After my dad gave up sword swallowing, he became a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman for the American People’s Encyclopedia. We were probably the only family in America that had a complete set of current encyclopedias along with a rack of sabres, cutlasses and scimitars. My earliest reading adventures took place within those encyclopedias. I recall with special fondness the clear plastic cut-away pages that deconstructed everyday things layer by layer as you turned the pages. A car engine. A flower. A human body.
When my parents divorced, my father got the encyclopedias and my mother got the kids. It was about this time when I began going to the city library every week with a friend and his mother. A second grader, I checked out books about animals and exotic places. Some books were stories with anthropomorphic animal characters in human situations. Others were books of facts. I liked learning about the different breeds of dogs, the mechanics of a bird’s wing in flight, the paper walls of Japanese houses. While my grades in school didn’t reflect my hunger for learning, I cherished these books like the friends I’d left behind at my old school. The library and the books were a refuge for the loneliness I felt in my new home and for my absent father.
Books and learning in particular have filled the empty spaces in my life ever since. I was an early adapter to computer technology and once the internet was up for the price of an AOL logon, my learning behavior migrated online. My first internet-charged computer was bulky and set in my studio which overlooked the family room of our house. While my children did homework , played games or watched TV, I wrote for local publications and developed a profitable home business in the communication arts. If a client needed a project I had never before undertaken, I searched the web for examples and tutorials. My children saw me working at home, learning and sharing the knowledge with others. I wrote about my experiences in that door-less studio here.
Wi-fi has revolutionized how we use our computers now. Once the internet went wireless, I began moving around the house with my laptop. I still maintained a desktop for the heavy-duty work, but my laptop became a modern version of those early American Peoples encyclopedias. My routine was to lie back on the sofa with my dog at my feet and my laptop in my lap and write during the early mornings when the house was quiet. Once the household was awake, I transitioned to the desktop and researched through the internet whatever project was on my plate.
We moved from Southern California to North Carolina in 2010 and I have a new studio. It has a door. Despite a room designated for work, I prefer the makeshift workspace I’ve created in the bay window of the dining room overlooking the backyard bird feeders. Glancing up at the wildlife as I work is relaxing and nurtures the passion for nature that I’ve always known.
I have a tablet now. I use it for reading ebooks, social media interaction, and watching video. It goes with me when I travel and is a lifeline for quick research. Although I still enjoy reading a book with covers, I’m gravitating toward ebook purchases and downloads from the library’s connection with Overdrive.
While living in California, I had a rich collaborative life with many people within the industries I was actively involved in. Since moving to North Carolina I’ve been challenged to leave my wi-fi world for meaningful collaboration. I’ve joined several civic organizations which draw me from my cocoon. I’ve joined two book clubs. I’m involved with a monthly dinner outing with a group of interesting women. I took over the website design and maintenance for the garden club. I’ve found a writing partner with whom we read each other’s work and meet occasionally to discuss it.
Here is a map of my personal learning environment (PLE):
My learning environment begins with me at the hub. My laptop is the essential link to the four spokes that keep my learning wheel turning. I write, update my blogs, research and organize information, accomplish client work, and correspond with friends on my laptop. My car takes me to bookstores, the library, cultural activities, civic events, collaborative outings. My tablet contains the books I’m currently reading and archives them for future reference. My iPhone connects me to people through voice and video. I can snap a photo on the iPhone and in minutes upload it to my blog, Facebook page or Twitter account. This one small device has also placed the power of the American Peoples encyclopedia and knowledge from around the world in the palm of my hand.
I’m still the girl with the encyclopedia in her hand.