Friday, October 16, 2015

Re-Learning Learning: Infodoodling 101

       Surely by now you've been at a conference or workshop and seen someone creating those amazing graphic overviews. Just in case you haven't, here's an example on Jessica Lahey's talk at the recent Changing the Odds conference put on by the Momentous Institute:

(You can see more of them on the institute's blog in the two posts recapping the conference.)
       I've decided I want to learn how to do this. Well, more accurately, I want to gain some basic idea of how.
       Sure, part of the motivation comes from my thinking this is just incredibly cool. I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to do this? But there's more to it than that--even more than wanting an excuse to buy more Moleskin notebooks and a pail of Sharpies in a bunch of different colors. No, it's not just some middle-aged head of school's desperate attempt to regain whatever sense of hip I imagine I may have had.
       It's about re-experiencing a certain type of learning. I learn all the time. For me it's essential, sort of like hydration, even breathing. Part of why I love my job is that it forces me to keep learning and growing, to keep taking certain risks. Usually it occurs the way we like to imagine school happening, with pieces snapping like Legos onto those already in place. There's something so assuring about that little click.
       This new venture, though, is different. I feel completely out of my element. I'm one of those people who says I can't draw. I've taken notes a certain way for a long time. I want the results more quickly than is reasonable. I've grown frustrated with what I quickly deem failures, like the total block I hit while trying to typographize certain phrases. The entire project has prompted some serious doubt about whether I can do it, leading to some anxiety, making me wonder if I should even try...even though no one else is forcing me to do this.
       And that's a really good thing. It's a great reminder of how some, perhaps many, of our students may feel at any given moment.As a school leader I need to think about how teachers may feel when being bombarded with messages from about how they must change so much of what they do. Each time I do one of my little units, I can imagine my amygdala taunting, "I'm going to clog up every possible synapse and keep you from learning this stuff!"
       So I'm forging ahead in a manner that seems well-suited for effective learning. First and foremost, it's entirely self-motivated and of my own choosing. I've gathered strong resources based on others' recommendations. I take small steps forward, mini-lesson a day, trying not to take in too much at any one time. When I step back, I'm pleased with my crumbs of improvement already. Surely we can find ways to run classes and professional development that way, yes? Then we can revel in the process without so much angst about the product.
       Anyway, reality is, I probably never will be produce something like the example above. Or I might... I'll report back later in the school year. No matter what, I'm enjoying my perhaps quixotic journey into the world of infododdling. If I keep at it, I'll celebrate by buying those Sharpies. But never will I be mistaken for hip.

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