Category Archives: Learning Cities

Most Americans considered Lifelong Learners

73% of adults consider themselves “lifelong learners” according to a recent Pew Research Center report on Lifelong Learning and Technology (March, 2016).

In America according to Pew, there are two types of lifelong learners: personal learners and professional learners.

Personal lifelong learners participate in activities that interest themselves including attending courses, workshops, and seminars for personal development.

Professional lifelong learners connect to opportunities for career advancement by taking courses for improving job skills and expertise.

This report also highlights a new and exciting trend in learning that will continue across generations. However, barriers to participating still persist related to educational level, household income, and technology access.

A looming question surrounding the emerging field of lifelong learning, is how can all people, despite academic, economic, or social status, actively learn at every stage of life?

Providers of learning must be prepared to offer courses and activities for more than personal and professional learners, and begin to shift Americans’ interests toward the lifelong betterment of communities, cities, and a larger “learnlong” society.


State of Lifelong Learning: 5 New Opportunities

In a season of State of Union addresses, it seems quite fitting to offer a brief statement about the status of lifelong learning for upcoming years.

As Jeff Cobb points out in Leading the Learning Revolution, lifelong learning represents an emergent opportunity in how we deliver and consume learning. But more than that, lifelong learning has entered a phase that is no longer optional or discretionary.

In the upcoming years, lifelong learning will be mandatory, in other words, essentially required in order to sustain a better quality of life.

The long-awaited time for lifelong learning has finally come. After forty years, when Congress introduced the “Lifelong Learning Act” as an amendment to reauthorizing the well-known Higher Education Act, it unfortunately did not pass. Still the ultimate purpose of it captures the growing need to introduce federal policy that improves learning opportunities for individual citizens in local communities.

Given how learning and education have changed over four decades, such a social policy needs to be reassessed to meet the needs of multiple generations. From the mature generation, baby-boomers, GenXers, to the millennials, lifelong learning presents an opportunity for everyone, regardless of age, education level, job or social status.

With this in mind, I present five emerging opportunities for lifelong learning in the upcoming years:

1. Learning Cities: The topic of learning cities and regions represents how lifelong learning can be implemented in metropolitan areas with diverse learning needs.

2. Adjunct, Contingent, and Community College Educators: Learners and Educators are joined together in the new lifelong learning landscape such that educators who were considered on the fringes of education will now dominate a central role in the collective mainstream of higher education.

3. Lifelong Learning Policy: The historic Lifelong Learning Act only points to the need for cities and communities to begin creating social education policy that considers lifelong learning-for-all, “from cradle to the grave,” beyond traditional schooling.

4. Learning Assessment and Analytics: Data and the analysis of data will only increase in the upcoming years where lifelong learning will require formal assessment tools and analytical measures to inform decision-making to implement policies and programs.

5. Quality of Life: Issues such as obesity, diabetes, and other health concerns cannot be left to medical doctors to solve, but actually health and community issues represent an overall quality of life concern for an entire population. Public health will require lifelong learning to play a part in informing and practicing healthful actions. Lifelong learning for our quality of life includes not only health concerns, but also the multi-literacy of common problems that threaten the vitality and well-being of every community.

So the State of Lifelong Learning is extensive and in the upcoming years it will be “trans-formative” in changing mindsets, commitments, and actions for the sake of learning without end.

Learning without end: So where are we going?

Let’s take a road trip: Imagine a group of your closest friends are traveling together, passing mile-after-mile, wandering for countless hours until one of your friends asks: “Where the hell are we going?”

Everyone nervously laughs, but no one has an answer, not even you.

Notice that in this story the name of the driver of this road trip is not yet mentioned (mainly because it was not written in the script). But you can probably assume it’s you or one of your friends, but the fact remains, there is no destination with no end in sight.

(My advanced apologies), since the intent of such a story is not to set the stage for some kind of twisted horror flick; although I admit there is a scariness about going to who knows where, without any destination.

Likewise, it may appear just as uneasy about saying learning without an end, where an activity would go on aimlessly without any clear purpose or stated objective.

Anyway, let’s get back to the story. This time, all of you actually know where you’re headed, and who’s the driver! In fact, you are going to the “big city,” driven and ushered by an experienced and exceptional tour guide who knows all the sites: the best restaurants, the coolest music, and the most popular attractions.

Suddenly, the road trip is not scary at all; it’s rather exciting, inspiring, passing place after place wondering about pointing at new things at every turn that your friend smartly asks: “Where on earth are we going?”

Everyone joyfully laughs, not knowing how to answer, still somehow not caring just the same.

So the point is, what if “Learning without end” was just like that?

Going to a “Learning City” that welcomes you with all it has to offer, accompanied by a tour guide (called facilitators in the adult learning practice) seeing together the endless trip as an intellectual journey throughout a lifetime, enjoying each attraction every stage along the way.

