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.

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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.

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.

My Wishes for Lifelong Learning in 2013

Happy New Year 2013 handsIt’s not too late to write a New Year’s wish post, so here are my wishes for lifelong learning in 2013.

I’ve written about my core beliefs of lifelong learning, how and why it should be a core part of one’s approach to life. Others have written how it’s mandatory to be a lifelong learner to achieve what you want in life. Jeff Cobb at Mission to Learn says we are no longer in a knowledge economy, we now live in a learning economy which he also calls a “figure-it-out-on-a-daily-basis” economy. Being a lifelong learner is not an option and is more important than ever to be successful in today’s world. I passionately believe this and believe that several things could help to get more people to believe this as well..

This would be a big year for lifelong learning if:
1. Lifelong learning (and education) gets a greater focus in the news and media
2. A technological development specifically targeted at lifelong learning makes big news
3. The term lifelong learning becomes recognized for what it really is

Greater Focus in the News
Education-News-1I don’t expect everyone to be talking about lifelong learning. We (lifelong learner believers) are still going to be a secondary to education and are going to have to make the best of it but that might not be a bad thing. We can still make progress in accomplishing our objectives by having a greater focus on the education field and everything related. There has been a significant increase in educational journalism but it still hasn’t really hit the mainstream. Why isn’t educational news as popular and available as entertainment news? There is plenty of educational news and information available for those searching for it, but for it to get to the next level of awareness and importance, educational news must be pushed to everyone more frequently and made even more readily available. I would like to see every news outlet have a greater focus on education. Education and learning are the driving force of the new economy and should be treated as such in the media. Every news source must highlight education every day. Education must be top of mind for more people for it to have it’s proper place. Every news outlet must have a standard section for education, right up there with US, world, local, business, politics, sports, and  entertainment.

It is through this increased spotlight on education on the importance and value of education that lifelong learning will be elevated. It will become more clear that education is not just a short term endeavor, or focus, and that it’s not only for those just starting out. There should be stories that highlight the importance of lifelong learning, stories of people that have made lifelong learning part of everything that they do and what it has enabled them to achieve. These stories will look at how they achieved their accomplishments and will highlight their approach to lifelong learning as a key to their story. There will be things written that point to the necessity of lifelong learning to be successful in today’s society. There are many reasons and ways that news can shine the light on lifelong learners and lifelong learning.

The current focus is on the issues of education and on why and where it’s failing. I believe that a key reason as to why there are so many issues in education is that not enough people and parents take responsibility for their own, or their children’s education. In school systems where parents take responsibility there are better results. Isn’t this what lifelong learning is about? It is about taking responsibility for one’s ongoing learning. I believe that if more attention is given to education, more people will be aware of what’s necessary for educational success, particularly self-responsibility. And more people will place value on lifelong learning and become lifelong learners.

One good way to make this a reality is to make education a daily and important headline.

Technologyedtech in words
I wish for a new technology that will make big news this year that highlights the importance of lifelong learning. This technology or technical development should be focused on learning and becomes highly popular which brings new attention to the power of lifelong learning. My guess would be that if this were to occur it is likely to be a mobile learning game or activity that engages many people in different ways and highlights the benefits of lifelong learning. It would be free, easy to use and have many degrees of difficulty so that users stay engaged. It could be used in single player and in multi-player modes. This new learning game would creates a new category of app, or even a new category of technology, from which many others would follow. It could happen. Anyone working on such an app?

Terminology
I also wish that the term lifelong learning becomes acknowledged for what it should be. This wish might be more of a pet peeve but I believe it could be a helpful one. In our society too many people associate the term lifelong learning with continuing education for seniors. This is not a bad thing but it creates unnecessary challenges for my lifelong learning field. I’m not sure how this started but I don’t care for it. When you look the online definition of lifelong learning, you get the right definition. It is defined in Wikipedia as the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reason. This is the proper and best definition for lifelong learning. But when you do general online searches for lifelong learning you get classes for seniors. This creates confusion, uncertainty and doubt. It creates unnecessary challenges in the promotion and adoption of lifelong learning. To me the term lifelong learning is natural, and is easily understood. Unfortunately the term has been co-opted for senior education.
I’ve also seen some groups use lifelong learning related to general education.

Does lifelong learning need a new term? I have tried to come up with a new term, a better unambiguous term that we could use to represent lifelong learning. Any ideas? So far I can’t come up with a better one. I like the term lifelong learning. It’s just too good of a term to allow it to be misunderstood. Can we reclaim lifelong learning for it’s proper use? Let’s do this. I think that we should start a campaign to take back the term lifelong learning. Having more of a news focus on education, and on lifelong learning, should help achieve this as well.

These wishes can come true and the field of lifelong learning will prosper this year. It will be a good year for lifelong learning.

Is Lifelong Learning the Secret to Happiness and Longevity?

Lifelong learning, what does it mean to you?

To me it means making the quest to learn new things part of who you are, what you do, and your everyday life. It means the desire to want to learn new things and always being open to learning. Gandhi said it best “Live like you’ll die tomorrow, learn like you’ll live forever”. It’s my favorite inspirational saying on lifelong learning.

