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Barry Nyhan, Neamhspleach, Dublin, Ireland and Visiting Fellow, University of Bremen, Germany Presentation at ‘Trainers in Europe’ on-line

conference, 4-5 November 2008

Lifelong learning and the role of trainers : learning for ‘mass innovation’ rather than ‘mass qualification’ Lifelong learning (LLL) has been accepted world-wide as the overall goal for trainers (educators, learning specialists, tutors, learning moderators etc) to address. However in reality LLL is a hazy concept that has been interpreted in many diverse ways. Two notions of LLL are discussed in their short paper. According to the first, LLL is seen as synonymous with gaining more and more qualifications throughout one’s life. As a consequence, the role of trainers is to ensure that these qualifications are continuously acquired (produced). This can be termed a ‘mass qualification’ notion of LLL. However, it is argued that this represents an overly academic, formalistic and ‘paperqualification’ perspective on LLL that meets only a small percentage of the population. Effectively it is nothing more that a reinvention of ‘recurrent (formal) education’. This is neither desirable nor indeed possible from a cost point of view. In fact it also leads to an inflation of educational qualifications where, as the years go by, higher and higher levels of qualifications are demanded for the same job. If carried to extremes it fosters more the creation of ‘education businesses’ for the benefit of educational institutes rather that promoting society’s ability to learn to continuosly rediscover and reinvent itself. Furthermore, it misses where most people say that they are learning, which is outside educational institutes in ‘informal learning’ contexts such as – ‘getting together with other people’ ( 63%) ‘leisure activities’ (51 %) learning on the job (44%) as distinct from ‘at school, college or university (17%) (Reference : Cedefop, 2003) ‘Mass innovation’ notion of LLL The second concept of LLL, which is named here as the ‘mass innovation’ notion of LLL, focuses on facilitating and promoting informal learning. This means that learning pervades all dimensions of living and working and takes place continuously throughout one’s life. It is about learning to be continuously innovative in planning for the future, finding and giving meaning to one’s life and grappling with one’s personal and working life problems. The goal is to learn to improve the quality and effectiveness of the way one conducts one’s personal, social and working life. This kind of LLL is pervasive, expansive and situation based. It is ‘life wide’ as the Nordics describe it and driven by people themselves. Perhaps a good way of understanding the above is to compare health policies with educational policies. Effective and efficient health policies are not so much about encouraging people to be attend hospitals or clinics to be treated there, but rather facilitating people to engage in healthy lifestyles in their everyday lives that promote their wellbeing. The aim is to be proactive and preventative rather than reactive.

Similarly LLL is about adopting learning lifestyles in the situations one finds oneself to shape one’s future. Trainers’ role is to support the formation of learning communities However one cannot learn on one’s own, it has to be supported by a community of learning, and this is where the trainer comes in - supporting communities to learn. The challenge for the modern trainer (in particular the vocational education trainer) is to be a catalyst and moderator in developing people’s capacity to continuously innovate in their unique social and work contexts. A major role of educational and training institutes therefore should be unleashing the capacity of leaders in work places and other social institutions to be strategic agents for social and economic innovation in their communities/organizations. This is an actionoriented and change notion of LLL. It is constructivist learning and not merely learning universalist theories and frameworks, even if the latter make are an essential component in the overall learning construction. The main emphasis is on learning to make judgements in the ‘here and now’ that respect decent social norms and foster people’s entrepreneurship. It is about spreading learning into every corner of society, a type of learning characterised by a combination of practice and reflection, sharing, conversation and collaboration. Concluding points The qualification awarding notion of LLL is concerned with knowledge that can be certified, that is rational, compartmentalised, modularised and universalised, in other words, formal knowledge. In contrast, the innovation notion of LLL is concerned with ng knowledge that is characterized by context, uniqueness, the local, the personal, the integration of the social, economic and technological and the integration of the formal with the informal. Web technologies can be used by trainers to promote both of these type of LLL. The computer is being used widely to address the qualification agenda through assisting in the systematisation, administration, and assessment of formal learning. However, although it is a powerful tool to promote informal learning through facilitating dialogue and collaboration in the production of new knowledge, it is grossly underutilized here. The web-based learning technology challenge for trainers is to maximize the use of social software for mass learning for innovation along the lines outlined above.