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No One Way to Learn History

I’ve been talking a lot lately about the variety of ways that people learn.

I’m a text learner. I like to read and follow directions because it appeals to my orderly sense of the world – or perhaps to the sense of order I impose on the world. (My nickname isn’t Spreadsheet Girl for nothing.) Jeff, on the other hand, is a do-er. He jumps in with both feet and solves the problem, and he doesn’t require a clearly laid out path to get there. Tamara likes to learn through conversation. She is a consummate teacher and seminar class participant.  Jeannette is a visual learner – use the image to communicate a thousand words effectively, and you’ll hook her.
Each of us can learn by engaging with images, talking with colleagues, creating something new or reading a book.  But when it comes to self-directed or optional learning – like the kind of learning people choose to do at the Indiana Historical Society or in any of the museums or historical societies we work with at Local History Services – people prefer to have you play to their strengths.

Recently, we’ve been talking about how, within the Indiana Experience, there’s something for most everyone. For Jeannette, Destination Indiana lets her pick and choose historic images and explore them in detail (zooming in on a street sign or a person’s face). For Tamara, she has lots of opportunities to talk with our facilitators (the “orange shirts” as we sometime call them) about her interests. For Jeff, we’ve got the History Lab, where he can roll up his sleeves and mend a piece of paper. And for me, we have the IHS Press coming out with new books every year. (And when we all need a break, we head down to the café for a pecan bar or a cookie pie – dangerous stuff.)

Local history groups also work to help people learn in whatever way suits them, even without access to the staff and technology that we have at IHS. For Jeannette, they have photographs on display, sometimes with magnifying glasses. For Tamara, they have docents who can answer questions and spin a yarn. For Jeff, they usually have “education collections” that can be used to spin yarn, for example. And for me, they have text panels, newsletter articles and other publications. Maybe the local history groups are a little light on the Jeff-pleasers (and who would want to please Jeff all the time!) But overall, they adapt the way they engage visitors on the fly and find something that works for whoever walks through their door.

So how do you like to learn?  And where did you have a chance to learn the way you wanted to recently?


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