Learning in the digital age

I’ve said many times, I would have loved to have had a laptop computer available to me when I attended college back in the dark ages (1959-1963). Back then my tools were a spiral-bound notebook and a Bic pen for class notes, a manual typewriter, erasable bond paper and White Out for term papers, and doing research in the card catalog and the stacks of musty-smelling books in the school’s library. Don’t get me wrong. A fellow can learn a lot, and even demonstrate it, using those tools, so my lament that I didn’t have the laptop, access to the Internet and search engines to aid me really isn’t a complaint about how hard I had it as it is my way of marveling at the changes that have taken place in the last 50 years.

Fortunately one’s education doesn’t end when he graduates from college, and even as I sneak up (at the speed of light, it seems) on my 65th birthday, I am still pursuing my education but now with the benefit of all those tools that I didn’t have available to me back then. And I still find learning to be as delightful as I ever did.

For instance, yesterday I spent about 90 minutes listening to and watching a presentation of Dr. Lawrence Lessig’s Keynote speech, titled “Free Culture: What We Need from You,” at the LinuxWorld 2006 conference that was held last month in San Francisco. I didn’t have a chance to attend that conference, but in this digital age that doesn’t matter because all the Keynote speeches were posted yesterday so that those of us who “skipped class” can go back and experience what we missed. Dr. Lessig’s presentation was one of the most entertaining, informative and challenging learning experiences I have had in a long time. If you have any interest at all in the issues facing the development of the Internet, I recommend that you take the time to listen to his presentation. I would be truly surprised if you didn’t find the time spent “attending” this lecture both enjoyable and enlightening.

There are six other presentations available on that website that I plan to listen to today. If any of them are half as good as Dr. Lessig’s, I’ll consider my day well spent. And I’ll have had the benefit of all of these learning experiences without having paid any tuition, incurred any travel costs, or even having had to shower and get dressed to attend. Learning in the digital age is a marvel indeed!

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