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.

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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.

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.

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.