The Pompatus of Learning

“Some people call me the Space Cowboy,
Some call me the Gangster of Love.
Some people call me Maurice,
cause I speak of the Pompatus of Love.”

If you had asked me this morning if I expected to be writing a Steve Miller-based blog post later today I’d have to admit that it would have been pretty low on my priority list, if it even registered at all. But it’s funny how things work sometimes, and funnier still where your inspirations come from; because this post was inspired by a completely chance, brief, humorous exchange on Twitter with Craig Taylor, and Nicole Legault. Just for them, tonight only, I will speak of the Pompatus of Learning.

People have asked my why I wound up doing what I do. In the earlier stages of my career as a classroom-type instructor, I would probably have said that I enjoyed things like “seeing the lightbulb go off” or some other cliche.


As time went on and I moved into instructional design and e-learning work, etc., I was rarely in range of said lightbulb but I still continued to do the work. On the other side of the fridge door, I was a dreadful student in High School, a little better in post-secondary, but after a long layoff from formal learning, a real learning junkie in professional development areas as well as my graduate studies. Was it really more about my own lightbulb than the learner’s?

Skip ahead to my somewhat belated foray into Social Media technologies and it’s almost like the learning has been “turned up to 11”. Finally I’m in a position to have learning (as author/educator Nathan Lowell says) “everywhere, all the time”, as opposed to “anywhere, any time”.

Maybe what it boils down to is some of the magic still inherent in the learning process for me, both as an educator and a learner. There’s still something special for me in that moment when some new piece of information registers, or when I come across a particularly juicy piece of micro-learning, or when I hit on a new solution to a learning challenge, or even when I help a learner get past a problem and suddenly the path ahead of them doesn’t seem so daunting.

Can you put a definition to that? I’m not sure that I can find the right word. Sure, there’s probably some scientific explanation or some very tidy piece of educational psychology that articulates exactly what goes on. In this case I’m not sure I want the explanation. Maybe it would take the magic away; you know, kind of like learning how a really clever illusion is performed…some of the magic is lost when that happens.

Whatever it is, however it happens, it’s what I do and what I live for. It’s why I’m out here writing blogs, hoarding Twitter posts, downloading articles, and connecting with really, really smart people and trying to draw what I can from them and – hopefully – be able to share something of me.

I dunno if Douglas Adams would have agreed with me (and oh, how he would have loved this era) but I think “Pompatus” is as good a word as any for that thing that happens when a certain set of synapses fires and the magic begins to happen.

…but don’t call me Maurice.


About Mark L. Sheppard

learning geek, lifelong learner, terminally curious, recovering blogger and Ed Tech explorer.

Posted on July 22, 2011, in blog, commentary. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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