Lifelong learning

Recently I’ve been using the internet to learn about Google Apps for Education in order to pass at least five tests to become a “Google Educator.” (Fortunately, I just passed the fifth test!)

I’ve spent the last two months studying, and one of the biggest takeaways upon reflection is how important it is to cultivate within young students a willingness to learn on their own.

With so much information at our fingertips, developing new skills has never been easier. Young people must understand that learning never stops. Too many programs are being created–and changed–on a continual basis, making it impossible to exit college and never participate in another lecture, tutorial, how-to book, etc.

Learning is not always easy. Sometimes it’s very difficult, so the educational system must instill a willingness to keep learning so students will never cease their intellectual and skill set growth.

How is this done?

That’s the trillion dollar question. The best place to start is to teach content the students find relevant–even enjoyable. Give them tools that foster creativity. Allow them to publish their work to a wider audience than just the teacher or classroom. Make learning 24/7. These are essentials for today’s young generation.

Lifelong learners

Not too long ago in public education, being a lifelong learner was touted as nothing more than continuing to read once you were done with traditional schooling. Maybe you’d pick up a new sport, or if you were bold, learn how to play an instrument. All to often, learning stopped once class was dismissed.

Things have changed. With the internet, ubiquitous technology, and the proliferation of information, lifelong learning has a much broader definition:

Learn photoshop, learn a foreign language, learn a programming language, learn how to create a website, start an online business, start a new career, learn about another part of the world (from a person who actually lives there), learn how to blog, learn how to communicate better, learn how to make movies, learn how to record music, create an album, create a non-profit, help others, learn how to cook healthy food, write a book, redefine what a book is, create a tribe, gain knowledge, dispense knowledge…

and yes, read–reading will always be important. The truth, however, is that we all need to constantly be learning everyday, and we need to learn in ways that might not always be comfortable. I love this recent tweet by Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

This is truth. Learning can be fun, but sometimes learning new things is uncomfortable–especially when what is being taught cannot be found in a book.

It’s good to sometimes be uncomfortable.