Lifelong learning has become one of those catch phrases that pops up all over the place.   We read it and we use it.   It is a topic I have often blogged about.

In a couple of weeks, I look forward to sharing some of my thoughts on how teachers can and should develop their own lifelong learning skills when I make a presentation at the 2014 Pearson National Teaching and Learning Conference, but addressing the importance of developing lifelong learning skills in the students we teach is of equal value!

In a blog post written a couple of years ago: Learning to learn: 10 essential skills for teachers  I wrote about the importance of teaching students how they can learn on their own:

Lifelong learning:  One of the most forgotten aims of education is to teach students how they can learn on their own and that school days are just a stepping stone to never-ending lifelong learning.  Incorporate examples into your lesson that demonstrate the power of self-discovery, exploration, learning and mastery.  Today’s online world is replete with opportunities for all of us to determine our own learning path.  Specifically demonstrate the vast range of sources available to achieve personal goals.”

And in an earlier post when I was discussing which I thought to be the better learning model PLNs or PDs I found myself again writing about the importance and value of developing lifelong learning skills:

New skills, new thoughts, new pedagogy, new knowledge:   The gift of learning how to learn on your own cannot be over emphasized.   The continuous engagement, immersion and self-paced learning afforded by learning with and from a PLN is beyond belief.   Providing a springboard for continued learning and exploration, the very nature of a PLN aims to support an individual’s lifelong learning.”

Knowing that there’s more to it than osmosis, perhaps now is as good a time as any to pause and consider how to develop students’ lifelong learning skills.  When teasing out an issue, it is of course appropriate to start with a definition of what we are talking about.  So looking at the simplest definition lifelong learning is defined by Macmillan Dictionary as

a process of gaining knowledge and skills that continues throughout a person’s life”

While this is a neat and concise definition, I beg to differ a little.   To me, lifelong learning is more about developing a set of skills by which an individual can pursue knowledge.   Learning these skills in an educational setting, be it school or university is what it’s really all about.  Teaching students how to learn should be the gift that educators aim to impart.

The set of skills we need to focus on to successfully develop lifelong learning skills are many and varied, but could include any or all of the following:

  • Search strategy skills: Learning how to define a problem and then setting about locating, selecting, organizing, presenting and finally evaluation information gleaned, discovered or learned is an essential strategy.
  • Critical thinking skills: Learning not to take information, particularly that which is located online, as gospel is very important.  Students need to be shown how to check and verify the authenticity of information.
  • Problem solving skills: Learning how to go about solving problems will depend on the nature of the issue being explored.  By providing students with opportunities to brainstorm together and suss out different paths to follow to get to the end solution are important learning skills to incorporate into our everyday teaching.  The value of collaboration cannot be over emphasized!
  • Lateral thinking skills: Being able to think outside of the box lends itself to self directed learning and exploring.  Students can gain much by completing exercises that force them to think beyond the obvious.
  • Presentation skills: Being able to present information in a clear and coherent way so that others can interpret it is an essential life skill.  Learning to interpret both visual and written presentations is equally of value.
  • Communication skills: Learning to use social networking as a learning tool among our students is vital.  While there is much discussion about responsible use of social media, are we teaching our students how to use these tools to expand their own learning?
  • Interpersonal skills: Appropriate verbal and non verbal communication plus listening and questioning skills, being responsible and accountable for actions, awareness of social etiquette and expectations alongside self management skills are essential for working as a member of a team.   Learning from and with others is what it is all about!
  • Confidence building skills: Developing an ‘I can’ attitude and assertiveness is so very important.  Education must aim to instil confidence in our students so that they know they can learn, explore and achieve successfully on their own.  Providing opportunities to do this is essential.
  • Self-directed learning skills: By giving our students the opportunity to determine what and how they will learn is a valuable way for them to determine the path of their own learning.  If educators constantly set the agenda for students, there is little scope for them to discover the joy of learning on their own.  They need opportunities – many of them – to become active learners who direct their own learning path.  Self directed learning can be very powerful.
  • Project planning skills: Being able to set parameters for the scope of a project as well as setting and sticking to a time line for the completion of a project is an imperative skill to ensure learning continues throughout a lifetime.  Being able to self manage and set achievable tasks is something that follows us throughout life.

Above all though, educators need to inspire in students a love of learning.  By igniting a passion and a hunger to learn, educators will be setting students upon a path of lifelong learning.

This TED Talk by Ramsey Musallam outlines three key rules to spark learning and the imagination of students:

  1. Curiosity: Questions can be windows to great instruction
  2. Embrace: Taking risks through trial and error should be an informal part of what we do every single day
  3. Reflect: Intense reflecting on information gathered is a powerful source

Yes – all of us – most especially women – take pride in being able to multitask.  But whether it is good for us and whether the end result of quality of task achievement is being positively or negatively impacted has probably become one of those $64 questions!

As suggested in a Forbes report last week, multitasking is not all that it’s racked up to be.

