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An education cliche - that isn't a cliche

By Lew Cox

Every person reading this verbiage has probably been in anywhere from one to several classes where the professor/teacher has solemnly intoned, "You need to be a lifelong learner." At the time, if you were like me, you probably thought some version of "Yeah, yeah," and didn't put the comment down in your most important notes. The phrases "lifelong learner" and "lifelong learning" have been used so often in education circles that they have become a cliché. Yet, they aren't one.

We are all lifelong learners. We have no choice. We soak up information on a daily basis from birth until death. The input comes from life’s experiences, as well as from all media, including printed and electronic. Again, we have no choice. Some of the material to which we are exposed sticks in our brain, whether or not we want it to happen. For example, think of the music/song you have heard in passing and then find yourself humming or silently singing it interminably.

As the technology, hardware, and software of electronic communication have grown exponentially, and have moved from primarily corporate to very personal, we are bombarded by learning opportunities from the time we arise to the time we go to sleep. We learn, in the broadest definition of the word, throughout every day. As noted above, whether or not we wish it, some of the content with which we are hit daily, sticks. Whether the content is true or false, some of it sticks in our mind. We have no choice. Then, we get to the inevitable "but" in this conversation.

The fact is, although we have no choice in being lifelong learners, we do have many choices on what we learn and how we learn it. It is often reported (in another medium) that our young people know more about Hollywood gossip than they do about current events. You can avail yourself of the same gossip learning, or you can choose to learn more of the developments in the body of knowledge of industrial engineering, business, et al. The first choice might make you more of an interesting conversationalist at a generic social gathering. The second choice will make you of continuing value as an industrial engineer (read "continually employed" and "employable").

Your Institute actively searches for new ways to serve its constituents (that is you) by helping in your continuing and continual education. To this end, IIE has taken advantage of the many electronic social media outlets to expand your learning opportunities As members of IIE, you are encouraged to make use of the full range of media from printed (such as the printed version of Industrial Engineer magazine) through conferences at all levels (from student to regional to international), through on-site company seminars, to webinars.

Utilizing electronic and social media in your lifelong learning serves two purposes: 1) It gives you more opportunities to stay up-to-date on the IIE body of knowledge; and 2) By necessity, updating your knowledge via social media requires your learning how to use social media, and the HR Department of your employers and prospective employers will almost certainly be well-versed in their use, and will be interested in your knowledge of them.

The more you take advantage of IIE’s lifelong learning initiatives, the more you will be staying current, the more the Institute staff and members will be pleased, and the more the Institute will grow.

Be a deliberate, selective, and non-clichéd lifelong IE learner.

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