irish work to today’s digital learning environment, the underlying message resonates in the concepts of the Radical Learner.
Illustrative of my wondering, wandering, I admit, I have a geek gene. It only becomes restless as a means of determining how the technology might make learning more accessible. In this arena, I have been on a constant learning journey. For me, it has never been about the technology, but about what I/you/students can do with the technology.
Technology for Learning
As we design learning opportunities to ensure students are able to demonstrate, know, and be able to do X, there are many challenges to achievement, to real learning. Looking to any and all resources that might make the goal(s) attainable, technology—focused on learning—is just one such resource, but in light of how students are using tools to connect and enhance their informal and formal learning, it is an important one. Right now, there is a vocal and vibrant educational discussion surrounding Apple’s iPad. My interest has been piqued, as I look at the iPad to support student reading first, and learning overall.
Research and design influence any end product, but it is courageous people who willingly push the limits to make the device work to meet their needs that gives a glimpse into how the technology can be utilized for living and learning. To that end, Glenda Watson Hyatt’s reviews of the iPad are illuminating…Glenda has cerebral palsy and her insights help us understand how a device can impact living and learning for everyone.
Then, there is the effort of Educational Engineer, Nathan Steven who has put together a resource that helps us look at the iPad as a potential learning tool whether education is the marketing intent for the product or not.
Whatever anyone thinks about technology, making learning accessible has been my passion … whether it is a discussion, a book or a device.
Finally, given Jim’s question at the end of his post Are You a Radical Learner?, I am taken aback. It is a twist on many blogs. It invites readers to focus on themselves with regard to the concept/characteristics of Radical Learners. It opens an avenue for not only participation (just reading) but also contribution as we all learn from one another and learn about one another—an interesting concept, indeed!
And, to answer this question:
Hell, YES, I am a Radical, Wondering, Wandering Learner!