Promoting lifelong learning using Web-Based ICTs
Christopher Warren, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Allert, Richter, and Nejdl (2004) noted that traditional models of learning restricted the role of lifelong learners as “consumers”, rather than continuous creators of knowledge in the lifelong learning process (p. 702). Learners are too often placed into the role as a “consumer” of information, rather than as the creators of new knowledge which discourages the development of lifelong learners (Allert et al., 2004, p. 702). Allert et al. (2004) suggested that the ‘learner as consumer’ occurs when “learning objects” are “self-contained and decontextualized resources that are to be acquired by the learner” (p. 702). In high schools, this problem is exasperated with poor formative assessment practices that discourage lifelong learning competencies such as “social engagement” (Clark, 2012, p.32). Students have been trained to focus on the mark, rather than the formative feedback needed to help foster the growth of effective lifelong learners (Phelan, 2012). According to I-Tsun and Mei-Li (2011), for learners with exceptionalities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, the needs to accommodate abilities can be too complex for traditional lifelong learning models to adapt to the various needs of exceptional learners. Poor design of learning models does not effectively take into account learners’ differences and life circumstances, which creates a barrier to lifelong learning (Koper & Tattersall, 2004).
The development of lifelong learners as creators has also been stunted by limited deployment of resources (Caron, Beaudoin, Lebranc, & Grant, 2007). In the past, institutions have taken current course content, and simply adapted it for use in other platforms (Caron et al., 2007). Traditionally, lifelong learners are forced to deal with course content, deadlines, and other institutional restrictions that impede learning at their own pace, especially in scenarios where “credentialing” is involved (Friesen & Anderson, 2004, p 683-684). Also, access to well-designed opportunities for lifelong learning can be a problem for some learners (Koper & Tattersall, 2004). Rollings-Magnusson (2001) noted that access to lifelong learning resources has been inconsistent in countries such as Canada.
Role of ICTs
Blaschke (2012) found that distance learning environments “support self-directed learning environments” such as interactive “Web 2.0” platforms (p. 66). Caron et al. (2007) demonstrated that an online learning environment offers multiple advantages in fostering and promoting lifelong learners as creators of knowledge; it offers the ability for learners to get up-to-date information in a context meaningful to them, and allows the learner to remain a part of the online community to be a provider of knowledge to new learners, hence becoming the expert. Using networked ICTs to create learning communities (or “Learning Networks”) is a valid method to promoting lifelong learning (Koper et al. ,2005, p.73). Koper et al. (2005) also found that learning networks that are sustained through the use of ICTs allowed “novices” to develop into experts and thus, contribute to the community in the future, no matter their location (p.73). According to Linn (2010) students can also move from the consumer role to that of effective lifelong learners who co-create assessments and curriculum with teachers through “cyberlearning” environments that use laptops, mobile devices, and cloud computing (p. 104). Nicol (2007) found specifically that the use of web forums (in conjunction with tutors) can help students self-assess as they learn to close their own learning gaps through practice and formative feedback, avoiding the focus on just marks which will help foster desire for lifelong learning.
Online web environments can also assist in the lifelong learning goals of those with exceptionalities, which I-Tsun and Mei-Li (2011) illustrated. Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder in remote areas were able to continue learning according to their treatment schedules, and the technology helped maintain motivation through increased feedback, increasing the likelihood of ASD patients engaging in lifelong learning during their leisure time (I-Tsun and Mei-Li, 2011).
Lam and Chung (2010) found that “ICTs are helping to expand, transform and diversify social capital” by providing tools such as email, interactive blogs, wikis, and social media sites like Facebook to learners who are in later stages of life (p. 64). Blashke (2012) found that platforms which included social media to be useful in lifelong learning practices as sharing is facilitated.
Web environments also allow for the use of mobile phones and devices, granting easier physical access to lifelong learning platforms wherever the learner is present. (Balasubramanian, 2010). The use of mobile phones allowed greater access to lifelong learning environments, and created “social learning capital” in their communities (Balasubramanian, p. 207).
Wall and Ahmed (2008) also found that online web simulations can help learners put themselves in the role of other employees in a workplace to help understand how decisions are made as a part of their professional development program, making the lifelong learning opportunity more authentic and meaningful as they learn how to manage current work projects.
Mcavinia and Oliver (2002) noted that some people in larger organizations may feel that a web based environment may not apply to their subject field, when in reality a web-based curriculum can be designed to enhance certain lifelong key skills that apply to all subjects and disciplines “from schools to universities, and beyond in continuing professional development (p. 210).
Concerns about usability of interactive web sites on mobile devices are being alleviated as web products are being optimized for viewing on small screens, making their use more likely by lifelong learners in environments where the learning is taking place (Balasubramanian, 2010). Wei and Chen (2006) noted that using minimized text menus can overcome limitations in small mobile phone screens, and media can be accessed with the mobile media player installed on current phones, facilitating the easy transfer and sharing of resources within the lifelong learning community. Maintaining a flexible ICT system that adapts to learners’ needs will help maintain interest in older learners too, so that the technology and learning platform is available in all stages of lifelong learning (Lam and Chung, 2010).
Rather than simply building “weak ties”, Ranieri, Mancha, and Fini (2012) maintained that the use of popular social networks can help supplement and strengthen the bonds created in other ICT environments to provide emotional support, in addition to the transfer of knowledge within professional social network groups where ongoing lifelong learning can take place.
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