Resourcefulness…in learning

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Resourcefulness, according a my quick Google search; is a noun meaning the ability to deal skillfully,ingeniously and promptly with new situations, When I apply it to learning; it’s the ability to creatively come up with new strategies and processes for acquiring knowledge.  I feel to be a truly resourceful learner requires one to be curious and inquisitive; as well as bit of a spendthrift.

I have always been very creative and I have always been a bit of a tightwad.  Why pay for something when I can make it myself?  I love to sew, decorate and dumpster dive.  I have always had the ability to see something in its current state be transformed in my mind’s eye to something completely different.  I make my own patterns and engineer my own designs.  I may not always know how to get an item to the finished state but I love to figure it out.  My curiosity has struck again with my desire to reinvent myself through learning.  I see the job I want someday.  I can actually see myself doing the work and performing in the role.  I am trying to devise a strategy to get myself to that point where I am the employee my next employer wants.
The next job I want is to work for a nonprofit agency that believes in new urbanism.  What is new urbanism you ask?  Well, it is an international movement concerned with tackling the problems associated with urban sprawl and car dependency.  Predictions for the future indicate that well over 70% of the earth’s population will live in urban cities by 2050.  I want to work for an organization that concerns itself with walkability, sustainability and resiliency in the urban environment.  I have grown to really love the heart of our american cities; the downtown and the elements of design I see everywhere I go while traveling as a flight attendant.  Marty and I love riding bikes and exploring new places while on bikes.  It is easy to see in some cities great growth and prosperity but others are struggling under the weight of unemployment and lack of development.  Exploration ultimately leads to comparison.  Why do some urban areas have “it” and others don’t? 
As I reinvent myself and seek ways to really learn all that I need to know for this future career, I have identified ways to bridge the gaps in my knowledge base. My favorite ingenuous tool is Google search.  I love Google search.  I can ask Google anything and there is always an answer or a direction of where to go next.  Google searching has led me to specific coursework, YouTube videos, pdf textbooks and class content.  As I “hack” this education, I find Google leads me to sources like a personal concierge.  I often find sources and content for free.  Many of America’s best universities have their content online and open shareware is prolific on the web.  MIT has one of the largest databases of open shareware with course videos, syllabus’s, class notes, projects and tests available; all for free.  I will take a combination of courses from many respected American universities.
I plan to use the powers of observation.  After reading a book by the great social writer and activist, Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities, I have looked at cities differently. I want to be a student of observation and write what I see when I travel.  I want to study the city before going there, observe and evaluate the use of space and write my observations on my blog.  I have already begun this as you will see in my post about Tulsa, OK.  Marty and I have many upcoming field trips planned.  There are many cities on our “bucket list” to be seen.  We plan to go to Corpus Christie, TX this next weekend.  We plan to go to Tokyo in February to see our daughter in Japan.
I know my writing skills need to improve.  My writing is clunky at best right now but I know that the best way to improve my writing skills is to write.  I have started this blog to hon my skills and get me thinking in complete sentences again.  It’s been a few years since I have had my writing evaluated or read.  The last few years I have been essentially writing only status posts on Facebook.  I plan to do the writing projects that are part of the shareware coursework. I will post those assignments on my blog and I encourage my readers to critique my work!  My husband is a very good writer and I generally accept his criticism openly.  I look forward to sharpening our writing skills together, as he will be blogging on this site as well.
I desire to get involved in the political process a bit as well.  I have no desire to run for office but I do think I need to understand the process better.  I will schedule observation experiences where I go to city planning meetings and zoning meetings.  I need to learn the jargon and I need to see how the process works (or doesn’t).  I plan to take a grant writing course.  When I went to Tulsa, I Google searched information about their planning department.  I read their website; looked at past newsletters and tried to get an understanding what they are doing in Tulsa. I also grabbed a few of their local papers while I was there.
I am reading many blogs and newsletters from nonprofit groups; following up on industry news and trying to stay informed about the movement.  I also watch webinars from past conventions and training done by various groups.  The webinars are often uploaded on YouTube channels and are free to watch.  This movement is growing rapidly and much of what is being taught or experienced has happened in the last three years.
A combination of creativity, ingenuity, curiosity and resourcefulness is key to engineering my reinvention.  The learning process will always require critical thinking, observation, discussion and writing but I argue the way of learning in the future is more dynamic and fluid.  The internet has become my source and the world my classroom.  Follow me in this journey and see for yourself that learning is there for all who want to learn.  For those that have demonstrated critical thinking in past careers and in prior degrees, it does not need to be quantitated by expensive college tuition. Learn for the sake of learning!

The Three R’s of real learning…

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I have always been someone that loves to learn.  I read everything in front of me.  As a child, I read voraciously, consuming a book or more a day.  My mother would take us girls to the library often and I would come away with a bag of books every time.  The excitement of a new bag of books with their beautifully illustrated covers and the smell of the library are such fond memories.  I went to so many places in my mind as I read books.  I am a sucker for a good romance, a bit of intrigue and anything with a good story.  I have gone to school a few different times in my life.  I started college the fall immediately after high school graduation.  I went to University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse for one semester.  I did enjoy the experience but honestly my heart was back home as I was in love at the time and I struggled being away from Marty for more than a few days.  I left UW-Lacrosse at semester break and then transferred to University of Wisconsin-Baraboo, Sauk County.  It is really hard to study and do well in school if there is no passion, goal or direction.  I went for a bit but dropped out; I was planning our wedding and consumed with those details at that time.  I had no desire to learn and I had no plan to go back.  I got married to Marty that February and worked at the grocery store as a cashier.  The following summer we got pregnant with Holly and married life and parenting were my plan at the time.  We had Holly in April of 1989 and it was at that pivotal point in my life, I realized I wanted to be a nurse. The care I received during labor & delivery opened my eyes to the possibilities of that career.

