Why Learning is So Important Today

The ability to learn is one of the things that make humans human, that differentiates us from other species. Humans have to learn, it’s our nature to do so. From birth it’s the one thing that we do most naturally, other than bodily functions. From birth everything that we are doing we’re learning, whether it’s playing, moving, or just looking and listening. For many as we grow we learn less, or stop learning all together. It should be the exact opposite, with the wisdom of age we should know that we could always be learning, and should always be learning. Learning is important and required for human growth and advancement.

Learning provides so much. Learning is enjoyable and fun. Those that don’t enjoy learning are not approaching it with the right attitude. Learning leads to happiness and wellness. Learning new things keeps the mind stimulated, more positive, and growing. This leads to improved brain health and contributes towards wellness. Learning generally helps one to be more optimistic, open, and inquisitive. These are contributors to happiness. Learning is a powerful example to others, to family, friends, and community. Learning is good for society and provides many societal benefits from lowering unemployment to improving overall population health. It’s an important example of leadership to others. Combining learning with meditation, greater mindfulness and the effects of learning will foster greater inner peace and will spread to others. The more people who are learning the more peace on the planet.

Lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge throughout one’s life. It’s an attitude and for many a way of life. Lifelong learning could influence all aspects of one’s life. The pursuit of lifelong learning is an admirable, desirable, and beneficial pursuit.

Learning is also very important for one’s work life. We know that we are now in a learning economy, no longer a knowledge economy, where economic growth is dependent on one’s ability to adapt and learn in order to create opportunities and growth. The pace of change in technology, the economy and global competition dictates that the ability to learn and adapt to new situations is the most important requirement for global success. In today’s learning economy, the ability to learn is the most important and overlooked skill required for life and business success.

Learning is so important because it’s a requirement for living, it’s the new lifeblood.

Our Learning Economy

I just read this article about what’s ahead for education in 2014 in the Atlantic. One key change that’s occurring in 2014 that was discussed was the upcoming changes to the AP and GED tests. The purpose of the test changes was described as to better prepare people for the so called “knowledge economy”. It said that, holy 1990’s. Our education system does it again and is right on top of things, is thinking and acting proactively and ahead of the curve. This plan is to focus on skills that were needed for success ten to twenty years ago. We need to be focusing on what’s needed from our educational systems for success in the future, for the next ten to twenty years!

The advent of the PC in the 1981 really lead to the information age. The information age fostered the knowledge age and knowledge economy in which economic growth was dependent on the access to information and with that knowledge was the key to individual success.  

We are way beyond that now. The internet has made access to information easy, inexpensive, and ubiquitous. The amount of information online is almost doubling annually and will increase beyond that. Information is being catalogued and curated online at amazing rates. Everyone has access to all kinds of information that was not before possible. Access to this information is available to anyone in the world, including people in remote parts of the world accessing it on demand from a mobile phone. The world is flat and the playing field is leveled. Possessing information is no longer the key to success.

Rapidly advancing technology and globalization have now spawned the learning economy where economic growth is dependent on one’s ability to adapt and learn in order to create opportunities and growth. Jeff Cobb says “we now live in what is not so much a knowledge economy but rather a figure-it-out-on-a-daily-basis economy or, more formally, a learning economy.” In today’s learning economy, the ability to learn is the most important and overlooked skill required for life and business success. The pace of change of technology, the economy and in global competition dictates that the ability to change and adapt to new situations is the most important requirement for global success. Corporate strategies and activities are forced to change at an ever-increasing pace to keep up with the global competition, requiring changing jobs and changing job skills. The best way to succeed in this environment is to learn to adapt and to learn new skills and capabilities. Those best able to do so will be the most successful.

Our educational system must support individuals to be successful in this learning economy, and it must start doing so now. Even talking about a so-called “knowledge economy” is a disservice. Markus Witte writes about the real education revolution that is going on, the revolution in learning. It is people taking learning into their own hands. This new trend is being initiated by a whole new breed of learning technology start-ups that set out to make learning easier for everybody. They are focused solely on their users, people who want to learn something. Our educational system must enter the current century and get with the program with this fundamental change otherwise our country will suffer educationally for another generation.

