Live and Learn

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ~Alvin Toffler

You learn something new every day. Sure, it’s a cliché, but it’s not without a grain of truth. We are all engaged in learning on a daily basis, whether we are conscious of it or not, and whether we desire it or not. Taking a new route to work because of construction is not necessarily as fun or desirable as figuring out the latest online game, but both scenarios involve learning.

Teaching as well as learning has changed a great deal in the last hundred years, from one room schoolhouses to classrooms in the cloud. One of my favorite books about teaching is Why Shoot the Teacher by Max Braithwaite, a hilarious autobiographical account of his days teaching in a one room school on the prairies during the 1930’s, when one set of encyclopedias was used for all of the students, who ranged in age from 4 to 20.

More recently,  A.J. Jacobs took on the mammoth task of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in one year. Did he learn anything? Read his book The Know-It-All and be the judge.

The tools used for teaching have changed, but has the process of learning changed as well? Vast amounts of information are available on the internet, and it does seem that there’s an app for everything. However, you still need to learn how to interpret and apply the data from the internet, and until you learn how to use that app it’s worse than useless. Some writers, like Nicholas Carr, believe that since the advent of the internet we are losing our ability for deep thought and analysis. His book The Shallows examines the impact of changes in technology through time, from ancient Greece to Google, and shows how learning has been transformed by the tools used to teach.

In this ever evolving world of technology, can we still learn from concepts originating thousands of years ago? Is there a true distinction between knowledge, information and wisdom?

Wisdom, by Stephen S. Hall, explores the concept of wisdom throughout the ages, as well as how life experiences influence learning. Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe’s book Practical Wisdom advocates the use of Aristotelian principles in both learning and life, as guidelines to cultivating a greater understanding of the world around us.

These days, we’re all expected to learn, re-learn and retain a great deal of new information and technology, not to mention all of those pin numbers and online passcodes. Understanding how the human mind works can help us to master all of the current complexities of life. Brain rules by John Medina covers 12 principles that demonstrate how our minds and memories work, and methods to help maximize the brain’s natural abilities. This Will Make You Smarter is a collection of essays designed to enlarge the way we view learning and cognition. The authors of these pieces come from a variety of backgrounds, each with a unique vision and viewpoint on how we as humans think, learn, and behave.

Libraries and learning have been partners since ancient times. In a world filled with changes, libraries and the people who work there remain a tremendous resource for learning, no matter what you’re interested in, or how you want to learn it. These days, the choices for how to learn something range from print to audio to online, and everything in between. No matter if you’re a visual or audio learner, the library offers the best of both worlds with access to databases like Mango, a language learning program, and World Book: Discover, which takes the traditional encyclopedia experience to a whole new level.

Live, learn and prosper!


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