There have been some wonderful highlights for me from the recent World Youth Day in Madrid. Many of the themes extend beyond religious and cultural divides. I thought the address by Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson last week to 3000 young Australians contained some powerful messages for educators.
The Archbishop spoke eloquently about the symbolism of icons and their historical significance over many centuries. He told the gathering that just as icons were a work in progress, so are we.
If each of us are indeed works in progress, then our learning must be life-long.
Dewey in his Pedagogic Creed argues that learning is a process that happens unconsciously almost at birth and continually shapes the individual’s powers, forming his habits, training his ideas and arousing feelings and emotions.
Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley write in The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future for Educational Change that lifelong learning is not merely learning beyond school, throughout life, but also learning about life and for life.
This notion of lifelong learning has been further cemented by scientific discovery of the adaptability of our brain and how that enables us to continue learning well into old age called ‘neuroplasticity’. We have an amazing capacity to learn and re-learn whenever we allow ourselves to engage in new experiences – the saying ‘use or lose it’ has never been truer.
The opportunities to learn and relearn have never been more pronounced than in today’s world. Our ability to access information on a range of devices means will live according to Will Richardson ‘at a moment of ubiquitous learning.’
He says kids and adults of all ages, can learn ‘what we want, when we want to, if we have the desire and connection. More and more of us are finding both.’ A perfect example is Stanford University which had over 58,000 people sign up for an online Artificial Intelligence course.
John Dewey gives new meaning to the expression vocational education when he says “the dominant vocation of all human beings at all times is living – intellectual and moral growth…..the discovery of capacity and aptitude will be a constant process as long as growth continues.”
As educators, we must recognise that we too are learners on the continuum; students of the vocation of living.