In today’s increasingly technological world, the advances in electronics and education technology has allowed the world to change significantly. While some new technology has helped some groups of people, it has ignored others; there are many populations that could benefit from more concrete and comprehensive use and knowledge of technologies. People’s ability to achieve lifelong learning depends greatly on the ability of technology to help people up-skill, or increase their skill set to meet the demands of a changing society. Lifelong learning (LLL) involves keeping up with increasing competition and changes in our respective industries that we must be mindful of to stay viable in our jobs (Beller & Or, 2006 p. 0). With a greater sense of support – using more and new technologies and techniques to up-skill – we can create a more tech-savvy and highly skilled workforce that benefits the country as a whole. This is done through investigating the expectations and societal forces that contribute to our perception of those influenced by technology, as well as finding out how people can up-skill and learning better ways to improve the process of lifelong learning.
There are two reasons why people need to up-skill. First, there is the concept of human capital, wherein the potential for employability in the world market determines your worth; the advances in education and the world economy have made it easier than ever to increase one’s human capital. By attending secondary and post-secondary schools, one increases their skill set and their worth. With the help of government-funded public education and the advent of higher education, people have more options than ever to increase their skill set. The presence of a global marketplace makes this necessary, as more people can work in markets outside their local sphere thanks to communications technology. That same ability to work from a distance allows others to learn from a distance, educating themselves wherever they like, making lifelong learning easier than ever before.
Given the rise of globalization and the post-secondary learning market, competition is sufficiently high to require up-skilling. Fortunately, technology provides the needed support for people to up-skill, giving them the tools they need to support lifelong learning and maintain viability in the workplace. Workplace training uses technology often to prepare its employees for the workforce and their specific duties; organizations are more focused on people than technology as a resource, but will use it to train their people (Green 1999, p. 15). Necessary steps include the integration of informal and formal learning, mediated by technology; the ubiquitous and mobile nature of modern computer and mobile technology makes it possible to learn both inside and outside of a classroom context. Professional development workshops are available to help train teachers to create content-centric designs for their curricula, using technology. Knowledge management technology is also available to provide self-service capabilities to employees and customers alike; online databases of contact information and social media tools permit faster access to the information needed in the workplace. Technology also provides greater accessibility for people with physical disabilities to access learning and corporate resources; as there is a lesser need to access physical learning and training facilities.
Despite the improvements that technology has made to lifelong learning, the process of upskilling can be enhanced in many other ways as well. There are several ideas by which upskilling may find improvement; one of which is the presence of community education programmers, non-credit programming that is available to all people of any age or social group. This ensures greater economic and social equality, as it provides adults to continue their education with greater flexibility, as well as contribute to their communities through an enhanced skill set. Community education does not require the economic and time investment that a whole higher education program demands, permitting a more piecemeal approach to education. By taking online courses, for example, people can learn on their own time and in their own home, and also creates an integrated model with which people can become their own teacher and guide their learning the way they feel is best (Mason, 2001, pp. 11-12).
Technology enhanced lifelong learning can also improve the country’s economy by allowing disenfranchised social groups to affordably and effectively increase their competitiveness in the marketplace. African-Americans and Latinos are often subject to socioeconomic factors that price them out of an expensive education. With the help of lifelong learning initiatives, this education can now be affordable and flexible to match their budgets and schedules. These initiatives can include community consultation and training to increase the skill sets of disenfranchised blacks and Latinos, thus increasing the quality of the workforce in America. The skills and knowledge they would acquire due to easily-accessible, high-quality education would allow them to qualify for jobs they would not be able to get otherwise. While this would not address the rampant sociopolitical hurdles minorities have to overcome often in order to get a job, the use of technology would allow these populations to get the skills they need to increase their worth in the marketplace (Green, 1999, p. 15).
Technology also permits those with physical disabilities to improve their knowledge and bring about lifelong learning. Institutional education is a concept that is rapidly evolving; mobile technologies can be used to facilitate lifelong learning wherever a learner may be (Sharples, 2000, pp. 177-178). Multimedia training outlets permit disabled workers to have access to high-quality education from wherever is most comfortable for them; remote and distance education allows them to always be able to attend class and gain knowledge. The R.I.A. Center, for example, opened in 2004 to allow people with physical and intellectual disabilities to train in new media, digital photography and designing of social networking sites. Social networking and web development jobs also create a whole new industry of skill-intensive jobs that permit those with physical disabilities to find gainful employment and promote their own sense of competitiveness in the marketplace.
In conclusion, the competitiveness or value of the nation’s workforce will grow if we have a highly-educated, technology-driven workforce, driven by easily accessible and high-quality lifelong learning through technology. People have to be able to up-skill their abilities in order to keep up in a knowledge-centric world that emphasizes qualification and education. Globalization has made it necessary to use technology to enhance lifelong learning, as new skill sets are created all the time. Technology can be used to enhance upskilling through the use of online and distance education, which can also benefit minorities and the disabled, who are often deprived of expensive, time-intensive higher education programs. Technology promotes lifelong learning by increasing access and affordability of vital education to underserved populations, as well as enhances their competitiveness as individual workers. To that end, technology is an essential component of lifelong learning, as well as the quest to increase the quality of America’s workforce.
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