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Misconceptions of the Adult Learner

In EDU643 – Teaching the Adult Learner, we learned much about what to expect from adult learners. I went into the classroom with many preconceived notions about adult learners, and it turns out many of them were far off.

So much of what I thought I knew was wrong!

For example, not all adult learners are the same. They can be any combination of retired, military, parents, and employees. These individuals are all returning to education for different reasons, and it is important to understand what each adult is looking to gain from their education.

So why are these adult learners returning to school?

The simplest answer is: MONEY!

Adult learners usually want to make more money!

While some adult learners may be learning for personal or leisurely experience (this is where retired individuals usually fall), most adult learners are returning for career-related reasons. Either they want to find a new career, or improve and move up in their current one. Either way, the desired end result is usually to make more money!

My first thought was that most adult learners were returning to school because they were tired of their dead-end jobs. While this can often be the case, most adult learners are found to already be better-educated, younger, employed full-time, and have higher incomes (Merriam, et al., 2007, p. 59). These adult learners have busy schedules, yet still find time to learn because of their desire to better themselves. They have plenty of history and experiences to bring into the classroom, and it’s beneficial to both the instructor and the classmates to incorporate this reservoir of knowledge into the classroom.

These adults have brain power, and they are ready to use it!

So with most of these adults having so much previous knowledge and experiences to bring to the table, I assumed that these adult learners were all very self-directed in regards to learning. However, this is another misconception that I realized throughout the class. While some adults do fit the bill of “self-directed learner”, some may need some extra facilitation from the instructor. This is most common when adults are dealing with something new, such as a different teaching style (i.e. online learning) or technology. This is where it is important to find ways to increase the level of self-direction.

When dealing with technology in the classroom, it can be beneficial to group adult learners together by varying ages or by contrasting comfort levels with technology. It is important to find as many opportunities as possible for adult learners to take on self-directed learning, such as creating open ended discussion questions, which allows the learner to do their own research to find an answer. Finding what motivates each learner is important as well. By explaining the benefits of learning, as well as the WHAT, WHY, and HOW of an assignment, the adult learner can find motivation to be self-directed in their pursuit of education.

Another misconception that I had dealt with intelligence levels in older adults. Surprisingly enough, these levels DO NOT decline as we age, with the exception of those affected by diseases and/or trauma. While the body may begin to show signs of aging by age 40, our minds do not show signs of slowing down, even past the age of 70!

This man may look old, but his mind is sharp!

In fact, based on findings from longitudinal studies, it is even possible to increase intelligence as we age! Dixon argues that it is possible to train the brain to perform better, through self-directed tasks (as cited in Merriam, et al., 2007, p. 368). So while we might not look as fit as the old man in the picture below, we can still work out brain into staying in shape well into our late ages!

We can make our old brain feel like this man looks!

I really enjoyed this class. I learned a lot, and it has been immediately applicable to my current job position. As an admissions counselor for the online division for a university, I work with adult learners every day, and I now have a better understanding of how to interact with each adult learner. Each person has a unique story, and I now have more insight on what shapes and motivates each of them! Never judge an (old) book by its cover!


Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. John Wiley & Sons.

Self-Directed Learning in an Online Environment

One of the greatest benefits to online learning is that it can take place anywhere, at any time (Huang, 2002). It is up the student to take control of their schedule to complete their assignments and participate in the classroom. Another self-directed aspect of online learning is the asynchronous format of communication, where there is no set times for emails, discussion posts, and assignments to be completed. Instructors are less hands-on with an online classroom, mostly acting as a facilitator for discussion, and letting students determine the rate of interaction and collaboration.

A military member can even take part in online learning while serving overseas!

Online learning combines learning in formal, nonformal, and informal settings. (Merriam, et al., 2007, p. 29). There is the formal structure of the syllabus; the nonformal setting where the learning takes place, whether it is at home, work, or somewhere else; and there is the informal interaction taking place between the learners and the instructor. There is a lot of flexibility to online learning, with discussions taking place at any time, and assignments with flexible deadlines. The goal of self-directed learning is the personal growth of the learner, and with an online environment, the learner has much more control over how much learning truly takes place.

There are so many ways to learn and interact through the Internet!