Learning How to Learn

We’ve previously discussed that learning is important. Learning is what makes humans human. It’s important for living a fulfilling life. Learning is living and one should live happily and healthily, and with purpose, passion and optimism. Focusing on learning on purpose helps one live a fulfilling life. Do you agree that learning is important and do you like learning?

If learning is important shouldn’t we work on how to learn so that we do it better? Do you believe that you’re a good learner? Do you want to work to become a better learner?

Most of us don’t think about how we learn or that we could learn better. We start learning from the day that we’re born when it comes naturally. We are the best learners when we’re children. As child learners we do what comes naturally. We’re inquisitive, we connect our learning to things that we already know, we learn by playing, and we practice (playing) learning. As we age we develop learning habits and practices, many that are not helpful to our learning. We also stop playing and take learning for granted. Can we recapture and restore that ability to learn?

The awareness of our ability to learn is call metacognition. Metacognition literally means knowing about knowing, which is one’s knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning and problem solving.

We can improve our learning and learn how to learn better. There are multiple stages that are progressed through while improving learning. Thinking about learning and identifying the purpose for learning is the first stage of improved learning. The next stage is developing better learning habits and using proven practices to improve learning. An important learning stage can be called personalized learning. There are different types of learners with different learning styles. The most common types of learning styles are visual, auditory and kinesthetic styles. Learning can be personalized based on one’s learning style and the topic or content that is being learned. This will enable one to be a better learner by leveraging one’s unique talents and skills to learn better. The final and ultimate learning stage is the application of learning science to improve learning. Neuroscience and psychology applied to education and other fields of learning and brain research are discovering important knowledge and insights about how our brains learn and what happens when our brains learn. Developments from this research that are being applied to improve learning. This is the future of learning and likely to lead to a revolution in learning and education. This will be similar to revolution in medicines that resulted from the research in penicillin and the functioning of biological processes starting in the early 1900’s.

Focusing on becoming better learners will help us to accomplish more in our learning, to be more productive in our learning, and to increase our desire to want to learn more. The more we learn, the more we become aware of all of the new and different things that we could learn. I am constantly amazed at how much there is to learn!

Learning how to learn is possible and has many benefits. It benefits each of us individually and all of us as a whole. Learning is something that we all do our entire lives. Let’s invest more in developing this most important talent.

What do you think about investing in learning better?

How Anxiety Affects Lifelong Learning

This is our first guest post and is contributed by Ryan Rivera, and is an example of occasional posts by contributors on related topics. One of our key goals is to educate readers about the importance of and impact of wellness on lifelong learning. Ryan’s post is very relevant to lifelong learning as anxiety must be managed by many of us to achieve our goals and strive for our dreams.

Your brain is an incredibly powerful organ, and one that is more complex than even research gives it credit for. But as powerful as it is, it can also be very sensitive, especially to your emotions and your mental health.

Learning and Anxiety

Your brain, of course, is your most important tool for learning. It is also extremely affected by anxiety. Anxiety, which affects millions of people in the United States alone, is so powerful that it can shut off some parts of your brain completely. It also causes many different issues that affect learning, including:

  • Fatigue – Perhaps the biggest problem with anxiety is fatigue. Anxiety is very draining both mentally and physically, and yet you need energy if you hope to learn and stay active in life. Without that energy, there is simply no way to keep yourself motivated or focused on the world around you, let alone any classes or personal learning activities you undertake.
  • Distracted Thinking – Similarly, your mind can only focus on a select number of items at any given time. So when you have anxiety, your ability to focus on other items decreases. Anxiety can clog all of your thoughts and prevent you from seeing and remembering everything in front of you, causing many issues with lifelong learning.
  • Memory Loss – On a physical level, anxiety and stress can actually prevent the creation of new memories and trigger memory loss. It’s not entirely clear why this occurs, but many studies have confirmed that those with chronic anxiety lose memories more than those with no anxiety at all.
  • Poor Priorities – It’s not just the effects of anxiety either. Anxiety can also simply cause you to have worse priorities than you would otherwise. For example, you may be so anxious that all you want to do is go to the doctor or stay home and watch TV instead of embark on some type of learning excursion.
  • Negative Thinking – Finally, anxiety causes negative thinking as a side effect of long term stress. People’s emotions become more negative in a way that you may not even realize – in a way that feels natural. Negative thinking has a strong impact on learning.

