The fast development and omnipresence of technology brings great promises for the societal good but also a high level of uncertainty to future life. This uncertainty pushes self-directed learning to the fore since it helps people keep pace with the development and adapt to changes. Self-directed learning, taking responsibility to direct one’s own learning to meet personal goals, is fundamental to living and working in contemporary fast-changing society (Kranzow & Hyland, 2016; Morris, 2019). It is essential to learners’ academic success, engagement and life-long learning (Berger et al., 2021). Self-directed learning depends on both self-direction capacities to enable the overt management of the external learning environment and self-regulation capacities to facilitate the covert management of the cognitive and affective aspects of the internal learning environment (Pilling-Cormick & Garrison, 2007; Rashid & Asghar, 2016). Learners are often found to lack the necessary capacities to engage in self-directed learning (Canty et al., 2019; Gatewood, 2019). Thus, fostering self-directed learning strategies, skills and knowledge is an important educational objective. It is important because it closely relates to essential 21st century skills and lifelong learning skills, which are critical for success in school and workplace. Digital technologies provide rich opportunities for the facilitation of self-directed learning since they make rich information and resources accessible and afford opportunities for independent inquiry and collaborative learning both inside and outside the classroom (Bonk & Lee, 2017; Lai, 2017). Understanding how digital technologies are and can be utilized to facilitate self-directed learning both inside and outside the classroom is an important research agenda.

Recent studies have shown that technology-rich learning environments can provide conducive learning environment for the development of learners’ self-regulated learning skills (Urbina et al., 2021; Sangsawang, 2020; Manganello et al., 2019). Technology use, social media use in particular, is also found to predict levels of self-directedness in learning (Rashid & Asghar, 2016). However, most of these studies have been conducted in the higher education and adult learning contexts. Self-directed learning among younger learners, the manifestation and influencing factors thereof, might be different from that of adult learners. Morris and Rohs (2021) conducted a scoping review of the potential of digital technology in supporting self-directed learning among children, and the review was only able to locate fourteen papers. Despite confirming the potential of digital technology in supporting children’s self-directed learning process, the authors noted the alarmingly limited research on children’s self-directed learning in technological environments in the formal educational contexts. The authors called for more research in the relationship of self-directed learning and technology among younger learners in both formal and informal learning contexts.

Guest Editors:

Dr. Chun Lai

Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Dr. Olga Viberg

Department of Human Centered Technology, Royal Institute of Technology KTH, Sweden

Dr. Chunping Zheng

Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, China

November 26, 2019

General Call for Special-Issue Proposals

Educational Technology & Society (ET&S) welcomes special issue proposals on specific themes or topics that address the usage of technology for pedagogical purposes, particularly those reflecting current research trends through in-depth research.

For more information, please visit the Special Issue Proposals page.

The ET&S Editorial Office