There are many places where online students can participate in self-directed learning. They could do a simple internet search, checking out websites for more information. They can actively or passively engage in an online discussion forum. Videos are also helpful ways for learners to acquire knowledge, whether it be from the television, movies, or through videos online. Books, magazines, and encyclopedias still exist as well. And another great way to gain knowledge is to ask someone, whether it be a classmate, professor, coworker, or a friend or family member. There are many places for the online learner to gain a better perspective on a subject, and it is up to the individual to figure out which method works best for him or her. With so many resources at the online learner’s fingertips, there are so many ways for students to be self-directed learners!


Huang, H. M. (2002). Toward constructivism for adult learners in online learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 33(1), 27-37. Retrieved from

Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. John Wiley & Sons.


Final Reflection for EDU510

As I come to the end of EDU510 – The Cognitive Science of Teaching and Learning, I realize that a lot of what I have learned will be infinitely useful as both a teacher and a learner, in not only my professional and academic future, but also my personal future. David Perkins’ Making Learning Whole covered 7 different principles of teaching, which improves the learning environment for both the teacher and the learner. These principles are relevant not only to the professional learning environment, such as the classroom or the workplace, but to all sorts of environments where learning can take place, such as the grocery store or the kitchen.

Learning takes place all around us, and most of the time we only learn what’s on the surface. One of the most important things that I learned in this class was Perkins (2009) principle of “Uncovering the Hidden Game”. By digging deeper, we can get a better understanding of the topics we encounter, and can understand and perform better in the subject we are focusing on.

Close your eyes. Think of your local grocery store. Can you visualize where you the milk is? That’s from learning the store layout! Now, can you figure out how you can save the most money on milk? That’s “Uncovering the Hidden Game” of saving money!

There are hidden games everywhere, from the grocery store, to the classroom, even the workplace. They are hidden in a variety of ways, such as “under the rug of simplicity, within the margins of ‘good enough’, inside the cloak of the tacit, and beyond the horizon of readiness” (Perkins, 2009, p. 156). This means that hidden games are in places the learner wouldn’t normally check, perhaps because the current information is easy to understand, or they aren’t being challenged, or it is beyond the learner’s current level of knowledge with the topic. This applies to the admissions department that I currently work in. Beyond learning the responsibilities of enrolling students in classes, there are “hidden games” to the job that once uncovered, can make you a better admissions counselor. Knowing intricate details about the university, such the specific accreditation associated with each of our programs, can make you a more knowledgeable and efficient counselor. Sure, you can just pick up the phone and simply help students through the enrollment process, but digging deeper and reaching out to our different departments to find out as much information as possible will make you better at your job. This is the “Hidden Game of Inquiry” that Perkins (2009) discusses. There are many other “hidden games” involved with learning the ins and out of being an admissions counselor, and while some I had already learned on my own over time, there are others that I hadn’t really been aware of until reading Perkins’ book.

When you uncover a “hidden game”, make sure to share your knowledge with those who may also benefit from it!

Another important concept from EDU510 came in week 6, where we learned about the terms “microsystem” and “mesosystem”, which are a part of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model. A microsystem is any environment that directly affects the learner (“Bronfenbrenner’s, n.d., p. 1), while a mesosystem is any combination of microsystems. For more information on Bronfenfrenner Model, you can click here:

We mostly went off examples that applied to children, but these are concepts that are relevant to all people, regardless of age and experience, including myself!

Here we can see a child’s mesosystem: The microsystem of the girl’s friends, coming together with the microsystem of her mother, observing in the background.

Understanding that there are many different microsystems that every learner must deal with, regardless of their age or experience, made a lot of sense to me. While I had never really given it much thought before this class, I definitely behave differently when I am with my friends and family compared to when I am at my workplace! Anytime there are multiple microsystems coming together to create a mesosystem, it can be an opportunity for a positive experience, but can also become a source of stress (“Bronfenbrenner’s, n.d., p. 1). I can recall the first time my friends got to meet some of my coworkers, and it was definitely stressful! But things went well, everyone got along, and it turned into a positive experience. Seeing both my friends and my coworkers enjoy eachother’s company really gave me a sense of belonging within both of these microsystems!

These people aren’t my coworkers, but they do look like they would get along well with my friends!!

All different types of microsystems and mesosystems exist for people, which is important to keep in mind when trying to teach someone. Students may be in one microsystem, such as the classroom or the workplace, and be thinking about another microsystem, such as their home life or their circle of friends! Keeping students engaged in the learning material is important to prevent them from being distracted. Another connection I made in regards to the learning environment is how the presence of technology can create a mesosystem that typically doesn’t need to exist in the classroom. When a student pulls out their cellphone or other device, they are creating a mesosystem of the classroom, and any other extracurricular details that may come to the surface when a student checks their texts, emails, social networking sites, etc. This can create a distraction, and lead to the students not learning as effectively as possible!

