Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lifelong Learning: key to growth and empowerment

I am taking a week-long online writing workshop. In part this is notice to expect irregular posting and socializing. But more importantly, I thought I would talk about why deliberately planning and participating in lifelong learning is empowering and a means of continuing personal growth.

Many of you are aware that I went back to college and finished a BA in Communication after my children left high school. While that was the right path for me, it didn’t happen on a lark and a college degree is not the only form of continuing education. Life-long learning for challenge and growth need not be formal or expensive.

There are innumerable ways to practice life-long learning. The key to getting the most out of whatever path is chosen is to be certain it includes some key features, either incorporated into the program or that you can add yourself. Key features that add value to a learning experience are as follows:

Challenging – it doesn’t have to be as difficult as quantum mechanics but the point of learning is to stretch a bit beyond your comfort zone

Goals – there are two kinds of goals to consider in a learning experience; what to have learned, and how quickly to complete “assignments”; the old axiom still holds that if one aims at nothing that’s what they’ll hit. If you want to see results you have to set out to accomplish something

Accountability – grades and papers are not the only means of staying honest about learning; there is the buddy system where you and a friend sign on to the same program, or phone a friend every week, or create deadlines like contest entries

Feedback – we all have talked about being better or doing something a better way but we hate being critiqued; but properly dispensed appropriate feedback can reinforce what you have done well not just rip what was less than a brilliant exercise, so build in a way to get feedback at regular intervals if possible rather than just at the end.

Undertaking and successfully completing a learning project is empowering because in addition to the new information acquired there is a resulting “can do” sense that lingers afterward. It can also prod the learner to access and become comfortable with various methods and venues for researching topics. As convenient as Wiki and Google are they are not the last word for sources on most topics in the world. Getting out of the house and rummaging the stacks of the library and talking to the library’s resource librarian can put you in touch with literally thousands of sources of information that have not been digitized.

A bit of clarification here, while I am taking an online workshop this week it is my dream to attend a live workshop at some future date. I also visit the library at least once a week and not just to check out movies either.

Has anyone set out to learn anything lately, either self-study or some formal course? Tell us about it.

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1 comment:

Sylvia C. said...

Great post. I consider myself a life long learner, and that is why I consider myself a teacher, too.

They go together, I beleive.

Best wishes to you, in your learning journey!


Sylvia C.