Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Learning Without Teachers, Textbooks, or Tests - A Personal Case Study

When it comes to learning, we’ve come a long way. We no longer have to go to a person or place to learn. Static textbooks are looked upon with dread by 21st century learners. Outdated multiple choice assessments are seen as a waste of time. Real-world, meaningful tasks are prefered. But, what does it mean if we no longer need the traditional elements, teachers, textbooks, and tests, to learn? How might our learning structures change?  To wrap our heads around this, I decided I would provide a real-life learning venture and share how I pursued my latest interest. Being Vegan.

I had heard of Veganism, but never really thought about it much until two things happened.

  1. I spent a week in Israel as part of the VibeIsrael / VibeEdu learning tour and learned it is the Vegan capital of the world.
  2. I spent a week on vacation with a Vegan.

I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. Here is my learning journey.

Face-to-Face Friend
I started with my Vegan friend. She called it compassionate living. Hmmm...Interesting.  I’m compassionate. At least I think I am. Maybe I’m not eating compassionately.  If I think about it, eating animals that were killed isn’t too compassionate. What I didn’t understand was the problem with milk, cheese, eggs and other dairy products. I asked her how she got started on learning about all this.

She explained that the best route for her to get started was via Meetups. She went to several.(such as the ones below) and connected with a face-to-face network that helped her start learning and living this type of lifestyle.

I wasn’t so sure meetups were right for me. At least not yet. But I didn’t want to be too much of a burden on my friend. I turned to blogs.

Got a passion? There’s a blog for that. I found the answer to some of the initial questions I had in these blogs.

Okay.  Learned all about that from the above blogs and other sources, but why on earth was this so popular in Israel? Here’s how I learned about that.

Face-to-Face Friend
She explained that since the kosher lifestyle already forbids the mixing of meat and dairy, Israelis have a widespread acceptance of substitutes. However, from an emotional standpoint she said that many Israelis can also relate because of similarities between the Holocaust of the jews and the Holocaust of animals.

Really? Fascinating.  I wondered how this idea started and what the other reasons were for its popularity there. Here’s what I learned.  

I discovered some more background information. 
  • The kosher lifestyle, as my friend shared, lends itself to this type of eating
  • The Big Brother TV Show had a Vegan winner from Israel. She brought attention to animal rights and Veganism Magazine: The Atlantic I learned some more reasons behind the movement.
  • The Israeli Defense Army accommodates the Vegan lifestyle and according to Haaretz, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been reading up on the topic acknowledging that “animals are more conscious than we thought, which is bothering me and making me think twice.”
  • Vegan activists point to a 2012 visit from Gary Yourofsky, an American animal-rights crusader, as a turning point. One Yourofsky YouTube video with Hebrew subtitles racked up 1 million views, a substantial number in a country of 8 million people. Israeli restaurants soon jumped on the bandwagon, with Tel Aviv brasseries and Domino’s franchises alike rolling out special vegan menus.

So what was with this video that so many connected with? I had to check it out.

Video - YouTube: Gary Yourofsky
I watched Gary’s video and learned more about the movement and one of its evangelists. I heard about things I hadn’t really thought much about such as the fact that getting people to believe eating animals is the right thing is big business. I learned how much better it would be for our environment if we didn’t support an animal-based diet. I learned despite the hype otherwise, how much less expensive plant-based eating was. I also learned about all the healthy and delicious alternatives there are to animal-based products.  

Website - Gary Yourofsky’s Website
I explored more of what Garry spoke about on his website

This all made sense to me. But what are some staples to have on hand? How do I ensure what I’m eating is balanced? What do I need to watch out for?

I found what I needed on some popular vegan blogs.

  • Nutritional Yeast: Good source of protein and B12 with a bad name. Get the kind that is fortified with B12.  Popular brands are Red Star,* NOW,* and Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Tofu: Soy has long been recognized as a nutrient-dense food and as an excellent source of protein by respected dietitians and clinical nutritionists. The soybean contains all of the essential amino acids, as well as an impressive list of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Micronutrients in rich supply in soy include: calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C and zinc. Fiber and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are also present in soy. The composition of these nutrients varies among preparations, but is in the highest quantity in whole soy foods such as edamame (whole soy beans), soy milk, tofu and tempeh.
    Sources:… and…
  • Ground Tumeric: Natural anti-inflamatory  because inflammation runs amok in virtually every disease process, including arthritis, cancer, and heart disease, curcumin is the subject of extensive cutting-edge research. The strongest evidence supports turmeric’s effectiveness against dyspepsia (stomach upset) and ulcerative colitis, but it also appears to help age-related cognitive impairment, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Source:…
  • Agave: Agave nectar is a delicious natural sweetener that can be used moderately - by dieters, some diabetics, and health conscious cooks - to replace high-glycemic and refined sugars.  Source:…

Health Food Stores
As I went to stock up on these goods I spoke to representitives at health food stores for insights and advice.

Got the staples, but now, what do I eat?

Online Groups
Facebook started suggesting lots of groups and pages for me to join with delicious recipes.  I made each of the recipes below and shared pictures on Facebook with friends.

Pictures of some of my meals. You can see the rest as well as recipes here
Twitter is a great place to turn to find some quick ideas and inspiration. Here are some accounts I started following:

I’m about a month into this and I’m starting to understand, get into my own groove. I assess my progress by engaging in activities such as publishing my work online and sharing my learning and food I make with others. I also reflect on my success or lack thereof. For example, I have found it difficult to make Vegan choices when traveling and eating out, so I've cut myself some slack as I learn what works for me.

My learning journey included a variety of different elements. Exploring websites, blogs, online and face-to-face discussions, video, newspapers, magazines, real world experiences such as cooking for myself and others and discussing nutrition with experts. I’ve made significant online and face-to-face connections. I learned about health, diet, nutrition, economics, the history of the meat and dairy industry and more.  

I shared my experience with my colleague JoJo Farrell who has had his own vegan ventures. He’s tasted some of my creations, given me feedback and insights, and then asked, “Have you looked into a microbiotics?” I don’t know if I’m ready to check that out just yet, but if and when I am, I know how to start the learning journey.  

And that’s the whole point. If we can teach our students to learn this way, creating their own learning resources and network, we’ve truly empowered them to become independent learners.  

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