In line with my idea of learning often being catalytic, I have a concept of serendipity in learning. It is the form of scholarship I often practice. It is openness to learning, and a willingness to follow untrammeled paths. It is willingness to allow the course of inquiry to be directed by the unfolding of your life, rather than the dictates of a regimen of learning.
The modern era of connectivity is a grand place for the serendipity scholar to live. Connectivity is the set of tool that allows serendipity to become the essence of the scholar’s life. Using these tools the scholar can follow inspiration and curiosity as they occur. If that freedom does not exist, the scholar can make meaningful notes that easily become active study when time and other resources are available.
I practice this serendipity scholarship, using my various tools. A thought comes to mind, and if I am not immediately able to follow that thought I have my phone. I can make a voice recording on my phone, and refer to it later or even send it to myself as an email. If a photo will help, I can take a photo with that same tool and store or forward the image for later use.
The computer connected to the Internet is the central tool. Following a moment of inspiration, or following up on a recorded thought, I can begin researching. I can find photos, articles, organizations and individuals. All are resources. Even busy individuals can be accessed by email. Not everyone, of course, but a surprising number of knowledgeable people will respond to a clear, concise and polite email.
The many Wiki resources provide a fabulous wealth of information. Wikipedia is an essential tool, and many specialized areas of interest have a Wiki site of their own. With most articles containing hypertext, the next leg of the intellectual journey can be just a click away. A wealth of literature and a crowd of individuals are just a finger’s motion away.
Wiki resources should not be relied upon exclusively. These are sources of information provided by and edited by contributors. Accuracy is achieved over time, as others shape the articles in the Wiki resources. Unlike more formally published resources, there are no official checks for accuracy. While fresh and dynamic, Wiki resources are at the same time risky.
As the Serendipity Scholar explores, seemingly random ideas and events take on amazing degrees of connectedness in the online realm. Following a whim can lead to a wealth of knowledge. It may not serve as a course of training in a particular field, but a life of Serendipity can be exciting and adventurous.
Of course a lifetime of following such connections with whatever tools are available can have an impact on your life. My nickname among my work associates is “Doctor Lockridge.” I have been dipping into the pools of knowledge so often and for so long that I have a bit of knowledge about a multitude of things. Where I don’t know, I have a very good idea how to find out.
This was once referred to by a friend as “Doctor Lockridge’s Wading Pool of Knowledge.” broad, but not too deep. I think it was intended as a good hearted insult, but the description is apt and I have adopted it. It is a mental image that begs for a caricature.
If you love learning for the sake of learning, and knowledge as a thing in itself, intentionally adopting Serendipity Scholarship can be quite satisfying. You may already be a Serendipity Scholar. Now what you have been doing has a name.
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