I believe that lifelong learning has much more meaning and benefit to a person than just information or knowledge. It can impact character, perspective, outlook, friends, community, health, happiness and even longevity.  Studies have been performed and articles have been written on the link between learning, happiness and longer lives. Being more open to learning new things makes a person more intellectually energized. It can also be more fun and will lead to new experiences. Lifelong learning is also a form of exercising one’s mind and keeps the mind more active and healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has positive health effects and can help the brain against diseases such as alzheimer’s. I will have to research that.

Lifelong learners are more likely to help others and touch others. The continuous personal growth that could be achieved as a lifelong learner could lead to greater personal accomplishment. A lifelong learner is more likely to share one’s knowledge and wisdom with others. The desire for lifelong learning can also open a person up to help them better understand other perspectives, other cultures and to be more balanced and grateful.

Choose to have an open mind about things, about life, about most everything. Share your love for lifelong learning with others; spread the word and bring all of these life benefits to others. Have fun and live it up while you’re at it. Fun should be a big part of learning. Enjoying learning and the process of learning will encourage more learning.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I have been a lifelong learner for my entire adult life. I never really realized it or thought about it much, but I have always been a lifelong learner. One of my earliest experiences of the pursuit of learning for me was reading The Hobbit, by JR Tolkien, when I was about 10 years old. I couldn’t put it down and read the entire book in a couple of days. It opened my mind for the quest and need to learn. Another huge step was my college days at Duke University. What a learning and eye-opening experience that was.

Lifelong learning is a learning process in and of itself. There’s much that one can learn about learning. That’s another topic that we will explore in this blog.

Being a lifelong learner is not enough for me. I have a strong desire to bring the passion for lifelong learning to many others. I will build a business that does this, while also furthering my lifelong learning.

A Non-educator With a Passion for Lifelong Learning and EdTech

Who am I? I am a learner. I’m learning now, I’m always learning, and want to always be learning. I learn from every situation, every opportunity, and try to learn every day.

I’m not an educator. I’m a technologist, entrepreneur and innovator with a passion for learning, technology, writing, and helping others.

Passion flower

Passion flower (Credit:@Doug88888)

I am like many others who was searching for his passion for a long time. As it turned out my passion was right in front of me all of the time. Isn’t this the way it usually is, or supposed to be? My passion was hiding right in plain sight. I believe that anyone can find their passion and should strive to find their passion. Probably the best place to start is to make finding your passion your passion and work on it every day until you find it. It is through pursuing our passions that we are best able to contribute to others. That’s what we are here for, to help others, to contribute to society, to humankind, to improve our condition. Learning, technology and wellness are my passion.

As I was trying to figure out my passion I thought and wrote much about what I really like to do, what I really want to do, and what my true skills are. Then I thought about how I spend my time, what are the things that I do without consciously thinking about them and that I naturally gravitate towards. On the top of the list were learning, reading, technology, wellness and self-improvement. I finally realized that these are my true interests and that combined they are my passion. My passion is to write a blog that focuses on learning, technology and wellness,  from which we can all learn and benefit. This will be my full-time endeavor and it will be my cause.

I am a father of five, with wonderful four-year old twins with my second wife, and three children from my first marriage. I am a technologist, project manager and change agent currently working in the information security field. I pursued formal education for a long time early in my life and have degrees in electrical engineering, an MBA, and a hard-earned degree in life. The most important skill that I use in my job now is my desire and ability to learn; part of everything that I do. Other valuable skills include project management, client loyalty, information technology, sales, and entrepreneurship. I have worked in organizations of all sizes from sole proprietorship to start-ups to working in corporate behemoths. Being an entrepreneur is part of who I am and is in my soul. I was a founder of three technology start-ups and supported numerous others. I’ve learned that my preference is to work in smaller organizations where accountability, responsibility, motivation and challenge are more closely felt and risk and reward are much more directly experienced.

I have strong training experience in developing and delivering software related training. I’ve taken many courses and received trainings throughout my life. I’m always learning and almost always training in something, both formal trainings or self-trainings. I’m currently taking a Coursera MOOC course, Think Again; and have also started a Code Academy JavaScript training. Learning a foreign language is one of the next things that I want to learn.

What do I have to add to the field of lifelong learning and edtech as a non-educator? Do I need to be an educator and have formal educational experience to become an expert on edtech and to contribute to the field? No I don’t believe so, but I do know that it’s important to have relevant experience, perspective, and desire. That is the desire to understand learning, it’s history, how it happens, the environment, and the trends. I certainly have that desire. Understanding education will be important to my mission and will be an important part of what I do. I know that I still have much to learn about the field of learning, education, and even technology. That will be the best part, the fun part of this journey which I am undertaking, the learning. I’m also going to connect with educators to get their perspective, learn about their experiences, and strive to understand their needs and wants. I am going to contribute much to the field. I believe that most anyone can, they just need the desire to do so.

I know that I have an interesting and valuable viewpoint and experience in the field of lifelong learning and technology. I believe that there are many educators and non-educators that want to learn more about the topic of empowering lifelong learning with technology. I want to add a new and different perspective to this community and contribute to innovation and growth in the field.

My informal training has been going on for a long time and will continue as long as I live.

Maybe I really am an educator, maybe anyone can be an educator of a sort.