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My Own Personal Learning

This month I'm focusing on project-based learning. No, not for students or even the Foundation. I'm focusing on it for me. Early this year I signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month, held every November. My project? I, and all NaNoWriMo participants, must write a 50,000-word book in one month (and a 30-day month at that!). That comes to 1667 words a day for 30 days. Doesn't seem like too much, but that's on top of working, parenting, and community volunteer work. And it means writing 1667 words EVERY DAY, not just some days.

Why would I do this? I liked the challenge of setting a difficult but thought-provoking goal for myself and working to achieve it. The NaNoWriMo organization suggests participants tell everyone they know that they're participating in this month-long event so they're motivated to continue if, for no other reason, than to save face.

The month is about writing, not editing. Editing, we (me and the other "WriMos) are told, is what we do in December. To win NaNoWriMo, you just have to achieve your goal. No one else needs to read your text, books aren't judged or critiqued (although some WriMos have been published), there's no "fastest writer" or "best vocabulary" award. Winning is about personal accomplishment. And in the writing, the "doing" of this challenge, I'm learning - about writing, structure, character, plot, and how I approach a challenge.

In the process, I am being supported by an online community that is providing insight into the process of writing, a community sharing its frustrations, achievements, and quirks. The NaNoWriMo organization has arranged for various authors to cheer us on and help by describing what the writing process is like for them. Last week, I (and all WriMos) heard from Jaspar Fforde, author of two series of popular, quirky books, including The Eyre Affair. Here are some of his words of encouragement, "The overriding importance is that the 50,000 words don't have to be good. They don't even have to be spelled properly, punctuated or even tabulated neatly on the page. It's not important. Practice is what's important here, because, like your granny once told you, practice does indeed make perfect....a concerted effort to get words on paper is one of the best ways to do it. The lessons learned over the next thirty days will be lessons that you can't get from a teacher, or a manual, or attending lectures. The only way to write is to write." (click here for reference.)

What has been even more interesting for me is that my 14 year old daughter, Madison, also signed up for NaNoWriMo. At first she kept erasing lines, not sure if what she wrote was good enough. She was doing so much self-critiquing she couldn't get started. Then Madison realized that she'd just write for herself, tell her story, and, voila, the words began to flow. When I asked if she liked her book, she said, "I like writing it. I'm not sure if I'd read it." Honest. She has already written over 15000 words and we've had some great conversations about the writing process.

So.... what does this have to do with 1:1 learning? One-to-one and anytime, anywhere learning isn't about getting laptops for all students. It's about what students do with their laptops and the learning that goes with the access that technology makes possible. It's about having the ability to tap into and communicate with a community of learners with whom to share and experts from whom to learn. And, finally, it's about finding easy fun, engaging challenges that make us think and help us learn, no matter what our age.

Comments? Thoughts?

Read more about NaNoWriMo and schools by clicking here.
November 11th, 2009 @ 1:54PM