The Importance of Lifelong Learning in a World of Advancing Technology

PIDP 3100 – Foundations of Adult Education
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
November 14, 2015

Dr. Jim Crowther is a senior lecturer in Community Education at the University of Edinburgh. He writes (2012),

There are few educators who would agree with the principle that lifelong learning is a good thing but the important questions are about the types of learning that the concept promotes, the life that it encourages us to lead, who benefits from this and the nature of the society that it upholds (p. 801).


What have I learned from reflecting on Crowther’s quote?

Lifelong learning is defined as adult learning that continues past formal schooling; it can occur because it is mandatory in a profession like dental assisting, or for the personal interest of the student. Regardless of the reasons for continued learning, as an adult committed to lifelong learning because of my chosen profession, and because I require, on a personal level, a greater continued understanding of the world around me, I believe that it is important to receive new information that enhances my prior understanding. Lifelong learning encourages adults to grow in their knowledge and perceptions. The adult learner benefits from this, and so does the individual’s community. A society or organization that promotes and supports continuing education will foster an environment of competence that is dynamic.


What have I realized about teaching as a result of this quote?

I am a dental assistant and at this stage in my career, not a formal educator, however, I teach at work every day. At my workplace I develop and train staff in surgical procedures, and in the continuously evolving Internet Technology that drives all of our dental operating software. In Adult Learning – Linking Theory and Practice (2014), Merriam and Bierema talk about the lag that occurs when the demand for technological literacy increases, but access to training and technology is not available. I must stay current in the procedures and policies of the practice where I work, and discover how to translate my knowledge effectively to my coworkers; it is important to assess their knowledge because of previous experiences and levels of competency, and in doing so, promote an environment for lifelong learners.


My “Aha!” moment when reading this quote, how it changed my mind about being an adult educator, and one key insight that I now have.

In considering Crowther’s quote, when he questions the ‘types of learning’ that lifelong learning creates, I realized that due to the fast rate of technological advances, it is the kind of learning and teaching that is important today. To clarify, most of my coworkers did not grow up with the computers. In order to be successful adult learners in today’s world, whether it’s in the classroom, in the workplace, or in day-to-day life, a certain level of competence must be developed. In The Fundamentals of Workplace Learning – Understanding How People Learn in Working Life (2011), Illeris states, “[competence development] encompasses the most important qualities that workplace learning needs to include to be up-to-date not only in working life, but in modern life in general” (p. 48). To be a lifelong learner, the lessons attained in the workplace can and should carry over to everyday life. In addition, my coworkers and I are committed to ongoing continuing education because of a licensing mandate from the College of Dental Surgeons of BC (our governing body), and many online continuing education courses are now available to dental assistants.


How has this quote and the insight that I have gained from reflecting upon it, influenced my notion of teaching or how I will teach in the future?

In my workplace, a level of professional education, which includes knowledge of basic skills, is required. From there, assessment is key prior developing the competency required to fulfill assigned and expected workplace responsibilities. Lifelong learning is promoted because of the licensing regulation mandating continuing education in my profession. Further, more and more continuing education opportunities are found online.

In the classroom, because curriculums are becoming increasingly computer orientated, a launching point from the most basic level of an adult learner, essentially, the lowest common denominator, will have to be addressed to ensure the success of all students. In order to assist my coworkers attain competency in advancing technology, I am also considering creating a Blog for the staff in my Oral Surgery practice with pertinent information regarding office policies and procedures, and also links to promote lifelong learning (e.g. continuing education courses).

The nature of our society has made it nearly impossible to avoid technology, especially for adult learners because information is increasingly learned and shared online. Lifelong learning is beneficial and essential to keep up with technological advances in today’s world whether it’s in the classroom, in the workplace, for self-improvement or for pleasure. It is the adult educator’s responsibility to stay current with emerging technology. “Being prepared for lifelong online learning may be frustrating to many adult learners as the technology continues to advance, creating challenges for both learners and educators to keep pace” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 196).

@ Please refer to my Resources page for works cited