How Lifetime Learning Creates a Better Global Society

by | Nov 22, 2016

We’ve either heard it before or we’ve said it ourselves: I can’t wait to get out of school/college/grad school! On graduation night we listen to an awesome commencement speech. Then we throw our caps in the air and go out to eat with our loved ones. Finally it’s done, and graduation marks the end of a great achievement. It also marks the beginning of lifetime learning.

This time, however, you won’t know it. You won’t be graded. You won’t be in a classroom. Welcome to lifetime learning 101—learning the way you want to learn. Sounds like fun. You may be wondering why you haven’t been doing it before and why school isn’t like this. Well, it should be. 

To kill someone’s innate love of learning is contrary to all goals of modern education. For this reason we must strive toward making learning something kids want to do, not dread.

Let’s unpack these rather bold claims.

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Defining Lifetime Learning

A quick Internet search uncovers this definition from Dictionary.com:

“The provision or use of both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout people’s lives in order to foster the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfilment.

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To be clear, the keywords in the above definition are “throughout people’s lives” and “personal fulfillment.” Let’s look at some examples of this:

  • You pick up a magazine and learn something new.
  • You search YouTube for a tutorial on how to fix or make something.
  • You take any kind of a class.
  • You look up how to do a problem in a school assignment online.
  • You learn from a mentor.

Lifetime Learning for a Better Society

Lifelong Learning Council Queenland Inc breaks lifetime learning down below. It’s here we begin to see how it contributes to bettering people and the communities they live in:

  • Learning to know—mastering learning tools rather than acquisition of structured knowledge.
  • Learning to do—equipping people for the types of work needed now and in the future including innovation and adaptation of learning to future work environments.
  • Learning to live together and with others—peacefully resolving conflict, discovering other people and their cultures, fostering community capability, individual competence and capacity, economic resilience, and social inclusion.
  • Learning to be—education contributing to a person’s complete development: mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetic appreciation and spirituality.

What this demonstrates is that we learn automatically throughout much of our lives. Even things that come to us without our conscious knowing is a form of learning. Pop-up ads, billboards, and videos are all types of learning. We are certainly absorbing this information whether we want to or not and whether it’s true or not.

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Can we say that because of the digital age we have become life learners simply because the information is there when we want or need it? Is this lifetime learning?

The answer is both yes and no.

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The Need for Vetting Information

One should have enough knowledge and skill to be able to identify what is true and what is not, and what is useful for our lives. With lifetime learning we are actively seeking out information and using it. We are retaining that skill for future use. It is relevant to us, and we are solving problems.

In most of these instances lifelong learning becomes self-directed. It is meaningful to you and you are motivated to learn. With true learning comes a reflection on how it fits within your moral code.

Lifetime learning, in its more comprehensive definition, must provide for active verification of whether a certain piece of information is true. This is no easy task, as the Internet can disguise untruths with layers of appeal to our need for quick-search answers. 

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We have to get back to scrutinizing our primary sources. The average Internet user is just too lazy or does not have enough time to sift through all those layers. The lifelong learner takes on this challenge. It is what sets them apart from other casual Internet users.

With lifetime learning comes responsibility and a sense of empowerment. You are parsing through bits of information and determining what is useful and true. Information Fluency was designed for this very accomplishment.

In this sense, lifelong learning compels the student to be self-directed—asking the questions that need to be asked, not just accepting things at face value. The world needs people who will ask the hard questions and create the answers when no one else can.

This is how our society becomes better—across town and across the globe—through lifetime learning.

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Moving Forward

So how do we make sure our students grow up to become lifelong learners? There are 3 things we must strive to do as educators. These are things which we as adults tend to appreciate when we are employed:

  1. Eliminate fear of failure by allowing students to experiment, make mistakes, and take risks.
  2. Provide formative assessment with real-time feedback on student performance 
  3. Include collaboration, since kids are more apt to seek help and work together to get something done.

Peter Drucker of the Drucker Institute says this about lifelong learning:

“We know that what we absorbed in the college classroom was at best a foundation for absorbing more, and a fragile foundation at that …

For knowledge, by its very definition, makes itself obsolete every few years, and then knowledge workers have to go back to school …

They may be store managers…or physicians or engineers, but every few years they have to refresh and renew their knowledge. Otherwise they risk becoming obsolescent …

It will force us to accept that, in the knowledge society, learning is lifelong and does not end with graduation.”

Our global society will benefit from learners like these, because they will dare to go the distance. Lifetime learners will have a respect for people of different cultures, because they know that together we can accomplish great things. They will know how to sift through erroneous information, demanding accountability from media outlets and weeding out fake news.

Lifetime learners will get us to Mars and take the next bold step into the stars.

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