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Self-Directed Learning Is Good For Both Society And The Individual
"Cyberspace does not belong to any single group and, because it is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere, it does not lend itself to conventional terrestrial legal mechanisms. Nevertheless, it is vital to create a sense of trust in the technology for learning purposes, and to protect the interests of the relatively powerless and marginalised against the might of large players, especially multinational corporations or those who might seek to exploit the digital domain unfairly or to compromise learners' access to needed information."
Source: Linking Thinking - Self-directed Learning in the Digital Age
Photo credit: Gretchen Linn
"This is a remarkable report, much more revolutionary than it may appear at first glance, and worthy of detailed consideration.
The author argues, in essence, that the internet enables a great deal of self-directed or informal learning, that learning in this way is viable, that there is an increasing demand for it, that government and institutions can do little to control it, but that it serves not only an economic role but also is a foundation for civil society.
In order to support self-directed learning, two major things must be in place:
1) universal access to the internet,
access that goes well beyond merely placing computers in libraries and shopping malls, and
2) access to knowledge and information,
a vast amount of which is in danger of being captured from the public domain and commercialized."
Source: Stephen Downes
The author does an excellent job of revisiting the dual themes of self-directed learning and the digital revolution, and places them into the context of discourses about lifelong learning and the development of a Learning Society more generally.
From the original study:
"This study was undertaken to explore the extent to which and ways in which Information and Communication Technologies or ICT (basically global networks of computers and other associated digital devices) have impacted on learning.
Instead of looking at learning in formal education and training settings, I have chosen to consider the dynamics of independent self-directed learning, especially that which is undertaken by adults.
The six major conditions that must be met in order for people (or for that matter organisations and communities) to be able to participate in the digital world.
- Connectivity: An essential precondition for online engagement;
- Competence: Developing a range of vital skills;
- Content: Ensuring affordable access to quality digital resources;
- Credibility and confidentiality: The basis of trust in the unseen;
- Capturing information: Locating needed information in the boundless domain of Cyberspace; and
- Collaboration: Realising the transformative potential of technologies.
It is argued that these six 'threshold issues' are cumulative, with each one providing the context for those that follow it in sequence; the author also proposes an innovative six-part model of online learning, whose six components are:
- Engaging with online learning;
- Locating information and resources;
- Evaluating the quality of digital resources;
- Assimilating information;
- Reconceptualising understandings; and
Although there is a great deal of 'hype' about hypermedia, there can be little doubt that we are in the midst of one of the most dramatic movements in human history, and that in significant measure this is due to recent advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). It may be true that computers in various forms have been with us for half a century and communication technologies for even longer; however, their transformational effect arises partly from combining them in unique and unprecedented ways, and partly from their increasing ubiquity and ease of use.
Self-directed learning occurs without the ideological or pedagogical overlay of teaching in formal education and training settings, and thus provides a more direct route into understanding the actual dynamics of and relationship(s) between learning and technologies;
Self-directed learning is the prototype of all learning and, since it has been extensively researched and documented in the pre-digital or offline world it seems potentially fruitful to explore whether and how it has been affected by digital technologies;
There is a close relationship between self-directed learning and that which occurs in formal education and training settings, in the sense that self-directed learning is often a precursor to, sometimes a consequence of, and increasingly accompanied by participation in formal courses of study; a relationship that seems likely to grow closer with the development and spread of digital technologies.
Within the context of lifelong learning, self-directed learning is one key way in which people keep up with change and, since we are currently experiencing an unprecedented level and pace of change on a global scale, it is plausible to expect the demands of a changing world to lead to greater amounts of self-directed learning.
Full Report: PDF (921KB)