Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lifelong Learning

When I watched the 7 1/2 Habits of Highly Successful Lifelong Learners, I thought that it provided some great tips for learning anything new. I also wished I'd known it earlier. Like when I wanted to learn Spanish.

Let's take a look at the habits in a bit more detail.

Habit 1: Begin with the end in mind.

First, I need a goal. My goal is to learn how to use Microsoft Access well enough to design my own database. The last time I used Access was at least 15 years ago, and I don't remember much of that. So, with that goal in mind, I'm going to visualize myself becoming fluent in Access.

Habit 2: Accept responsibility for your own learning.

Fortunately, part of the 550 course involves my learning Access, so that will definitely add to my training. But what else can I do? Well, I can start by downloading the free copy of Access available to SCILS students. I hereby commit to doing that this weekend. I also commit to finding some free, online tutorials so I can wander around the software with a "guide."

Habit 3: View problems as challenges.

Here's the one I like the most. I'm big on learning from my mistakes and from the mistakes of others. But in order to learn to walk, we must learn that falling down isn't a crime. So, if some of my databases don't work right, I can just pick myself up, figure out the problem, note it so I can refer back to it when something similar arises, and keep on going.

Habit 4: Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner.

Of the things I've yet to try, there are only a few things I've been unable to learn -- how to play an instrument well (Boy! I was awful at violin and clarinet.), how to bake a loaf of whole wheat bread that didn't amount to a brick (and I'm working on this), and how to keep the squirrels away from my bulbs and seeds. Otherwise, I know that I'm a pretty quick study. It's only when I become impatient with myself or hold onto unrealistic expectations that I start feeling insecure about my ability to learn.

Habit 5: Create your own learning toolbox.

Here's another great tip. She lists: books, technology, classes, mentors, friends, and Web pages as tools in the Lifelong Learner's toolbox. I'm a HUGE fan of mentors and mentoring. I've served as a mentor and gained so much from the experience. On the other side of the coin, my mentors have been invaluable to me in the areas of business and interpersonal relationships. The other tools are useful too. I'd probably add things like commitment, willingness to try new things and work hard at learning them, incentives (self-designed), and family. Family members, depending on your relationships within your family, are an invaluable resource for trying new things out and for teaching your newly found talents.

Habit 6: Use technology to your advantage.

Technology is my friend. However, it's really the people who post all the useful stuff for no gain except to spread the word and to teach who really deserve the credit. I'm grateful to them for supplying tutorials, developing and participating in forums, and generally sharing their knowledge on their areas of expertise.

Habit 7: Teach/mentor others.

I've often said that there's no better way to keep and expand your knowledge than to share it with someone else. The best part is when people ask questions I don't know the answer to, and I have to go find out because then I want to know.

Habit 7.5: Play.

All work and no play makes Deb a dull person. Even though I'm up to my ears in work, I still make time to read for pleasure.

As far putting it in writing -- here it is!

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