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Learning as a Way of Life: Reimagining Learning

One of the great developments of our time is the reimagining of learning and education.

Sep 21 , 2017

Collage of image from the Glasscock School Festival of Curiosity 2017

In the final post in our four-part “Learning as a Way of Life” series, Cathy Maris, Director of Community Programs, shares a multidimensional vision of “lifelong, lifewide, anytime/anywhere” learning, highlighting a shift from learning as a phase of life to learning as a way of life.”

Learning as a Way of Life: Part 4
Reimagining Learning: Celebrating Learning as a Way of Life

“As today’s economies become ever more knowledge-based, technology-driven and globalized, and because we simply
don’t know what the jobs of tomorrow will look like, there is also a growing recognition that we have to prepare the next
generation with the capacity for lifelong learning. The idea of a one-time education providing people with a lifelong
skillset is a thing of the past.”

World Economic Forum, The Human Capital Report 2016

One of the great developments of our time is the reimagining of learning and education.  While learning and education are interrelated, I view learning as the process of gaining new understanding and skills that happens within a person through an exchange with the world. Education tends to be organized outside of oneself by other people and institutions. Education is an important part of learning, but it is only one of the many forms of learning we experience across our lives.

A new shape of learning is emerging that is not linear or centered only on educational institutions. Instead, it is multidimensional and centered on each individual. This post explores the transformation of learning.

Surviving and thriving in a world in great transition requires adopting learning as a way of living. As philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote in 1973: “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.” Fortunately, we live in what I believe is the golden age of lifelong learning. Never before have more opportunities for learning been available to so many people. These opportunities are shifting our perspective on what learning is and who holds responsibility for it.

We are gradually moving from a view of learning as something that begins and ends with formal schooling to recognizing learning as a “lifelong,” “lifewide,” “anytime/anywhere” experience that is owned by each person. “Lifelong” refers to learning that begins from birth and extends throughout the fullness of life. “Lifewide” recognizes the many diverse settings in which people can learn, from formal learning in preschools, schools and universities to informal and “non-formal” learning (learning with intentional goals that occurs outside of formal settings) in museums, libraries, workplaces, homes and many other settings, and even “implicit” learning (learning that you are not aware of). The “anytime/anywhere” aspect acknowledges the round-the-clock access to learning that a digital world has opened up, supplementing “in real life” learning with hybrid and virtual learning experiences, from online courses and talks to digital books and websites to podcasts and virtual communities in which peers learn from peers.

Graphic shows diagram of The New Shape of Learning.Image credit: C. Maris

Together, these three, interrelated concepts form a new shape of learning, representing a shift from learning as a phase of life to learning as a way of life. This multidimensional vision of learning honors the contributions of educators and educational institutions, while putting learners at the core and recognizing them as architects of their lifelong learning.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing lifelong learners today is sifting through and critically assessing massive amounts of information to find high quality learning experiences that are a good fit for their own needs and enthusiasms. For some, it can also be difficult to find a community where one can make meaningful connections with expert educators and engaged peers. We aspire to meet these essential needs at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies throughout our personal development and professional programs (including our newly re-envisioned teacher preparation initiative) and in the hundreds of courses we offer.

We invite you to experience exceptional learning as a way of life in a community of kindred spirits. I hope you will join us at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies to reimagine learning, yourself and your life, and to understand and shape a world that’s startlingly, wonderfully new every day.

About the Author

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