Make It Intentional

Make It Intentional

In this week’s blog on Lifelong Learning, our curriculum designer, Caroline Slee-Poulos, advises us that we need to “Make It Intentional” when it comes to learning and to life.

Last week, our guest writer Steve Johnson advised our readers to “…make continuous learning intentional… ” This week, I would like to challenge you to bring intention into your family, your education, and your professional life.

What is intention, really? It’s certainly a word we hear when people accidentally hurt someone’s feelings: “I didn’t intend…” Of course, we also hear it in that old adage, “the road to Hell is paved with good intention.” In both of these cases, we are looking at intention as something passive, a thought or an idea. I would like to help you to make intention more of an action.

According to my favorite dictionary, Merriam Webster, intention is defined as “a determination to act in a certain way: resolve.” (Source)

If you bring intention into your everyday actions, you will see your life transformed.

To expand upon this a little bit… every class we create at Learning Without Scars is made with intention. Very deliberate intention. We analyze the needs of our students (professional and academic together); we create learning outcomes for each class; we gather feedback on sample class materials from Beta users; we adjust the materials based on your survey data. Our courses are adaptable to your short-term and longer-term goals and needs, just as you would experience in the traditional face-to-face classroom.

We intend for you to build a successful future with the tools you gain from your continuous learning.

The only missing ingredient is you! What is your intention?

It’s not the easiest question to answer. You have to look to the present, the immediate future, and the longer-term future. Where are you right now? Where do you see yourself in 1 year? In 5 years? In 20 years?

What personal goals and wants do you have for yourself? What will help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be? I am challenging you, TODAY, to sit down and take stock. Write it all out: today, 1 year, 5 years, 20. What do you need to do to reach those milestones? What actions do you RESOLVE to take in order to make it happen?

The advantage of continuing your education as an adult is that you can determine exactly what benefits you want to receive from your efforts and analyze what steps you are willing to take in order to reach your goals. When we are younger, life seems to start while we are just along for the ride.

In this phase of your education, you are the one driving that journey.

So, tell me, what are your intentions?

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Learning Inventories

Learning Inventories

This week, our Curriculum Designer, Caroline Slee-Poulos, continues our series on Lifelong Learning with her post on learning inventories.

When we speak of learning styles, most often we are referring to three primary categories: visual, auditory, kinesthetic. If you are a visual learner, you are thought to learn most effectively through images (or, you know, visual aids). For auditory learners – who, by the way, are technically aural or auditory-musical learners – it is thought that hearing information is the most beneficial delivery system. For kinesthetic learners, we consider the “learn by doing” method to be most effective, although incorporating movement in any way can be helpful.

Most of us don’t necessarily pay attention to learning and education in a “meta-” way: we don’t study how we learn.

The difficulty we face with learning styles is two-fold.

First of all, those three categories above aren’t actually all of the categories. The full list is seven learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, social, solitary, verbal, and logical. Considering there are seven of them, it’s pretty strange that many learning inventories cover only those first three.

Second, these learning styles have been thrown out the window as an effective way of teaching. Although the “know thyself” wisdom of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi is always valuable – for the learners – an educator should not be seeking to sort students into neat little compartments. Or houses. This isn’t Hogwarts, after all…

With asynchronous education, we have to reach multiple styles and multiple forms. I think we can all agree that online learning isn’t necessarily geared towards movement, even though a standing desk (or, better yet, a treadmill desk!) can change that. Despite that, our classes do hit the visual, auditory, verbal, logical, and solitary notes.

Then again, since you have the flexibility to take a class at home, you may very well be surrounded by family. This wouldn’t be solitary at all.

The question is: do you know yourself? What would you say your own learning style is? This week, I would like to ask each of you to take a simple learning inventory quiz. Once you have your result, give it some thought. What surprises you in your results? What did you already know about how you learn? How can this information help you in your continuing education? Let us know in the comments!

The learning inventory can be found here.

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Bite-Sized Pieces

Bite-Sized Pieces

Curriculum designer Caroline Slee-Poulos joins us for this week’s instalment on Lifelong Learning: Bite-Sized Pieces.

I don’t know about all of you, but I do know that when I was growing up my mom always made sure to correct me when I tried to eat extra-large bites of food. I was often guilty of this when it came to twirling my pasta. Anyone else?

It isn’t just food that matters when it comes to bite-sized pieces: it’s learning, too. While there is some data on the human attention span to indicate that we can maintain focus, or concentration, is around 45 minutes. In fact, prevailing practices in education suggest that all students should take a “brain break” at that point in a lesson. Yes, this even applies to adult students. You can read about this here.

