Identity Management for Lifelong Learning Technology

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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.

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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.

Welcome to My Blog

4822377-the-words-lifelong-learning-on-a-chalkboard     Hello everybody. Life Well Learned is my new blog about promoting lifelong learning enabled and driven by technology supported by wellness. That’s a mouthful. Yes it might be but I believe that it’s important. Let me explain.

What’s lifelong learning to me?

According to Wikipedia, lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. I like this definition, but it’s not what most people think lifelong learning is. My take is that lifelong learning is fundamentally an individual’s pursuit of knowledge and wisdom throughout one’s life. It’s a valuable and beneficial pursuit at any age, it’s not learning and activities for seniors as it is often described in our culture. It means what it says, learning throughout all of one’s life, and it’s ongoing, voluntary and self-motivated. It’s also about the belief that people can and should be learning all of the time as they go through their daily lives. It’s a philosophy, a mindset, and an approach to life and learning that anyone could and should have about intentionally always learning throughout one’s life, each and every day. It’s also about being open to new knowledge, information and insights. It could be learning about anything about life, self-improvement, wellness, education, technology, philosophy, history, politics, culture, cooking, business, people, science, languages, or anything that comes up and interests you. Learning is powerful, both the process and the results. The process brings benefits and power, the results brings knowledge and can bring wisdom to the individual.

How does lifelong learning compare to education, aren’t they the same? I believe that there are key differences, as they are really targeted for different kinds of audiences. My approach to lifelong learning is really about the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself, for the participation in the learning and discovering process, and for what it does for a person and how it makes one feel. Learning in the education system K-12 and through higher education is primarily aimed at preparing individuals to be adults and even more so to prepare them for careers or work. For some individuals, which I believe is a small percentage, the goals of both are similar but this is not the case for most people. The current mainstream description of lifelong learning is primarily about seniors. I don’t agree with this description, and prefer to use my description. In fact I want to change the mainstream thinking about it and I’m making this my cause to do so. I will also deal with the concept of lifelong learning as it applies to seniors in future posts.

The field of technology applied to lifelong learning is related to educational technology, or edtech, as almost all edtech can apply and be used for lifelong learning technology. Following the edtech industry will be important on this journey, as most developments in edtech will impact my area of interest. As an engineer by training, and technologist by profession, I strongly believe that technology (a topic for many future posts) is a powerful enabler and multiplier for lifelong learning and should be used to the fullest extent. Technology is powerful, creates new possibilities, allows people to do things that haven’t been possible before, but can also create issues and challenges that must be managed or avoided. Technology as applied to lifelong learning has a long way to go and I believe that we are still in the early stages of it’s development. There have been many technological developments in this area and there are many more innovations on the horizon that will provide new benefits and capabilities, facilitate new approaches, and enable many to accomplish things previously thought impossible. Technology impacts everyone’s lives and there’s much that we haven’t yet envisioned. Technology for lifelong learning will be a significant focus area of this blog based on my keen interests in it. Remember, technology has it’s positives and negatives as well and there are huge benefits from regularly getting away from technology; benefits to one’s overall mental and physical wellness. Going outdoors, exploring nature, exercising, meditating, focusing on relationships, socializing, reading, and even contemplating life should all have important places in one’s life. This is an important aspect of wellness as well!

I fundamentally believe that lifelong learning is an important, beneficial and powerful pursuit and that can affect one’s entire life and should be thought of in that way. One’s state of mind, physical well being, and spiritual beliefs can impact one’s desire, interest and experience related to learning. To get the most enjoyment and benefits from lifelong learning having body, mind and spiritual wellness is important, and in some ways can be considered a necessity in the pursuit of lifelong learning. Gratitude is also a part of it as I believe gratitude has a role in both wellness and learning. A part of lifelong learning is also about being grateful and giving back, helping others to learn, providing training and helping others in their learning journey; this is a topic for another post. Lifelong learning and wellness are beneficially linked, they have a positive correlation and impact each other. If one believes in and pursues lifelong learning one should also pursue body, mind and spiritual wellness.

Let’s focus on lifelong learning, technology and wellness. Let’s learn together, let’s advance the knowledge and thinking in it, let’s learn and work on our wellness as we do this. We will make it easier for lifelong learners to learn about and access knowledge and developments in these areas. I know that I’m going to learn much along the way. I also hope to contribute to discovery or creation of new developments, innovations, and technologies that can benefit everyone.

This blog is part of this adventure. Let’s take the journey together. I look forward to hearing from you.