Personal Learning NetworkI grew up in the era when there was no technology; you had to go to the library to find out information. There were times you had to wait, because the librarian had to get the information from somewhere else, and it had to be mailed and/or delivered. If you wanted to find out about a company, you had to call or go visit. You could get information from a neighbor … if they had used the same company.

When I first went out to work (as a secretary), we still had typewriters, maybe one Xerox machine for the whole company, and had to use carbon paper most of the time. As computers came to be integrated into the workforce, I was forced to learn on the job. I would get into a position and begin by looking for and through the User’s Manual. There was no one to really lean on or ask questions of to know how to work these machines. Everyone was on their own to learn what they could.

How has your network changed the way you learn? Which digital tools best facilitate learning for you?

When I look at the graphic of my personal learning network (PLN), it startles me how different technology has made it. There were always work, family, and friend aspects to my learning network. At school, there were teachers and fellow students. The biggest difference is how we are connecting with the use of technology. I do not have to hunt around for magazines or other types of information. I have set up RSS feeds to my email to keep up to date on the newest technology or different techniques to get information to my students. Using Facebook and Twitter, I keep up with what is going on in the corporate world through my friends.

Fenwick and Tennant (2004) state that we need to be “opening ourselves to challenging new explanations of learning, which may demand that we step away from our personal worlds of comfortable beliefs and values” (p. 56). I will need to learn how to use Skype better and how to use collaboration web site and/or software to keep in touch with learning/work groups and to participate in webinars. If I do not learn these skills, I will not be able to pass the knowledge on to my students. In this world, we would be doing our students a disservice if we did not teach them these skills.

 How do you gain new knowledge when you have questions?

“Humans are completely interconnected with the systems in which they act” (Fenwick and Tennant, 2004, p. 65). I learn from any avenue I can connect to, whether it is from friends, Google, magazines, newsletters, RSS feeds, or blogs. I constantly take courses (which is why I am completing another Master’s degree) to make sure I stay on top of the current trends and technologies. The more networks I reach out to, the more I will be able to learn and use with my students. In the end, I am better for reaching out and, hopefully, will make my students better prepared for their futures.

In what ways does your personal learning network support or refute the central tenets of connectivism?

I believe my PLN supports this idea of connectivism, because, as stated by Downes (2012), “Learning is the creation and removal of connections between entities, or the adjustment of the strengths of those connections” (, para. 3). I have made connections through work, through school, and through my friends that have assisted me and/or my students in gaining knowledge. My connections are open to assisting others when assistance is needed. I pass along other blogs, articles, and web sites when I feel someone has need of the information, and it is reciprocated by others that I know.

Conlan, Grabowski, and Smith (2003) state that it is “important to acknowledge prior knowledge and experience of learners” (para. 10). I also spend time finding out from my students about the way they learn best and what prior knowledge they are bringing to my classroom. I have a pre-test (using for each of my classes and a survey that all students take on the first day of each course with me. It helps me better prepare for lessons that are coming up.

By spending time finding out about my students and knowing where they want to head in my classroom and in the future, I can tailor what I know to their needs. I feel my connections make me a better teacher and, in the end, my students better prepared for the future.


Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning (M. Orey, Ed.) [Article]. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology website:

Downes, S. (2012, May 21). Downes on connectivism and connective knowledge [Blog post]. Retrieved from Connectivism website:

Fenwick, T., & Tennant, M. (2004). Chapter 4 understanding adult learners. In G. Foley (Ed.), Dimensions of adult learning: Adult education and training in a global era (pp. 55-73). McGraw Hill Education.

Brain-Based Learning Theories

Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success

The first article I located was  by Judy Willis. The quote that resounded with me was …

“Event memories … are tied to specific emotionally or physically charged events (strong sensory input) and by the emotional intensity of the events to which they are linked. Because the dramatic event powers its way through the neural pathways of the emotionally preactivated limbic system into memory storage, associated scholastic information gets pulled along with it. Recollection of the academic material occurs when the emotionally significant event comes to mind, unconsciously or consciously. To remember the lesson, students can cue up the dramatic event to which it is linked.” (Willis, para. 34).

From experience, when I do an activity or show a video that evokes some type of feeling from my students, they have a tendency to remember it. One of the hardest concepts to teach to high school students is how to price a product. The unit starts with the lecture, notes, and discussion; there are a few mathematics activities to assist in gaining knowledge. The lesson that solidifies the knowledge is when I have the students create a sandwich they would want to sell. They are given a list of costs for each item they used to create the sandwich and/or meal they would sell and the fixed costs for the business. They need to run through the math and find out if they would make a profit based on what they decide to charge for the sandwich/meal. In six years of this activity, only one student made a profit, because they charge $15 for the meal they created (sandwich, chips and drink). Everyone else feels bad about charging more than $2 or $3 for their sandwich and lands deep in debt. There is an “aha” moment that occurs, because they liked their sandwich and felt their price was fair..

