Education And Health – Learning Is Good For The Brain And The Body

Never underestimate the benefits of a good education. Thomas Jefferson would have hit the nail right on the head if instead of putting, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, he instead penned the words, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Health and Education.”

Education, health and happiness are inextricably linked, according to an increasing number of studies pointing to a direct connection between education and quality of life. A conversation about quality living would most assuredly have to include references to strength, stamina, vigor… all by-products of good health.

The highway of education is paved with a fundamental and far-reaching approach to learning that forges knowledge in a variety of subjects, including health. Once you have the knowledge, it then becomes much easier to make the right decisions throughout life about health and everything else.

“Knowledge is power,” wrote author Veronica Roth. Knowledge opens doors, breaks down barriers and levels the playing field. Without it, we wander through life unaware of the possibilities around us and unsure of the decisions in front of us. With it, we are able to recognize the good and bad in things and make decisions based on observation, intelligence and informed judgment.

After learning about the concept of healthy living, and as happens with many of life’s daily responsibilities when accompanied by knowledge, a process of education ignites within us. Because our brain has absorbed information important for being healthy, we begin the process of learning how to be healthy. The cycle continues.

To answer the questions introduced from this new awareness, we then focus on those things which help us accomplish our goal of achieving and maintaining wellness. Suddenly, our brain prompts our body to make the necessary adjustments which can promote a healthy lifestyle in us. In a short amount of time, health becomes something you think about more than only when you must.

Health is primarily defined as ‘a state of complete emotional and physical well-being’. Achieving optimum health and wellness is a challenge for everybody, educated or not. However, having the knowledge necessary to attain and maintain good health, is a perfect example of how learning can positively affect every aspect of your daily existence.

Dr. Seuss had it right, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more things you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Ideally a life-long process, learning stimulates the brain, triggers a physical response, and helps to identify almost unlimited avenues of education. Education, in turn, creates a foundation for life which translates, almost unconsciously, across limitless aspects of life, including health and wellness.

Numerous studies have established the importance and long-term benefits of early childhood education on a person’s well-being. According to the Economic Opportunity Institute, “Early childhood learning plays a crucial role in primary education. By focusing early in childhood on prevention and protective factors, quality care and information can help children to grow up healthy.”

The report went on to state, “… quality early learning and care before the age of five has found it is associated with improvement in a range of educational and social measures, some of which have been documented many years after the care.”

While it has been proven that genetic characteristics structured in our DNA do certainly play a role in health and longevity, addressing the core issue of education – early and continued engaged learning – can provide a wide array of positive benefits for the brain, the body, and for society in general.

Video Games and Theories of Learning: Spotlight on JP Gee and Howard Gardner

Plenty of people in all stages of their lives are fascinated by video games. The games practice can be long, difficult, and challenging, yet the players consider it fun and inspiring. It is hard not to admit that playing games has social and cultural significance in our society. According to J. P. Gee (2003), there are learning principles (LP) that are built into good video games. But these principles do not necessarily boost learning. Several factors are necessary for learning to occur in games and perhaps develop intelligences in the semiotic domain of the daily life. Gee teaches that there are thirty-six learning principles possible to be found and developed in games.

To explain this, Gee defines games as semiotic domain (SD), which, in turn, is part of the wider SD of everyday life. So to speak, a SD is a certain division of the world (whether a location, practice, field of study, etc.) and it can encompass sub-domains. For instance, first and third-person shooter games are a well-defined sub-domain of the games SD. By introducing the concept of SD to games studies, Gee gives us examples of SD like rap, modernist paintings and games of the genre first person shooter. Gee believes that to achieve learning from a SD is necessary three things: 1) learn to experience the world in different ways, 2) learn to form affiliations with members of the SD, and 3) learn how to gain the necessary resources for future learning and problem solving in the domain, as well as in related domains. As we can see, Gee seeks to approximate games to a broader definition of literacy that involves different types of “visual literacy.” Following this notion of literacy, people are literate in a domain only if they are able to recognize and produce meanings in the field. Furthermore, Gee proposes that we think of literacy as inherently connected to social practices. In fact, in the contemporary culture, articulate language (spoken, gestural, or written) is not the only important communication system. Nowadays, images, symbols, charts, diagrams, equations, artifacts and many other visual symbols play a particularly important role in our daily lives. For example, it is important to learn visual literacy to “read” the pictures in an advertisement. Furthermore, words and images are juxtaposed or integrated in many ways: in magazines, newspapers, textbooks, software, etc. Images take more space and have meanings that can be independent of the words in texts. In this sense, games are multimodal texts. They combine moving images and music with language.

