Living only one street over from my rural school in upstate New York, I used to walk to and from school each day with my best friend. Waiting at home would be my father. Choosing to work the overnight shift so he could be there when I arrived home. A snack of peanut butter on crackers would be ready, we would watch Scooby Doo on the television and perhaps play a game of Crazy Eights. As the conversation would begin I usually shared something new I had learned at school. I never lacked for having something to say. My father would listen attentively and would respond, “You learn something new every day.” He always encouraged us to be learners.
At that time, if we were home and we wanted to learn something new my sister and I would turn to the Encyclopedia Britannica set that was stored on the tall bookshelf in the family room. My parents had bought the set from a salesman that came door to door when my older sister started grade school. Our set was complete by the time I came into the picture, but each year we would get a new volume with the title that read, Encyclopedia Britannica Year in Review 19__. (I won’t mention the actual dates.) My sister and I would pour over the information, marvel at the (black and white) pictures and share interesting facts with our parents. This may be the new learning for the day.
This phrase, learning something new every day has stuck with me throughout my life and I have often shared it with my own children. It is something I truly believe in. No matter the learning environment and no matter the learning tools that are available to someone, learning can take place.
My New Learning Today
Recently, I find myself reflecting on my own learning practices and how the opportunities, environments and learning tools have changed dramatically over the years. The minute my eyes open I check my phone. I open up the Twitter app and check out the Twitter chats from the night before, resources shared and continue conversations with educators near and far. It certainly has become a large part of my personal learning network for all things literacy.
After preparing for my day I jump in my car and start m40-minute commute to work. On the way, I might listen to a new audiobook on Audible or “borrow” a new title from the local library through Overdrive. It is a wonderful way to listen to more books so I can recommend more titles to students and teachers. Before I reach the school building I check Voxer to see if I have any new messages from my writing community. This group of literacy educators has helped to expand my thinking and support my own path as a writer. The app allows each person to leave an audio message, share links and photos or type a message. In the beginning, I was unsure how this communication tool would work. The interesting part is each message continues to the next and you have a feeling that these educators from all around the country are just getting together and sharing in the same conversation.
Once my official day starts much of my learning comes from students and teachers. It is the best part of my job learning from the “experts” in the field. Throughout the day I may receive notifications from online communities that I participate. Most recently I take part in a Google Community book club. This virtual professional development encourages teachers to read children’s literature and to respond and reflect on their reading. (#teachersasconnectedreaders) This group of busy teachers has been very active “doing the work” they ask the readers in their classrooms to do and experimenting with new ways to reflect on their reading.
On my way home the learning continues as I plug my iPhone in and listen to a podcast. Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzalez is at the top of my podcast list. The educators and researchers she interviews are on a wide range of topics from how to manage a 90 minute ELA block to creating Hyperdocs. Each is informative and I always find new learning or resources I can’t wait to share. Just this week thanks to Jennifer Laffin at Teach Write I found Ann Kroeker a writing coach, with numerous podcasts on writing. The episode I linked to here is, ‘If You Want to Write, You Have to Get Started,’an inspirational podcast for anyone that is starting something new. Perfect timing as Krista Senatore and I have begun our new endeavor to share our writing publically.
Opportunities for learning have certainly changed over time, but my father’s mantra continues. You learn something new every day! What is the way you learn best? Do you enjoy online learning, community groups, or social media? Please share in the comments any podcasts, resources or ways that you enjoy learning, and always remember to learn something new EVERY day!