Archive for the ‘Books & Articles’ Category
I finished Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell a while back and am just getting around to writing about it. I enjoyed the book and recommend it highly. Gladwell makes the case that people are successful because in addition to their own hard work and drive, they are the beneficiaries of a series of lucky breaks that can include being born in the right era, or even the right month. Wealth, good genes, and well-educated parents are discussed, of course, but Gladwell goes beyond the clichés and makes us think about how even the most unlikely factors can sometimes open the door to great things.
People don’t rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kinds may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It’s not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t (p. 19).
I think the book might be mistaken by some as an attack on their success, or by others as an excuse for their underachievement, but I don’t see the book as either. Instead, it is a good starting point for a discussion on how seemingly insignificant decisions we make as parents, societies or organizations can have deep and long-lasting consequences on the lives of individuals, groups and even generations of people. Gladwell also repeatedly asks what cost societies incur when they exclude segments of their population from opportunities that will let the most talented rise to positions that benefit all of us.
I see the book as a source of empowerment for individuals and families. You might not agree with everything that Gladwell writes, but he does provide useful information in a way that can open eyes. However, even if Gladwell is right, we still have free agency. We may not have been blessed by a series of lucky breaks in one area of our life, but we may have received them in another area and not even realize it. It is up to us as individuals, parents and mentors to figure out where those lucky breaks are occurring and to seize the opportunity and make the most of them for ourselves and others.
There are several prinicipal theories of self-regulated learning that are frequently cited in recent literature. These theories are:
- Winne and Hadwin (1998)
- Pintrich (2000)
- Zimmerman (2000, 2001)
In addition to these theories, Azcevedo also provides a framework for self-regulated learning with hypermedia that is based on the Winne and Hadwin model. (Azcevedo, 2009).
I listened to the Diane Rehm Show this morning and her guest was Robert Darnton: author, librarian at Harvard, and founder of the Gutenberg-e program. During the interview, a caller claimed that more vinyl records were being produced than there were ten years ago. Darnton replied that this illustrated the principle that one medium does not replace another. The point of the caller was that even though digital books and articles are obviously the future, this doesn’t necessarily mean the death of the book. I hope this is so. I love my Kindle and downloadable PDFs for research, but I equally love the hundreds of books on the shelves in my study.
I’m not quite sure that the examples are as comparable as we might think, however. I think the rise in interest for vinyl might just be a temporary nostalgia for the past. After all, it is not really back to basics for music, as you still need to purchase an expensive piece of equipment to play the vinyl records properly. In this case, digital really is superior.
But books are different. They are simple, yet powerful. A book and possibly a pair of glasses are all of the technology you need to connect yourself to centuries of great ideas and rich experiences. Plus, there is something fundamental and connective to the human stream in learning and entertaining yourself the way we have done it for centuries. For this reason, books will be with for a long time.
Darnton is the author of The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future, available ironically, on the Kindle.
The interview is located here.
Many learning professionals are currently focusing their efforts on getting people to learn socially and informally. These ideas are important and we have years of research ahead of us on the most effective ways to use these approaches to learning. But we already know that humans learn in social and informal situations. Bandura’s Observational Learning Theory is well established and one of the most obvious learning theories we have.
We shouldn’t have to do a hard sell to get people to recognize the benefits of learning this way. After 20 years of cooperative and collaborative teaching methods in schools and universities, most people are comfortable with this approach to learning.
So if we are increasingly open to learning in social and connected ways, what will our challenge be in the future? My guess is that it is not going to be to encourage everyone to learn socially, but rather to make sure that we don’t lose the ability to think and reason independently. A related desirable characteristic may also be to encourage people to not be afraid to step outside the comforts of consensus within groups or networks and to form opinions apart from the crowd.
A while back George Siemens referenced an article titled The Liberty of the Networked which questions whether technology liberates or enslaves. Another post by Blanche Maynard reflects on technology and solitude in response to William Deresievicz’s essay The End of Solitude. Some feel that we may slowly be losing the feeling of being comfortable alone with only our own thoughts, disconnected from the world. Another article questions whether too much emphasis on particular types of technology is impacting our ability for critical thinking and analysis.
Sometimes ideas develop better whe they have had time to be worked through, reflected upon, tested in intimate circles, and only then brought out into the public light. Daniel Lemire addressed the role of private thought in research in Why I Hardly Ever Blog About My Ongoing Research. The common warning in all of these articles is basically that while social media can be beneficial, we need to maintain balance in our lives and we need to set time aside to be away from networks: to cultivate real and personal relationships at a deeper, more human level that is not mediated through technology. We need to make time for reflective thought.