Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Accidental Learning

Yesterday, on my evening commute, I head a wonderful essay by noted cellist Yo-Yo Ma for NPR's "This I Believe" series.

celloinlay



"Every day I make an effort to go toward what I don't understand. This wandering leads to the accidental learning that continually shapes my life."

I really like the term accidental learning.

It's more than informal. It's accidental. It's serendipitous.

So, what kind of accidents have you stumbled upon today? What unknowns have you crept into? What discomfort have you gone towards?

Photo credit: Cello Inlay by asluthier

9 comments:

Brent Schlenker said...

Hi cammy! I'm avis fan of serendipitous learning. I believe most of what I know originated from my own curiosity.
good post!
cheers!

Cammy Bean said...

And the web certainly supports serendipitous learning in a big way...

Michele Martin said...

I love this, Cammy--ties in really well with what I've been thinking lately about reflective practice. This is another way to move toward that. Thanks for the timely post!

Cammy Bean said...

Michele...I've been reflecting heavily on reflective practice as a result of your recent posts on the subject.

Hearing this essay was one of those "if you think about something a lot it takes over you to the point that you begin to smell it everywhere..." (This is a really bad attempt at paraphrasing Thomas Mann. I'll have to look it up and share the actual quote with you...)

Cammy Bean said...

Serendipitous learning at work:

If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere, you even smell it.

From Tonio Kroger by Thomas Mann (one of my all time favorite short stories).

Michele Martin said...

What a great quote--and so true! I wonder if it's that you invite it into your life or if it was already there and you just start noticing more. Of course, it's also what happens when you allow reflection into your life. :-)

John David Roberts said...

I heard the essay too, and found it inspiring, though the temperment it takes to confront the unfamiliar and learn from it daily is pretty rare.

What I've learned? Once and done is no more.

Working with a buddy the other day on making his ecommerce website more accessible as first step to more profitable, we started drafting a new organization scheme and a new section for help and advice. The new scheme is designed to "teach" customers how to think about the systems that make up the cars they're modifying (it's a performance parts co.). And we're committed to continually refining the scheme as we learn more about the customer base. What I learned? Structure is a way of communicating a mental model. The commitment to change is a commitment to collaborate with users.

Gary Woodill said...

Hi Cammy,

These concepts relate to John Seely Brown's idea of "stolen knowledge" that he discusses in The Social Life of Information. Stolen knowledge is something you learn that you were not supposed to learn - something not in the curriculum - like adolescent boys learning about female anatomy from observing their teacher in grade 7 or about honesty from someone who speaks the truth even when they are not supposed to...

Gary

Cammy Bean said...

John...I do agree that working towards that confronting the unfamiliar takes a rare type. It's a risk. That, and it takes time. I admit I've had little time lately to go too deeply into anything too unknown.

Gary...thanks for another new term! And I loved the examples you gave...