Personalized Learning

Guest Blogger: Rachel Morota

adult learning

Ever heard that you’re an auditory learner? Or perhaps you see yourself as more of a visual person? Or do you soak things up best through a hands-on approach?

Auditory, visual and kinesthetic – these are the three main learning styles. Figuring out how you learn best can help you make the most out of learning something new in your busy schedule. Here are a couple of ways that you can tailor your studying to make learning easier:

1. Personal Intelligences
Good news: you have not one, not two, but at least seven personal intelligences that you can use in combination to maximize your learning. Applying your best areas to your learning can make it easier, more fun, and more rewarding. Check out this article to figure out what your strongest suits are.

2. Peak Learning Time 

Some of us wake up early in the morning ready to go without the help of coffee, while others are most productive at night in pajamas. Everyone is mentally alert and motivated at certain times of the day. Older adults tend to perform better in the morning, while younger adults thrive as the day progresses. Figure out when you’re most in the zone and adjust your activities accordingly to do your most important work then.

3. Big Picture vs. Detail-Oriented
Are you more of a visionary or a conscientious worker? People tend to naturally fall into two categories – ‘big picture’ and ‘details’ (also termed ‘groupers’ and ‘stringers’ by Ron Gross). Reflecting on which style you lean more heavily towards can enhance your learning. Sometimes tasks can require both, but fear not; there are processes that you can learn to develop both your strategic thinking and attention to detail.

4. Match Your Learning Style with the Right Resources
Take advantage of technology and take an online course, join an online forum, or surf the web. Treat yourself to a visit to the museum or a lecture at your local university. Explore the world through a documentary or books. Converse with experts and other interested in the same field as you. Write. Capitalize upon your limited time by branching out beyond a small handful of resources and choose those that complement the way you learn.

5. Explore New Learning Styles
While applying your preferred learning styles makes you more efficient, it’s important to get outside of your comfort zone and sample other methods, too. Some tasks require one style over others; you’ll be at a disadvantage unless you can switch into and operate in the appropriate mode. Adopting other learning methods also helps you to communicate with those who prefer other approaches. You may even discover that an alternative approach works really well!

For an extended list of learning styles inventories, take a look at Deb Peterson’s article here.

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Adult Education: Swedish Lessons for America

Guest Blogger: Rachel Morota

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IKEA, H&M, Vikings, and fathers pushing prams; these are just some of the things that the Swedes take pride in. Their success with adult education is another.

Sweden strongly values lifelong learning. This has driven a large number of older students into higher education: with 66% of citizens aged 25-64 participating in formal and non-formal education, the country has the highest level of participation in adult education amongst OECD countries. In fact, a quarter of Sweden’s college graduates are 25 or older.

As increasingly complex jobs require higher education, policymakers in both the U.S. and Sweden are trying to encourage adults to enroll in courses to enhance the proportion of the population with degrees. However, unlike the U.S., which is struggling to get adults to return to the classroom, in Sweden there’s a broad consensus that “You’re never too old to learn.”

One reason that older learners return to school in Sweden is because “the state is generous,” according to Agnieszka Bron, the chair of education at Stockholm University. In addition to free tuition, adult students are eligible for subsidized childcare and allowances in Sweden. They can also request low-cost loans for living expenses, especially if they are leaving their jobs to pursue higher education (during which their employer must hold their place, albeit without pay.)

With little support for its own populace, the U.S. has a lot to learn from Sweden if it wants to boost educational enrolment amongst adults. And it needs to do so fast. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, the growth of the American knowledge economy means that by 2020, 65% of all jobs will require some form of college or university training. Unfortunately, the Center estimates at the current rate, the country will fall 5 million workers short.

To find out more about what the differences between the U.S. and Sweden’s higher education policies, check out Jon Marcus’ article here.

