Dear Myrtle, “Your friend in Genealogy since 1955,” was the would-be storyteller’s friend on her February 25, 2015 Wacky Wednesday show (embedded below). And, as the guest on her show, I got a great taste of community learning.
If you’re not a family history buff, you might not be familiar with Dear Mrytle and her “Cousin Russ.”(If you are into genealogy, you already know all this.) Myrt is actually Pat Richley-Erickson, but according to her, no one but Google calls her Pat.
Basically, Mryt and her cousin Russ are genealogy and technology pros committed to sharing what they know and leading a learning community. They continue to learn, probe and explore together with their dedicated following of family historians and genealogists through their blogs (Links: DearMYRTLE and Russ Worthington’s bogs) and multiple Google Hangouts on Air webinars.
Myrt and Russ were kind enough to make sure I got some of my main points across, such as
- It’s all about the connections—not the writing or technology.
- Start piecemeal and make it a doable task.
- Loved ones crave your stories. Don’t wait for the perfect time or perfect writing.
And maybe there was even a subtle undercurrent of “you might want to consider buying my book.
But I think I learned a lot as well.
Community Learning as Storytellers, Story Sharers and Story Hoarders
There’s a lot we memory collectors can glean from community learning.
From one hour of the Wacky Wednesday show, listening to others’ stories and ideas for stories, I woke up this morning with my brain doing its best pinball machine impression. Ideas are jumping around and crashing into things. Unlike traditional pinball machines, my brain doesn’t let me play with one ball at a time; I have many spinning around in there and bouncing off of each other. The good ideas go “bing bing bing.” In fact, I had to take to the keyboard to capture some of them. My word document, imaginatively entitled “Ideas” is like the little paddles at the bottom of the machine trying to keep the balls from disappearing into the abyss of forgetting.
That’s the magic of community learning (and having an ADHD mind). New ideas give life to other ideas. It’s what happens in storytelling circles—virtual or actual. When we reminisce together and share stories, other stories come to mind. In fact, that’s the primary phenomenon behind brainstorming.
When you swap stories the reminiscing process becomes exponential. You have memories that aren’t exactly repressed, but they haven’t made it to the forefront for a while. For instance, when someone else remembers a road-trip of their youth and describes listening to music, feeling the wind through their hair, and the sense of freedom and independence, you realize you made a similar trip.
And likewise, when your cousin tells you about her parents taking such a trip, you realize that they weren’t just your aunt and uncle. They were young, adventurous, and in love. You suddenly connect to their story.
The beauty of community learning isn’t just about collecting ideas. For instance, we can learn great ways to present stories, what to do with the collection of stories you’ve inherited (stay tuned, blog post coming soon), what not to share (again, stay tuned) , and how technology helps and hinders sharing and connecting.
Joining a learning community
Your learning community doesn’t have to be big or well organized, although there are some great storytelling circles and blogging circles (yep, another future post.) It can be a family dinner during which you drive the conversation to the “remember when” side of the road. It can be a girl’s or guys night out in which you ask, “So what’s the story that you’ve never told? “ or “What do you wish you’d known about [person’s name]?”
Share your thoughts. How have you been able to leverage the power of group learning or reminiscing? Of course, I’d also love it if you’d tune in the Wacky Wednesday Episode