Monday, April 21, 2008

Adult Workers Have a Lot to Learn...Online

The Financial Times has an interesting article up today about life-long learning.

Improving returns on that asset requires neither great sums of money nor greater flights of imagination. The key is to rethink and reorganise how busy but anxious adults can benefit from education and training opportunities. Technology makes meeting that challenge far more affordable, entrepreneurial and compelling. Adult education is a market ripe for rapid global transformation.

The internet is a paradise for auto­didacts. The intellectually curious can find doctoral dissertations on virtually any subject in any language, download seminars podcast from the world’s great universities and leading professional societies and view YouTube lectures by Nobel laureates ranging from the physicist, Richard Feynman, to economists such as Milton Friedman and Muhammad Yunus.

You need no creativity to picture how this growing wealth of multimedia material may be repackaged and customised for adult education courses . Organisations of all sizes can bundle their own blogs, webcasts and digital simulations as training tools to serve employees and job applicants. Why not invite candidates to participate in online training sessions to see how well they learn? Follow up the next day by texting them “pop quizzes” to test retention.

While I am somewhat immune to claims that technology is "changing everything," especially when such claims are meant to create fear, the above article strikes me as mostly true and pertinent. Indeed, the internet is a paradise for autodidacts--AND WE SHOULD ALL BE AUTODIDACTS. Of course, the FT mentions Milton Friedman, but one can also read Dean Baker, Max Sawicky and others. The internet, in contrast to our MSM, offers a plethora of choices to challenge and inspire.

If teaching in a liberal arts college has taught me anything, it is that learning never stops, nor should it. The last 10 years or so have been revolutionary for me as a teacher, colleague and as an engaged citizen, and much of my personal "revolution" has come thanks to technology. Who would have thought that cultural realia from France or Africa would be at my fingertips 24 hours a day? Who would have thought I would be teaching myself languages online? Who would have thought I would be blogging against X or Y or Z and for A or B or C on a regular basis? Who would have thought my students could see world changing events happening in almost in real time on youtube, or that such video would have a more democratic nature than CNN? (Yes, I know, a lot of people thought about and predicted these things. My questions are a reflection of my own constant amazement at the amount of information available.)

As imperfect as the world is (including the internet), there is much to learn. May the open source--and by that I mean open distribution of creative materials--revolution continue.