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Technology and Lifelong Learning

"Most Americans feel they are lifelong learners, whether that means gathering knowledge for “do it yourself” projects, reading up on a personal interest or improving their job skills. For the most part, these learning activities occur in traditional places – at home, work, conferences or community institutions such as government agencies or libraries. The internet is also an important tool for many adults in the process of lifelong learning." - PEW Research Center


Shifts in economic and cultural expectations will make lifelong learning more than wishful thinking. For each of us, lifelong learning will become a way of life. Fortunately, research recently published by the PEW Research Group, indicates three-fourths of American adults view themselves as lifelong learners. To what degree do Americans value ongoing learning? How does technology support those who are willing to advance their personal and professional learning?

John Horrigan's survey of almost three-thousand adults reveals several interesting trends identified by self-described lifelong learners and their use of technology. First, 73% of American adults identify themselves as lifelong learners. 74% of the respondents regularly engage in personal learning activities, and 63% of adult workers have engaged in professional learning activities in the last twelve months.

Interestingly, many learners still prefer place-based education (schools, libraries, or churches) to Internet-based learning. However, that preference reverses with the availability of multiple devices and multiple Internet accessibility options. The study indicates people who self-identify as lifelong learners are more likely to be younger, better educated, and better off financially. Professional educators and government employees are more likely to have engaged in professional learning activities during the past twelve months than workers in other career fields.


A vast majority of Americans (87%) believe it's important for people to continue with their learning. This group believes it's important for workers to learn more about their jobs. It's also important to find out more about their communities, social issues, scientific advances, along with our hobbies and special interests. Professional educators take note, even though almost nine out of ten people believe in the benefits of ongoing education, 50% of those surveyed are very glad they no longer have to go to school or attend classes.


Here are a few interesting themes drawn from this PEW study...
  1. Accessibility and necessity are driving people to learn more
  2. 3/4 of American adults regularly engage in personal learning activities
  3. 2/3 of employed adults pursue job-related learning
  4. Those with higher levels of education are more likely to engage in personal learning
  5. Internet-based learning is utilized less often by those with lower income and less education
  6. Those with tech access tools are more likely to self-identify as lifelong learners
  7. People's attitudes towards learning, school, and personal growth shape adult learning activities
A vast majority of us think learning throughout our lives is enjoyable and beneficial, yet learning is not universally prioritized by families, communities, governments, and to some degree our schools. There is clearly a connection between lifelong learning and the accessibility provided by technology. What other conclusions can we draw from this research? How can this information be used to amplify learning in schools and classrooms?

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." - Alvin Toffler

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