Learning in the 21st century no longer ends with K-12 and college preparation. Instead, for those adults who will succeed in negotiating the demands of the 21st century, it must continue across their lifetime. More than merely a focus on lifelong learning, however, this chapter illuminates the specific needs and skills of lifelong learning integrated with life and work in the 21st century. The discussion of modern skills includes scope, definitions, issues and trends, current and emerging practices, recommended strategies, and a glimpse of the future. The cornerstones of this discussion include approaches to learning such as lifelong learning, self-directed learning, 21st learning skills, information literacy, collaborative, situated, and problem based learning.
The dominant theme of the 21st century is rapid technological developments and unexpected changes. 21st century lifelong learning skills provide successful, dynamic strategies to navigate this environment and culture (King & Sanquist, 2009; The Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2004). Foundational to this perspective are the literatures, theories and models from fields such as adult learning, human resource development, neuropsychology, instructional technology, educational psychology, and distance learning. This collective model builds upon major theories, affording a robust foundation with a comprehensive, interdisciplinary perspective.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Asynchronous / Synchronous Learning: When teachers and students are engaged in learning at the same time, meeting face to face, online or any other way simultaneously, synchronous learning describes the format. Asynchronous learning is non-simultaneous learning and affords the convenience of learners and teachers being able to log-in, read material, engage in discussions, post assignments, etc, whenever is convenient for their schedule, commitments and time zones. Technology options can extend the possibilities in many directions for both asynchronous and synchronous learning through for example online discussion boards, chat, video conferencing, podcasting, etc.
E-Commerce: Business transactions, engaging in the sales of goods and service for financial compensation, conducted through the Internet. Examples include some of the forerunners of e-commerce, Amazon.com ®, and E-bay.com ®.
Web 2.0: Development of the World Wide Web to include more Web-based programs, otherwise known as hosted services, collaborative and easier content creation technologies (Simonson et al., 2008). Examples of Web 2.0 technologies include Google ® applications which are run over the Internet rather than needing to be downloaded; social networking sites, such as Linked-In and MySpace; and content creation technologies such as blogs, wikis and podcasts. Controversy regarding the term exists as the original vision and capabilities of the Web included some of these abilities in fundamental ways although they were not widely adopted at the time.
VOIP: Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) enables people to use broadband Internet connection to make and receive phone calls. This digital service is in contrast to analog phone line technology. Some VoIP services allow users to phone any telephone number, whether local, long distance, international, or cell. Moreover, now phone adapters are available to allow analog phones to be used for VOIP service. Skype® is an example of a VOIP service which provides free computer-to-computer connections, but charges fees for calls to landlines or cell phones.
Cloud Computing: A wave of technology related to Web 2.0, which emerged circa 2007. Cloud computing enables people to operate computer programs and resources while remaining on remote computers. For instance, rather than installing an office application suite, users could login in and use Google Apps ® to create, edit, save, store, and share word processing, spreadsheets and multimedia documents.
Simulations (Technology Assisted): Examination of a problem or through online, computer based, or another technology representation of the experience and process (e.g., flight simulation programs, team building or financial planning simulations). Virtual simulations closely resemble firsthand experiences through interaction with many human senses.
Podcast: Audio or video files hosted on the web, but served up via a special scripting language (XML) which provides automated and usually free subscription to users. Users of podcasts can elect to “subscribe” to a podcast and every time they open their program to listen to them (e.g., iTunes ®, MusicMatch ®, Windows Media Player ®, etc.) the latest episodes of the podcasts will download for them without any additional action on their part. Listeners may choose a computer or a mobile listening device such as a MP3 player based on their needs, resources, and/or preferences. There are many educational podcasts available demonstrating the infinite number of ways in which it may used to improve teaching and learning, language arts skills, problem solving, research, engagement, differentiated instruction, voice and empowerment, collaboration, creativity and other 21st century learning skills (King & Gura, 2009).
Intellectual Property: The intangible property right to protect the intellectual work of the person/s who created it (includes patents, trademarks, designs and copyright). Intellectual property is a critical and extensive area of institutional concern in distance learning and the focus of many legal negotiations since 2000 (King, 2008; Morrison, 2006). There are many ways that institutions, organizations, and individuals may handle issues of intellectual property; this area merits recognition, consideration and discussion (King & Griggs, 2006).
Wiki: A universal definition of a wiki is that it is a webpage that can be changed easily by anyone. A web-based interface that has been developed to most fully encourage and ease collaboration. More than the collaboration of a web-based bulletin board, a wiki allows users to add, delete and edit pages in the environment to name just a few of the fundamental construction functions possible.