Anxiety is an overwhelming condition, and one that is often very physical. But it’s also much more than that. It’s an emotion and an experience that affects your mind in numerous ways, from shutting down some parts of your brain to taking over other parts. When you suffer from long term anxiety, you’re preventing lifelong learning.

Learning as a Treatment

What’s interesting, however, is that lifelong learning can also be an anxiety treatment. The more you engage in learning activities and try whatever you can to expand your own personal experiences, the more your mind can’t focus on anxiety and learns to be more optimistic. So while anxiety prevents learning, learning can prevent anxiety.

That’s why it’s not just about controlling anxiety. It’s also about making sure you’re making yourself learn at the same time. You need to stop your anxiety as best you can, but if you can also get yourself out there and use your mind on a daily basis, you can also help yourself control your anxiety in the future.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera tries to continue learning on a regular basis, formally and informally. He has a website about anxiety recovery at www.calmclinic.com.

Identity Management for Lifelong Learning Technology


There are capabilities or functions that we all use and depend upon when online including communicating, bookmarking, sharing, creating, blogging, collaborating, and organizing. There are also the capabilities of curating, e-learning, and publishing that many people perform regularly. All of these online capabilities depend on identity management. Without identity management they could not be performed. Imagine trying to communicate with someone or some group without being confident that you know who you are communicating with. Would you be able to or want to create, organize, bookmark or share without being about to reliably access your information?

To be able to perform any of these capabilities effectively, productively and in an empowering way you must feel safe and secure. Being safe and secure is to be free from both accidental and intentional harm or risk while online. Online safety is being able to share openly, freely and easily in a way that fosters more knowledge sharing and learning. Information security, which identity management is a part of, is used to make an online environment as safe and secure as possible. With technology and the Internet changing so rapidly often the best that information security can do is to stay a few steps ahead of the bad guys.

The core principles of any information security system are confidentiality, integrity and availability. This is called the core security triad. All Information security systems must be designed to ensure these fundamental principles. Confidentiality is sharing your information with only those that are allowed to see the information. Integrity is the confidence that your information has not been modified without your knowledge. Availability is being able to access your information when and where you want to access it. These requirements must be met to have a secure system. Identity management is a fundamental component of a good information security platform and requires confidentiality, integrity and availability.

Identity management is the management of identity related information, authentication and authorization in information systems. This information makes up an online identity. Authentication is confirming that you are who you say you are. Authorization is determining what systems or applications you have access to.

Identity management also handles how users are given an identity, the protection of that identity and the technologies supporting that identity. Identity management takes care of managing your usernames and passwords, called credentials, which is what enables you to login to systems and applications. Additional capabilities that are becoming more prevalent are single sign-on and advanced security or strong authentication capabilities. Single sign-on enables you to access multiple applications with one login. Strong authentication, also called multiple factor authentication, is an advanced feature that makes your login stronger and more secure. It’s the process of entering multiple pieces of information to authenticate you. It is based on providing something you know, something you have and sometimes something you are. Systems will require the use of either one, two or three of these factors based on how much security they must maintain. The first factor is typically your username and password which is something you know. The second factor is something you have and is typically a token that is provided to you by the organization that you are requesting access to or by a third-party. There are numerous types of tokens that you can use and the most typical is a six digit code received via an SMS message. The third factor is something you are and is a biometric element, usually a thumbprint or eye scan.

loginWhy is identity management important to lifelong learning online? The potential of lifelong learning online is great and identity management is required to maximize and fulfill its potential. Identity management is required to enable individuals to safely work online and enable groups of individuals to share, communicate, collaborate and learn. Everyone must have secure communications, have the confidence that they are safe online and that their online actions are not corrupted, violated or interrupted. There are other capabilities that are required to have a secure online learning environment including encryption of data at rest and in motion, endpoint protection, and network security. Identity management is the first critical capability that must be in place to assure secure online learning.

Identity management enables the proper and secure access to systems. It enables the ability to securely, confidently and fully participate in online learning. This allows more people to participate. Identity management allows people to participate wherever and whenever they like. It allows certain people to access restricted or confidential materials online. It allows groups to have private and open conversations. It also decreases the overall costs related to eliminating the risks of performing transactions online.

Identity management is also going through major changes resulting from growing challenges. The large number of credentials that people are forced to manage in order to use the multitude of online systems has become overwhelming. Online identity theft is a major risk that could inhibit progress if it’s not eliminated or controlled. Mobile e-learning and commerce is growing rapidly and will soon be the primary end-user medium.

