The Romance of Learning

This summer, a little way off the beaten track of Highway 40, my family discovered the Beaver Ranch.  A postwar historical site it tells the very brief story of an entrepreneurial spirit who thought he could create a whole new industry to supply the European market with the rather beautiful pelt of this industrious rodent. The old cement “houses” are still there, and you can see how he tried to replicate the architecture of the traditional beaver lodge. The venture itself, failed miserably. What he didn’t know prior to beginning is that beavers mate for life. Putting a male and female together in the same lodge did not result in all the little pelts he was dreaming about because of a little love story that he knew nothing about. Okay, maybe I am a hopeless romantic but to me life without some kind of magical romance is pretty dull. And now for the leap…if life is all about learning then what is learning without a little romance?

I fell in love this summer with a little website called Coursera…well not with the website itself but the opportunity it offered me to take a songwriting course with Pat Pattison at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Hands down the BEST online learning I’ve ever done. Why? Probably because I love to write songs and was able to connect, for FREE with an amazing teacher and 11 000 other starry eyed songwriters like myself from around the world. We watch extremely well produced video lectures, work through quizzes and offer each other feedback on assignments that specifically target the concepts we’ve been learning. I got up almost every morning of my summer vacation at 6am so I could work undisturbed in my little home office on something that I love for a couple of hours.

The barriers are coming down, for every student who wants to learn there is a teacher who wants to facilitate that learning. They may be in your home, your school, your community… or waiting to connect with you in the cloud. As I head back to school I can’t help thinking about what education will look like in the future as brilliant and passionate engineers work (I am also reading the Steve Jobs biography…WOW!)  to bring the learning that stirs our hearts to our fingertips. When we love what we are doing, anything seems possible. Call me a hopeless romantic, but why settle for less?


3 responses to “The Romance of Learning

  1. What a wonderful post Susan! You’ve captured the essence of learning and what our system needs to deliver: passion, for a lifetime, differentiated, shared, offered in a variety of ways, as the learner and situation dictate, etc.

    Jason shared Corsera with me last spring, and I’m impressed by the offerings. Your first hand account of the effectiveness of it is further proof to me of its utility. There are some very appealing courses on there for beginning teachers that I think we might be able to make use of up here too…I’m going to keep an eye on it.

    Enjoy startup, and I hope you have a great year in your new home!



    • What I neglected to mention earlier is that it was a student who introduced me to Coursera…in grade six and taking a physics course through Stanford University. It really does blow the doors off the possibilities.

  2. Agree with Sandy! Great post Susan. I am also in love with that website…

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