I reckon that more of us are intentionally learning in this moment than we have in recent history.
We’re gathering information, listening to peers, politicians, pundits and hopefully trusted people in the media. We’re brushing up on areas we’ve stored away since grammar school and asking questions about things that weren’t within our line of sight before. We’re doing our homework on people we may have had no clue about a few months or even a few days ago.
We’re immersing ourselves in the issues because knowing is a necessity. It always has been. But right now, knowledge is akin to survival. In the United States we have enjoyed the luxury of not thinking too hard about our day-to-day welfare, our rights, our dreams. Those things were ours to hold in our hands and cherish, exercise or to take for granted.
Today, however, innumerable conversations are dominated by concerns that those rights may be snatched from our grasp. So, here we are learning, broadening our perspectives, challenging ourselves, empathizing with one another and taking action.
The 2017 women’s marches around the globe offered one example. The speed with which attorneys and protestors rushed to fight President Trump’s recent anti-Muslim, anti-refugee ban offered another. Though mainstream media has been pummeled by the current administration and its proponents, news organizations including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal saw a post-election bump in subscribers attributable to public support for press freedoms and a desire for reliable information.
The shift is especially apparent on social media platforms like Instagram where posts covering a range of topics like cooking, lifestyle and pop culture have given way to reactions to the latest news or rumors in Washington, D.C., infographics about policy implications, and short but perceptive observations on past world history and current world affairs.
If in the past, people were lulled into the perception of comfort, current events require that they “stay woke” and keep learning. Much of this has to do with our proximity to the issues on the table. Thanks to the increasingly diverse learning landscape in the United States, and advances in communication technology that have expanded our access to and understanding of the physical, cultural and intellectual world beyond our borders, to walk about this country untouched by the day’s vulnerabilities is a near impossibility.
While uncertain times have unfortunately fueled this new always-on learning culture, so too have some overarching objectives like sustaining our civil liberties. To those of us long obsessed with current events, there is beauty in that. That a real and perceived crisis has brought us to this point, while woeful, is understandable. But how do we sustain this culture?
On a large scale? I have no clue. In a corporate setting? The motivating principles of adult learning theories are swirling all around us — compelling us to turn down our entertainment and tune into current events. Those basic principles around emotional appeal, relevancy, goals and practicality are pulling at people’s heartstrings and consciousness and encouraging them to be well-versed in the issues of these times.
As much as we discuss modern learners and how to transform learning delivery methods to reach and connect with them, remembering the fundamentals that define adult learning are as germane as ever. So, hold those basics close, learning leaders. Use them boldly and decisively to develop a workforce of learners who drive your businesses forward.
As you can see, the basics have power.
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.