Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Learning as a Gift to Yourself & Others


Reading Time: 2 minutes

This post is inspired by Patrick Misterovich’s post where he gives an analogy of emergent learning as shopping for gifts. In comments and his wrap-up there is discussion of the shopping analogy but I think of it more as a gift-giving analogy.

So if we take it in that direction, when we don’t know particularly what we want to learn and for what purpose we could shop around aimlessly picking things here and there. I sometimes stock gifts for “just in case” and to make an analogy to learning, i sometimes favorite a link on twitter to read later or write a thought on my blog that doesn’t relate to any of my work or research right now, just to keep it there for safekeeping.

And then sometimes you notice something that inspires an emergent goal – you either grab it and run with it (it’s hopefully free but sometimes u take time to pay hehe) or you get an idea to create your own thing, combining several different things. I often make cards instead of buying them. My 3 year old was sick the week of mother’s day (21 March here in Egypt) so didn’t make the token card they would do at daycare; so i started a project where she made cards for her grandmas and aunt and pediatrician herself. She loved it and asks to see those cards when she visits them.

Sometimes you get an idea of combining things together and you need help of other people. You don’t always need this but sometimes you do and you get something awesome in the end. On my birthday last year the awesome Simon Ensor, Kevin Hodgson and Terry Elliott sent me beautiful multimedia birthday messages building on each other. Since then we have been creating birthday messages collaboratively for each other. Those three (plus Susan Watson) have done so many things together (not all with me) and all, birthday gifts or not, are still gifts.

How is learning a gift?

The thought of learning is a gift

The process of learning, the journey is a gift, and doing it collaboratively like the song we created together or the open learning recipe we are editing is a gift

The product of learning is a gift that others can enjoy and learn from

The sharing of learning is a gift

Sharing someone else’s product is a gift to both the creator and recipient

Responding to someone else’s work is a gift

Thank you to everyone who has helped feed my hungry brain and open heart and restless soul with learning and meaning and connection and beauty and wonder and yes! More hunger for learning. #rhizo4ever


  1. I am starting to really like this metaphor. Thank you for pushing my thinking. There are negative aspects to gift giving that should also be considered (and I think they help give meaning to learning subjectives). Gift giving can be braggadocious (learners can be arrogant, overly proud of achievements). Some people have trouble receiving a gift (some people have trouble accepting help with learning). Some gifts come with strings attached, quid pro quo. How much of our formal learning is set up as an exchange, you do this and I will give you certification?

    • Ooooh really good points, Patrick! Really good negatives you pointed out, but also relevant to diff forms of learning as you pointed out!
      Have u seen Tania’s post on Mr. X? One of the edits i made to the gdoc hacking it relates to credentialing…

    • Just noticed this now, Jeffrey! Honored that u read n responded. Ur response will be featured in my next blogpost! Count on it 🙂

  2. Pingback: Aurélie

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