Learning as a Way of Life, Part 1

What does it take to thrive in a world of constant change? It’s a question we think about often at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

by gscsmarketing  |  Aug 01 , 2017

Larinas without borders

What does it take to thrive in a world of constant change? It’s a question we think about often at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, particularly this year, during the 50th anniversary of Continuing Studies at Rice University. As we unveil our newest crop of Personal Development courses for fall 2017, Cathy Maris, Director of Community Programs, shares some observations on the power of lifelong learning to help people flourish in an ever-changing world.

This four-part Learning as a Way of Life blog series will explore:

1)    Reimagining the World: Navigating an Era of Exponential Change
2)    Reimagining Yourself: Fostering Creativity, Play, Curiosity and Imagination
3)    Reimagining Your Life: Embracing the Art of Reinvention
4)    Reimagining Learning: Celebrating Learning as a Way of Life


Learning as a Way of Life: Part 1
Reimagining the World: Navigating an Era of Exponential Change

“Never, perhaps, have any of us needed as much as we do today to use all the curiosity we have, needed to seek new knowledge, needed to realize that no knowledge is terminal. For almost everything in our world is new, startlingly new. None of us can afford to stop learning or to check our curiosity about new things, or to lose our humility in the face of new situations.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living, 1960

In 1960, long before the era of the internet, smartphones, and ubiquitous digital technology, Eleanor Roosevelt urged people to “use all the curiosity we have” and harness learning to cope with a “startlingly new” world. Roosevelt’s words seem more relevant than ever today.

Earlier this year, I shared this quote with a dynamic group of women from Latinas without Borders (Latinas sin Fronteras) in an interactive workshop called “The Art of Reinvention: The Power of Lifelong Learning in an Age of Constant Change.” This four-part Learning as a Way of Life blog series shares some of the key issues we considered. We began by exploring the enormous emerging changes in work, life and learning.

We live in an age of tremendous change on many fronts--technological, social, demographic, political, economic and more. We are on the cusp of an era that’s been dubbed “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” It’s characterized by blurred boundaries between the physical, digital and biological and increasing interconnections between humans and technology, including deep learning, automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and biotechnology.

These profound changes are raising what digital learning researcher and self-proclaimed “Chief of Confusion,” John Seely Brown calls “wicked questions” about the future of work, life, learning and what it means to be human. He was among a number of scholars who explored these issues at the 2016 Rice University De Lange Conference, “Humans, Machines and the Future of Work.”

In this time of exponential change, “life no longer conforms to a linear, rational trajectory,” according to Richard Evans, President of EmcArts. As John Seely Brown has observed, “In today’s radically contingent world, the unexpected is about the only thing that can be expected.”

Human beings have a complicated relationship to change. On one hand, change can be exhilarating. We may find adventure in such changes as traveling, meeting people and having new experiences. We can also view change as threatening, especially when it feels out of our control, when it happens too quickly, when it involves the loss of something cherished or when too many changes occur at once. As researchers have found, even positive life events such as marriage, moving or a new job can be associated with significant stress.

So, how do we cope when rapid change becomes the norm? I believe that embracing lifelong learning and fostering such traits as creativity, play, curiosity and imagination are all critical to survive and thrive in a world in flux. I explore these interrelated traits and how to foster them in my next post.

Intrigued by the role of technology in the future of work? Explore our fall 2017 course, “The Future of Work.”

Caption for image above: "The Art of Reinvention: The Power of Lifelong Learning in an Age of Constant Change." Cathy Maris with Latinas without Borders Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, Jan. 23, 2017. Photo: Latinas without Borders.

About the Author

Cathy MarisCathy Maris, Director of Community Programs, Glasscock School of Continuing Studies