Reflections on Lifelong Learning

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in how we approach educating students and I love it.  Why?  Because I love to see improvement and I want things to be better for our next generation.  It is our responsibility as adults to be the advocates for our youth and improve the parts of education that no longer work. Note, I don’t want to throw out the entire way we’ve done things without considering there are some positive outcomes but, if it is not working as effectively as it could, then I ask “why?”

No longer can we settle for pulling out the lesson plan developed 10 years ago and expect to have the same outcome with today’s students.  The children sitting in our classrooms are not the same type of students.  They don’t live in the same type of world and they must be prepared to embrace the challenges they will face, many of which will require resiliency.  We ponder and shake our heads while questioning why they are less resilient, but do we consider that as educators and parents that we bear some of that responsibility?

How do our demands for high performance feed their skills to solve problems creatively?  If we demand the best grade point average from our children they soon learn to follow the path to the one right answer to gain approval.  What happens as a consequence?

  • They rarely learn what it feels like to fail, and if they do it is seen as a lack of knowledge or character rather than an opportunity to try another method.
  • It leads to cheating, which is now acceptable amongst many students if the outcome is getting the high grade.
  • Does the way we teach  lead to learning or going through the process of information intake only to be regurgitated for the assessment?
  • Do we see these problems as challenges (Habit 3 of Effective Life-Long Learners) or as a wall to hit and shut down?
  • Where is the latitude for play (Habit 7 1/2) and the time to explore and stumble upon a new discovery.

    Credit: Liz Henry via Creative Commons

Learning is a path and not a destination.  Creating an internal curiosity to ask questions on why something operates the way it does or “what if…?” will serve our students well as they learn the skill of being a self-directed learner. This is one of the true gifts in life.

Of the 7 1/2 habits of effective life-long learners there are two that will provide the biggest challenge for me.  Habit 6 is using the technology to my advantage.  Technologies are changing so quickly and there are so many to consider that I need to narrow the scope and start with a few to develop mastery.  Habit 7 1/2, play, is also difficult for me.  While I enjoy discovering new things I need to shift my perspective to look at play as learning and not wasting time.  I love to be productive and having a visible product to show for it has always been rewarding to me.

As for which Habits will be easy, I am wired to begin with the end in mind (Habit 1) since I’m all about getting it done! Accepting responsibility for my own learning (Habit 2) is no problem. I love to learn and if I don’t get the information I need I’ll figure out a way to find it, whether by talking to people, internet searches or reading and processing to connect the dots of details.  From a very early age when things didn’t go my way I never saw it as a problem, it was a challenge (Habit 3) and signal that I needed to go back and figure out another way to do it (with the exception of math where I never really cared about it.  There were other people and calculators to solve those problems.  I had bigger goals in mind!). Habit 4, developing confidence in myself as a competent, effective learner has accelerated in recent years where I have had opportunities to research and find solutions.  This research has led me to create my own learning toolbox (Habit 5).  In turn I’ve been able to teach and mentor others about these discoveries (Habit 7).

I’m really looking forward to this course and in particular to see how others develop and it trickles down to benefit our students.  In the midst of this learning revolution I don’t want to be left behind!  What about you?  What are you doing to advance your learning?

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