September 1997 // Vision
Lifelong Teaching and Lifelong Learning:
One Vision Worth Working Toward
by Steven W. Gilbert
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Steven W. Gilbert "Lifelong Teaching and Lifelong Learning:
One Vision Worth Working Toward" The Technology Source, September 1997. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

With respect to educational uses of information technology, most institutions are already past the point of no return--but don't know where they're going. Information technology is being adopted before the institution develops a clear Vision of how to improve teaching and learning with technology. The increasing investments of institutional resources and individual time in academic uses of technology demand more coherence and direction.

Every college or university (or school) needs a Vision to focus the hopes and work of its members; a picture of a preferred future that might be realized if enough people believe in it and work to achieve it. A "Vision Worth Working Toward" is more than a prediction, wish, or nightmare. A prediction is a description of the future likely to occur independent of anyone's preference or labor. A wish is a piece of the future someone hopes will happen without any special effort. A nightmare is just a glimpse of a future to be feared and avoided. Those three components do not comprise a vision—not separately and not even in combination. The vision we are referring to is an overall, goal oriented plan, ensuring that each individual, department, college or university cab have its own (feasible and desirable) "Vision Worth Working Toward" to focus efforts and guide decisions.

In addition to raising issues and consciousness of them, I hope our work will result in a set of modules. These modules should enable an institution or individual to select, assemble, and adapt a combination that becomes its own unique and useful Vision Worth Working Toward.

I'm now working on "Lifelong Teaching & Lifelong Learning" as my own basic Vision Worth Working Toward. I'm trying to fit elements of some other Visions within it. This Vision is based on some fundamental tenets:

There is a growing need for people to continue learning throughout their lifetimes -- both for employment and direct improvement of the quality of life; - Truly "lifelong" learning will require more educational resources, including teaching, than our society is currently committing to education; - Most people have a deep urge to teach (when "teaching" is most broadly defined); - Many people can learn best by teaching; and - Information technology can help achieve both Lifelong Teaching and Lifelong Learning.

For a more detailed earlier exploration of "Lifelong Teaching and Lifelong Learning," see AAHESGIT posting #150 6/19/97 or

Three other important Vision themes to be pursued within "Lifelong Teaching and Lifelong Learning":

  1. Universal Participation in Education Technology can and must be used to make top quality education available to people independent of wealth, race, gender, nationality, or disability.
  2. Organizing for Teaching and Learning Faculty and students must be enabled to select from and effectively use the fullest possible range of media, teaching/learning approaches, instructional materials, etc. – even including but not restricted to the use of conventional campuses and options for assembling people together in the same place at the same time. [If education is not "campus-centered," what defines an educational institution? Probably those who devote their efforts "full-time" to teaching/learning--the faculty!]
  3. Supporting the Human Spirit in Education: Although education can and must enable people to get jobs and build careers, it can and must also contribute directly to improving the quality of life. Technology can and must support education that enables people to engage more directly and effectively with the arts and with their own bodies. Education can and must help people connect with other people, with ideas, with the human spirit, and with love.

What are the implications of this Vision? What are some steps toward achieving it? How can information technology be used to advance it? In what ways could information technology prevent the achievement of this Vision?

What can you do individually? What can your institution do?

Parting Gift: Quote from Pagels

The collaborative efforts you support within the TLTR Program often focus on taking more thoughtful control of your own work and your institutions' educational strategies. It is also important for you to know when and how to let go. As I prepare to leave AAHESGIT for a few weeks, I can't think of a better ending than the quotation that follows. I recommend you read the full article "Far Apart, 2 Particles Respond Faster Than Light" by Malcolm W. Browne on pages B7 & B11, 7/22/97 in the New York Times. Browne concludes with these paragraphs:

"The late Rockefeller University physicist Heinz Pagels, like many other theorists, believed that quantum physics is a kind of code that interconnects everything in the universe, including the physical basis of life itself. In his book 'The Cosmic Code,' Dr. Pagels, an ardent mountain climber, wrote: 'I often dream about falling. Such dreams are commonplace to the ambitious or those who climb mountains. Lately I dreamed I was clutching at the face of a rock, but it would not hold. Gravel gave way. I grasped for a shrub, but it pulled loose, and in cold terror I fell into the abyss. Suddenly I realized that my fall was relative; there was no bottom and no end. A feeling of pleasure overcame me. I realized that what I embody, the principle of life, cannot be destroyed. It is written into the cosmic code, the order of the universe. As I continued to fall in the dark void, embraced by the vault of the heavens, I sang to the beauty of the stars and made my peace with the darkness."
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