Reporting on recent research conducted at Stanford University, Travis Bradbury in his article: Multitasking damages your brain and your career, new studies suggest outlines some of the fundamental misconceptions about multitasking.  Those who multitask

  • are less productive
  • cannot pay attention
  • are unable to recall information
  • have difficulty switching from one task to another
  • have poorer concentration skills
  • have worse organizational skills
  • have less ability to attend to details
  • lower their IQ

In summary:

Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

Yet, most teachers will attest to the fact that students today, which equates to the entire Gen Z who populate our schools, constantly engage in multitasking.   When in fact, was the last time,  you saw a student in your classroom doing just one thing at a time?!

For educators, The question becomes whether or not we are rearing a generation whose intelligence and organizational and operational skills will be totally compromised unless we start acting like policeman in our schools to actively stop them from doing what they are constantly doing: multitasking!

Addressing this very issue, Katie Lepi included this great infograph in an Edudemic article: How much multitasking should be done in the classroom?  (July 12, 2014)  It is no surprise that many of the statements raised in the Stanford study also appear here:



So what’s happening in your classroom, your school, your life?

I don’t regularly watch Toastmaster speeches.  In fact there has only been one occasion in my life that I’ve attended a Toastmaster meeting – and that was many years ago when as a member of a choir we were offered the chance to perform as the evening entertainment of a local Toastmaster’s Christmas dinner celebration!  But when I saw this video of the 1st place winner of the 2014 World Championship of Public Speaking Competition – Dananjaya Hettiarachichi – I was blown away!

Apart from a brilliant oration, his words are a gift to educators!   As he recounted the path of his life and told about the opportunity he had to get a job with a friend of his Dad’s, he remarks:

Everyday after work he used to tell me stories ….. about the world, about history about culture about philosophy and it was much more interesting than what I learned in school and I discovered I can dream and I started dreaming ……”

How many of the students in our classes are simply not ‘turned on’ by what we are saying?  How often do we step back and look at how we come over to the students in our classes?  Do we think enough about how to ignite the passion for learning in our students?  What lessons can we learn from the key ideas presented in this speech?   Have a listen so that collectively we can improve what we do.

I’ve had an awesome few weeks!

I should be confessing to having spent a wondrous time sleeping in late, smelling the roses and catching up with friends and family over a coffee during my three week school vacation, but little time has been spent in those pursuits.

Instead, I spent the first week of my vacation attending, presenting and then ‘processing’ all that I heard, experienced and learned at the schoolstechOz Conference (some really great stuff), then in the second week of my vacation, enjoying the mind blowing journey that the folk at Youth Literature – State Library Victoria have led participants through in their first time offered Shift Alt Story: an introduction to digital storytelling and then finally, this last week of my vacation, preparing four different presentations for the upcoming Pearson National Learning and Teaching Conference to be held in Brisbane in early November.

While I’m exhausted – and look forward to returning to work next week to finally have a ‘rest’ – I feel re-charged and re-energized by everything that I’ve learned and explored.  Learning has that kind of impact – doesn’t it!?

One of the highlights of the schoolstechOz Conference was having the opportunity to hear Alan November speak.   It was many years ago that I first heard of him through a work colleague.   I recollect her raving about the impact this doyen of education had on her and without a doubt feel the same passion now that I’ve finally had the same opportunity!   His message is crystal clear: teach our students the grammar, the punctuation and the syntax behind the Internet.  He was humorous, informative and is a very easy going presenter who lets the words and examples tumble out and fall into place in the listener’s mind.  I feel really lucky to have been present for both his Keynote address: Who owns the learning? and then later on the first day a breakout session: Implementing the three pillars of web literacy.  Listening to Simon Breakspeare’s keynote presentation Leading the future of learning was also an outstanding highlight of the schoolstechOZ conference.  As he described our changing world with breathtaking speed, incredible visuals and heart warming examples, his message focused around how educators can sustainably redesign the learning process and how we can nudge all educators into new learning paths so that learning can be made intrinsically engaging.   So much of what he had to say reflected my own thinking and even some of the posts I’ve published here on NovaNews.   I was blown away to see him use some of the same examples I’ve used to underline messages I’ve tried to share.  If you ever get the chance to hear Simon speak – do it!  Like me, you’ll come away inspired!

When promotion for the online Shift Alt Story: an introduction to digital storytelling course landed in my inbox, I knew that I’d be taking on an online learning experience over a very busy time.   Unable to stifle the urge to explore what sounded like a really interesting course though, I registered!  WOW – what an interesting, enlightening and enjoyable experience it has been!  The four units – What is a story; Connecting to stories; Sharing reading and Publishing stories – have opened up new and exciting worlds in which we can see the impact of transmedia and the way in which teenagers today embrace and engage with literature.   Seeing how reading has moved beyond the covers of a book to exciting and exhilarating digital places has been mind-blowing!  Working my way through the course has been an eye opener and it’s clear that much time, effort and thinking has gone into the planning of this program.   To enhance our ability to engage students with literature, this is a course which should be completed by both English teachers and Teacher Librarians.