When students are using technology for personal use in the classroom, it can disrupt the learning process! 

Week 7 introduced us to the concept of dynamic systems. We learned that “a system is considered dynamic when its components affect or change each other over the course of time” (Booth, 2012). Microsystems and mesosystems would both fall into the definition of dynamic systems, because things can change within them! You can get a promotion, changing the microsystem of your workplace, or your parents or even yourself can have a new baby, drastically changing the microsystem of your family!!

This little angel would bring massive changes to any environment!

A learning environment also acts as a dynamic system, with its rules and views constantly changing with the help of other classmates and teachers who offer their input towards improving understanding. To increase the effectiveness of teaching and foster growth within learners, it’s important to increase variability in the learning environment, such as using multiple forms of assessment, and being open to collaboration with other teachers and parents (Booth, 2012).

            Here are a couple of lists to shake things up in the classroom, making it more fun and exciting:



I’ve done a lot of self-reflection throughout this class, and I look forward to continue applying all that I’ve learned in EDU510 to my current job as an admissions counselor, as well as my personal life. This information is important to everyone, not just those involved in the field of education. I will continue to build on this knowledge in my future personal, academic, and professional endeavours!




Booth, A. (2012, July 30). Dynamic Systems Theory [Video file]. Retrieved from

“Bronfenbrenner’s Microsystems and Mesosystems”. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved from

Perkins, D. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass

Playing “The Game”

In Units 4 & 5 of EDU510, The Cognitive Science of Teaching and Learning, we focused on cognitive processes such as emotion, motivation, attention, and memory. These all have a huge impact on “The Game”, that is the learning task at hand. It’s important to understand the whole game, but also to focus on the “hard parts” that may require more effort and attention. We need to be motivated to participate, and we need to understand the purpose as to why we are participating. In Making Learning Whole, Perkins (2009) used the game of baseball as a metaphor to learning, but it is obviously transferable to all aspects of school, work, and life.

Learning the game of baseball is similiar to how we learn things in general! We must learn the whole game, and then focus on it piece by piece in order to better understand and play the game!


In order to make “the game” worth playing, the instructor must be cognizant of  the learners’ emotions. Emotions can play a large role in a learner’s motivation, regardless of whether the emotions stem from what’s going on within the learning environment or from some other external factors, According to Pessoa (2009), emotions are involved in the conscious (or unconscious) evaluation of events (As cited in Arnold, 1960). This can be relevant for both outside of the learning environment as well as within the learning environment. When emotions come into play, especially if the emotions are negative, a learner can find it very hard to stay motivated. This can make it very difficult for teachers to maintain the energy in the classroom. Many teachers emphasize “the importance of establishing a rapport with their students…especially when they were disengaged and uninterested in learning” (Demetriou & Wilson, 2008, p. 939). This can go a long way in helping learners keep their emotions in check, and make sure the students stay motivated in the classroom. If students are in the right frame of mind to learn, it will be easier to engage the students in the learning activity.


Establishing rapport and finding ways for learners to relate to the learning material are great ways to keep them motivated!

I feel that my motivation is very differently now compared to when I was a child. As a child, my motivation was very extrinsic, staying strictly to its definition of being motivated to “perform a behavior or engage in an activity in order to earn a reward or avoid a punishment.” (Cherry, n.d., p. 1). I was motivated to behave well in order to both avoid punishments as well as earn rewards like candy or toys. I definitely did things because I was intrinsically motivated to do them as well, such as playing video games or playing sports, but most of my behavior was focused on the sole objective of gaining access to these hedonistic activities and things. If the student deems a certain topic to be “boring” it can be detrimental to their motivation to participate in the classroom environment, as well as their retention of the information. Extrinsic rewards may be a temporary solution, but it is most important for the teacher to find some way to intrinsically motivate the bored learner.Extrinsic rewards are shown to be negatively related to achievement (Perkins, 2009, p. 55), so it’s important to find some intrinsic motivators, because eventually extrinsic motivators will lose their effectiveness.

You can only keep “dangling the carrot” in front of the learner before it loses its effectiveness!

