Life Long Learners


Working in the field of higher education, we may naturally assume our primary duties are to instruct, educate and inform – to provide our students with the valuable skillsets they require – and to prepare them for future opportunities.  But, increasingly, our ability to prepare our students depends on the expansion of our own knowledge – and our ability to be both educators and life long learners.

The dual impact of globalization and advanced technology is changing our world – and the nature of higher education with it.  Our colleges and universities are now home to flipped classrooms, mobile apps and MOOCs – and more technology changes are on the horizon (NMC Report, 2013).

As leaders we have to embrace these changes, examine how best to utilize them and share them in our classroom environments with our students.  At our university, we have a university wide initiative that provides faculty and staff with free hands-on training of new technology in education.  We are encouraged to explore the use of podcasting, echo 360, online and a host of other applications and determine what technology is appropriate for our students and for our particular programs.

Internally at our school, we meet once a week with our chief technology officer to discuss issues with existing technology, discuss new technology products and services that are available and to brainstorm ideas for program and classroom innovation.  As the result of such meetings, we recently launched a hybrid degree and non-credit program that features online technology and mobile applications.

We also must take advantage of external learning opportunities for faculty and staff.  Next month, for instance, we will travel to the UPCEA and ACE conference in California to meet with colleagues to discuss online and new technology innovations in education (Summit, 2013).  We also attend regional events and training sessions on technology and tap the resources of our colleagues at partner institutions. One such organization is JesuitNET, which provides a variety of programs and conferences which highlight how Catholic and Jesuit institutions can better integrate technology into the educational experience (JesuitNET, 2013).

As we have learned, ever-changing technology in the flat-world environment in which we exist will keep educators very busy.  To keep pace with such change, we must be both teacher and student – life long learners.  Our days may be longer – but they will hopefully be far more interesting and engaging.


The NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition. (2013). Stanford, CA.  Retrieved from

The Summit for Online Leadership & Strategy. (2013).  Washington, DC.  Retrieved from

The Jesuit Distance Education Network – JesuitNET. (2013).  Washington, DC.  Retrieved from










9 thoughts on “Life Long Learners

  1. arizona126 says:

    Great point that our role as educators is not simply to expand knowledge of our students but to do so for ourselves as well – especially as it relates to the evolution of technology. I wonder how much easier it will be for future generations who will only know life with iPads and computers. For those of us who learned on typewriters and chalkboards, sometimes embracing technology has been challenging. I have been one of those who have embraced new gadgets and approaches head-on but not everyone has the time or the interest to learn all that is out there and new.

    Another role I think we play as leaders is to be aware of the potential downside or negative impact of technology. I read an article this week that some people find giving up their technology “as stressful as getting married!”–Thursday-hardest-day-quit.html

    The article contained some interesting facts including one that suggested that 45% percent of people use their phone at least once per hour. It is facts and trends like this one that will likely affect everything we do in the future – including our role as leaders, educators, and students.

  2. Neat post…and it reminds me that “lifelong learning” aligns with the Ignatian Charisms of personal growth.

    In my formative years, one of my bosses remarked that I was hired not because of what I had accomplished in the past, but for what I would accomplish in the future. That forward-looking attitude has flavored much of my own leadership…and it suggests that we all need to be lifelong learners…and in today’s wirearchy…connected to other lifelong learners through networked affiliations.

  3. swaggin94 says:

    Hi Jim. Great post. In reflecting on what you said about leaders must embrace technology changes, I was reminded when my company rolled out our worker remote policy. At first, the vast majority of my peers and I did not adopt because some of our managers communicated that they did not agree with the policy. In response, the working remotely team responsible for the diffusion of the project went to our senior manager and asked him to impress upon his team that they embrace the change and technology. More specifically, he required each manager on his team to work from home to demonstrate to us that it was acceptable. This was an inflection point in the rate of adoption of the policy which subsequently increased. The case above shows that leaders, to reiterate what you said, must embrace technological change! Regards, Peter

    • Peter, that is a great idea about having senior leadership try out and model new behavior! It moves the infection point forward.

    • jvap2013 says:

      Kudos to your leadership and managers, Peter, for embracing and enabling change. As you know, there are too many managers who often ask employees to “Do as they Say – not Do as they Do.” Such actions don’t reflect the leadership characteristics of Ignatius or promote harmony and engagement in the workforce.

      • swaggin94 says:

        Hi Jim and Dr. Watwood, Had the approach not been taken, we may still be physically working at the office. One manager in particular was the holdout. People feared there might be repercussions. Once her boss said do it, it all changed. Honestly, she works from home today! Proof leadership matters. Peter

  4. gbarnes05 says:

    I truly enjoyed reading your post. I agree that it is important for leaders to embrace the role of teacher and student to help create opportunities for life-long learning. I think that part of this life- long learning process requires us to remain flexible enough to develop the ability to become open to new ways of thought through collaboration and embracing diversity. Freidman (2007) explained, “The first, and most important, ability you can develop in a flat world is the ability to ‘learn how to learn’- to constantly absorb, and teach yourself, new ways of doing of things or new ways of doing new things” (p. 309). I think that the internal and external learning opportunities that you presented in your post helps to demonstrate how technology has allowed your faculty and staff to keep pace with rapid change and provide a better educational experience. Perhaps most important, it would seem that the use of technology to interact with others and provide additional learning experiences has motivated, inspired and engaged the faculty and staff to ensure that continuous learning opportunities will occur to allow the organization to grow and develop as the world becomes flatter. In addition, the use of technology has introduced and inspired faculty and staff to new ways of viewing their experience, which allows them to seek new ways of doing things or developing new methods to improve upon old concepts. As Friedman (2007) stated, “To learn how to learn, you have to love learning-or you have to at least enjoy it- because so much learning is about being motivated to teach yourself. And while it seems that some people are born with that motivation, many others can develop it or have it implanted with the right teacher (or parent)” (p. 310).



    Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York, NY: Picador

  5. I enjoyed reading your post. Throughout or program at Creighton University, we always reflect and many discussions come back to improving our own self while impacting others. You are right when you said that educators must be lifelong learners and be willing to adapt and learn along with their students. I found it interesting that your institution offers free technology training. This is a great idea that many other organizations and higher education entities should take notice of. How soon do you think these trainings will be required or will they ever be required? Since technology and changing at a faster rate now more than ever, do you see trainings to be offered more often to keep up with the changing technology? How can leaders of your institution encourage adapting and using technology while keeping employee engagement and morale high?

    • jvap2013 says:

      As of now, the free training that is provided by the University is open to all faculty and staff but not required. The response rate to the sessions seems to be good – and the best publicity for this initiative is certainly word of mouth. Once someone has taken a course and communicated their increased use of technology to their colleagues, interest seems to grow in future sessions. At some point, there may be an issue for those late adopters who simply don’t have the interest or feel the need to integrate technology into their courses. The hope is that this group will diminish in numbers as more faculty and staff experience a comfort level with the training and the resulting increased ease of use with new technology.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s