Information Processing Theory Flashcards

This web site is definitely set up so everyone can successfully understand the history and basics of Information Processing Theory. There are flash cards at the top (middle) of the page that you can flip through one at a time. As you scroll down the page, there is a list of all 44 terms and their definitions with an audio icon next to each so you can hear someone else read through them, if necessary. As someone who likes to see and hear information in multiple ways, I will probably be using this site during my current course at Walden.


Willis, J. (2007). Brain-based teaching strategies for improving students’ memory, learning, and test-taking success. Childhood Education83(5).

Quizlet. Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner Information Processing Theories

Peer Grading

In looking at my Walden University peers blogs, I found many of them interesting. I believe I subscribed to at least one blog from each of my fellow classmates as well as their own blog (created for our class). The one I found most interesting (and a topic near and dear to my own classroom) had to do with peer grading and creating this for an online classroom (Peer Grading in Online Classrooms).

I have my students peer grade for Collaborative Work Skills, which I had found on another web site and adapted for my own classroom. I made it so many years ago that I do not remember which web site I found it on. This is a 32-point rubric, with each category worth 4 points. Students are graded on the following topics:

  • Contribution
  • Quality of Work
  • Time Management
  • Problem-solving
  • Attitude
  • Focus on the Task
  • Pride
  • Working with Others

I have found an interesting phenomenon with peer grading among high school students, you cannot just do it once. It needs to be taught and reinforced throughout the course. I tell my students this is the same as getting evaluated on the job for a raise, promotion or bonus. There will be times you are asked to give input on a fellow employee or another employee will be asked to give input on them. The questions I give them are: “Do you want someone to get a raise, promotion or bonus if you did all the work? How truthful will you be?”

During the first attempt at peer grading, students are apt to be kinder and gentler, because they do not want to cause someone else to get a “bad” grade. The more they are exposed to this particular type of grading, which the teacher has no input on, the more likely they are to be honest. I found that after a while, in a group setting, students get tired of seeing the same people being lazy and still getting a good grade.

I believe this would be beneficial in an online course as well. It would probably take a little more time to set up, whether setting up a group project or a specific assignment, but it would be well worth the effort. This makes the class as a whole more aware of how in-depth some students are working, and the students who work only with surface information may take the extra effort on any other assignments for the course.

We need to teach our students to be critical of, not only their own work, but the work of others. Students may find themselves in a position in their careers where they have to evaluate themselves and/or their colleagues. They may end up working in management. If we do not take the time to teach them to be critical of everyone’s work, where will they learn the necessary skills?

Instructional Design Resources

"If a child cannot learn in the way we teach ... we must teach in the way the child can learn." - unknown

“If a child cannot learn in the way we teach … we must teach in the way the child can learn.” – unknown

As part of a course for Walden University (Learning Theories Instruction), I need to keep a blog and update it pretty frequently. I have not felt the need to blog before, but I am starting to see the positive aspects of this for my professional life. As per the first assignment, below are three resources that I currently – or in the future will – find helpful in my classroom.


One of the major professional development courses I took that had a lasting impact on my instructional design had to do with backwards design – Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe ( It is very important to know where you want the students to go with their learning before you begin to create any unit or lesson plans. Without knowing the end result, what will you be teaching? How will you know that the students are successful? These are questions I ask myself when I sit down to make my unit plans.

With the UbD method, you must first decide what are the Big Ideas for your unit – what are the one or two ideas that encompass the ideas of the unit. Next, you find the Enduring Understandings, which should flow down from your big ideas, and the Essential Questions students should be able to answer by the end of your unit. With all of this in place, the assessments are created before even looking at lesson plans or assignments. In this way, all of the plans, lectures, and assignments will be geared toward student success of the unit.

My school has worked diligently over the past five years to re-create our curriculum in this manner. To enable teachers to see and use the curriculum, the Curriculum Committee has created a wiki for our reference ( We have spent time creating our overall curriculum, assessments, and, in the last year, our unit plans. This has created a consistent curriculum when more than one teacher is responsible for a certain course.


eSchool News ( keeps me up to date on different topics that can help me in my classroom. There are articles about new technology, ways to increase learning, and different web sites that can assist in developing engaging lessons. There is a sign up to receive the digital edition in your mailbox.


As part of my course at Walden University on Learning Theories Instruction, there was one resource that stood out to me, and it was a list of blogs on instructional design ( In looking over this list of sites, there were many that stood out as helpful. It will take a while to truly investigate the different sites, but I am willing to take the time.