That summer I followed through with my plan and went to Southwest Technical College for a certification in nursing assistant.  I loved the class and I had three really great teachers that were thorough in their instruction.  I graduated with my certificate in Nursing Assistant and got a job at Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital. The hospital was such a great employer. They had a tuition reimbursement program that allowed me to go to school; work 20 hours per pay period.  They would pay me a stipend for full time work and for all of my tuition costs, including books if I committed to working four years after graduating. I ended up working for them for 15 years total; I believe I was probably a good return on their investment!  I loved my nursing studies; getting really good grades and graduating #2 in my class with high academic honors.  I was the last class to write the paper test for my licensure; it took 2 days with sessions in the morning and afternoon.  I passed the test the first time and became a RN.  I worked in our ICU department as a CNA, a student nurse and as a telementry technician.  Once I was a RN; I worked the Medical/Surgical floor for a full year.  I then received a job to work full time in the Labor & Delivery unit; I also taught breastfeeding classes; childbirth classes.  I floated to the emergency room and Med/Surg floors when the OB department was closed.

When I turned 30, I was starting to get bored a bit and went back to school for a year at University of Wisconsin-Richland.  I took a bunch of classes to get my Bachelors; mostly prerequisite general study courses.  I loved studying the humanities; taking a Western Civilizations class, Art History and English Comp.  I wanted to go and get my bachelors in Community Health Education but after the year of school on top of work challenges, I gave up.  I was wanting more time at home with the girls and freedom to right my own schedule more.  I worked 7 years doing home care with special needs children, in their homes.  It was a nice chapter of life because I was given allot more control over my time and schedule.  I was very devoted to my faith walk at this time in my life as well and I studied to get my license & ordination in ministry.  I found a lady that had a group that met in her home every Friday night for a full year.  We studied together and prayed together in a new testament way of mentoring & training.  I read allot about church history; learned the scriptures; studied church leadership and organization.  It was at this point in my life I dreamed one night of owning a photography studio.  I told my husband about the dream many numerous times and after about 6 months, he told me to just do it!  He got tired of hearing about it and said, “If you fail, you fail; but maybe you will succeed!” and so I jumped into having a photography studio.  I worked as a RN for about a year, buying my equipment; camera, lights and a few props.

I opened a store front photography studio with no knowledge of how to run a business; how to set my camera in manual mode or how to use studio lights.  But I love to learn and so I did! Those early years were a challenge.  I literally felt like my brain would explode sometimes; there was so much to learn!  I had some really amazing and patient clients in those early years.  My craft was not the best and I learned from every photo shoot.  I learned by making mistakes and then having to fix the mistakes in Photoshop.  I made financial mistakes, sales mistakes, ordering mistakes and tax mistakes.  Some mistakes in life are more costly than others!  A good friend stopped by one day and put it in perspective for me…some mistakes cost a few dollars in inventory, others cost a whole septic system!  I was very fortunate that my mistakes were never as costly as a whole septic system!  Most of my daily mistakes were in product perfection; I would be disappointed in how a product printed and I would have to print over again.  Or I would scratch something with the framing process and need to reprint.  As I had people work for me; I would have to pay for their mistakes too.  One of my biggest mistakes was not keeping up with the tax man.  I learned dearly from that mistake but I am happy to report that I paid them off the same month I closed my studio.  After about 8 years; I left the photography industry to take a job as a flight attendant.  I really felt I learned the equivalent to a masters’ degree in that life experience!  It was a very stressful, demanding chapter in my life.  But I am thankful for all the lessons I learned and all the people I met.

The experience of becoming a flight attendant was exciting and back in familiar territory for me.  It was very similar to becoming a nurse; mostly safety and emergency procedures.  The education process itself was pretty easy but the evaluation process of becoming a flight attendant can be stressful.  Perfection is demanded and there was always the threat of being sent home from training if your test scores fell short.  We all were one test away from our dream.  The bonding of our class was an unique thing as we were all thrown together for training, basically eating, studying and living together.  I count many of my classmates as friends to this day and I have actually lived with two of them since graduation.  We have recurrent training every year on our anniversary date.  The job can be a bit intimidating because you never know when a line check by the training department will happen or if the FAA inspector will be on your flight as well.  It helps to have a solid routine of tasks, a good work ethic and to review the skills often.

So that brings me to the three R’s of real learning.  Receptivity, Resourcefulness and Resiliency.  I wanted to give a background of my personal learning path to demonstrate how each one of these has been instrumental in my learning over the years.  I will explore each one in my next three blog posts.  I argue that the future of learning has to change.  The traditional methods don’t always work and the costs have gotten very exorbitant!  I believe a combination of these three things are what makes learning possible.