I share my neighborhood with magpies. They’re a busy crew, swooping between elm trees, hopping across lawns, and perching on telephone wires to gain a wide-ranging view of their worlds. They spend their days in a continuous quest for the useful and the unusual – a full and unguarded dog dish, a stray piece of tinsel sparkling in the January sun, the flash of a reflection in a kitchen window. Once their attention is attracted, they thoroughly investigate the object that aroused their curiosity. Magpies are known in both scientific and cultural realms for their intelligence, ingenuity, and their self-awareness.
Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that “Magpie Learner” was hatched when a magpie hopped across the sidewalk in front of me as I was mulling over a title for a blog that would promote lifelong, self-directed learning. People who continue to learn because they want to, not because they have to, are often magpie-ish in their pursuit of opportunities that allow them to discover new information, new skills, and fresh insights about themselves and others.
Are you a Magpie Learner? Take this totally unscientific quiz to find out:
____1. You discovered this blog.
____2. You’re an avid reader of stories, articles, artwork, other people, and, when nothing else is available, the sides of cereal boxes.
____3. You like to know what lies below the obvious.
____4. You’ve learned from those who are younger than you, who have less formal education, and whose life circumstances are radically different from your own.
____5. You don’t mind looking and feeling incompetent when you start to learn something new.
____7. You get as much enjoyment from the learning journey as from its final destination.
____8. You don’t think of yourself as a finished product.
____10. Sometimes what you set out to learn and what you actually discover are two entirely different things.
____11. As soon as you’ve mastered a skill, it’s time to learn a new one.
If you’re already a Magpie Learner, and especially if you’re not but you’d like to be, welcome! This is a space where you’ll read about my experiences with learning – the ones I looked for, and the ones that I didn’t seek out but found me anyway. From time to time, my friends and colleagues, Magpie Learners all, will visit and share their stories.You’ll hear what we learned and how we learned, and the joys and challenges we faced along the way. Our lives mostly unfold in and around Alberta, Canada, so those are the places where we do most of our exploring and learning. You may live in a very different geographic space from ours, which offers you different experiences. I hope that we can meet on the common ground of our love for learning, and inspire each other with our stories.