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Life is worth Learning

August 5, 2009

About 26 minutes into last Saturday’s Kamerbreed broadcast, the opposition leader Alexander Pechtold, pleads with organisations to link learning to labour. He went on saying that in the Netherlands we see 27 years of age as a learning expiration date. While other European countries have long embraced the idea of a lifelong learning. Pechtold insists that companies use the recession to train their staff.

I couldn’t agree more. But for a worthwhile lifelong learning program, we’ll have to adapt the way we learn. We’ll have to change our attitudes and develop new skills to cope with new learning environments.

New attitude

Lifelong learning demands a change of attitude for all parties concerned: the organisations, the educators and the learners.

#1 – Organisations. As (the better) companies are evolving into learning organisations, they understand the need to invest in software, provide their staff with open learning networks and hands-on support.

These organisations create ways for their co-workers to update their skills and learn from one another. They facilitate the onset of (social) learning communities, using open networks to retrieve and manage knowledge.

#2 – Educators. The roles for educators are also changing. The new open and viral learning networks are not teacher oriented. We’re not anymore at the centre of the learning process, the learners are. Our roles are different: we don’t hand down knowledge, we monitor knowledge.

#3 – Learners. The situation is also different for learners. The ‘new learner’ is autonomous. And as the centre of his own learning process, he’s responsible and actively engaged. The new learner is self-initiating, self-regulating and self-organising.

New skills

Secondly, lifelong learning demands that learners and educators develop new skills in areas like: digital, cross-cultural and social.

#1 – Digital skills. Advanced digital skills are essential for both younger and older users of the new learning environments. We must be very critical of the digital tools we use; paying particular attention to safety, security and privacy. Other important digital skills concern the creating and retrieving of correct content. Critically looking at the source, is a good start.

#2 – Cross-cultural skills. Using open (social) learning networks implies connecting with people of different backgrounds, languages, education, gender, (dis)abilities and age. Cross-cultural skills equal the ability to empathise with others, have a practically objective world view and be willing to function on an ‘inter-cultural’ level.

#3 – Social skills. Open learning networks also ask for a broad social understanding. The social skills are based on collaboration, integrity, assertiveness and the absence of discrimination. An open network user is one who’s willing to give and share knowledge.

Change by supplement

In a nutshell, if we want to fully participate in a lifelong learning program, we’ll need to change our traditional attitude towards learning and acquire complementary skills.

The perceptive reader have probably noticed that the lifelong learning I’ve described above is incomplete. With this piece, I have only covered an informal type of learning. And as an educator I know that it isn’t conclusive for all learning types.

The open source character and the ‘bite-size’ presentation of this informal form of learning isn’t enough to educate deeper skills. As it stands, it’s a perfect supplement to the traditional form of a (lifelong) learning program. It’s not a substitute.

Therefore as an educator, don’t go throwing everything overboard just yet.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2009 09:02

    Dear Katherine, I’m a bit confused. You’ve started on what exactly? Can you please elaborate?
    I’d love to know more.
    Evita Martina


    • Katherine Bolman permalink
      September 12, 2009 08:36

      Evita, I have started a course in the history of art and architecture online. It is a course not a lesson plan. It can be used in many ways. is the website and it will be under construction for a long time. I am looking for people who will use it, teachers and life long learners.

      The course is divided into micro lessons and I want folks to do something with the information like paint something, write thoughts, answer the questions.

      I look forward to hearing from you and would like your ideas on ways the site might be used by people you know

      On the site you will find Meet Katherine where you can learn more about me. Under Some Interesting Ideas you will be able to see the philosophy behind the work.

      I am very open to collaboration.
      I would like Mary Burns Prine to know about the site given her comments.

      Katherine Bolman


  2. September 2, 2009 08:44

    I have started, and what do you think you can do to activate that spark in the over 50 crowd?


    • Mary Burns Prine permalink
      September 3, 2009 02:09

      The over 50 crowd are learning for a different reason than the 21 or even the 27 year old. The over 50 is learning because they want to, because they know that the learning process is ongoing and that the learning process is even more important that the fact or concept that is learned.

      To activate that spark, we need to design educational experiences that pay attention to how older adults learn, the variety of ways in which we learn, and to demonstrate the value of the educational experience to them. I think that this is a demographic whose time is nearly here, and that we as educators, should be embracing the older learner and creating materials that are pertinent to them, delivered in an interesting and interactive way.


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