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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Self-Directed Learning in the 21st Century


Everywhere you turn is a new online program for adults wanting to further their education. In the 21st century, if you are a university who is not embracing online learning, you are one of the few. I am currently looking at online PhD programs in Instructional Technology for the fall of 2013. In my research, I have found one common thread among all of the programs – an emphasis on self-directed learning. 

This is not a new concept, in fact, this concept has been around for a while; however, in the digital age there is a new emphasis on self-directed learning and accountability within a distance learning environment. I believe there is an internal desire for adults to want to have control of their own learning. It’s a sign of maturity and success.

Some of the most successful people I know have been self-directed learners without being in a PhD or online program. One mentor of mine, Dr. Chris Adams, really emphasized the need to become a life-long learner in the field of education. He introduced me to publications like Phi Delta Kappan and Educational Leadership. Without his influence, I wouldn’t have developed the habit or reading, with the desire to grow, each night.

Self-directed learning is one of the reasons why the social network Twitter has thrived in the world of education. There are communities of educators who thirst to grow and share their knowledge to a forum of other self-directed learners. About 4 years ago, I took the plunge into Social Media and have found tremendous benefits to using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linked In, and Edmodo to further develop my classroom and professional self. Twitter has helped me connect with other educators across the country through sharing ideas through chats, links, and attending events.  Recently, I was able to meet one of my Twitter followers at a conference I spoke at in South Carolina. This was unheard of twenty years ago.

In the 21st Century, I believe we will see another “divide” occurring, much like Prensky’s Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. The main focus of Prensky’s article emphasizes the divide between adults (“digital immigrants”) and students (“digital natives”); however, many of these “digital natives” now have their own classrooms. I believe the next divide revolves around social media and its use in growing professionally. I believe that the successful educators will be the ones that embrace, use, and thrive in the realms of social media, while educators who fail to embrace social media will become obsolete, irrelevant, and replaced, much like many of the teachers I knew who refused to embrace email and the Internet. 

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