As a learning and development professional I am a strong believer in lifelong learning. I am always looking at new ways of doing things and what new skills I can learn. With technology changing so rapidly, there are always new things we can incorporate into our teaching. Social media is a great example. Below is a link to an article discussing the findings of a survey asking students if they felt social medial enhanced their learning experience. The conclusion being that 68% of the 231 viable responses said that they felt social media enhanced their learning.
Keeping up with changing technology is just one example of lifelong learning. Mobile learning is another great example of the need for us to continually learn.
According to the above article only 24% of learning and development professionals who responded to a survey said they were confident with the technology. As educators it can be easy to forget that we ourselves need training.
While I am a strong believer in lifelong learning, I do recognize the concept does have some drawbacks, which are highlighted in this quote from Merriam & Bierema;
“There are few educators who would disagree with the principle that lifelong learning is a good thing but the important questions are about the types of learning that the concept promotes, the life that it encourages us to lead, who benefits from this and the nature of the society that it upholds.”
If we think about who benefits from the concept of lifelong learning in a commercial sense we can see that the employer can benefit, although the employee may take a course and gain new knowledge, the employer will then profit from this knowledge. In a work sense lifelong learning can be associated with continual professional development, which provides a formal framework for learning, requiring workers to continually learn.
According to Rushton and Suter (2012) the idea of a framework for lifelong learning can create uncertainty as the learner is no longer learning for themselves but to meet standards. The employer or industry dictates what must be learnt in order to maintain a job, so the learner may feel pressured to learn so they do not lose their job.
It is important to keep in mind why we are continuing to learn and not let it overwhelm us. If we start to feel that we are never finished learning, we may start to feel like we never accomplish anything. So while as educators we should promote lifelong learning, we should also make sure we recognize when learning is accomplished and celebrate it.
Merriam, S.B., & Bierema, L.L. (2013). Adult Learning: Linking Thoery and Practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Rushton, I, & Suter, M. (2012). Reflective Practice For Teaching in Lifelong Learning. Maidenhead, Berkshire, McGraw-Hill Education