While my preparation for the Pearson National Learning and Teaching Conference has involved many hours of thinking over the last week, I’m left with a great feeling of accomplishment as I worked through the process of fine tuning my thinking so as to be able to share my knowledge, thoughts and experience about topics for which I feel so passionate.  Sharing my own insights and experience about the incredible value of both PLNs and lifelong learning go hand in hand with my passionate desire to excite in both students and staff a love of reading.  Being able to light a spark of excitement about the incredible joy and benefits that can be derived from both learning and reading is an exciting opportunity for which I am grateful to be involved.   The four presentations:  Learning is a lifelong journey – Feel empowered; Personal Learning Networks: Transformative and powerful; Engage readers: Stage a Literary Festival and Repackaging reading for the 21st century – are ‘Breakout’ Sessions to be held against the backdrop of some great keynote presenters.

It has been an intense three weeks that has seen me sitting at my computer for countless hours – day and night.  I’ve had lots of fun though!!

If you ever have some spare time and want to learn about a new idea, concept or just catch ‘the latest’ then Big Think is a great spot to visit when surfing the web.

Convinced that online learning is the future for us all, my attention was caught when I saw a Big Think video describing a free language-learning platform called Duolingo.   Listening to Luis von Ahn describe the genesis of Duolingo, you kind of end up wondering why this idea hadn’t been put into action before.

Based on a childhood idea he had in which users pay for skills learned by providing services which can be on-sold, Duolingo is based on the premise that around 1.2 billion people in the world learn a second language.   Of this figure, the predominant language learned is English and the reason for learning a second language is to get a better job.  Most of these people, they found, come from a low socioeconomic background.  In short, von Ahn says:

Most people learning a second language are poor people learning English to make more money.”

When something is offered for free, it is necessary to figure out to ensure that it is sustainable.  So when people learn a language online for free using Duolingo, they are offered an opportunity to put into practice what they have learned by translating the English learned into their native language.  A few people translate the one copy and then discuss it to come up with the ‘best’ translation.  This translation is then sold, with the money received financing the cost of providing the free program.   One of Duolingo’s best customers is CNN.

A pretty simple process when you think about it!

Since launching this online language learning program just two years ago, Duolingo now has over 42 million users worldwide and has become the most popular way of learning English in the world.   For millions of people, many of whom are from a low socioeconomic background, free access offered by this program can be life changing.

Check out Luis von Ahn’s description on Big Think as he describes this revolutionary language learning program, then check out Duolingo online.  And if you are really keen, go ahead and download the Duolingo AppApple’s 2013 App of the Year!

Heard of Netropolitan?

Netropolitan is a new social network.  It comes with a caveat though.  You have to pay to join!

Set up as a social meeting place for the wealthy, membership isn’t cheap: $6,000 to join with an additional $3,000 annual fee to enable continued access.  Information about this new social network seems to be fairly limited, which is fair enough, as one of its key features is that it is secretive.  My information comes from a recent C|NET article by Amanda Kooser:

There are some requirements for membership. You have to be at least 21, so you Richie Rich types won’t qualify. You are asked to use your real name and main city of residence. All community posts must be in English. Members also must agree not to divulge the identities of other members outside of Netropolitan and not to take screenshots for display to the public. This helps it maintain the feel of being an exclusive secret club.

The full article is worth a read.

Amusingly, a regular Facebook page (ie. no cost involved!) has been set up.   With 2,365 likes as I write this post, it seems that many who don’t qualify for the membership to the real Netropolitan social network can vent their angst at the exclusion they are experiencing.

Netroplitan Club

No doubt much can and will be written about the pros and cons or perhaps the appropriateness or inappropriateness of a social network such as Netropolitan. Clearly though, it’s advent turns the traditional nature of social media on its head!

A full on program with lots to learn and lots to share has filled up the last few days.

Although I was only able to attend the Friday and Sunday program of this three day conference – I did have a giggle when I spotted this photo posted by ETS (Education Technology Solutions – a great journal if you have a chance to check it out!) on the #schoolstechOZ twitter stream.  A most unexpected ‘proof of attendance’ as I wended my away along the very long morning tea queue on the first day of the conference!  No hints – you’ll have to figure out which one of the many is me!

ETS photo tweeted

This is the second time I’ve attended – and presented – for IWBNet.   They are a highly professional group who go to extremes to ensure that the events they hold run smoothly.  Never shy of innovating, this year they introduced a very cool tool to enable conference participants  to make the most of attendance – the schoolstechOZ Conference App – which focused on providing an educational, engaging and interactive experience for all conference delegates.  Designed by eventmobi, the app works on any device and enabled us to:

  • view the full program
  • add sessions to our schedule
  • view sessions for which we had personally signed up  (keynotes, sessions and networking meetings)
  • take notes in the App of those sessions we attended
  • Tweet about a session – within the session
  • take a look at the speakers and their bios
  • find our way around the venue
  • check out the exhibitor specials
  • view alerts
  • search through more general information

This video, which was sent to all delegates a week ahead of the conference, gave us a good feel of how to use it to ensure that we made the most of our time at the conference.

schoolstechOZ event app
Sessions attended have been awesome!  I’ll be blogging about the highlights of the event after I get through today’s sessions.


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