Now I would definitely have to say that while my extrinsic motivation is still within me as an adult, I am primarily intrinsically motivated. As an adult, my motivation comes largely from wanted to ensure the best interests of my health, my family and friends, and my career. I still play sports, such as softball on the weekends, because I genuinely like to play; the extrinsic reward of winning is nice, but the intrinsic reward of getting exercise and knowing that I gave all my effort is much more gratifying. I also have started teaching myself how to read/speak Spanish, something I had zero interest in during high school, because of the intrinsic value I see in being able to communicate with someone in a different language. In high school, I did it simply for the extrinsic reward of being able to graduate. It’s amazing how much easier it is to learn something when you are genuinely interested in learning the material!

In any job, it’s important to find intrinsic motivators. If you’re only motivations are earning a paycheck and avoiding punishments/disapproval from your boss, your achievements will likely be lacking.

As an admissions counselor, I have my fair share of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. I have an extrinsic motivation to do a good job in order to avoid punishments, such as disapproval from my bosses or potentially being fired, as well as receiving rewards, such as raises and promotions, and the occasional daily/weekly/monthly “goals” we must reach in order to receive a small incentive, which may be as simple as leaving work early on Friday or taking a break to have a team pizza party/ group activity. These are all great, but now that I have been working in my position for over a year, I’ve found my motivation now mostly comes intrinsically. I want to do a good job to prove to myself that I am good at helping students in all aspects of university matters. I constantly seek to learn as much as I can about financial aid, transcripts, course information, etc., and I find myself excited when we hire new employees because I look forward to sharing all of my knowledge in order to give them the opportunity to be the best admissions counselor that they can be!


What strategies can instructors use to maintain the learners’ attention??

One of the most important things as an instructor is to maintain the learners’ attention. This is definitely easier said than done. As stated by Novella (2011), “we can focus all of our attention on one thing, or spread our attention out to monitor our environment, or do a little of both. You have a budget of attention, and you can spend it as you please at any moment, but you cannot increase your budget” (p.1). People think they can multitask, but in reality “only about 2.5% of people can genuinely multitask – perform two demanding cognitive tasks simultaneously without both suffering” (Novella, 2011, p. 1). When people say they are multi-tasking, they’re likely just continuously diverting their attention across multiple stimuli at a less effective rate.

 Do you think that students may be attempting to multitask in the classroom (whether it be stimuli coming from an electronic device, or another student, or even something they are thinking about that is unrelated to the classroom), which may be causing students to have trouble focusing on the “hard parts”? Perhaps if the learning activity was more interactive, doing an activity such as chart-making like you mentioned, students would be less likely to have their mind wander?

By having the learners demonstrate what they’ve learned through an activity, the information will more likely be committed to memory!


According to the TED Talk video “How your ‘working memory’ makes sense of the world”. we can only remember about four things at a time, and we can only retain this information for only about 10-20 seconds, unless we do something with it, such as apply it, or talk to someone about it (Doolittle, 2013). If we don’t do anything with the information, it will be lost. Fougnie, (2008), defined working memory as the ability to retain task-relevant information in an accessible state over time, and also defined attention as the ability to selectively process information in the environment (p. 1). Both working memory and attention come directly into play in regards to learning the “hard parts”. If one is unable to pay attention to what the “hard parts” are, or is unable to send the information into the working memory, they will not be able to effectively understand and improve in the “hard parts” of whatever topic is at hand.

Here are some memory tests I found online:

You’ll be surprised how quickly your working memory is stretched to capacity! Did you find yourself using strategies to improve your scores, such as talking outloud, or creating a sentence with the random letters or words?

How to improve on the “hard parts”

As a student, it’s important to keep practicing the hard parts, as well as continuously take part in assessments and feedback. Practicing over and over again without understanding where and how to improve will likely not lead to a better understanding of the “hard parts”, just like the piano example mentioned by Perkins (2009, p. 79). Unless you are able to improve specifically in the area that is giving you difficulty, there will not be improvement. This is where it is important to take part in deliberate practice, which is a conscious effort to understand the task better, and where old performances are deconstructed and reconstructed as to improve future execution (Perkins, 2009, p. 80). From my own personal experience in our online program, each week is fairly similar in regards to assignments. There are constant assessments and feedbacks, so it is much easier for students to figure out where their weaknesses lie in the online program and be able to immediately apply it to the next week’s assignments.

Post University’s Online program is slightly different than an MOOC, but it’s still important to know how everything works in regards to the program, classes, assignments, etc.

