Documenting Learning, or Learning?


from Keri Smith

The Daily Create 631: List twenty ways you can document your learning. How many have you done this week?

I suggested this topic, after a brief twitter conversation with Bryan Jackson and Alan Levine. Bryan had mentioned a list of rules for explorers from the book How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith. I discovered Keri Smith ( several years ago. She is a creative artist who has made a series of actionable books to stimulate the readers’ (co-creators’) creativity. She is probably most known for Wreck this Journal. This question is based on one of the “rules.”

I’ve been pleased at the resonses from so many people. The lists have several common ideas, and many that are unique and personal. Read them yourself at

This morning, I was most intrigued by Seth Goodman’s reply. See his blogging at Now, I don’t know Seth, though I vaguely recall some references to him. Apparently he was active in ds106 and has taken a break during the time I have become involved. Now he is re-entering the stream, with thinking about how to document learning.

In Seth’s blogpost, he mentions how he first thought this was a simple, even boring, assignment. But then, “I began to reflect a little. And I found that I couldn’t quite get my pointy head around it.” This seems to be the turning point, the aha! moment of creativity. And the point at which he began to realize that “learning” is something that can be quite slippery to define. How can we document something if we don’t know what it is?

Seth’s list includes (and so do other’s) some very good ideas. I would like to take a closer look at a few of them:

repetition: The ability to repeat what is learned may be a good indicator that learning has occured. This is the change in behavior that defines learning in Skinner’s “operant conditioning” model. This is often what we test in a formal school setting; can a student repeat in some form the details they studied?

ask for help / resist the temptation to ask for help: These contradictory thoughts work together. In forming a good question to seek help, one must have learned the topic up to a particular point. There is some confusion or incompleteness that needs to be resolved. But, there may still be some reasoning, practice, adjustment, etc that one could make to coax the answer into existance. Both asking and working through are valuable in creating learning, and in documenting the learning. A well-formed question may be more important than the answer.

abandoning it in public / make it to be given away as a gift / sharing it with friends and family: These responses are similar with subtle differences. I really like the idea of abandoning. To put something behind us so totally that even the documentation, the artifacts, are no longer with us could mean that we are moving on, or moving in a different direction, or simply have no need to travel that road any longer. But in making a gift or sharing we are deliberately involving others in our learning. Whether strangers, friends, or family, the sharing is somewhat different, and the feedback (if any) is received with different mindsets and emotional responses.

OK, I’m really enjoying typing this up, and tending to ramble in my mind, so let me conclude. I think what I am finding is that there are many ways to document learning. The documentation also is part of creating the learning. And what we do with it after we are done has influence on how that learning is reinforced, modified, or continued.

Thank you, Seth, for re-entering the fray with this topic. You are in turn stimulating my own thinking and learning!

One comment on “Documenting Learning, or Learning?

  1. goodmanseth says:

    You really honor my own mental stretching with this thoughtful reflection, identifying nuances and connections that I, myself, did not realize. I’ll especially sit with the notion of documenting as part of the creative act…so obvious and so easy to miss. And thank you for introducing me to Keri Smith’s work through this Daily Create. I’d never heard of her before but I immediately connected with her work when I visited her website.

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