Given the various forms of human activity in the complex society we live in, it becomes necessary to develop a new model of intelligence that allows us to embrace a pluralistic view of intelligence. Howard Gardner’s (1983) influential definition of intelligence was developed by means of a model of seven basic intelligences known as the theory of multiple intelligences (MI). MI represents a broader and more pragmatic view of human nature. The eight intelligences are defined as the following skills:

1) to use language with competence (linguistic),

2) to use logical reasoning in mathematics and science (logical-mathematical),

3) to perceive details of the visual-spatial world and to manipulate objects in mind (spatial),

4) to understand, create and enjoy music and musical concepts (musical),

5) to use the body skillfully (bodily-kinesthetic);

6) to recognize subtle aspects of the behavior of others and respond appropriately to them (interpersonal),

7 ) to understand the one’s own feelings (intrapersonal), and

8) to recognize patterns and differences in nature (naturalist).

These categories or intelligences represent elements that can be found in all cultures, namely music, words, logic, paintings, social interaction, physical expression, inner reflection and appreciation of nature. Thus, unlike a learning style, which is a general approach that the individual can apply equally to any content imaginable, intelligence, to Gardner, is a capability with its own processes that are geared to specific contents in the world (e.g., musical sounds or spatial patterns).

From this perspective, Gee (2003) and Gardner (1983) value the interplay between learning and skills present in everyday life (culture) of people. So when we think about the SD approach, as developed by Gee, we realized that the interaction between both theories, the SD of everyday life, the largest existing set – where the intelligences are located – encompasses the SD of games. Note that Gardner points out that one of the goals of his endeavor is to examine the educational implications of a theory of multiple intelligences. Considering that, Gee listed thirty-six learning principles present in games, and considering the importance and popularity of games in contemporary culture, it seems interesting to begin to investigate how the learning principles can relate to the multiple intelligences. So we discuss here some possibilities of association between these theories. To accomplish this, the question we want to take up is this: What can the learning principles built into good games could do for the development of multiple intelligences, which are so important to everyday life? In other words: What is the relationship between these semiotic domains? To answer this, we have used the following research methodology: literature review, research on websites, observation of games, construction of the model of interaction between the two learning proposals, and analysis of the model.

Gee describes thirty-six learning principles which can be found in games. It is noteworthy that not all learning principles listed by the author are necessarily found on a single game – there is the possibility that a game conveys one or more of these principles. The analysis shows that to develop one or more intelligences, the learner must be immersed in one or more semiotic domains which have the conditions and qualities needed to facilitate its development. For example: there is no use to an apprentice of a sport modality to have access to only one modality for the full development of his Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence, he needs to have access to various sports, namely various sub semiotic domains which are part of the larger semiotic domain of the sports. Besides that, there are other extrinsic and intrinsic factors (motivation, injuries, and appropriate training materials, etc.) that are important to succeed in the entire domain, like a sport modality. Examples of several prominent athletes demonstrate this fact: Formula 1 drivers, MMA fighters and Olympic athletes. In this sense, our research shows the existence of a binomial unexcelled: without learning principles, there are no good games, while without the valorization of a domain in the semiotic domain of everyday life there is no way forward within that domain. Thus, multiple intelligences cannot be fully developed in certain cultural contexts and the learning principles are worthless in these contexts

Moreover, the Interpersonal intelligence is very important in learning. We found that it is associated to thirty of the thirty-six learning principles. The Interpersonal intelligence clearly arises from cooperative work, community involvement, simulations of large groups, dedication to social issues, etc. Precisely the importance of Interpersonal intelligence, as Gardner notes, has been reduced in the contemporary educational scene: the sensitivity to other individuals as individuals and the ability to collaborate with others are increasingly less important now than it did in the past. Thus, we believe that the results of the comparison between these theories put into question the ways we design and manage education in its various spheres. For this reason, we believe that further analysis of the intersection of the theories studied here may help us in both the use of games as a pedagogical proposal and in thinking about education.