With the “hard parts” of a lesson, it is critical for the teacher to apply the information to something that is relevant to the learner. It is important to get an idea of the students’ thoughts and assumptions on a difficult subject before delving into the lesson. It is important to find out the students “immediate reactions, prior experiences, and future situations” (Sheckley & Bell, 2006, p. 46), which can help instructors shape their teaching lessons and strategies. In my position as an admissions counselor, when someone is looking to apply for financial aid, I would ask them if they have any knowledge of financial aid, any questions or concerns, and if then go from there. By understanding what students know or think, whether it is correct or not, I will be able to be able to develop a strategy for teaching the material to the students in a way that will help them learn effectively. Some students do understand how financial aid works, and understand that getting a degree is an investment in themselves which is presumed to be paid back from the gains of a better job in the future. Some students will be very wary of taking out any loans, and it is important to understand what they are thinking in order to shape their concept of financial aid and hopefully alleviate their stress.

Not understanding all the processes to enrolling in school, as well as what is expected of you from each class, can create A LOT of stress!

Another strategy to make the “hard parts” easier is to extend and enrich the learner’s consciousness. As stated by Sheckler & Bell (2006), learners can usually make connections between current and prior experiences. However, when learners are presented with non-analogous situations, learners often encounter difficulties (Sheckler & Bell, 2006, p. 47). One strategy to help learners overcome these difficulties would be to extend the learner’s consciousness by introducing the learners to new ideas or new experiences so they can make connections between these new perspectives and their prior perspectives. In regards to the admissions department, many students have no previous knowledge of taking classes online. For example, to talk about “getting your work done every week” may not form much of an idea or make a connection in their brain to prior experiences. But by introducing them to a new experience, such as allowing them to use our free orientation before classes start, can make them comfortable with the idea of doing homework every week.

By having the prospective students learn and understand the “whole game”, it makes things much easier for both the students and myself. I make sure I know what these students already know, as well as what they would like to know. Anything that is foreign to them, I make sure we go over it in detail so they can understand it better, and anything that concerns them, I try to identify the area of concern and offer my advice as needed. When the students know exactly what they are taking on when they enroll in an online degree program, they will more likely to be a successful student!




Cherry, K. (n.d.). What Is the Difference Between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation? . Retrieved from

Doolittle, P. (2013, November 22). Peter Doolittle: How your “working memory” makes sense of the world [Video file]. Retrieved from

Fougnie, D. (2008). The relationship between attention and working memory. New research on short-term memory, 1-45.

Novella, S. (2011, April 18). Attention and Memory. Neurological blog. Retrieved from:

Perkins, D. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.

Pessoa, L. (2009). Cognition and Emotion. Scholarpedia. Retrieved from

Sheckley, B. G., & Bell, S. (2006). Experience, consciousness, and learning: Implications for instruction. New directions for adult and continuing education, 2006(110), 43-52.

Thagard, P. (2005). Mind. Cambridge: MIT Press

Recapping the first 3 weeks of Post EDU510 :)

In my first three weeks in The Cognitive Science of Teaching and Learning (EDU510), I have learned a lot! We dove right into the world of cognitive science, discussing the differences between logic, rules, concepts, analogies, and images, and how they are connected in the creation of knowledge in both the human brain, as well as in artificial intelligence (AI). This was surprisingly relevant to my job position of Admissions Counselor, where I act as a teacher of sorts for prospective students, helping them understand how Post University’s Online Education Institute works, and helping them form habits that will shape their educational careers for success! For example, I help students understand the logic behind getting their degrees, the rules that are required in order to gain admission into the university, and the concept of deadlines being pertinent to their successes in both their education, professional, and personal endeavours!

In EDU 510, we learned that Artificial Intelligence is becoming increasingly more sophisticated. As of the year 2014, the human brain can still outperform AI in most mental challenges, but according to futurologist Ray Kurzweil, AI will outperform even the smartest human by 2029 (Withnal, 2014).

These things are almost smarter than us!!

It sure seems inevitable that in the future, AI will be more sophisticated and omnipresent in the traditional classroom, as well as in the admissions department for colleges. While they are still having trouble with human emotion, AI can already help with grading assignments, basic tutoring, and providing feedback (TeachThought Staff, 2014). In the admissions department, we already made our school applications entirely online, and financial aid applications are completed and processed with the help of technology in hours, rather than days, weeks, or months, as it was in the past. As of right now, Artificial Intelligence is not as sophisticated as the human brain, but in the perhaps not-too-distant future, I believe that AI will be able to directly interact with students, even being able to determine what type of emotions a student is experiencing, and working with the students and the teachers directly to improve the classroom as well as the admissions department. (But don’t worry guys, we’ll still have jobs!)

