Friday, November 20, 2015

Final Learning Blog: Learning is a journey!

I remember first learning about this class when I taking the orientation in the summer of 2014.  I remember Debbie telling us about the learning blog, and that she did it right along with her students.  At that time, she had finished teaching herself how to crochet.  I remember being so impressed that she, the instructor, made herself learn right along with her students.  The learning blog was fascinating to me, and a big reason why I switched from the on-campus class to online.  The past eight weeks have been wonderful, and I love seeing how I've learned and developed!

I've loved learning basics of sewing, but more than that, I have loved the opportunity to apply the learning process to a skill I've been trying to learn.  It has been so real!  Being able to see my thinking change from week to week has been eye-opening.  And to recognize patterns that have followed me from one project to another during my life... and to understand why some learning was so much more successful than others.

I'm a people person.  The weeks in which I learned the most about sewing were weeks I worked hard to learn from others.  From my sister teaching me the basic parts of the sewing machine, to my mother-in-law fixing the perplexing tension and showing me which stitches had been used to make my favorite clothes,  the wonderful craft-store sales representatives who helped me find the tools I needed, and my mom happily letting me raid her fabric bin.  Moments in which I could connect with others and seek input from them energized and motivated me to keep working.  This is part of why learning about cognitive apprenticeship was thrilling to me.  I love learning from "old timers", their tips and tricks, and the thrill of in return, being asked for advice by others! (My mom read about my tension problems, and asked if I thought what had worked for me would work for her sewing machine.  I'm a long way from being an expert or old timer, but it was wonderful to feel like I'm getting there!)  I loved understanding that as I learn skills from others, my cognition is developing along with whatever skill I'm developing. And learning that sociocultural education focuses on the learning and development from participating in an activity, whether "in the middle" or from the periphery, reassured me that it's okay that I'm often reserved and on the outskirts of group activities, because I'm still learning through observation and reflection.

I tend to overestimate what I can learn and accomplish in a given amount of time.  I love this quote from week two, "I've excited-I feel like the children's [toy] set and the baby blankets will be easily accomplished this semester, and I'll even be able to start on the jean blanket." Haha!  I said what? With two messed up online orders for blanket supplies resulting in not even one finished blanket, and I learned that polyester stuffing tends to poke out of cotton fabric so I need to restuff my little critters with cotton stuffing...  This is a great example to me of a pattern I have demonstrated throughout my life:  underestimating how much time it takes me to get through a learning curve, tackling bigger-than-normal beginners projects, and not accounting for the time needed if things don't go according to plan.  However, this course has helped me evaluate this pattern.  I'm grateful that I learned that I can view this pattern as a learning habit that can never change, or, preferably, I can take responsibility for my learning and view myself as having the ability to change, and learn incrementally (even if small) more and more.  

Another learning behavior I've demonstrated is that I continually struggle between wanting to know all the detail before starting a project, and needing to feel like I have freedom to experiment.  Both in week one and five I talked about the liberation of discovering and rediscovering examples of sewing from people who made do with what they had, and didn't feel restricted to following patterns.  Knowing that I have guidelines to follow helps me feel secure, while knowing that I do have the freedom to make changes and experiment (accepting that there may be consequences I might not like) helps me have the gumption to keep learning something new.  This reminds me of cognitive education, where teachers do not shape students, nor do they give them correct answers.  I've been broadening my mental models about what sewing is and isn't, and through my own failures and successes, adapting, changing, and augmenting those models.  

Last week, I felt like I had been stuck in my rut.  I was looking at a pile of unfinished projects, with only a dim hope that I would actually be able to finish any of them before the deadline.  That's when I read this warming paragraph from page 117 of Michael E. Martinez's Learning and Cognition:

"In our lifetimes and in our work, we should adopt the perspective that the subject will not be neatly laid out and dissected, with all mysteries dissipated through scholarship and research.  Instead, let's reside in the middle space acknowledging that we know a lot already, but also appreciating that many questions still endure.  What we know can guide our practice as educators, and what we don't yet know can make us suitably humble about our assumptions and decisions.  This halfway state can also help us to anticipate future discoveries...(pg. 117)" 

Remember, Ivy? It's a journey!  Learning is a journey.  The mind is continually developing.  I am learning how to learn, and that skill will bless me for a lifetime.  In just eight weeks, I was able to learn the parts of a sewing machine.  I learned about thread needle sizes, fabrics, how stitches interact with different fabrics, and different kinds of batting.  I finally learned what "grain" is and how to find it, and learned about tension in formal and informal contexts.  I may not have any finished the "big" projects, but they've been started, and I finally have the tools I need to complete them.  And I did make my however-unconventional-it-is-"I-did-it!" garment to wear around the house.  :) Next week I'm going to my in-laws, and can have a sewing party with people I love learning from.  And this will be a fun activity to continue with my sister and mom!  I did learn basics, and I'm excited to keep learning more.  How grateful I am for this "middle space", where I can acknowledge where I am, and look forward to future discoveries!

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