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Toughening Up

Guest Blogger: Rachel Morota 

Resilience is the hot topic of the day. Since New York implemented programs to enhance resilience in schools to help children manage the stress and trauma of 9/11 almost fourteen years ago, ‘resilience-building’ programs are popping up everywhere. These programs, which aim not only to help people recover from trauma but also to better deal with day-to-day stresses, claim to make people more resilient – that is, to increase their ability to navigate difficult circumstances without lasting psychological damage.

But can you really train the mind to be tougher?

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Emma Young seeks to answer the question in her BBC article ‘Resilience: How to train a tougher mind.’

Scientific studies have shown that people whose bodies respond quickly to a threat but who then promptly bounce back tend to cope better with stressful situations and jobs. A study of US Special Forces soldiers by Dennis Charney, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the National Institute of Health suggests that the reward systems in resilient people’s brains may be less affected by stress or adversity than those in normal people’s brains.

Charney and Steven Southwick, a professor from the Yale School of Medicine, have identified 10 psychological and social factors that they believe enhance resilience either alone or in combination:

  1. Facing fear
  2. Having a moral compass
  3. Drawing on faith
  4. Using social support
  5. Having good role models
  6. Being physically fit
  7. Making sure your brain is challenged
  8. Having ‘cognitive and emotional flexibility’
  9. Having ‘meaning, purpose and growth’ in life
  10. ‘Realistic’ optimism

In her article, Young also discusses ‘mindfulness,’ a technique that may especially help people deal with both major traumas and daily stresses. The concept, which involves purposefully paying attention to the present and non-judgmentally examining the experience, helps to cultivate the factors that Charney and Southwick identified.

But how do you practice mindfulness? In some school resiliency programs, teachers conduct lessons on mindful meditation, such as ‘body scanning,’ to teach students to focus their attention on the present. In others, such as Martin Seligman’s Penn Resiliency Program, students learn to detect ‘inaccurate’ thoughts and challenge their accuracy by considering alternative explanations, as well as techniques for assertiveness, negotiation, decision-making, problem-solving and relaxation.

There are many different ways to build up adaptability (for some examples, check out the American Psychological Association’s 10 methods of building resilience). There’s no one-size-fits-all solution; for instance, some people may require more emotional regulation while others do not. The best way to increase your resilience is to adopt several approaches and see what works best for you.

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Could you please write that down?

Guest Blogger: Rachel Morota

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Ever composed a shopping list in your mind only to arrive at the grocery store and realize you have no clue what you needed to buy? Or had a great idea and remembered its lingering brilliance, but not the actual thought?

We all have those moments. What people don’t realize is how easily it can be resolved – all it takes is writing things down.

Putting pen to paper unclutters our minds, streamlines our memory, and gives us a record of our past. If you think writing things down can be cumbersome, here are just a couple of reasons why you should start taking down your thoughts:

It enhances your memory

The very act of writing things down helps you store your thoughts in your long-term memory. You’ll find it easier to recall what was said in class without having to go back through lecture captures or even glancing at your notes. You can augment your memory by writing out your to-do list every morning, jotting down your ideas as they come to you, and memorizing content by writing it down multiple times.

It keeps you committed

Although people like to hear the words “I love you,” they treasure love letters dearly. Similarly, it’s harder to back out of a written contract than a handshake. Here’s the reason why: writing things down shows that you’re serious about them. Map out your goals; laying out where you want to go on paper makes it easier to organize your thoughts and makes you more intent on achieving them.

It helps you process your emotions

There are some things that you want to share with others, but aren’t quite sure with whom. Putting it on paper is a great way of working through a conflict or a particular situation by yourself. It opens the window to your mind; it boosts your self-awareness and ability to self-reflect. 

It creates a record of the past.

Prevent your past experiences from walking down the forgotten road by keeping a journal. Surely Future-You will find it fascinating to flip through and savor past memories, which will also heighten your awareness of how you have developed. Looking at how you dealt with difficulties in the past can also give you more confidence moving forward.