Another important topic we covered in these first three weeks of EDU510 is the topic of learning styles. There are a variety of learning styles, including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. It is important to develop teaching strategies for teaching to different styles of learners. The general method and practice of teaching is called “pedagogy”, but there is actually a whole science dedicated to the teaching of adult learners! It’s called “andragogy”, and it is critical to my job as an admissions counselor.

These days there are many adults who want to return to college!

Conlan et al. (as cited in Merriam, 2001, p.5), stated that the five assumptions underlying andragogy describe the adult learner as someone who:

  • Has an independent self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning
  • Has accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that is a rich resource for learning
  • Has learning needs closely related to changing social roles
  • Is problem-centered and interested in immediate application of knowledge
  • Is motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors (p.1)

These are all focus points that I touch upon when speaking to adults who want to further their education. These are people who want to be in control of their own learning, they want to take classes that are directly related to the careers they want to pursue, and they are motivated by their desire for personal and/or professional success. One feature of our online degree program that really impresses students is our application-based learning, and the fact that most of our classes are taught by people who work directly in the field of the classes that they teach. For example, our criminal justice classes are taught by lawyers, police chiefs, and other people directly involved in the criminal justice field!

In week three of EDU510, we completed a questionnaire that helped us discover which learning styles we may be more comfortable with. I found it to be very true, for myself anyways.If you’re interested, you can complete the questionnaire here:

You can also get some tips on improving on both your strengths and weaknesses by clicking on the links on the bottom of page after you complete the quiz.

I also found another quiz that tells you whether you are a better visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. Here is the link:

Which ways do you think you learn best? Take the quiz above, and you might be surprised by your answers!

While these tests should be taken with a grain of salt, it can definitely lead to some self-reflection, and hopefully some self-improvement!

I think what is most important in a online learning environment is utilizing a variety of learning styles. In our online classes at Post University, there are articles to read, lectures to listen to, videos to watch, and diagrams and charts to analyze. Some students are be able to analyze information faster and more effectively through one learning style or another, but according to Willingham, people can absolutely still learn through the other avenues of learning (“Learning Styles Don’t Exist”, 2008). It’s all about making sure that the student makes a connection to the material. Combining these different tools of learning can help ensure that students have a better chance of making a connection, and thus learn quickly and effectively!



Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K.. (2003). Adult Learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

TeachThought Staff, (2014).  Ten Roles for Artificial Intelligence in Education. TeachThought. Retrieved from:

Willingham, D. (2008, August 21). Learning Styles Don’t Exist. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Withnall A. (2014, February 23). Robots will be smarter than all of us by 2039, warns AI expert Ray Kurzweil. The Independent. Retrieved from

Introducing a Virtual Lab Experiment to a Middle School Classroom

For my final project in EDU520 at Post University, I had to plan a digitally-mediated learning activity. The learning activity that I have proposed is a virtual laboratory experiment for middle school students. I modeled it after a relatively simple experiment I found online, which Mike Calhoun was kind enough to share here:

In this virtual experiment, students will add drops of iodine to pieces of fruit until the fruits change color. When there is a change in color, the students will record the number of drops used to create this change, and it will be repeated multiple times, with a variety of fruits. The number of drops used to see a change will correspond with acidity levels, which is related to Vitamin C concentration. Students will then organize the data to determine which fruits have the highest and lowest amounts of vitamin C.

Fruit and Berry Salad 032909

This activity will combine the formal learning environment of a classroom with the informal learning of a self-directed environment. Students will be directed by the teacher in regards to learning how to operate the virtual laboratory software, and then will be able to work independently, with the teacher standing by to assist if necessary. The virtual laboratory will be accessible from a mobile device, which can be provided by the school and also accessible from the student’s personal mobile device.

smartphone teen

The goal is to have the students feel intrinsically motivated towards using a smart phone device in the classroom. Hopefully this current generation will find this opportunity both exciting and interesting, leading to a high level of engagement. I believe the motivation level for students will be high as well because they will be genuinely excited by the experiment, which will help maintain the students’ motivation to learn through such an omnipresent device. I know when I was in high school, phones and other devices were not to be used in the classroom, and so being able to use this technology for the sake of learning would have definitely been viewed as an exciting endeavor to me!

