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Lifelong Learning is More Than Just a Trivial Matter

Open journaling notebook with handwritten reminder to "Learn Something New Everyday". Assorted books and highlighter surround the open notebook.

“Lifelong learning” is an important concept in our society. It’s so important, in fact, that we attribute a wide array of meanings to the phrase.

For some, it means promoting the “habits of mind” in the classroom from an early age. In this view, learners who learn to read, write, evaluate, and share what they’ve learned will continue these habits in adulthood.

Adulthood, itself, is still a critical time to protect and maintain cognitive health. The organization AARP states, “42% of adults 45 and older identify as a “lifelong learner”. Many Senior Living and Memory Care communities incorporate both group and independent study into daily living practices.

For others, the importance of lifelong learning is related to overall wellbeing and community growth. A World Bank Study shows that all people benefit when societies embrace education as an important goal. Continuing educational opportunities can lead to a more equitable world.

And for still others, the main goal of education may be to establish a “learning-integrated life.” This means that people want to continue to pursue “knowledge and skills development throughout life, whether for personal or professional reasons.” According to this view, lifelong learning is important in and of itself, whether it can get you a better job or just allow you to dominate in trivia contests.

Ultimately, all these ideas are true. We all know that it is important to never stop being open to learning opportunities. As the philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, “The central task of education… should produce not learned but learning people.” 

Woman teacher sits on classroom floor with diverse group of elementary students as they examine a globe together.

The “Engagement” Factor

How do we, as educators and learning facilitators, help make lifelong learning happen? For one thing, we need to recognize that learners learn best when teachers are talking WITH them instead of just AT them. We know from studies that, “engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus and motivates them to engage in higher-level critical thinking.” (This is more true than ever in today’s environment; the recent pandemic has shown the need to move past the lecture-video-and-handouts method.) Encouraging this kind of interaction teaches young people that their thoughts are important and that their voices matter – a message that will stick with them long after their time in any particular classroom.

Another way to promote lifelong learning is to relate classroom lessons to the outside world. No one wants to learn useless information about history or geometry or the periodic table. But if we know WHY we are learning it, it’s no longer useless! Grasping this concept is crucial for both teachers and learners.

Digital Citizenship for Life

The same goes for instructional technology. Sure, there are many possible pitfalls in the digital world. But there are just as many positive reasons for using technology in a learning environment. For individuals with disabilities, digital content can be a more accessible way of learning. Also, digital content including social media sites, news sources, and blog posts offer opportunities to teach fact-checking skills and how to ask important questions about online resources. This helpful article talks about how to develop: Personal Learning Environments and Professional Learning Networks on the internet.

Diverse group of seniors enjoying a book discussion.

Learning is a Lifelong Matter

Most importantly, when we model the idea that learning is fun as well as practical, we can make a difference in others’ lives. When we continue to explore new ideas, and when we pursue new ways to study, evaluate, and discuss, then our participants will be energized. You are an important person in their journey of lifelong learning.

Knowledge Unlimited helps learners of all ages understand the world…and talk about it together. We offer a free trial of News Currents for Educators or News Currents Sr. for Activity Directors. Start engaging conversations for free!

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