When was the last time you heard that you shouldn’t be chasing the shiny and the new or risk your time, money and sanity with new fads?
Recently I read Steve Wheeler’s post on Binge Learning where he recounted the story of his obsession with academic studies. The “compelling nature of the content I was learning kept me engaged with such intensity”.
I’ve been reflecting over the last year about how to engage and motivate people for learning how to learn with this intensity.
That’s how I learn. That’s how I connect ideas. That’s where I see links.
I am a “binge learner” and proud to admit it.
When I look back at what has fascinated me in the past, I see a series of ideas that were connected to other ideas that came about from visiting a place, speaking to someone, reading a book. To others, it may seem that I’m dabbling in everything and anything but to me, I’m going on my own investigative journey to try and find links, connections and inspiration.
Some of these may lead me somewhere – many come to a dead-end that are stored in my memory and pop up again at different times in my life when it’s time for them to come out.
For example, a recent trip up the Eiffel Tower, while people were admiring the Paris skyline, I peered through the windows of Gustav Eiffel’s private apartment on top of the Eiffel Tower. I wondered how the Parisians of the time would have thought about this and tried to imagine the feelings of someone who was awed by the immense marvel of the tower having access to an exclusive (and out-of-bounds) apartment. I thought about if I was living at that time, what would I be thinking about all this change? How would I feel about it?
Undoubtedly, I would have been less educated than I am today but it would have stirred up not only wonder and curiosity – but fear too.
This idea then took me eleven years after the Eiffel Tower was built, to the World Fair in Paris in 1900 where I spent a day reading about this marvellous event where over 50 million visitors descended into the city to see the various exhibits that celebrated the coming of a new century. I imagined that the Parisians by now would have been used to seeing their Tower (which they despised so much when it was first erected) and maybe had a tinge of national pride for it now to have been the symbol of this international exhibition.
Watching the footage of people, my mind began to wander again.
Imagine all these people talking to each other in the streets, cafes and parks.
Imagine what they would be saying about the new technology and conveniences they saw at the exhibits.
Imagine how excited (and fearful) they could have been and little did they know that in a short 14 years later, the shooting of an Austrian duke would set a domino effect of death and destruction across Europe and Russia.
From Paris, we travelled to Southern Germany (Bavaria) and spent six nights in the village of Oberammergau. At the time of visiting, I had no idea of the history of the town but one afternoon on my walk, I saw a faded sign on the side of the wall with the word “Messerschmitt”. Growing up, this was my brother’s favourite plane. I have lost count on how many hobby Messerschmitt planes he had made, painted and stuck to the ceiling of his bedroom.
So this intrigued me because there was a connection to my past – to where I was standing today.
Why was I seeing Messerschmitt here?
Why did I see a building like a barracks nearby?
Were they linked?
Was there something that happened here during the war that I don’t know about?
A quick text message to my brother revealed that I had to answer these questions when he answered that it was the site of the factory during the war and that the Nazis had stowed away the planes and their parts in underground tunnels and mountains around the area.
I had to learn more.
While on a horse ride through the village of Oberermmagau, I looked at the beautiful countryside and the hills surrounding the town and imagined those hills hollowed out and filled with Messerschmitt planes and parts. Once again questions flooded my mind.
Who dug them out?
How did they get the planes into the hills?
How did they hide the dirt and the rocks that came from them?
What was life like for these people at the time?
For me, I was less interested in the war, the objects of war but more about the environment of the time and how the people were dealing with change and technology advances through fear of the unknown. I believe we have much to learn from history.
Did my learning adventure answer my questions? No, it never does – in fact, it makes me ask more questions. My journey involved reading Neil MacGregor’s book Germany: Memories of a Nation to learn more about the ‘state of the nation’s mind’ especially through defeat of two world wars and the dense book by Ian Kershaw’s To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 to understand more about this.
I don’t know where this learning will take me but I have a better understanding now about how we, as humans, don’t change. We are still fascinated by the new. New ideas, new inventions, new technologies. It also made me realise that I’m a naturally curious person and I love to learn – and I do my learning openly and publicly through my own eyes, perspectives and reflections on this blog, my Snapchat stories, my videos, my Facebook posts to friends and family. Yes, it can get a little weird at time as I struggle to make sense and connections to ideas that are floating around in my head – but that’s okay, that’s just me. That’s my way.
If you’re someone who also loves to chase the shiny and new and go down rabbit warrens, don’t be made to feel bad for it by others who tell you to be more critical or heavens forbid, “more professional”.
By all means, look at things and analyse, critique or question but don’t do this at the expense of not exploring, experimenting or trying new things yourself.
After all, you’re letting your imagination run free to new opportunities and possibilities.
Your questions and curiosity mean that you’ll never settle for the answers that others (who may not have been so bold) provide you to the questions you’re asking.
As always, I’m interested in your thoughts. Are you a binge learner? How has chasing the shiny and new worked out for you? What personal learning journey has it taken you on?
Here’s the Snapchat story I created that explains it all…