The association between both theories seemed productive for us to reflect on games and learning in general. Firstly, it should be noted that not all games can promote all learning principles. This is because there are many factors in the semiotic domain of everyday life that can hinder learning and development of multiple intelligences. And this occurs even when the game conveys the learning principle or the basic conditions to develop them, which demonstrates a close association between the principles and intelligences.

Secondly, the Interpersonal intelligence is associated to thirty learning principles. This demonstrates the complexity of learning and consequently shows the challenges that contemporary education must face. In fact, the study of the interaction between the theories can help us think about new ways of teaching and learning inside and outside of school. It seems that the relevance of Gee’s is in highlighting the importance of games culturally and for learning, while Gardner’s learning theory emphasizes the necessity of favorable conditions (environment, mentors, cultural appreciation, etc.) for the development of skills. We should remember that skills or intelligences are valued differently between cultures.

We believe that good video games represent, in fact, opportunities for direct and indirect learning of content and skills in the semiotic domain of everyday life, given its intimate link to the majority of the intelligences.

Work cited

Howard Gardner. Frames of mind. The theory of multiple intelligences (New York: Basic Books, 1983).

James P. Gee. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (New York: Palgrave, 2003).

Lifelong Learning and Workplace Learning: Relevant Education for a Knowledge-Based Economy

Introduction

Education is a human right issue for both personal enrichment and development. The Namibian Constitution made a provision for all people to have access to education. This is also supported by goal 4 for Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 4 aim to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Today’s world is ever changing rapidly, in terms of social, economic, political and digital connectivity and usage. The changes requires individuals to adapt and adopt by acquiring relevant new knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies in a wide range of settings to remain relevant and unlimited. Lifelong learning opportunities would enable the acquisition of such relevant new knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies, for individuals to meet life’s challenges, remain relevant and sustain their lives, communities and societies in this digital world.

According to Toffler (1970) “the illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”. Lifelong learning is about learning, unlearning and relearning through acquiring and updating all kinds of abilities, interests, knowledge and qualifications from the pre-school years to post retirement.

Learning means the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught. Unlearning is seen as deleting and replacing obsolete knowledge. Relearning means learn material that has been previously learned and then forgotten. Lifelong learning activities promote the development of knowledge and competencies that will enable adaptations to knowledge-based societies, while at the same time valuing all forms of learning. Lifelong learning (LL) is therefore an indispensable guiding principle of educational development.

The commonly understood definition of lifelong learning is ‘all learning undertaken throughout life which is on-going, voluntary and self-motivated in the pursuit of knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies for either personal or professional reasons.

What is Lifelong Learning?

The provision of learning through formal, informal and non-formal learning opportunities throughout people’s lives with the purpose of fostering continuous development and improvement of knowledge and skills needed for employment, community service and/or personal fulfilment. As could be deduced from this definition, lifelong learning is all-encompassing and integral to the vision of a knowledge-based economy and/or society. Lifelong learning can enhance our understanding of the world around us, provide us with more and better opportunities and improve our quality of life.

Types/categories of lifelong learning learners

• Skill-seeking – Learners who need to attain new or improved skills for the purpose of bettering themselves and be able to solve the challenges they face (or meet in the future) in their lives.

• Problem-centred – Learners who only want to learn specific skills needed to deal with a specific problem that they have encountered or might encounter in their particular life situations.

• Task-centred – Learners who only want to concentrate on tasks directed towards reaching some specific goals or solving a specific problem.