This is the “why” behind our class structures. Rather than a long learning segment, we stick with the shorter, bite-sized pieces. Our students spend approximately 15 to 20 minutes of learning before each quick check for understanding. This built-in brain break means each individual has a clear moment in the class to pause and do something else.

For the students who look back at their time in classrooms as an unpleasant memory, this offers a chance to reset what learning means.

Isn’t it time for you to invest in yourself with Learning?

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If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?

If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?

Curriculum designer Caroline Slee-Poulos brings this week’s post on Lifelong Learning with “If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?”

If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?

I’m sure we have all heard the quote “If not you, who? If not now, when?” attributed to both Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Despite the hazy origins of the quote, it is relatable for most of us.

After all, if we don’t take ownership and get things done, then who will?

We take that ownership attitude throughout our businesses, right up until the moment a budget for training and employee development comes to the table.

We expect our employees to come in the door, armed with all of the knowledge they need to be successful in our businesses. We expect this when they come in with a freshly inked diploma, showing they’ve graduated from high school. When they don’t have the skills right off the get go, we bemoan the state of public education.

Here’s the thing: even if your brand-new hires came to you with the foundational knowledge they need in order to succeed and be an asset in your business, don’t you want them to continue to level-up?

We know that there is a skills gap for high school graduates. Due to budgets, some of the trade programs that were commonplace in high schools for years have been entirely closed down in some regions. Even if that were not the case, doesn’t your business need people who can use the new technology, whether it be on the shop floor or in the dealer business system, as it changes and updates over time?

Our businesses and our industry are not stagnant: they change and adopt new methods, systems, and technology. History has shown us that it can be tough to be an “early adopter” of technology. As a result, we can try to delay making necessary changes. Our customers need more from us. If we don’t provide the necessary training to keep up with what our customers expect and need, then how can we expect to retain those customers?

I propose that employee development – training and continuing education for your staff – is as critical to the success of your business as the work order process in your shop. It creates a team culture in your business, and shows your employees that you are just as concerned with the future as they are. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to see your employees receive the exact education you need them to. Don’t you think it is time to put the training of your employees into motion?

After all, if you don’t do it, who will?

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You Should Not Be Planning to Fail

You Should Not Be Planning to Fail

In this week’s blog on education, curriculum designer and writer Caroline Slee-Poulos walks us through all of the reasons you should not be planning to fail.

There is an old adage that tells us “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” When it comes to phrases like this, I believe that sometimes we hear them so often they can become meaningless. In business, we always create plans and projections. We have processes in our departments, and systems that keep things running smoothly.

When it comes to employee development, we have spent many years without a solid plan. I think it is simple to say that this leaves us without a way forward – a path – for your staff and for the future of the business. Employee turnover is an expensive proposition for any business, and this can leave us reluctant when it comes to our training budgets.

When you invest in the future of your business, you should also have a plan for investing in the development of your employees. Just as a course is planned out with each segment, from content through assessments, your employees need to have a plan to map out their future with your business.

It’s time to make a shift towards the future: don’t you want to be planning for success at every single level?

As Ron would tell you, the time is now.

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Lifelong Learners

Lifelong Learners

In this week’s blog on education, curriculum designer and writer Caroline Slee-Poulos shares the big picture of why we do what we do: lifelong learners.

In education, we like to express the most important goal of any classroom as creating lifelong learners. This takes shape in different ways at different ages. At the younger ages, it is obviously the standard reading, writing, and arithmetic. As adults, it becomes a bit more complex,

We have to ask about goals and the big picture when it comes to adults. As adults, we want to move forward: we want promotions; pay bumps; increases in job title.

I would posit that what we really seek is GROWTH.

Realistically, growth is what we all seek.

As employers, we want hires who know the business. We are noticing that students are not graduating school with the necessary skills for the business. Trade skills are in short supply and require more education than the standard K-12 that is available to students today. Funding at the high school level for the trades has been reduced to a point where students are graduating high school without the necessary skills for our industry.

Take our industry out of the equation.

What does it say about us that our graduates are not prepared for the world of technical work?

I think it says that we are in a situation of catching up. Academics are not quite at the point we need them to be when it comes to “work ready” employees. We can’t expect high school graduates to know everything they need to know when they graduate high school. The reality is, if you invest in your people, they will invest in you.

What we want to see at every level are people committed to learning. This doesn’t mean the stereotypes of the ivory tower. This means having people who consistently strive to better themselves, who push for higher levels of understanding and accomplishment.

At the end of the day, education is all about creating the foundation that leads to lifelong learning. Lifelong learners are known for consistently striving to better their performance and their results.

Aren’t lifelong learners what you want to see in your business?

As Ron would tell you, the time is now. When it comes to your commitment to learning, I would posit that the time is always.