Still not convinced? Check out this blog or this article for a more reasons to scribble down your thoughts.

 

 

 

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For the Common Good

Guest Blogger: Rachel Morota

Why buy an exorbitantly expensive writing textbook, when it’s all online for free?

Enter Writing Commons, the open-education home for writers. It was founded as a viable alternative to writing textbooks, which can cost up to $200 for a single book. The website, which assists students with writing, critical thinking, and information literacy has seven main sections that readers can easily navigate:

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  • Information literacy
    To make informed decisions, you need to be able to recognize when you require additional information. To avoid falling prey to spam, you also need to critically examine written and visual texts to judge their credibility. Through Writing Commons, you can learn to identify when information is needed, as well as where to look and how to assess what you’re looking at.

 

  • Research Methods and Methodologies
    Not only does “research” refer to surfing through websites and library databases, but it also pertains to different methods for data collection and data analysis. Writing Commons contains information on how to consult Research Primer to understand the different research methods in different fields, expedite searches through the open web and library databases, and the conventions of empirical and textual research methods. Furthermore, it outlines how college faculty want you to integrate evidence into your texts and how to avoid the plague of plagiarism.

 

  • Writing Processes
    What is the “writing process?” What are the habits and attitudes of successful academic, professional, and business writers – and how can you be one of them? Writing Commons answers both questions by discussing what defines the “writing process” and how to go about it strategically, as well as providing a thorough analysis of the attitudes and practices of effective writers.

 

  • Collaboration
    From Facebook messages to emails, in the Information Age we are constantly communicating with one another. Writing Commons has suggestions on how to hone your online collaborative skills on a wide range of platforms including video-conferences, social media, and peer production tools so that you can collaborate with anyone anyplace, anytime.

 

  • Genres
    Creative. Business. STEM/Technical. As a student taking a college course, you will wade through a vast array of texts of different genres, many of which may feel unfamiliar. You will find that the trusty five-paragraph essay formula from high school no longer applies. Writing Commons recommends that to be a successful writer, you should think rhetorically and consider common organizational patterns in addition to mixing and matching across genres.

 

  • New Media
    Stay in sync with the broader public by reaching out to them through blogs, online forums, and wikis. To avoid potentially serious trouble relating to copyright infringement or your public, digital footprint, check out Writing Commons’ Digital Ethics (Netiquette) and Negotiating Virtual Spaces: Public Writing, Copyright and Writing.

 

  • Style
    Style is a super important aspect of writing that helps you share your message as a writer. Venture beyond your usual websites and publish your message across a range of media sources. Blend different stylistic components and patterns of writing to produce fresh, persuasive messages. Writing Commons even has information on how remediate (ie. remixing) texts to boost your creativity.

Check out the website here!

 

 

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The Real Life Time Turner: Time Management

Guest Blogger: Rachel Morota

Between juggling a full time job, a long commute and family Time Turnerdemands, a conflict of priorities is always a struggle. Now, you want to throw studying into the mix. But without a magical time turner like Hermione’s, how do you get everything done?

Don’t worry, there’s a real-life alternative solution: time management. Managing your time effectively makes you more productive; not only can you finally focus on your priority tasks, but you can also get more done and improve your results. Furthermore, not only does it make you an achiever at school, but it is also a useful career skill.

As with most things, good time management is easier said than done: it requires strong self-discipline. However, practice makes perfect – once you make it a habit, it becomes almost second nature.

So, what are the core tenets of time management?

  1. Create a planning system. There’s only so much that you can keep in your memory, and putting it down on paper (or electronically) will help you map out what needs to be done. Get a loose-leaf diary or notebook and jot down your tasks, prioritize them, and the track their progress. Also, keeping a time log at the start will help you understand how you’ve been allocating your time.
  2. Consistently update your plan. Take five minutes out of your day (or even every few days, depending on what you need to do) and check off what you’ve accomplished. Routinizing it by doing it at a regular time helps.
  3. Just because some things can’t be planned doesn’t mean that they can’t be managed. Plan for non-reactive time, and be sure to use it effectively.
  4. Follow the plan!