• Life-centred – Learners with great experience background and faced with a variety of issues in their everyday life and want to focus their attention on real-world/life challenges/situations and solving real-world problems. They also want to focus on applying newly gained knowledge and/or skills to everyday and real-world situations.

• Solution-driven – Learners who are interested in focusing their efforts to solving problems in real life situations, especially those found in their immediate communities and/or environments or dealing with tasks directed towards reaching specific goals or solutions.

• Value-driven – learners who require guidance why they should participate in learning endeavours and what benefit is there for them. These learners need to be motivated by other to explain to them why they should learn.

• Externally motivated – Learners who are motivated by such factors as better jobs, better salaries, and increased promotional opportunities.

• Internally motivated – Learners who possess strong internal motivation to learn, such as developing their self-esteem, confidence, recognition, career satisfaction, gaining skills to manage their time better or improving the overall quality of life for their families or communities or both.

• Active learners – Learners who are just willing to participate in the learning process (they could be internally or externally motivated or no motivation at all).

• Hands-on – Learners who prefer learning by doing rather than by listening and interested in being provided with opportunities to apply their newly gained skills right away.

• Self-directed – Learners who perceive themselves to be independent and responsible for their own learning, planning and directing their own learning activities. According to Fisher, King and Tague (2001) a self-directed learner takes control and accepts the freedom to learn what they view as important for them.

• Expert /experienced-based – Learners are practicing (working) in a specific field and want to gain knowledge/skills in that specific field for the purpose of improving their practice. These learners bring real-life experiences to the learning situations, thereby influencing the learning process and make it relevant.

• Independent – Learners who are more self-reliant and learn by utilising previously gained knowledge, skills and work experience in order to accomplish things for themselves. These learners rely on their own personal experiences, strengths and knowledge in seeking answers to problems and to solving such problems

Why do we need lifelong learning?

• Upgrade job

• Start a business

• Learn about a subject or to extend their knowledge

• Meet new people

• Develop self-confidence

• Participate in social networking

• Develop personal skills

Individual’s capacity for lifelong learning

• Capacity to set personal objectives in a realistic manner

• Effectiveness in applying knowledge already possessed

• Efficiency in evaluating one’s own learning

• Skills to locate the required information

• Effectiveness in using different learning strategies and learning in different settings

• Skills to use learning aids and resources, such as libraries, media and/or the internet

• Ability to use and interpret materials from different subject areas

The benefits of lifelong learning to society

From those critical statements regarding the importance of lifelong learning it emerges that lifelong learning holds both private and public benefits. The benefits of lifelong learning to society, business and the individual include, among others:

• The economic benefits of lifelong learning both for employment purposes and high earnings are regarded by many as the most important. People who have no jobs engage in lifelong learning in order to gain employable skills and to make a living. Those with jobs engage in lifelong learning so that they can upgrade their skills to be able to be promoted to higher positions in their jobs and earn more money.

• Enhanced employability which means lifelong learning adds value to the person’s ability to gain productive employment and make greater economic contribution to his/her organisation and to society as a whole. This is because lifelong learning enables more people to gain skills and competencies required for the job market.

• Reduced expenditure in unemployment and other social benefits and early retirement (in countries that have those benefits), which means if there are more people with skills and being productive government will concentrate the limited resources to developing infrastructure and create jobs rather than spending it on people who are unable to find work or not willing to work. Infrastructure development means more good educational and health facilities as well as roads and other transport infrastructure for promoting economic development. More jobs means there are more people contributing to government income through taxes and supporting the overall development of the country.

• Reduced criminal activities in societies that have high unemployment rates (Namibia is a good example) of which many of the criminal activities are due to citizens who have nothing productive to do, but having a lot of time on their hands to be idling and/or engaging in mischievous and unproductive activities. Lifelong learning opportunities enable people to gain useful skills and competencies so that they are more employable and there are plenty of opportunities for people to be engaged in productive and worthy causes. We are told that criminal activities are on the increase in societies where there is high unemployment, high illiteracy and /or less educated citizenry as well as where there are high levels of poverty.

