Surprise!

Are you interested in learning, as a phenomenon?

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Do you consider yourself a lifelong learner?

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Do you think it’s possible to increase your ability to learn?

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I think my reflections today could help anyone become a more effective learner.

Each day, for about four months now I’ve been consciously asking myself the question, “What have I learned today, and how might I share it with others in an interesting way?” In a sense, this is an ongoing experiment in which I am both the researcher and the research subject. As a part of this ongoing experiment, I think it is useful from time to time to ask myself the question, “What effect is this having?” Today’s blog post is a compilation of what might be considered research notes related to this question.

Here are some findings:

  • This daily exercise has made me more introspective in terms of paying attention to my own learning. I am constantly asking myself, “Is this something that I could write about today?”
  • This introspection is balanced out by the fact that I am making my learning public. I am not usually a very public person, so the effect has been to make me more extroverted than I would otherwise be.
  • Before this experiment, my learning was generally something that I didn’t think about or notice very often. Now, because of the daily nature of what I’m doing, I’m much more tuned in to my own learning.
  • Often when I experience a surprise, there is a likelihood that I’m in the middle of a learning opportunity. If something I’m experiencing runs counter to something I expected, it is possible that I need to adjust my expectations to match the experience. This is an important type of learning. I have discovered that there is a wide continuum of degree of surprise, ranging from slight, or mild surprise, all the way up to something that might be described as astonishment. If I’m not paying attention, it is easy to miss the opportunities for learning that occur with slight, or mild surprises.
  • It’s really easy to monitor my learning when I’m on a journey of discovery; it’s much more difficult when I’m at home in a daily routine.

For people who are interested in continued learning, I highly recommend the practice of daily asking yourself, “What did I learn today?” The practice of publicly sharing what you’re learning might also be a beneficial practice.

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