As I thought again about being an autodidact and what universities could do for learners, I realized that universities have been part of my Personal Learning Environment. (If you are an autodidact, you have to have your own PLE. For years mine only included books and other people. Now it includes bloggers, social bookmarking, the way I’ve organized my computer, other people in person, and books, probably in something like that order;->)
That wasn’t true for my undergraduate degree, or only partially so. I took the courses I had to and the ones I believed I could pass. But while I can recall nothing from my Astronomy for Humanities Students except the professor’s disdain for Astrology, I did learn which is which. Of some importance I guess;->
What I learned in the courses I thought I could pass was that some courses (in my stronger areas} that I took because they gave me a nice schedule, could open up into new insights, understandings and interests. I came to appreciate that courses could have hidden treasures for me, that some academics had an approach and a breadth of knowledge that I could learn from, that they weren’t just showing off their knowledge so they could win some obscure “I know more than you – ha, ha” game. I learned that, sometimes, struggling through ideas and information allowed me to construct a complex web of understanding that was deeply meaningful to me in my life. It was a thrilling discovery. That and a mate who habitually reads, questions and wants to know more, have made me a learning addict (and an autodidact).
I have spent my life trying to figure things out. Both my graduate degrees unlocked new understandings for me, and both were part of my PLE. I signed up for each because I had a question that the books and the people around me couldn’t answer. Both times, some of my courses were blind alleys to endure, and many were quests that left me with new treasures. And both times, I chose what I wanted to learn about and continued my learning outside my studies as well as inside.
So my attitude towards universities and learning is that of a frustrated idealist. I know I learned deeply and richly because universities have been part of my life, but why are the pockets of innovative and exciting learning/teaching about communications so few and/or so hard to find in this era of explosive change in communication tools and concepts?