But alas, beware of procrastination, time management’s enemy. Some classic time wasters to keep your eye out for:

  • Putting off tasks that you dislike or find difficult. The sooner you get them done, the sooner you can move on to things that you enjoy. That being said, make sure to do them properly the first time so that you don’t have to go back to do them again.
  • Spending too much time on things that you enjoy but don’t bring you any closer to achieving your goals. While it’s good to take breaks, make sure to keep your eyes on the prize.

It can be tough to get organized at first. But learn to manage your time, and you’ll see a boost in your productivity and results. Time may not stop for anyone – but it sure can be managed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MFA at 60!

 

Nadine Schiff-Rosen went back to school for her MFA at 60! Read about her journey here: http://mariashriver.com/blog/2011/08/10-tips-going-back-school-adult/

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How to Make Your Writing Flow

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Check out these videos posted by the Georgetown University Writing Program, where professor David Lipscomb gives two tutorials on how to make your writing flow, as well as how to be as clear as possible.

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You’re Never Too Old!

sun-309821_640Guest Blogger: Rachel Morota

Newsflash: Older learners going back to school online who receive educational technology training can be just as successful as, and even surpass, younger students.

A recent study published in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching by a team of University of Kansas researchers examined the academic performance and instructional support needs of late-career adults (ages 50 to 65) in an online course compared to that of early-career students (ages 21 to 35) and mid-career students (ages 36 to 49). While the research showed that late-career adults tend to prefer traditional, face-to-face instruction, some are quickly adapting to online instruction.

The study revealed that late-career adults actually find online instruction more rewarding than their younger counterparts in spite of the initial differences in technical skills. Although older adult students may start off less confident and need more technological support and digital instruction when they take online classes, they flourish upon receiving technical assistance and can even outperform younger students.

Check out the study here!

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Overcoming the Obstacles of Online Learning

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Guest Poster: Rachel Morota

Between work, home-cooked dinners and children’s soccer games, sometimes it can feel hard to make time for learning. So how do you balance your education with everything else going on in your life?

More and more people are finding balance through turning to online courses; at any point in time, millions of students across the world are taking online courses. As the numbers continue to grow, the question that everybody seems to be asking is: “Can distance learning be just as effective as traditional learning at the college level?”

The good news is: Yes! In fact, the U.S. Department of Education argues that it can be even more effective than traditional face-to-face learning.

Still not convinced? Let’s look at a couple of common concerns about online learning – and how to overcome them:

  1. It can be more expensive than traditional learning: Cost can definitely be a factor determining whether you go back to school. Each online college has differing costs per credit or per degree, and online degree programs usually have courses that are similarly priced to traditionally taught courses. On the other hand, online courses eliminate transportation and parking costs.
  2. The internet is hard to come by and use: If you can read this newsletter, then you know enough about the Internet to use it for online education. Today, wifi is everywhere; the Internet can be accessed via digital cables, modems, and even wireless signals from your local café. Most public libraries offer at least some internet access. If you’re still having trouble, don’t be afraid to ask around!
  3. It’s more time consuming than traditional education: Not really. But while the time involved may not differ, online learning requires strong time management skills and discipline. If you stay focused and set aside at least 5 hours of study time a week for a college-level course, you should be on track with completing your degree.
  4. The experience is different: When people think of online learning, they think of isolation – between the student and their instructor; the student and his or her peers. Again, ss enrollment numbers continue to grow, so does the online learning community. You can now connect with your peers on online forums and discussion groups. Instructors are also quick to respond to questions via email because being available online is written into their job descriptions.

Source: http://www.rasmussen.edu/student-life/blogs/college-life/conquering-cons-online-education/

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