There are important initiatives underway to attempt to secure and simplify your online identity. Doing so is a major challenge but has significant potential rewards and all participants in an online transaction could benefit.  Some of the key objectives of these initiatives that envision a secure online identity that everyone accepts and can be used to access anything, anywhere are:

  • Accessing your online identity securely from anywhere, anytime and from any device.
  • Assuring privacy so that only the information that you want is shared.
  • Providing just enough personal information required for the requested transaction.

The most important current initiative that’s driving towards this is called the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, or NSTIC, which has been initiated by the US government. It is a public and private initiative, initially funded by the government, that spans all industries and user groups. The question is whether NSTIC can accomplish its objectives, or even just create enough positive momentum to solve many of the current challenges. If so lifelong learning technology will be better off and can start to achieve the goal of bringing lifelong learning to everyone.

The Potential of Lifelong Learning Technology

learning groupLifelong learning is the key to success. I’ve said this before and I truly believe it. I believe that lifelong learning is the best approach to being successful in life or in anything that you want to pursue. Having an open mindset, a thirst for learning and knowledge, and the desire to share with others will put you in the position to identify inspiring opportunities. It positions you to capture life’s opportunities and to be able to excel in your chosen field.

Lifelong learning is both a formal and an informal process. Informally, you learn from all of your experiences, mistakes, lessons, and relationships and from the people around you. The informal learning process is about continuously improving at all areas of life. It’s about the desire to improve and not about being perfect. Formal learning is the process of intentional learning. You strive to learn new things that will help you achieve your personal professional or pleasure goals. Learning new things in one area will often help to give you new perspectives and ideas that can help in other areas of your life. Formal learning can be self-study learning, experiential learning, e-learning, classroom learning or a mix. There can also be a combination of formal and informal learning.

Technology is playing an increasingly important and powerful role in lifelong learning, just as it is in every area of life. Lifelong learning technology has the potential to change the way we learn and to bring lifelong learning to more people in ways that was not possible before. The two biggest technologies driving this are the Internet and mobile. They are now at the point that they’re readily and inexpensively available to everyone at a level of capability that is truly changing how we do things. It’s the ease and accessibility of information whenever and wherever and the ability to easily collaborate with large and diverse groups on a specific topic that are enabling the expansion and adoption of e-learning.

The most important aspect of lifelong learning technology that drives these new possibilities is the ability to share and collaborate about topics of interest with your learning community in a safe and secure environment. A big part of this are all the web 2.0 tools for discovering, sharing, learning, and collaborating. People can develop their own personal learning network to help discover things of interest and learn more about them, but the real power of lifelong learning technology is through the learning and sharing with your learning community. This takes learning to a different level, one not possible on your own. You will gain the most by collaborating with a group that is willing to share what they know and that shares your common interests. An individual can only do so much on their own, an individual needs support and assistance of a community to develop the desire and motivation, to understand what works and what doesn’t work and to act as a support system.

There are many important technologies that have a role in driving lifelong learning technology including the mobile internet, smartphones, cloud computing, big data, app development, online video and others. An increasingly important area facilitating the secure access to data and the ability to share and collaborate with others is identity management.identity 10102 The need for identity management is ever-increasing with the proliferation of devices and media and the explosion of cloud resources for processing, storage, apps and analytics. You must feel safe and secure to be able to perform online actions in a productive, effective and an empowering way.

Are you frustrated with having to remember all of your multitudes of passwords? Do you reuse the same password over and over? Do you believe that your online accounts are as safe as they could be? Do you do online banking with confidence in the security of your online transactions? This is the domain of identity management. Identity management enables the free, safe and secure sharing of information in learning environments that fosters the power and potential of lifelong learning.

Identity management is a current area of focus of mine and will be the topic of my next blog post.

We Must Focus on Lifelong Learning Technology

FocusingEdtech, or educational technology, is a big field and is growing fast. Lifelong learning technology is not currently thought of as it’s own field (as far as I know) and if anything is considered a part of, or an application of edtech. I argue that lifelong learning technology is not the same as edtech in many important ways and should be its own field. They are related to each other like health information technology is related to information technology but should be separate fields.