Emotional, Social and Cognitive Competence

Week 3 of the course gets into the meat and potato of what resonant leadership is about. The module began with a reflection of two contrasting individuals. First is a subordinate or person we deeply admire, respect, like and even want to clone in our organizations and in our personal lives. And second, someone whom we wish would vanish and disappear from our personal and professional lives because of their actions, words and/or their mean-spirited nature. As I think back on these two individuals, I mentally categorized them based on their actions, language and specific instances that trigger an intense like or dislike toward each individual. Not surprisingly, the charateristics of the individual I like and wish that my world will be populated with is someone who is caring, respectful, mindfully aware of others and his own emotions, considerate, a team player, compassionate and someone who always had my back. In short, he is my vision of a resonant leader. On the other hand, the other individual seemed to bring out the worst in me as professional and as a person. Talk about emotional contagion.

These two individuals possess different compentencies in their leadership. Competencies, according to Dr. Boyatzis, are “ a set of behaviors…organized around an underlying or unconscious intent that produces effective performance”. There are three main competencies that predict effective leadership and management – emotional intelligence, social intelligence and cognitive intelligence. Example of emotional intelligence include 1) emotional self-awareness, or having the ability to be in touch with their own emotions; 2) adaptability, or being able to handle situatons of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity; 3) emotional self control, 4) positive outlook and 5) achievement orientation.

The second cluster is the social intelligence cluster which revolves around the term empathy. How do we seek to understand others? Do we even attempt to put ourselves in their shoes? Do we try to look at the problem with their lenses and concerns? Empathy is such an intricate concept, but we all know that active listening is a skill associated with empathy. It is listening with our five senses and not merely hearing with our ears. Aside from empathy, the social intelligence cluster also includes inspirational leadership, influence, conflict management, coaching and mentoring and team work.

Finally, the last cluster- cognitive competencies include systems thinking and pattern recognition. Systems thinking is “seeing the world through multiple cause and effect relationships” while pattern recognition is “being able to sense what’s going on seemingly random information”.

These are the 3 clusters of competencies that distinguish between effective leadership or performance and mediocre and/or poor leadership. Speaking of mediocre, the term threshold competencies, is introduced in this module and I am very fascinated by the label and what it illustrated. Threshold competencies are the bare minimum knowledge we have to qualify for the job to begin with. In other words, these are explicit knowledge that can be easily articulated, recorded and shared. Interesting enough, for threshold competencies, having more knowledge does not necessarily translate to outstanding leadership or performance. But what we need to aspire for is to further develop our tacit knowledge base and build on our emotional, social and cognitive competencies in order for us to move toward becoming an inspirational leader.

What are you thoughts about emotional, social and cognitive competencies? What are some ways or methods we can use aside from 360 assessments to identity our strengths in each area? How do we develop these competencies in our daily roles? How do we as adult educators encourage our students and make them aware of the imporantce of developing these compentices in their personal and professional lives?

Renewal as an Antidote to Chronic Stress

Week 2’s module on Renewal As an Antidote to Chronic Stress was a timely topic as I dove through a rough week of deadlines, presentations, chores and other family responsibilities. Indeed, emotions- both positive and negative are contagious. The saying happy wife, happy life perhaps is a good metaphor for the term emotion contagion. A happy wife spreads her energy and fills the home with much love, warmth and laughter. In the same vein, an emotionally positive individual creates a good vibe in the workplace. On the contrary, negative emotions spread like wildfire and can be passed on unconsciously. Perhaps it was a simple comment (i.e. ‘whatever’) or a brush of disregard (i.e. eye rolling) which led to the other person feeling unheard, disrespected, or undervalued. Being mindful therefore is key in order for us to be attuned to our emotions and reflect on how we impact others.

Emotional contagion does not only exhibit itself externally (e.g. behavior manifestations like laughing out loud or screaming at the top of your lungs) but neurologically as well. Mild or acute stress can activate the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). It’s scary to imagine that at the wake of stress, our body’s physiological reaction results in increased blood pressure, shallowed and uneven breathing, diminished functioning of our immune system as well as impairment in our cognition and perception. On the contrary, renewal is activated by the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Activation of the PNS results in our body neurologically rebuilding itself, strengthening of our immune system, and mentally being open to new experiences, learning and change.

How then do we engage in renewal experiences? Dr. Boyatzis suggested four ways in order to create and further enhance resonant relationships.

1. Practicing mindfulness either through meditation, yoga, tai chi, prayer and consistent physical exercise

2. Showing compassion by engaging in a healthy relationship, taking care of pets, volunteering and helping those in need

3. Emphasis on being hopeful by thinking and dialoguing with others about our personal or shared dreams, visions and purpose

4. Engaging in playfulness through laughter and doing things that bring about happy emotions

I would love to hear your thoughts on emotional contagion. What recent experience triggered extreme anger and annoyance in you? How did you react to this emotion? What is the result of your reaction to these extremely negative emotions? What about experiences of renewal? What have you done or tried that creates an opportunity for your to detox and de-stress and feel renewed, reenergized and refreshed?