Open Future NZ "All real education is personal and self directed"
John S Veitch

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Your Real Education is Self-directed

We learn when we do things. Buying the book, enrolling in a course, sitting through a lecture, doesn't educate you.

Educators have discovered that teacher behaviours have little influence on learning if learner behaviours are not engaged with what the teacher is trying to do. Even so learners usually get very little out of a lesson, and much of what they do learn may have nothing to do with the teachers intention. In schools and universities, among educators, it's a problem. Learners learn what learners "DO". In most classes they do very little, or too much that detracts from the point.

In your own life, different standards apply. You are in control, what you choose to do is up to you. If you choose to work hard at learning something new, that act of commitment is critical to your success. The problem is that you are exploring what for you is "unknown" and that is a difficult road to travel. So can you find a coach, a mentor, or a teacher? Perhaps the best way after all is to take a class.

It's time for us to own the problem, to grow up, to become global citizens, says FutureShaper John Renesch in his latest book, "Getting to a Better Future" (Video 3min). 

But for me, and perhaps for most people there are no teachers, there are no classes, for the things I've needed to find out. I can take a psychology class, or a human development class, but if I'm to find out more about "me", I've got to do that work for myself.

If I want to engage in my own de-schooling, I'm not going to find the answers in a school. If certain misguided ideas or myths have become part of me, embedded in me so I can't even be aware of them, and if that is somehow limiting my life and my achievement, it's only me who can fix that, if I have the courage. Let me explain three small examples from my own life.

A presentation by Jay Cross on informal learning at the Informatology Learning & Development Forum in London, November 16, 2006

People in organisations often don't talk to each other enough.  Helping people to get together improves their learning.  Learning is a process of personal engagement, an activity often most easily realised in a community of practice. 
Jay Cross - Informal Learning (8 Min)

Swimming Badly

My first swimming coach, very well intentioned told me that when I kicked in the crawl, I needed to keep my knees from flexing. "Keep your legs straight", he insisted. Now I've said elsewhere, I treated what my parents and teachers said with respect. I worked very hard to do EXACTLY what I was told and I never did learn to swim well.

Years later, I over-heard a swimming coach in a school I was working at tell the class to "keep those legs straight".
So in the staff room I nailed him on the issue. "You don't really want them to have an inflexible straight leg do you? So isn't it wrong to tell them "Keep your legs straight?"
"But it works", he said, nobody keeps a straight leg, they can't do it, and the bit of flex they develop is just about right."
There are a few things like that in all our lives.

God Concepts

As a young man I had religious indoctrination quite strongly. So much so, I believed I could see God working in my life on a daily basis. When I decided to go teaching, I believed I was "called by God". I heard a voice in the night. Afterwards I couldn't sleep. It was queer, and the next day was the last day for late enrollments for the coming year. I just managed to complete the paperwork on time. My minister, when he signed a letter of recommendation for me, said that he had hoped that I would choose the ministry.

Some 20 years later, I put aside that version of God. It was a long difficult struggle. But for me at least life without that God, is more sane. I'm indebted to Lloyd Geering, for helping me on the way, but not only him. There has been a large social change in NZ, that supports a non-religious morality. Modern man has to take responsibility for what he does or does not do, himself. To blame God for the evil man does in the world is unworthy. To seek God's help in our own misdeeds compounds the problem. You and I are destroying the earth, not God.

The God I may be able to recognize, might be found in "truth" as Gandhi suggested, or in the environment as many peoples from around the world believe. Either way, I need to live my life for worthy values here on earth, now. It's my task to choose those values. It's my responsibility to live that life.

Keeping a Journal

I began to write a journal when I needed to do it. I had no instruction. I didn't even know what I was doing was called journal writing. Ten years after I began I explored some of the books in the library about journal writing. Mostly it was a lot of rubbish, sometimes written by the psychologically disturbed as a means of self cure, often written for some religious purpose, and occasionally written "for publication" only. There were also books written by psychologists recommending psychoanalysis as a much superior form of therapy.

An exception was "Markings" by Dag Hammarskjold, who was the first Secretary General of the United Nations. An article by Howard Gruber investigating the history of journal writing, uncovered for me both the dark side of religious journals, and the success of inspirational and research journals.

For almost 6 years I maintained a place on the Internet to encourage journal writing. Towards the end of that time, many people from universities around the world began to ask my advice about "grading journals" that were written as part of reflective professional practice. I can't imagine anything more destructive of the whole principle of what a journal is. It's a PRIVATE record for your OWN use, for research and planning and reflection and creating building blocks for future work.

I do know how to grade the quality of professional journals of practice. Invite people to an open book exam, written or oral, where the only book they can refer to is that private journal. Those who understand the principle will shine. And they will write their journals for the right reason. "For Me", not as a work of art to be judged by someone else.

All Learning is Social

If there is no social recognition of the value of journal writing in your school or workplace, you won't be able to sustain the practice. In some communities including my own there is no tradition of journal writing. In other communities there may be disapproval because of the bad reputation of religious journals, or journals of a psychological nature.

For many years I kept my own journal writing a secret. Once I began to talk about it, very few people showed any interest. There's a problem like that with Internet use too. If you ask people how they use the Internet they become very cautious and secretive. It's as though this is a very private and personal matter. Social networks are the best tool for helping people learn about Internet use. However, it takes courage to join a social network when you are a newbie. Even then your problems are not over. How do you find the confidence to make your own introductory page? What do you say about yourself? How do you find the courage to post that very first letter on a forum of a 1000 people?

At home alone, the social support to undertake these scary adventures is hard to find. The solution can't be provided online. It has to be done face to face, one person to another. Open Future Limited will help to encourage that process.  If you want to talk about this please write to me here.

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