It’s good that edtech and lifelong learning technology are related as edtech has so much activity that lifelong learning technology is certain to benefit. Lifelong learning technology will take off with the increased attention and funding support from being an independent field. Most processes and technology are applicable to each, but lifelong learning is more specialized than edtech. The focus on lifelong learning technology will also help lifelong learning to grow in importance and visibility.

To make my argument I must first differentiate between lifelong learning, education, and learning.

A formal definition of lifelong learning, as we know, is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Another definition from evolllution.com describes lifelong learning as the active process of learning throughout one’s life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skill mastery and competence, within a personal, civic, social and workforce related perspective. Additionally the Free Dictionary says that lifelong learning is the 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 fulfillment.

We all know what education is. A good definition of education is the process of receiving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. I have previously stated that education is primarily focused on obtaining the skills and knowledge to prepare for a career. Learning is certainly different from education. Learning is acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice, study, or by being taught. Simply put learning is part of the educational and lifelong learning processes and occurs as part of both education and lifelong learning. Learning is also separate and distinct from education and occurs during many other activities and processes, and in other forms.

Lifelong learning is not education. Lifelong learning can occur in an educational format or activity. The key things that differentiates education and lifelong learning are the intent and purpose for each. Lifelong learning is self-motivated and voluntary. I argue that often education is neither, it is often mandatory and sometimes forced. This is a fundamental difference between the two and implies that certain aspects of each require a different approach. This also highlights the need to utilize different technologies for each in certain applications.

Edtech, the acronym of educational technology, generally refers to tools for e-learning. Educational technology is defined as the field of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. Based on these definitions edtech has taken on a meaning of it’s own, and is no longer considered the same as educational technology. In this case edtech refers specifically to the tools and technologies, educational technology is the field of applying tools to the challenge.

I think of edtech as all of the tools that support the learning process, not just e-learning tools. My description is the most broad description and includes administrative systems, authoring systems, delivery systems, social and collaboration platforms and integration technology. Many new web tools will be lumped into edtech if they are in any way related to learning and are social.

FocusI use the term lifelong learning technology since it’s be the best phrase to use for now and the most descriptive. Are lifelong learning technology and edtech related? Is lifelong learning technology a subset of edtech? My gut feel is that they are not the same as they don’t completely overlap. Lifelong learning technology is more specialized than edtech requiring additional features and capabilities, and they often should be applied and used differently to be applicable for lifelong learning.

If you agree with me that lifelong learning is a much more self-motivated endeavor as compared to most education, then you should acknowledge that lifelong learning requires technologies that differ from edtech. As an example, in information discovery and sharing lifelong learning technologies should be more push than pull-based as well as more on-demand and real-time based than edtech. That doesn’t mean the edtech can’t be on-demand or real-time just that these capabilities are more fundamental to lifelong learning. Someone that has a focus on  always learning, and having an open and inquisitive mind to learning opportunities will have more desire and need for more on-demand type learning. An increased need for on-demand learning  also implies more mobile applications that are easy to access and use. On-demand collaboration, the ability to collaborate with others that share an interest in a topic area in a more ad-hoc way, is another interesting more specialized requirement for lifelong learning.

Why does lifelong learning technology need to be it’s own separate field? Lifelong learning technology will not achieve it’s fullest potential unless it’s focused on, and it will not be focused on sufficiently unless it becomes its own field. Lifelong learning technology needs its own spotlight so that it can become a full fledge field of it’s own and achieve more than if it’s stays a part of edtech.

Lifelong learning is important, different and unique from continuing education and needs to have its own focus so that it can grow. People need to understand what lifelong learning is, why it’s important in general, and why it’s important to them. Lifelong learning can apply to everyone and is a huge opportunity. Lifelong learning deserves more attention to it for all of these reasons. It should become more of a cause like other causes before it.

Interest in lifelong learning and in lifelong learning technology will grow together. Interest in lifelong learning will increase due to more awareness and improvements in lifelong learning technology that makes lifelong learning easier and more accessible. Lifelong learning technology will get more focus and grow based on the increased interest and attention in lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning technology must be focused on more and receive more attention so that it becomes its own field or domain. As a field of its own it will grow in popularity, in importance, in investment, in innovation and in possibilities. Let’s all work to make this happen and join the cause of lifelong learning technology. It will be fun.