Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Forty Watt Lightbulb: A Reflection on Learning

I read recently a book called "Iconoclasts" by Gregory Berns (2010) about people in history who have thought differently. In the introduction Berns (2010) writes that the brain runs "on about 40 watts of power (a lightbulb!), it doesn't have a lot of energy to spare. So it must be efficient. This means that it will draw on both past experience and any other source of information, such as what other people say, to make sense of what it is seeing." What an image. Our brains are constantly making sense of our world, constantly learning. After eight weeks of reading and researching different learning theories I have come to appreciate the power of my brain. How it works efficiently and how sometimes it doesn't. Along the way I've identify some learning theories as ones I thrive best in, enjoy learning best in while others I've identified as structures I'd like to leave by the wayside. 

Did you know that "what you do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like-- it literally rewires it" (Medina, 2014)? Before investigating how we learn and learning theories I had no idea the power of our brains. How we encode and transfer information can depend on how well the learner takes that information and repeats it, makes it meaningful, or uses it in a similar situation and it can also depend on how well an instructor has helped the learner stay motivated and identified what learning theory the learner is best suited by (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009). The theory of Connectivism surprised me; I had no idea there was a theory for how I was learning at work and in my own life. I thought I was just hacking my education, looking up bits of information when I needed them and making connections out in the communities (virtual) that I needed in order to complete my work (David, Edmunds, Kelly-Bateman, 2008). 

It was the discovery of  the theory of Connectivism  that has deepened my understanding of my own personal learning process. My own job is constantly changing because of new advancements in technology, the constant updating could be exhausting but with these connections I'm able to get the key information I need. In Connectivism the key factors to learning are "connecting to and feeding information into a learning community" (Kop & Hill, 2008). 

As a learner and instructor I've come to realize the importance of recognizing these different learning theories and how they are connected to the learning styles. To maximize my own learning I need to seek out connections that reflect my own learning styles. A video where there is both auditory and visual aspects is the "sweet spot" for my learning style (Gilbert & Swanier, 2008). As an instructional designer it is important to incorporate all three learning styles visual, auditory, and kinesthetic into instruction in order to engage all types of learners (Gilbert & Swanier, 2008). According to Ormrod (n.d.) adult learners are motivated by stimulation or things that interested you or cause arousal, competence or the need to feel like you’ve done something well, self-determination (autonomy) or the need to feel like you have a sense of control over what you are learning, and relatedness or the need to interact with others and build connections. Keeping these factors of motivation in mind I can build an online environment that helps keep learners motivated.

The learning in this course will help me design, create, and build instruction that keeps in mind how people learn, including their learning styles, their different intelligences (Gardner, 2003) and the different factors that motivate adult learners. 

According to Medina (2014) "audiences check out after 10minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narrative or creating events rich in emotion."  As an instructional designer I'll have to consistently reach for better narratives, better simulations, and better strategies in order to keep the learner's attention and ultimately in order to help them use the information later. By reflecting on and implementing the theories, learning styles, and motivation factors I've learned in this course I'll help each student use their forty watts. 


Berns, G. (2010). Iconoclast: a neuroscientist reveals how to think differently. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing. 

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Gardner, H. (2003, April 21). Multiple intelligences after 20 years. Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. Retrieved from

Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from

Kop, R. & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Reasearch In Open and Distance Learning. volume 9, No 3 October 2008. Retrieved from

Medina, J. (2014). Brain Rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press. 
Ormrod, J. (n.d). Video Program: Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Motivation in learning [Video file]. Retrieved from

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

After six weeks of delving into the world of learning theories, learning styles, and all things brain, I have discovered a few things about how I learn, how I enjoy learning, and what style of learning I use the most.
Being the offspring of two teachers, I’ve always loved learning and exploring. Although I’m technically a digital native, I relate to the world of the digital immigrant more (Sullivan, 2011). I still buy real physical books and I look forward to “unplugging” everyday. This makes how I learn eclectic in that I enjoy and even crave traditional face-to face cognitive style learning but I also thrive in both social learning and Connectivism.
I prefer Social Learning Theory style best because it allows me to collaborate with others while still being able to observe the behaviors or ideas of other learners and professionals. By far I employ the Connectivism Theory for my learning the most. I have created numerous networks for work, school, and my personal life. Information is so readily available and technology is changing so fast that these networks help me stay connected and current on the topics I need in order to be successful. Most of my learning in Connectivism comes from “non-human appliances” (Davis, Edmunds, Kelly-Bateman, 2008). Because this is the mode I do most of my learning in I seek out good old fashion lectures for things I consider fun learning like art history. But even for a good portion of my “fun” learning I have to implore the help of technology like Khan Academy instead of going to a brick and mortar institution.
Technology has made learning and education widely accessible. Because of the pace of my days, I use technology in a variety of ways to learn. I used an just this morning to help me identify a bird at the feeder instead of using my bird book because the app is exponentially faster. In college I worked at a retirement home for nuns and someone had locked their padlock onto my locker so I watched a YouTube video on how to open a padlock by just using a part of a pop can. When I’m looking for some design inspiration for logos, flyers, or brochures I Google “best posters of 2014.” At work I use technology to stay connected to the networks I’ve created to better support me in my instructional design work. I use blogs, forums, user groups,, and videos to help me create our company’s eLearning lessons.
The real question is: how do I learn best? Ertmer and Newby (1993) said it best when they said “is there a single ‘best’ approach and is one approach more efficient that the others? Given that learning is a complex, drawn-out process that seems to be strongly influenced by one’s prior knowledge, perhaps the best answer to these questions is it depends.”
-Happy Learning.

