Learning to learn thinking underlies a college degree

Duane Dailey

A main aim of college education should be learning to learn. That requires thinking. Those who think and check facts lead in the game of life.

In college, I thought I was learning subject matter. I did. But, that’s not the best skill I took away.

Much changed since what I learned in college courses. I learned basics to build on. I got a starter for this mix of life. What I know and use comes from what I’ve learned along the way.

As a college professor, what I teach changed. I still teach basics of communications.

In fact, I’ve changed how I write and communicate.

Subject matter is important, here and now. But, science is ever-changing. Today’s facts will be refined and improved.

When I took the first course in livestock, it was “animal husbandry” or how to care for livestock. Now, it’s “animal science.” Professors teach in-depth chemistry of nutrition and breeding. They know more.

I learned to identify a dozen breeds of hogs. Now, those breeds are endangered species. Hogs today look nothing like hogs of then.

In a talk on undergraduate teaching this week, I heard our leader of teachers tell an Extension meeting that textbooks will be phased out at MU.

Texts will come in cheaper digital form. I’m still burdened with my books. This will be different, but more efficient.

I learn every day from digital devices. Many areas of Missouri will fall behind with no or slow modes of high-speed broadband.

This morning, I downloaded another news app giving up-to-minute news briefs. It is so powerful, my browser crashed. Even in a college town the internet can’t keep up with demand.

There is so much craziness in the news; too much demand jams the system. We need strong digital infrastructure. That will take learning to use the internet in new ways.

I don’t want to give up my paper newspaper. But, it’s harder to get delivery of print copies. “Paperboys” of old are hard to find and pay.

But, we all need access to the latest.

An objection heard by Extension teachers is that producers feel no need for more information. “I learned to breed cows from my grandpa.” That’s still heard, but there’s a world of difference in breeding today. A producer must become a geneticist to stay up to date.

There’s another skill learned in a college education: How to communicate. Farmers must become better at telling their story.

Providing food for the world is not simple. We must explain what it takes and why it’s needed.

Communicating goes beyond writing and speaking. Both of those are more important than ever.

As a communicator, I see every day where failure to connect complicates our lives. It’s a problem at the worker level; but, becomes critical at our leader level.

This week, as we left the Extension annual conference, a professional said: “The mark of a good leader is ability to communicate.”

Yep, we have leaders who know how to talk; they just don’t know how to communicate. There’s tons of research now on how adults learn. Somehow leaders didn’t learn how to learn new ways.

Storytelling is an ancient art. Maybe I inherited an Irish gene for blarney. That’s a start, being able to talk. But, being a communicator takes up-to-date skills.

Today communication still takes storytelling. It is not just imparting data or scientific jargon. Science comes loaded with both, but teachers must translate argot into simple stories.

We need those stories to share at the morning coffee club. Can it be shared at break time? That communication is fast and efficient.

Learning to use small talk is the start of teaching big ideas.

Students leave college with basic communication skills. That is not just tweeting.

Share your stories. Tell me what you’ve learned from this mad rush of news falling on our heads.

E-mail to duanedailey7@gmail.com. Give your feedback. Share.