Anthropology Research

Life-Long Learning Locker

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or do they?

Many of us academics are struggling with what to do with the internet, in our teaching, learning, and research. There are many resources out there, in terms of organizations that push academic frontiers for open source journals, new methods of teaching and research, and proponents and opponents of MOOC‘s, OER‘s, LMS‘s, and other acronyms. Here’s another educational buzzword for you – lifelong learning, or even better – the lifelong learning locker.

The L4 would be an adaptive learning management system. The purpose of this system would be to select educational content based on individual learning styles and observed learning behaviors. Unlike other learning systems with a similar goal, this system will be customizable and adaptive—becoming uniquely personalized and tailored for the user. This learning system will be the optimal teaching interface, by adapting to the user’s individual learning style, interests, and current skill level in that subject.

From: the National Academies Keck Future Initiative: The Informed Brain in a Digital World: Interdisciplinary Team Summaries

The National Academies Press (NAP), publishers of the proceedings above, is itself a good resource for lifelong learning since everything is free (electronic copies, that is). NAP publishes reports from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council – what people in the social sciences call a GONGO (government-organized non-governmental organization). (Here’s a link to the entry in wikipedia, another lifelong learning resource).

For lifelong learning to be attainable and widespread, the knowledge produced by academia must be accessible – open to people who are searching for it. This is the goal of many academic groups that promote “open access” – the capability to read journals and books that are many times produced with the unpaid labor of academics.

Subscriptions limit access to scientific knowledge. And when careers are made and tenures earned by publishing in prestigious journals, then sharing datasets, collaborating with other scientists, and crowdsourcing difficult problems are all disincentivized. Following 17th century practices, open science advocates insist, limits the progress of science in the 21st.

From Why is Science Behind a Paywall (

While open access is laudable, open methods are even more critical for lifelong learning. Here is where another ‘open’ is vital – open source software.

In later posts, I will overview a number of open methods that students of all kinds can explore. In the meanwhile, here are a number of links that say more about open access and open methods.