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Aug 192009
Lifelong Learning

Image by Stephen Downes via Flickr

"Lifelong learning" has become something of a buzzword in recent years.

According to the politicians it’s one of the "key drivers" for "upskilling the workforce" so they can participate in the new "knowledge economy". Buzz, buzz, and more buzz.…

But behind the rhetoric and weasel words of modern political dialogue there’s a serious message trying to break through. It’s simply this: you’re never too old to learn, and learning can and will enhance your life in all sorts of ways… perhaps not just in the areas you expect.

For some adults the decision to return to learning isn’t an easy one to make. Having been compelled to learn through the formal education system, they decide that learning perhaps isn’t for them. Children have a natural curiosity to explore and absorb the world around them — a catalyst for learning that seems absent in many adults, or if not absent then subconsciously subdued. Returning to education years, perhaps decades after leaving the formal education system can feel awkward, unnatural… perhaps even a little frightening. But legions of adult learners attest to the fact that it’s well worth stepping briefly outside your comfort zone to experience the benefits learning can bring.

The really crucial distinction between learning as an adult and learning in school is that as an adult nobody’s forcing you to sit down and listen to something you have little interest in. You’re there because you want to learn, not because somebody else dictates that you have to — and believe it or not that makes all the difference in the world.

AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, believes there are plenty of reasons why Adult Education is vital to the country, the community, families and individuals. They maintain that people who have an opportunity to continually learn and develop their skills and capacities:

  • Make our economy grow and develop
  • Ensure that their children develop a love of learning and take full advantage of education
  • Actively participate in their own communities and civil society
  • Support and respect people with different cultural beliefs and abilities
  • Respect and protect the environment for future generations
  • Nurture creativity and imagination
  • Live healthy and fulfilled lives

There’s another reason that they don’t list, but that’s crucially important: learning new things is fun, whatever your age.

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Jul 212009
Hourglass Shadow

Image by Brooks Elliott via Flickr

Time is an elusive commodity. Making effective use of your time can have a profound effect on your career and on your life in general, but unless you manage it carefully time can slip away almost without you noticing.

Consequently, time management is one of the biggest challenges in today’s workplace. Taking control of your time really could be the catalyst that will help you to achieve what you want in life, and you’ll find countless books, courses, systems and strategies out there to help you. Meanwhile, try these simple suggestions to start you on the road to increased personal productivity and success.

  • Plan your work: spending ten to fifteen minutes at the start or end of each day planning your work will help you to focus on what’s important.
    Deal with routine more effectively: examine the routine tasks you do every day with a critical eye. Can they be streamlined at all? Could some be minimised, or even eliminated altogether? You’ll be amazed how much cumulative time you can save by shaving a few precious minutes off your routine tasks.
  • Don’t waste time waiting: we all spend time waiting – waiting for appointments, waiting for the train or bus, waiting in traffic. Use that time constructively to catch up with some reading, or to work out how to move things forward on an important project.

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Jul 132009

Image via Wikipedia

Written by Philip Crosbie, The Irish Institute of Chinese Studies, UCC

(Edited for Career Moves by Calvin Jones)

Why on earth would you want to learn Chinese?

A few years ago if you’d mentioned you were going to study the culture and language of the most populous country on earth that would have been a common response. Until relatively recently our only exposure to Chinese culture was a sanitised western version of its cuisine, and kung fu films! China, for many of us, still resonates as a distant frontier, somewhere only the most intrepid of travellers would venture: a mysterious cocktail of very different peoples, alien cultures and a cripplingly complex language.

But open any newspaper, magazine or current affairs website and you can’t help but notice another news story from what has become arguably the most dynamic and fastest changing society in the world. Whether it is culture, politics or economics, China continues to change apace, and its change that has impact on a global scale. Our little island on the periphery of northern Europe may seem a world away, but for the Irish economy and Irish business, change in China really matters!

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Jul 102009
My Work Space

Image by ForestForTrees via Flickr

Employee Assistance Programmes, or EAP‘s, are becoming increasingly popular in the Irish workplace, and are helping organisations to comply with new health and safety legislation, improve productivity and retain their key staff. But what exactly are they, where did they originate and how do they benefit the average employee?

In a nutshell a modern EAP is an independent, confidential counselling and referral programme offered to employees by their employer. In very basic terms the service provides an independent channel of support to helps employees identify and address professional and personal issues before they start to impact on their performance at work.

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Jun 252009

Take a look at the non-fiction shelves of your local bookshop and you’ll find them groaning under the weight of countless self-help manuals. There are books that claim to help you find your inner anything. All you have to do is part with your hard-earned cash, make the author a smidgen richer, and invest a bit of your valuable time to be smarter, wiser, richer, happier, more attractive, better at your job… or whatever else you want.
Self help books are sweeping the world. Millions are printed every year, claiming to do everything from helping you into that “size zero” to catapulting your career into the stratosphere. The hub of this phenomenon is, of course, the United States, where, according to research company Marketdata the self help industry is set to be worth a staggering US$11 billion by 2008.

The idea of self-help books is nothing new. They’ve been around since the mid to late 1800s, when famous titles included William Maher’s “On the Road to Riches” (1874) and Edwin T Freedley’s “The Secret of Success in Life” (1876). But today they’ve gone stratospheric, and it seems we’re not just buying them, we’re also buying into them.

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Jun 172009
Digital natives

Image by angermann via Flickr

A new breed of employee is entering the Irish workplace, and according to some commentators they’re set to radically change not only the way we do business, but the way we teach it.
Young workers today are the first generation that has grown up in a “wired” world. From birth they’ve been surrounded by technology: by computers, mobile phones, the internet, e-mail, instant messaging and more. They’ve grown up with it, watching it evolve and accepting it seamlessly into every facet of their lives. It’s changed the way they think – and by extension the way they learn.
According to international education consultant and author Marc Prensky this generation of technophiles – a group he dubs “Digital Natives” – has a tremendous amount to offer employers, who should be looking to harness their unique talents.
“This generation is better than any before at absorbing information and making decisions quickly, as well as at multitasking and parallel processing. In contrast, people age 30 or older are ‘digital immigrants’ because they can never be as fluent in technology as a native who was born into it,” he explains.

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Jun 092009
03-online learning and resource production

Image by leighblackall via Flickr

Not so long ago learning new skills meant taking time out to go to college, enrolling on a training course or wading through mountains of books, but the internet is changing all of that.
E-learning is revolutionising the way Irish people learn. Now all you need is a PC with a broadband internet connection and you can “attend” a course on practically anything from the comfort of your own home.

What is E-Learning

E-learning is an exciting new form of distance learning that harnesses the power of the internet to deliver interactive course material online. The beauty of E-Learning is its flexibility: you learn at your own pace, at times that suit you, from any computer with an internet connection anywhere in the world.
You don’t have to travel to the classroom – the classroom comes to you. Course material is available 24/7, and with newer e-learning technologies you can even attend “live” online classrooms and interact with your tutor and “classmates” in real time.
In fact, you can cover almost anything you can accomplish in a traditional classroom or training room, all from the comfort of your own PC.

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