The motivating power of good questions

Earlier today I had a short Twitter exchange with Alison Seaman (@alisonseaman) about some resources she found and shared related to new work on web and digital literacies. I noted in the exchange that I am very interested in the work on digital literacy specifically from the perspective of adult learners (in contrast to children and young adult learners).

She tweeted back: “Indeed. Literacy q’s also keep bringing me back to this question, which I think is related,” adding a link to a blog post she wrote in late 2011 titled “Adult education and lifelong learning orientations in the organisation: are adult learners ready?” [my emphasis]

What a great question.

Alison writes thoughtfully in her piece as she explores this issue. But two key points stick out for me:

  • We speak within organizations of the need for “continuous learning,” but how often do we consider the ability of adults to self-reflect in order to know how and what to self-improve? (My hunch: Close to never. Rather we tell them what they should “continuously learn” about because we supposedly know best.)
  • Most adults have a tendency to learn enough to become proficient – or “good enough” – and then stop there. I found this a key point in thinking about adults and digital literacy.

So we have at least a two-headed-monster problem here. We need to deeply consider whether adults can learn to continuously learn (is that self-reflective muscle strong or underutilized?). And then we need to overcome the tendency to just-get-good-enough.

I see this dynamic unfold (and feel it myself, frankly) in thinking about the development of digital literacies. It’s hard work to go from simply “being on” Twitter to turning Twitter and other social media into productive tools in a personal learning network. It takes persistence. Skill-building. Self-reflection. And a whole lot of social support. Not simply to become good at the technicalities of working social media tools, but to benefit from the broad and deep learning that an effective personal learning network can generate.

So what’s the motivation to move through all of that? I think it’s good questions. “Are adults truly ready to continuously learn? And what would an environment look like that truly fostered the ability for adults to learn to continuously learn?” Those work for me.

What are yours?

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