My plan has been realized in the form of a research paper, which I have pasted below:


I hope you enjoy reading, and please feel free to let me know your comments, suggestions, and criticisms. Perhaps you want to tell me about your favorite experiment from grade school that you think would translate well into an virtual laboratory experiment? Any dialogue at all would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!



Calhoun, Mike. (n.d.). Which Fruit Has the Most Vitamin C? Retrieved from

Fruit and Berry Salad. (March 29, 2009). Vmiramontes. [jpg image]. Retrieved from

Smartphone teen. (March 30, 2014). Pabak Sarkar. [jpg image]. Retrieved from:

Pros and Cons of Open Education

One of the greatest aspects to Open Education (OE) is how accessible the information becomes. It is designed to eliminate many barriers to learning such as financial limitations, geographical limitations, and academic requirements (McNally, 2012). One great example of this comes from MIT, who made the entire content of many of its courses accessible to anyone who has access to the Internet. It’s called OpenCourseWare (OCW), and here’s a direct link :

And here’s a direct clip of Lecture 1 for MIT 6.00 Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, Fall 2008:

What’s most amazing is that MIT officials expected the majority of those who use OCW to be students and professors, but in reality “more than 50 percent of the actual users happen to be…self-learners” (Bonk 2009, p. 164). This means that people are accessing the courses for their own personal benefits, which could be for a job the individual may have/want to have, or for personal enjoyment and growth. This type of structured education has been historically costly and inaccessible; one would need a high school education as well as the access to the money and the time to sit in college classroom and learn from a college professor. Now anyone can access live lectures at any time, with no discrimination of age or income. You can now learn just about anything you want, as long as you have a little free time and a lot of determination!

Allowing anyone to access to educational content can have many benefits besides personal growth. It can lead to new ideas and inventions. As stated by Bonk, (2009), “Idea sharing can spark still other ideas and innovations that can have educational benefits well beyond the original goals and intentions of the creators” (p.151). By allowing other people and organizations to access and collaborate with this information, it can lead to ideas that may have otherwise not been thought of, in not only the educational context, but in all facets of society. By giving everyone the opportunity to access this knowledge, it may help create the next Einstein of our generation!

By making education available to everyone, there’s a better chance that another guy like the one above will come into this world!

Even with an idea that sounds as wholly positive as OE, there are some challenges that must be overcome before it can be considered 100% “Open” Education. One of the biggest challenges towards fully implementing OE is the financial hurdle that educational institutions must overcome to establish and maintain the OE initiatives (McNally, 2012). When most people think about something being free, they forget that it does cost something to the provider. And it can cost a lot of money to produce an Open Education format for one class, let alone multiple classes.

Another challenge that must be overcome before Open Education can truly be considered “Open” is the geographic and cultural barriers for students who attempt to access this information via Internet. Bill Gates actually suggested in 2008 that “education needs to open up to the poorest two or three billion people on this planet. (Bonk 2012,p.362). And while OE is accessible simply by an Internet connection, as of 2012, “only one billion…people on this planet have internet access” (Bonk, p.362).

If it can’t reach them, they can’t learn!

This means less than 15% of the population could access OE if they desired. Also, these people don’t all speak the same language, so OE would likely need to be translated in order to be made useful to those of other languages. This challenge is not only time consuming, but expensive as well. However, I believe the benefits of OE outweigh the hurdles that must be overcome in order for this technology to truly be “Open” Education.

For my learning activity in EDU520, I have proposed the introduction of a virtual laboratory experiment to a middle school classroom. This idea can be greatly benefitted by OE. If virtual laboratory experiments are made available to everyone, more schools can have the opportunity to integrate them into the curriculum. If Allowing the software/experiment to be tweaked and improved would be a benefit to everyone as well. By making the experiments truly an Open Education Resource, even younger budding learners can provide themselves with laboratory experience that they would not have access to for many more years in a traditional k-12 setting!

Question: Do you think that Open Education will continue to grow? Or will it be hindered by the cost it takes for institutions to provide these materials free of charge?






Bonk, Curtis J. The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. John Wiley & Sons, 2009.

dorfun. (June 14, 2006). Einstein-chuza. [jpg image]. Retrieved from:

Eva the Weaver. (May 7, 2007). Broken bridge. [jpg image]. Retrieved from:

McNally, M. (2012, March 22). Democratizing Access to Knowledge: Find Out What Open Educational Resources (OER) Have to Offer [Video file]. Retrieved from

3 Different Types of Learning Environments

This week in class we learned about the three main types of learning environments: Traditional Classrooms, Hybrid Classrooms, and Online Classrooms. While the three learning environments have all been found to be effective, there are particular teaching techniques that work better for one rather than the others. In the paragraphs below, I’ve broken down the differences between each one.