Reference List
Davis, C.,Edmunds, E., &Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4),50-71.

Sullivan, B. (2011, August 12). Are you A Digital Native or a Digital Immigrant. BigDesign. Retrieved from

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Mapping my Learning Connections
My coworker's youngest son is going off to college and I have to admire how prepared she is. A planner by nature, she does not leave details to the last minute. Recently, she has been asking around at work about what computer they should get him for college. Our Person Centered Technology Coordinator stopped by and explained to her the differences between the myriad of computers that are out on the market.  Needless to say it was not a short conversation but that's how we operate these days. Technology is changing so quickly that we either study up on every single thing or ask someone more qualified than ourselves as to what the best answer is. As my mother-in-law always says "it's not what you know, it's who you know" and, more importantly these days, it's a question of knowing  how to access the right network to gain the knowledge you need. 

These learning networks are best described by Siemens (2005) as connectivism which is "driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired and the ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. Also critical is the ability to recognize when new information alters the lands ace based on decisions made yesterday." For example, if a newer version of of Captivate was published I would know because I would receive an email from Adobe. If I wanted to purchase it I could go to their website, purchase it, and download it instantly to my computer. To learn about any of the new features Captivate might have I could read about them on their Adobe community site, I could watch a video about it, or I could join a Captivate community that is a forum for users to post questions and answers about the product.  My learning network for work is a great example of the learning theory of connectivism.  I use all of my networks in order to keep up in the eLearning world.

I use a lot of digital tools to help me learn and what tool I use is dependent on the question I'm asking.  If I need a step-by-step instruction on how to calibrate my Yeti microphone in order to get the best sound quality I'll do a Youtube search. If I want to learn a new program like Photoshop I'll look for tutorials on Lynda because it is a full course with exercise files for the learner to practice with. No one way works best for me every time and I often need to move on to the next resource if I can't find what I am looking for but because I have so many connections, both human and non-human, my question will eventually be answered. 

Being connected is imperative for my job and my personal life. One day I'll need a new computer  and I'll rely on my learning connections to get the best deal so I can check my Facebook and watch Netflix with the best resolution money can buy. 

Reference List

Siemens, G. (2005, January). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, Retrieved August 02, 2014, from

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Learning About Learning: Evaluating and Identifying Online Resources

I’ve been learning a lot about learning lately. Specifically, how the brain encodes, stores, and retrieves information and how different learning theories help us, as the learner, process this information. I’ve also thought about technology and how it aids our learning so for this weeks blog post I’ve found two articles that discuss both topics.

In the article “A Project-based Digital Storytelling Approach for improving Students’ Learning, Motivation, Problem-Solving Competence and Learning Achievement”, Hung, Hwang, and Huang (2012) conduct a quasi-experiment with 5th graders in Taiwan. The 5th graders were assigned a project-based learning group for science about energy and global warming. One group presented their information through a PowerPoint Presentation after collecting the data they needed while the other used an interactive tool called Photo Story 3 after gathering data and producing examples in their own life. According to Hung, Hwang, and Huang (2012) “digital storytelling has been employed to develop the learning tasks as a project-based learning activity, including taking pictures with digital cameras, developing the story based on the pictures taken, producing a film based on the pictures by adding subtitle and a background, and presenting the story.” Sound familiar? We might have some future instructional designers on our hands. The result was the group using the digital storytelling approach out-performed the group using project-based learning in learning motivation, problem-solving competence, and achievement. Scholars have identified that storytelling is an effective instructional strategy for promoting learning motivations and improving the learning performance of students (Schank, 1990).

