Using Digital Learning to Promote Lifelong Learning

It’s easy to focus on the immense potential that edtech brings to K12 classrooms, but the use of digital learning to promote lifelong learning has received less attention. And yet digital learning is just as powerful of a tool—if not moreso–for adults who want to expand their horizons. Here four ways that lifelong learners can use digital tools:

First, while massive open online courses have been of only limited success so far, they may hold promise for motivated adult learners. It seems that one of the biggest problems with MOOCs is that students do not complete the classes, but a lifelong learner is less likely to have this problem. And the proliferation of MOOCs means that lifelong learners have access to learning opportunities that would have cost them thousands of dollars—even if they were locally available—only a few decades ago, but that can now be enjoyed for free, from home, on one’s own schedule.

Second, it used to be rather difficult for a lifelong learner to find opportunities to learn a foreign language. But a multiplicity of language learning apps make it possible to learn—for free—nearly any language. Given the increased globalization of the marketplace, the ability to speak a new language can often make a profound difference in the job prospects of adults, so learning another language may be one of the best strategies to improve one’s employability.

Third, accessing scientific laboratories is not something that the lifelong learner has traditionally been able to do. But many universities and other organizations have created simulations that make it possible for lifelong leaners to continue to learn about scientific concepts that have been digitally simulated. The best of these simulations allow learners to “play around” with the lab equipment and, in effect, conduct their own experiments.

Fourth, while it might seem to be a relatively low-tech option in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the power of digital library books and audiobooks should not be overlooked. Most lifelong learners will have access to these digital resources through their local public library, and thus will be able to access the latest books with an ease and variety unknown to previous generations. Wise students will take advantage of this option to improve their minds. Further, they can listen to podcasts or read articles by those who critically engage what they are reading in order to further broaden their horizons.

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