My big take away from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was the same as Eric Jackson who wrote an elegy in Forbes on the occasion of Covey’s death in 2012.
We all need to spend more time in the second quadrant of Covey’s time management matrix: the not urgent but important quadrant. Long term planning, relationship building, research: those kinds of tasks that we know we should be doing but get pushed aside to put out fires and focus on things that seem important but aren’t.
The most important thing you can do in your career relating to this simple two-by-two matrix is to do some Quadrant 2 stuff (not urgent but important) every day. At least 10% of your day needs to be devoted to this important but not urgent stuff. Ideally, you’re spending 30% of every day on this.
I think Covey meant this to be time for informal learning. Time to explore: read that article or blog post or newsletter, post that question to a community, google an acronym or topic, finally figure out what Reddit has to offer. Maybe write your own blog post musing about a topic. We don’t always have a goal or even a direction for our learning.
I have spent many years of my life teaching and learning in formal environments. I have tried, as much as possible, to include student choice in those environments. My middle school students chose their own reading materials and writing topics and genres. My graduate students pursue a passion project as a way to explore their own area of interest in ed tech. But, this kind of learning still happens in a formal way, with goals and objectives and some type of assessment.
Informal learning seems more open ended: the participants in the #UnisonEDU chat mentioned learning through networks like Twitter or YouTube. In fact, much of what I know about Minecraft was learned from 5th graders on YouTube. They listen to podcasts on their way to work and connect with others in communities like Reddit. They learn in face to face environments as well through EdCamps and conversations with colleagues. While it may not be built into the school day or recognized with continuing education units, informal learning is taking place in schools.
At least among the teachers…informal learning for students was a little harder for people to imagine. Teachers are, as I did with my students, finding ways to incorporate student choice and voice, but the content is largely untouchable. Informal learning suggests exploring resources without any particular goals or objectives: clicking around, pursuing various threads, letting curiosity take the lead. A plan may emerge eventually, but it will be self-imposed. Not that informal learning isn’t taking place in school: as part of student group work or during free time around lunch and recess, any time students have time to create and collaborate with their colleagues or when a structured conversation slides a bit off topic.
What do you think? Can we find a way to give kids informal learning time during the school day? Can we fit formal and informal together?
I am a maker and always have been.
I made my sister a model greenhouse for Christmas this year, working from scratch to build the structure and create all the various pieces from furniture to flowers. I like making three dimensional models from paper, too.
So, I loved making crafty book reports when I was in school. I made a scale model of the train from The Great Train Robbery using shoe boxes with 3X5 cards marking important locations and actions. I can only imagine what fun I would have had if I had been able to place myself in the model using green screen technology the way Cindy Gonzalez’s students were able to do:
As part of the conversation, Joy Kirr shared a link to an article about making dioramas more dynamic
I think I bristled a little at the notion that dioramas were somehow irrelevant. But, I have to admit that I like Dr. Matthew X. Joseph’s ideas for making them dynamic by using tools like Flipgrid or Aurasma.
I will defend dioramas, however, as not being irrelevant in and of themselves. Making analog models is a viable skill in our digital age. Do a search on Google Images, Pinterest or Etsy to see some of the amazing work being done both professionally and artistically.
Lora Collins, 3D Studio Supervisor at Smithsonian Exhibits, describes her fascinating career in this article that begins with her early memories of visiting dioramas with her mother and then, as a young artist, finding her way into the field. She focuses on making mannequins but unlike the stiff department store figures, Collins creates figures that tell stories such as the man on the aircraft carrier who looks like he is in a high wind as he guides in a plane. And, she is still honing her craft, learning more about forensic reconstruction as part of her work creating figures from the Ice Age.
I think one of the coolest uses of social media comes from The New York Public Library. Each Friday from 10 – 11 AM, they use the NYPL_Recommends Twitter account to suggest titles for future reading based on your favorite titles.
I just finished the most recent title in Deana Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell mystery series. If you haven’t read these mysteries, I can highly recommend the series. A bit of breathless Victorian kitsch with tongue firmly in cheek. I am caught up with the series, and I need some more feisty Victorian heroines so I asked the New York Public Library.
They recommended Caro Peacock and Tasha Alexander:
If you would prefer to connect with them more directly, their website features staff picks in a long list of genres.
I find the cadences and images of William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Lake of Isle of Innisfree,” comforting, and often as I turn up the gravel driveway that leads to my old farmhouse, I hear his words: “I shall arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.” In the poem, he describes the peacefulness of a rural retreat–“the bee-loud glade”–where he lives alone. And, while our farm sits on the edge of a bustling town and road, we can wander to vine covered bowers around the old ceramic silo where the nature has managed to dominate man and his racket.
This is my place, where I seemingly was meant to be, and for all its challenges–frustrating Internet, old wiring and plumbing, and lots of upkeep–it is home. We live in rhythm with the seasons: spring brings the usual succession of flowers from daffodils to irises to the summer perennials. Hummingbirds arrive, and after a brief absence for nesting, they will be back in full force, often downing a quart of food a day, zooming from feeder to feeder, perching briefly and sipping deeply, chasing others as they defend their territory. Eventually, as summer progresses, they do settle down and will share feeders with 3 or 4 perching together.
The gardens have settled in to this place as well. After 8 years of cultivation, I have established perennial beds that include lots of flowering, bee and hummingbird friendly plants that bloom from now til first frost and sometimes even a bit afterwards. I’ll do some planting this year, but it is mostly maintenance: lots and lots of weeding. But it is work that gets me out of the house and away from the laptop and even a few minutes can make a difference and sooth my soul. Every school should have such a place for kids and adults where they can dig in the dirt and make things grow.
I have added a new element this year: I am experimenting with a kitchen scraps garden. I planted potato eyes, onion and garlic sprouts and one celery end for which I held out no hope. Lo and behold, when I returned from my trip, it had put forth some leaves! This is easy and essentially free.