• Increased high social returns in terms of civic participation and community involvement in activities that are aimed at improving the standards of living of all people in society. Lifelong learning enables citizens to be active in community development activities and thereby improving their health and well-being as well as generating and nurturing creative ideas for business and innovation development. Lifelong learning also increases high social returns in terms of civic participation and community involvement, for instance volunteering for good causes in their communities and societies thereby enabling government to save through increased civil society involvement.

Career development in the age of lifelong learning

Lifelong learning has been more linked to improving work activities through improving workers’ attitudes towards work and their productive capacities. Workplace learning whether formal, non-formal or informal is targeted to career development of employees. Lifelong learning helps people to develop their potential and the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies required for the job market. They are required to constantly learn at the workplace. For the lifelong learning system to work at the workplace, where learning is mainly informal, there must be a self-regulating system that enable employees to access relevant information about the labour market and development in the economy. It has been proven across the world that people who are educated are more likely to find decent employment than those with no education. This mean that lifelong learning is currently being used for career development and progress in the labour market as much as it is being used for leisure and community development purposes.

Career development is an important aspect for the labour market as all employees aim for higher salaries, promotions and other incentives that comes with one’s job or employment contract.

Eraut (2007) found that most of the workplace learning of mid-career professionals is largely done in an informal way through consultation and collaboration. The joy of learning and the opportunity to apply the newly acquired skills to the workplace are the best sources of motivation for learning in one’s life.

Approaches to learning at the workplace

Eraut (2004) have identified five approaches for the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies for lifelong learning at the workplace.

• Group learning: participation in group activities such as team-working towards a common goal or outcome or group set up to work on special projects or for a special purpose. These circumstances will force members of the group to learn communally in order to accomplish their tasks.

• On the job training through social learning activities allows employees to observe others and learn as they learn new practices, new perspectives as they work alongside each other on a routine task or specific project.

• On the job training through understudy / deputizing allow employees to learn from those with more expertise than them but working in the same organisation / institution.

• On the job training by external expertise (consultants) through performance audits, consultancies, workshops.

• Assessment activities such as monitoring and evaluation are some of the approaches used by organisations to enable employees learn about their progress and address gaps.

Work processes through which employees learn better

• Group participation process: through asking questions and participating in decisions;

• Tackling challenging assignments/tasks/ roles;

• Through being supervised, coached and being mentored, shadowing and or reflecting;

• Working alongside colleagues, locating resource persons within the organisation as well as listening and observing others;

• Through problem solving, trying things out, suing models or mediating artefacts and learning through mistakes;

• Consultation with other employees and management;

• Visiting other sites/attending conferences and participating in short courses;

• Working with clients;

• Consolidating/ extending/ giving and receiving feedback;

• Working/studying for a qualification, working for a reward.

Factors affecting modes of learning in the workplace

Learning factors

The factors that enable employees to be proactive in seeking learning opportunities

• Challenging and value of the work: under challenged and over challenged might impact negatively on the person’s ability to learn;

• Feedback and support;

• Confidence and commitment; and

• The ability to recognise learning opportunities

Work context factors

The factors that attract the employees to the organisation and motivate them to learn and contribute to the goals of the organisation.

• Feedback and support (especially during the few months in a new job);

• Allocation and structuring of work;

• Encounters and relationship with people at wok; and

• Expectations of each person’s role, performance and progress.

Suggestions for employers

Promote Media and Information Literacy (MIL) to enables employees to be informed readers in today’s hyper connected world.

MIL enables employees to interpret the complex messages they receive in today’s hyper connected world.

References

Eraut, M. (2007). Learning from other people in the workplace. Oxford Review of Education, 33 (4), pp.403-422.

Eraut, M. (2004). Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 26, pp. 247-273.

Fisher, M, King, J., &Tague, G. (2001). Development of a self-directed learning readiness scale for nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 21, pp. 516 -525.

Toffler, A. (1970). Future shock. New York: Random House.