Why didn’t both groups use PowerPoint? The article is about digital storytelling learning versus project-based learning not about one technology versus another. I have many examples of how I lower energy consumption in my own life that I could use a digital storytelling format for by using PowerPoint. By using the same technology the authors could have highlighted the differences in learning and not technology.

The next article “The Brains Behind Brain-Based Research: The Tale of Two Postsecondary Online Learners” McGuckin and Ladhani (2010) write about online learning and its relationship with the brain. This article was especially interesting to me because my brother and I are both currently attending school online. How does online learning impact encoding and storage of information? McGuckin and Ladhani (2010) point out that “in online courses, there is often the opportunity to teach our classmates about a particular theory or topic.” I have found this to be true having already added books to my reading list that were recommended to me by my fellow online classmates. The article also points out that “those who design online courses need to ensure that the abilities and knowledge that their students are asked to master continue to change” (McGuckin & Ladhani, 2010). I think this is a great point. If I am required to take the same eLearning course every year about medication administration the core concepts should be presented in a different way in order to challenge the student to encode, problem-solve, retrieve, and store information every year. This article has helped me identify a need at my own job to recreate the four eLearning lessons we require our workers to take every year.

After reading both of these articles I’ve realized that my future instructional designer self must be careful in how I use technology for my learners. Technology can definitely aid in our learning but the content and the learner must be the first thoughts in how I teach concepts and new ideas, not how cool an animation will look.


Hung, C.-M., Hwang, G.-J., & Huang, I. (2012). A Project-based Digital Storytelling Approach for Improving Students’ Learning Motivation, Problem-Solving Competence and Learning Achievement. Educational Technology & Society, 15 (4), 368-379.

McGuckin, Dawn & Ladhani, Mubeen. (2010) The Brains behind Brain-Based Research: The Tale of Two Postsecondary Online Learners. College Quarterly, v13 n3.

Schank, R. (1990). Tell me a story: Narrative and intelligence. Evanston, IL: Northwestern  University Press.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Doorway to Professional Learning Communities

When I first started dabbling in the world of Instructional Design (ID) I came across two great blogs that helped me figure out what all of this eLearning business was about. The only past experiences I had had with online learning consisted of the health requirement for the college I had attended (I wrote papers about different health issues and exercises and almost lost my faith in the education system along the way) and the riveting OSHA courses I had taken at my previous employer. These weren’t the best examples of what is possible in the ID world and to say I was excited would be a flat out lie but, by golly, I was going to try my best.

The first great blog I discovered was The Rapid eLearning Blog which is hosted by Tom Kuhlmann who runs the community for Articulate. The blog covers everything from designing the right course to audio and visual tips. Tom also recommends different resources for ID’s to check out including books, webinars, and conferences. I’ve used this blog many times for layout inspiration. Don’t let the affiliation to Articulate scare you if you don’t use their products because this blog is not Articulate exclusive. It is written for anyone who is trying to create great eLearning lessons.

The second blog I started using as a resource was the Allen Interactions eLearning Leadership Blog. While I mainly use the Rapid eLearning Blog for design and graphic creation tips I use the Allen Interactions blog for planning process tips and resources. This blog, written by Allen Interactions professionals, gives its reader things to think about when creating eLearning lessons and some of the theories behind online learning. Because the blog is written by different Allen Interactions professionals it not only gives the reader a unique viewpoint of other ID’s but also of their media artists, strategic relationship managers, and the quality assurance specialist. What a great resource for those professionals who work for companies where they are all those positions in one (like me) or for professionals who own their own business and work from a home office.

My third go to is a more recent discovery. I was on facebook and a lovely young woman I have not seen in some time posted a link to her blog about eLearning. Her name is Allison Nederveld and you really need to check her out. There are many reasons I have enjoyed this blog and have found it useful; the main reason is her process of taking the reader through her eLearning designs and explaining how and why she created it a specific way. Reading about her thought process for creating different projects has helped me think about my own process for creating courses. The other great thing about this blog is that she highlights different tech applications and programs and explains what they do and how you could use them. She also does a great job of mixing in a little learning theory here and there to add some spice to our food for thought.

Last but not least, I also use for great tutorial video’s about everything from time management to creating great audio. Lynda video’s are done by professionals in all different fields with thousands of videos that you can choose from. The advantage being a virtual classroom that you can access anywhere and on your own time. The only catch is that you pay a membership fee to have access to all the videos but it is well worth the $40.00 a month and is cheaper than going to a conference or two day training on the same topic. If you have the means to do so I highly recommend it.

I am very early on in my journey to becoming a good instructional designer (like haven’t even left the station yet) but all four of these resources have helped me break out of the unknown to see the computer screen light of what great instructional design can be.