Since most of the people reading this post are likely to be in the business of lifelong learning, it’s easy to make assumptions about what the average American knows and doesn’t know related to this technology-driven industry. The truth is, we can’t make assumptions and we need to rely on data in order to effectively promote lifelong learning in our organizations.
John Horrigan, senior researcher at Pew Research Center, released a new report, Lifelong Learning and Technology, focused on lifelong learning, done both for personal and professional reasons. It was based on a broad survey of adult Americans and some of the findings might surprise you.
In this episode of the Leading Learning Podcast, Celisa talks with John about the driving force behind the report, interesting findings, and the role he thinks libraries can play in trying to help get more people involved in lifelong learning.
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Note: We published this as an encore episode in December 2016. Thank you to YourMembership for sponsoring the encore episode. If you are using the show notes below to find specific sections of the encore version, add approximately 30 seconds to each of the times indicated below.
[00:20] –A reminder to check out the upcoming Leading Learning event, Learning • Technology • Design (LTD) to be held May 18-19, 2016 in Arlington, VA. The event is designed specifically to help professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development find new and better ways to engage learners and create lasting impact through the effective use of technology.
[01:22] – A preview of what will be covered in this episode where Celisa Steele talks with John Horrigan of the Pew Research Center about a new Pew report, Lifelong Learning and Technology. The report is based broadly on a survey of adult Americans and grew out of Pew’s work and research in libraries. As you listen to the podcast, think about the role your organization could play to try and promote lifelong learning with both new and current professionals.
[05:55] – I got in contact with you because of your work with the report, Lifelong Learning and Technology, published in March 2016. What was the impetus behind that report, its scope, and the goal of the report? What does gathering and sharing this data hopefully do for us? John shares that they are doing the work under a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He says the inspiration for this work is to try to do good, fact-based research on where libraries fit into people’s lives and communities in order to shed light on how they impact learning patterns and new technologies. The research also has implications for how libraries need to position themselves in this digital age.
[08:02] – A majority of listeners of this podcast are in the business of lifelong learning, the majority affiliated with a trade or professional associations. Most would also likely identify as lifelong learners themselves, which aligns them with the majority of American adults (as shown the report), right? John says that roughly three quarters of Americans said they considered themselves lifelong learners and that a similar number actually engage in a lifelong learning activity in a given year.
[08:42] – Would you talk about the personal learner versus professional learner distinction you make when talking about lifelong learning in the report? John explains that personal learners have participated in at least one of a number of possible activities in the past 12 months to advance their knowledge about something that personally interests them (74% of adults fit into this category). Professional learners have taken a course or gotten additional training in the past 12 months to improve their job skills or expertise connected to career advancement (63% of employed adults fit into this category).
[11:51] – One of the findings that surprised me was how unaware most Americans are of things like MOOCs and digital badges. The Pew research found that majorities of Americans are “not too” or “not at all” aware of MOOCs, digital badges, the Khan Academy, and even distance learning. Did that finding surprise you? John says it was surprising to him but the general public isn’t very aware of cutting edge concepts in educational technology. He explains what often happens in the technology world is the latest concept becomes the rule for early adopters and the tech-elite, but for the general public, it can take awhile to catch on.
[13:36] – Are there other findings from the research that surprised you or that you find particularly interesting? John shares that they were surprised that place-based learning was still dominant for people pursing personal or professional learning.
[14:59] – Do you think this apparent preference for place-based learning will continue or do you think we will see a shift to more online learning in the years ahead? John says that we will need to wait and see but explains that if you look at where we get innovation from in our society, there are a lot of efforts made in the business and education world to get people together physically to collaborate and create, which has been a solid pattern for years. He emphasizes that place-based learning will probably always play a strong role in how we learn but that we could see a growing role of digital tools for learning.
[17:34] – A finding that’s interesting to me is that the Internet doesn’t seem to be having the democratizing effect on learning that it’s often been touted for. Can you talk more about what you’re seeing there in terms of who is using the Internet for learning? John talks about how they found strong differences across socioeconomic factors in learning. Mainly, if you have lower income or lower levels of educational attainment, you’re much less likely to engage in personal and professional learning.
[19:22] – A discussion about libraries and how they can potentially bring in groups that have yet to fully participate in lifelong learning. The survey found lower income Americans, and those in minority groups, were more likely than the well off and better educated to say that libraries do a good job in promoting learning in the community. This opens the door for libraries to do the work of bridging the gap in lifelong learning that exists because they are already very trusted among the groups that have the lowest incidence of it.
[20:52] – When you think about the future of lifelong learning, personal, professional, or both, what do you think or hope might change in the next decade? John shares that due to the gaps among lower income, less educated Americans, the data suggests an opportunity to promote digital skills among those groups as a means to get them more engaged in lifelong learning.
[21:57] – Celisa and John talk about ways associations can connect with young professionals by starting early to prepare them to be good lifelong learners. It is also mentioned that it’s worth focusing on mid-career workers as well to cultivate their skills related to learning tools.
[22:56] – What’s your approach to developing your own talent and your own lifelong learning? John tells Celisa that he does a lot of personal learning online and that he uses videos to walk him through things he doesn’t know how to do. He emphasizes how important the Internet is how his background helps him process the information and separate the good from the bad.
[25:19] – How to find out more about Pew Research Center?
https://www.pewinternet.org/category/publications/report/ to see all reports related to Internet & Tech.
*Please note that all reports are available for free.
[26:23] – Wrap-Up
A reminder to check out the upcoming Leading Learning event, Learning • Technology • Design (LTD) to be held May 18-19, 2016 in Arlington, VA.
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[28:12]- Sign off