What does it mean to be a lifelong learner?

When we hear the term “lifelong learner” it gives the impression of somebody special, someone driven to find things out, to ask questions, to seek answers, and in misappropriating Gene Roddenberry’s words(creator of Star Trek) , “to boldly learn where no human has learned before”. But what does it actually mean? If you think about it, we’re all lifelong learners. If we weren’t we wouldn’t last long. A curious child reaches up and touches a boiling pot on the stove. The pain he feels on the tip of his finger teaches him that a boiling pot is hot and that image is seared into his brain. He won’t do that again. A teenager watches her mother ice a cake. The mother shows how to apply the icing, the right knife to use, how to spread the icing in perfect layers giving the cake a lovely contour. She hands the knife to her daughter and has her do the second cake, coaching and mentoring the process. A middle aged man buys a new computer and wants to set up Skype. He’s confused and frustrated by the technology. His 14 year looks on in amusement until Dad swallows his pride and reluctantly calls him over. In a minute the lad has Skype up and running and shows Dad how he did it. They shut it down and Pop tries again this time with a little enthusiastic coaching from junior. Lifelong learning is what all of us do everyday. we’ve just given it an educational spin. According to Wikipedia…” the term Lifelong_learningrecognizes that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom, but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations. During the last fifty years, constant scientific and technological innovation and change has had a profound effect on learning needs and styles. Learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge (school) and a place and time to apply the knowledge acquired (the workplace).[3] Instead, learning can be seen as something that takes place on an on-going basis from our daily interactions with others and with the world around us.”
The core of that drive for livelong learning comes from our insatiable curiosity as humans to better understand ourselves and our place in this world. I guess when you get right down to it, we’re really just a bunch of apes in clothes who build some pretty cool things. Quick, somebody pass me a hammer. 🙂  


About M. Behrend

As a kid growing up in the sixties I had an overactive imagination. As an adult I realized that sometimes the truth can be more amazing than fiction. Everybody has at least one good story to tell.

2 responses to “What does it mean to be a lifelong learner?”

  1. Richard Schwier says :

    I think you make at least two really important points here, Mark. The first is that learning is not an option; it is a fundamental advantage we have as a species. We survive because we learn. We propagate the species because we learn. We have the opportunity to ruin the planet because we are so good at learning and adapting that we have dominated other lifeforms to a dangerous level. And you also recognize that most learning is informal. The formal ways we go about shaping learning environments for people are artificial and in a sense, unnatural. We couldn’t stop learning if we tried, even if there were no more classrooms to be found on the planet.

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