Monday, February 16, 2015

What's the difference between Life-Long and Life-Wide Learning?

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Rec & Ed

I have a feeling that most Ann Arborites would say that they're lifelong learners. By definition, lifelong learners are self motivated to pursue knowledge for personal or professional reasons throughout their lives. The voluntary nature of lifelong learning is key. We choose to be lifelong learners because it's personally, socially, or in other ways beneficial to our lives. 

Recently I came across the idea of life-wide learning. It's the concept that there's a breadth of learning opportunities across formal and informal learning environments. 
"Life-wide learning refers to the learning that takes place as people routinely circulate across a range of social settings and activities—classrooms, afterschool programs, informal educational institutions, online venues, homes, and other community locales." 
--STEM Teaching Tools, Practice Brief 38 

In different phases of our lives, this ecology of formal and informal learning opportunities  changes. For example, as children, the formal learning environment dominates while family, after school and summer opportunities provide other venues for learning.

The Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) Center Diagram                                                                         (LIFE Center: Stevens, R. Bransford, J. & Stevens, A., 2005) 

The LIFE Center analyzed the percentage of time people spend in formal learning environments. Shockingly, only 5% of a typical person's life is spent in formal schooling. Even in the school years, formal education comprises less than 20% of our lives. 

That sea of blue in the diagram? It represents all of the informal learning resources available in the 16 waking hours throughout our lives. Not that we spend all of our awake time learning, but that's the maximum amount available. 

At Rec & Ed, our First Steps and Lifelong Learning divisions are part of the decades-long   community education tradition that offers lifelong enrichment and personal growth opportunities to infants and their caregivers through senior adults. (Our quarterly catalogs showcase these opportunities.)

We want to make sure that Rec & Ed's part of your blue sea of informal learning opportunities reflects what you want and need. 

What do you want in your "sea" of informal learning?