Posted by: Gillian | February 19, 2008

The Argument for Lifelong Learning for All

Discussions about the merits of lifelong learning divide into three broad categories:

  1. Lifelong learning is an economic necessity
  2. Lifelong learning is good for you
  3. Lifelong learning is fun.

It is this third and most neglected category that is introduced here although a fuller article is available on the ElementE website.

Humans play: it is one of the defining characteristics of our species. Psychologists have long studied the development and use of play in children and the effect not allowing them to experiment/play has on their future actions. As adults, we continue to play and some organisations boast in their recruitment campaigns that their employees work hard and play hard(er) as this extract shows:

If you work hard, keep your activity levels high and hit your targets, you will be rewarded big [… ]. A real work hard, play hard culture!

Seen on , job 11758

Executive toys for enlivening a dull office (webcam missile launcher, panic button key for the keyboard, lifetimer,,,) just fly out of the stores[1]. Adults in deeply repetitive jobs with no control over how to organise their time or their workspace easily become depressed and ways have to be found to allow them some autonomy[2]. Educationalists have long known that mere lectures or reading produce very poor retention-of-knowledge rates (5 and 10 per cent, respectively, according to a study lost in the mists of time but still acknowledged according to the NTLI in Bethel, Maine[3]). People need to ‘have a go’. Depending on their learning style[4], their preference may be to have a go sooner or later than other people but, somewhere in their own personal learning, have a go they will. Most people recognise that doing something in real life is better than a simulation (trying downhill ski-ing on a board attached to a television monitor is not quite the same as falling over in a metre of snow on a mountain) but games created for online learning are becoming ever more sophisticated, sometimes necessary (cleaning up major chemical spills is much better practised in theory) and sometimes such good fun that people play them as games, forgetting any ‘learning‘ connotations. (They do still learn – but that’s a by-product.) There are, naturally, those who feel compelled to point out that SecondLife is not ‘just a video game on steroids’[5] but while they can take an analytical approach, others just pick an avatar[6] and join in.

Do you agree that lifelong learning is fun and part of the human condition? Which learning approaches and resources do you prefer?

[1] Try (no commission involved!)
[2] See, for example, “A field study of worker productivity improvements”, Applied Ergonomics, Volume 26, Issue 1, February 1995, Pages 21-27 Ashraf A. Shikdar and Biman Das
[4] See Kolb D, Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development, PrenticeHall, 1984 0-13-295261-0
[6] A pictorial screen character that represents ‘you’ as you wish to appear.

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