Traditional Classroom

A Traditional, or “face-to-face” classroom is a formal learning environment. The class meets in-person, and all work, besides homework, is done in the classroom. As stated by Crawford, Smith & Smith (2008), a traditional classroom “ensures that instructors and learners engage in multiple forms of support and communications occur over a fixed period of time” (p.136). This could be by lectures, group discussions, watching videos, or just about anything else, as long as it all takes place in the classroom. One teaching technique that I believewould work best in a traditional classroom setting is Clicker Use In Class, because of how it incorporates an interactive technology. Students will get a sense of involvement, while teachers will be able to get immediate feedback on whether or not students are understanding the information being taught.

Here is a great video explaining how to utilize Clickers in the classroom:


Hybrid Classroom

In a hybrid classroom, teaching and learning will take place in the classroom, but some teaching and learning will continue to take place outside of class hours, usually on the internet, with the amount of time spent online dependent on the class and/or teacher. The best teaching technique for a hybrid classroom would be a Social Networking Tool, such as twitter. This would be a powerful technique for both teaching and learning because it would be able to supplement both the teaching and learning experience outside of the classroom with something many people are already comfortable using for extracurricular endeavors. The advantage of social networks, according to McCarroll & Curran (2013), is “the ease of use and accessibility” (p.2), which allows students and teachers to continue the educational process outside of the classroom at one’s own schedule. Anything contributed between classes can be brought back into the classroom for further discussion, thus enhancing the traditional classroom setting.

Online Classroom

In an online classroom, or at least the one we are taking part in here at Post, the learning lacks a formal support structure. The support is still there, but it seems to be reactionary. What I mean by this is that the professor develops the learning plans in advance, and if any student has any questions or doesn’t seem to understand the material, the professor will step in to assist. As stated by Bates & Watson (2008), “the online professor should be a facilitator, not a ‘sage on the stage’” (p.38). One of the best parts about an online classroom is that learning can occur at anytime. I believe Mobile Learning works best with an online classroom because it emphasizes the ability to learn from any location at any time. Just like this course, an online classroom does not have an actual “location”, so having access to the course as well as the professor from a mobile device is a necessity. While it would probably be best to be at a personal computer or laptop for submitting assignments, I have found it very useful to be able to view readings/videos/discussions from my smart phone. It has allowed me to take part in learning at times when I would have previously thought it to be impossible, such as on the bus or at the airport.


I believe that all three of these learning environment can be the best choice, depending on the age group and learning material being covered. The traditional classroom is definitely best for younger learners, as they need the most instruction and supervision. But as students get older, I think it would be best to have some form of hybrid learning taking place for every class.  Online learning is definitely something that everyone should take part in before moving onto higher education. While not every class may be best suited for an entirely-online environment, being able to add that flexibility and freedom to a student’s schedule can help them be better prepared to deal with time management in their future education, business, and personal lives. The big question is, at what age should schools start integrating the Internet into the curriculum? Which classes, if any, do you think should stay with the traditional classroom structure?


My Learning Activity

My learning activity is a virtual laboratory experiment. While the experiment will be done on a mobile device, I believe it would be best left in the classroom, with teacher supervision. The students and professors will receive a quick orientation for using the lab software, and then they will perform the labs with the teachers supervising. If it is a success students may find themselves performing virtual lab experiments at home for their homework assignments, but for a learning activity that is going to be fairly new for both the student and the teacher, I think it is best to remain in the classroom.



Bates, C. & Watson, M. (2008). Re-learning Teaching Techniques to be Effective in Hybrid and Online Courses. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge 13(1), 38-44.

Crawford, C. M., Smith, R. A., & Smith, M. S. (2008). Course student satisfaction results: Differentiation between face-to-face, hybrid, and online learning environments. [Article]. CEDER Yearbook, 135-149.

McCarroll, N., & Curran, K. (2013). Social Networking in Education. International Journal of Innovation in the Digital Economy, 4(1), 1-15. Retrieved at

Wolf, Allen. (2011, May 25). Clickers for engagement.[Flickr Image]. Retrieved from