It is funny how your perspective on some fundamental things can change so much over your life.
Childhood. As a young child, learning is fun. It is so fun that they call it playing. Kids love it! They want it. They need it. They cry if they can’t do it.
Early Teens. In the teens years, it may not necessarily be cool to like school. Most probably wouldn’t admit to liking school except for the social aspect of it. So much learning is going on at this time, and then you add school on top of it! ha ha ha. Frankly, if you see school as a vehicle to successfully pass on to the next stage of life, it can be kind of a drag. Unfortunately, at times I have been in this state of mind. Fortunately, I think most schools are doing a much better job of engaging kids in interesting ways today.
Early adulthood. Learning is in a pressure cooker. Step 1- Figure out who you are. Step 2- Figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. No pressure there. Ha! Then when you finally come up with something, you need to succeed in gaining the skills or credentials for it or else you have to go back to step 1. Ugh.
Mature adulthood. What a relief. No more school and learning for me! wink, wink. With official schooling done, you can live your life. But wait! Looking back, you think school was fun. You are learning new things for your job. You discover a new interest you want to pursue. You want to try a new vocation. Learning is fun again. I love it. I want it. I need it.
Full circle. Once again, we see that young children may be among some of the wisest people on the planet. smile
What is lifelong learning?
Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.
-Socrates [via thinkexist.com]
Learning never stops, it is continuous. A constant process. Learning is living. Thus lifelong learning is lifelong living.
The definition according to the Oxford pocket dictionary of learning is: The acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.
I think the term lifelong learning was coined to make people stop and acknowledge that learning isn’t something that kids do in school. It is something we all do even when we aren’t aware that we are doing it. In some cases, you need to be more active and seek it out. It won’t get served to you on a platter. Other times, it happens just by experiencing it, whether you want to or not.
Over at Campaign for learning, they discuss the many benefits of lifelong learning. Many of these feel innately obvious, but seem very immense when you read them.
- Personal growth and expanded horizons
- Increased employability and improved career development prospects
- A broader range of interests and a wider social life
- The ability to create your own future
The last one is my favorite. How empowering. Whether we are learning or not, we all have the power to shape our lives. I strongly believe in being the driver in your own life. With lifelong learning, we have the best and most current map to make the correct turns. Makes no sense to use an outdated map.
I don’t think we need to expand on why you should learn your whole lifelong. I hate to think of the alternative. Stop learning, stop experiencing, stop studying? So sad. It is akin to waiting to die. Why miss on the opportunity of lifetime?
If you are a parent with kids in school, you know how they are teaching kids today is a lot different than when you were in school. It is a good thing. Not that our education was necessarily bad, it was suited to the time. Well, times are different.
Thank goodness, our educators are well aware and preparing for the challenge that is the future. In the Framework for 21st Century Learning provided by the Partnership for 21st century learning, a vision is provided for how students can succeed in the new global economy. There is a lot of good information there that you should see for yourself. Since I don’t want to duplicate their entire document, I will highlight it for you. The vision includes:
- Core subjects and 21st century themes
- Learning and Innovation skills
- Information, Media, and Technology Skills
- Life and Career Skills
You may think that is all well and good for kids, but what does that mean for me? A lot. The skills are essential for adults as well. We just didn’t get the benefit our our educators being focused and teaching to them. While all the skills are important, I found the Life and Career Skills the most pressing for adults as the future turns into today.
- Flexibility and Adaptability. Obviously, if things are constantly changing, we need to adapt to suit the needs that arise.
- Initiative and Self-Direction. You are an adult now and have to make the decision to do it and no one is going to hover over you until you do it. Just do it.
- Social and Cross-Cultural Skills. With increasing access and diversity, you will have to be able to communicate and relate with a wide audience and different mediums and venues.
- Productivity and Accountability. What is the point of doing anything unless you get something worthwhile done?
- Leadership and Responsibility. The take charge attitude. Ownership to ensure that things are taken care of.
Yes, yes, and yes please. These are the skills that we all need in the breakneck speed of the change we all live in. You know how young kids can dance circles around seniors on the computer? Well, before you know it, our kids will be dancing circles around anyone in the working world who sits still for too long. It is coming!
So how do we, adults, make sure we can compete in our senior years. We learn. However, adults learn differently than kids learn. It can help to understand a little about adult learning. Here are some guiding principle from The Queensland Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Collaborative (QOTFC).
- Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
- Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
- Adults are goal oriented
- Adults are relevancy oriented
- Adults are practical
- Adult learners like to be respected
So learning looks different, but can be very efficient. Adults bring a lot to the table that helps them to learn. The learning tools just need to be focused to what you want and need. Then it is up to you to take the bull by the horns and make it happen.
You can learn more about Malcolm Knowles’ theory of adult learning theory, or andragogy, at elearninginfographics.com.
Excuses you will use and why to overcome them
There is a great article that you should read on lifelong learning over at artofmaniliness.com. It lists the excuses, pardon me, barriers that you will cite when trying to reconcile not pursuing further learning. Sorry, they don’t pass the sniff test. The tough love is coming out.
- Time. You can study in whatever intervals that make sense for you. Be patient. However, next time you are binge-watching television or playing a game app, think about how you are investing your time and if it is worth it to you. Yes, investing is the correct word to use. That time you spend can reap benefits in the future. What better thing to invest in than yourself?
- Money. A legitimate problem, however, there are many online, library, and other resources available that are free. Based on what you are pursuing, there is likely some form of assistance for those in need.
- Information. Hardly a problem these days, it is more likely getting access to the right resources. Again, there is a plethora of resources. Check online, at libraries, and other community organizations to find what fits the bill. You must persevere.
- Location. Once again. There are likely solutions to get access to what you need in the day and age of the internet.
Why should you overcome them? Just refer back to the benefits of lifelong learning. Remember, growth, employability, more interests, wider social life, and the ability to create your own life.
Don’t just do it, embrace it! This is you we are talking about and no one else can do it for you. It’s your life!
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.
-Henry Ford [via educatedrooster.com]