A Gardener’s Approach to Learning

At the ISTE Conference in Denver, I had a nice chat with David Warlick and he presented me with a signed copy of his new book “A Gardener’s Approach to Learning” – Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network.  It’s now a proud possession and was read cover to cover on the fight back to Detroit yesterday.

My thoughts…

gardenerThe book is self-published through Lulu although according to David, it isn’t currently available for retail.  It is listed on the Lulu website so it won’t be long now before it’s available for all.

Great, I thought.  Another book about Twitter and other Web 2.0 tools.  But, I was pleasantly surprised as I dug into the book.  Yes, David covers the tools and will take the reader down a number of different paths.  But, so many books do this.

What makes this book unique is embedded in the advice that you need to, not only use the tools, but use them wisely, carefully, and cultivate the resources to maximize the benefit.  In that respect, there is great advice and good resources for all in the book.

I thought that I had a good handle on things but as I read the book I found additional ideas and thoughts that I know will engage me now that I’m out of the air and connected again.

In depth analysis of the utilities appear in the chapter entitled “Mining the Conversation”.  Here, the discussion goes well beyond the “click here and stuff happens” instructions.  To add an additional level of authenticity, David sprinkles the entire book with references to many of the people that you may have met online.  In this manner, the book really personalizes the learning and the use of these tools.

The book is also designed to be interactive and truly uses the modern tools.  Throughout, qr there are many references to internet web resources.  Rather than provide the actual URL, David has shortened them all using the bit.ly web shorteners.  This approach should encourage readers to actually follow through and easily check them out.  I think we’ve all seen attempts to introduce multimedia companions to books by the inclusion of a CD-ROM taped to the inside cover.  In a truly  innovative way, readers can just point a camera or cell phone at a page and be transported to any of the many tutorials.  A pmwiki site has been created to hold tutorials and QR codes are used throughout the book as the launch pad to the tutorials.

Even if you are a daily user of these tools, this book is a good read.  You can’t possibly know about all of the tools referenced but the message delivered should give you pause to think about how you use them.  The analogy of freshly cultivated food from the family garden versus what you get when you speed through a drive thru window made me ponder the depth to which I use many of the tools.  The terms “mining” and “cultivating” inspire to take a deeper and more meaningful use of the tools.

So, who should read this book?  I suspect that there will be folks who “know it all” and will take a pass.  That would be a shame.  There’s a wealth of information for Web 2.0 users of all levels of sophistication.

I do think that it would be an excellent resource for your principal or your school’s professional library.  In one read, you can quickly bring people up to speed with many of the tools that so many of us use on a daily basis.  If your school is using book study as a learning technique, this would be an excellent way to introduce or enhance any attempts to understand the impact of Web 2.0 tools in education.  David even includes guiding questions and big ideas at the end of each chapter for discussion.  If you’re a technology coordinator, this would be a great purchase for all of your schools to support the cause.

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10 thoughts on “A Gardener’s Approach to Learning

  1. Good morning, Doug!

    I’m intrigued by the metaphor David has selected for this book. Gardening evokes actions such as planning, seeding, cultivating, tending, weeding and watering, fertilizing, harvesting, arranging, enjoying. Gardening also draws in considerations of seasons, climate zones, annuals, perennials, sun and shade, etc. There’s no doubt that this provides for a very rich framework upon which to build an exploration of the concept/action of “cultivating your PLN.” I’m wondering how well the book hangs together in this regard, as I was thrown a bit with the inclusion of “mining the conversation.” Is that just an example of an accidental misplant (there must be a more accurate term for flowers that grow out of order or contrary to the gardener’s intent) —but in this case, a mixed metaphor — or does the “gardener’s approach” bloom less than it might? Does this garden need a bit more tending before being added to the official “Garden Tours of 2010” showcase list?

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  2. Interesting insight, Andy. Maybe the word harvesting should have been used instead of mining? I was kind of excited to see the word as years ago, I did presentations entitled “Mining the Internet”.

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  3. Yes — the mining metaphor (“data-mining” an antecedent?), while commonly used in this context, seems at odds with the gardening philosophy. I had the concept of stewardship rustling around in my brain as I was composing the comment, but it didn’t get included. I really like the gardening counterpart “harvesting,” as it reflects the notion that serious work has been done to earn the benefits — a great chapter on the “bounty” and Thanksgiving could follow if the metaphor were to be extended. (Giving back to the land, overworking/polluting the soil (spam, excessive RTs) — it’s a rich metaphor.)

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  8. Gardening is a metaphor I use frequently, both about teaching and with my students. I’m enough of a purist to seek parallelism in the application.

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  10. No probs with any mixed metaphors here Doug. Gardening is a lovely metaphor in discussions around learning and teaching. What better than growing vegetables and flowers? Humans of course…

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