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If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Caroline Slee-Poulos shares the importance of planning in “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going.”

 

I promise you I’m not trying to make a reference to “Alice in Wonderland.” Although the title of this post is part of a quote from the story by Lewis Carroll, Yogi Berra had his own ending to the quote: “If you don’t know where you’re going you might end up someplace else.”

I think that most of us like to be able to see the path ahead of us: personally and professionally. When it comes to the professional aspects, I have found that quite a few people overlook education.

Of course, for several years, the only focus on education was a large push for every child to attend a 4 year university program after secondary school. I like to think that we know a bit better now – education is never “one size fits all” – but only time will tell. When the 4 year program was the focus, career training, employee development, and trades were pushed to the side. This was a short-sighted approach, at best.

Those of you who have already taken a class or assessment with us know that we are focused on functional education: giving you rich content in bite-sized pieces, leaving you room for the full schedule each of you live everyday.

In my last post I wrote about learning objectives, as it helps to know what you will get from a particular class or program of study. For this post, I have some thoughts on goals.

Ron has mentioned more than once that many high school graduates think of their graduation as the opportunity to put school behind them. That should never mean that we have left learning behind, though.

In that vein, I would encourage you all to make a list of your professional goals:

  • where do you see yourself in 1 year? 5? 10?
  • do you have a pathway to reach those 1, 5, and 10 year goals?
  • does your employer have goals for you or your role within the company?
  • do you know what those goals are?
  • what is your area of greatest strength?
  • what is your area of greatest struggle?

Write down your answers to these questions. Take some time to consider where it is that you are going. Education, training, and mentorship are all tools that can help you get there.

With a new year ahead of us, I would urge you to start executing plans towards those goals. Ron always says that “the time is now.” He is absolutely right. Now is the time to shift from ideas to reality.

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Learning Objectives and Why They Matter

Learning Objectives and Why They Matter

In tonight’s guest blog, Caroline Slee-Poulos talks to readers (and students) about learning objectives and why they matter.

Learning Objectives

If you remember more recent school days, you might be able to recall your teachers sharing your objective before each lesson. Depending upon where you are in the world, there might have been additional information provided to you: content standards, a learning map, a group recitation of the objective (this has a bit more from elementary school lessons than later years, of course).

Did any of you understand what you were doing with those objectives?

It really is a standard of best teaching practices to share the objective/s with students before a class begins. A learning objective is meant to tell a student what they should be able to DO or what they will KNOW at the end of the class. In other words, those learning objectives point you towards concrete actions and specific knowledge that will come from what you are studying. As a student, you should always know where you are going. The simple act of sharing those learning objectives can help you to focus on the subject at hand, and measure the course against those objectives.

How do you know you have mastered the content if you don’t know what mastery in the subject area actually is? As in so many aspects of life, communication is key.

Learning objectives should always be clear, specific, and focus the teaching and learning that will take place during the class.

Look back on your own education. Did you know what you were supposed to know and be able to do at the end of every class? Did your teachers share your learning objectives at the outset of every lesson? Importantly, did the class help you to achieve those objectives?

Learning should be intentional, and the way you are taught should be equally intentional. Whether you are in an online course or a face-to-face program, it is a joint effort taking place between the teacher and the student.

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Universal Design and the Classroom of Everywhere

Universal Design and the Classroom of Everywhere

In tonight’s post, Caroline explains some of the elements that take place behind content creation in Universal Design and the Classroom of Everywhere.

One of the downsides in education is that we love, and I do mean LOVE, our buzzwords. We really do like to assign a catchy name to our processes. Tonight, I want to break down one of those key names and bring home what it can mean for you.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be simply explained as flexibility. It is flexible in the way that students can engage, in the way materials are presented and made available, and in the way that students demonstrate their knowledge. This is part of what we bring to our students today. There are three main principles in UDL: multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of expression. In other words, a class is designed with the student in mind. This can be a paradigm shift for professionals: we don’t tend to think of ourselves as students, more as experts in our respective fields.

Continuous improvement comes with lifelong learning. It transforms you from being a professional exclusively, into a student at the same time.

The classroom is whatever you need it to be because this classroom is everywhere.

But when you set your own time aside to commit to your professional development, you want to be intentional about your classroom. Are you at work, immersed in the content you are studying? Are you at home, finding a quiet corner – or trying to – in order to focus on your class? Do you want or need a formal test before you select a course of study? Do you prefer to assess yourself and analyze your own skills?

These elements of your learning are entirely within your own control. When you sign up for one of our classes, we try to bring that element of choice and control to you as you study.

When you learn, when you set goals, you always need to consider, as Ron says “what’s your why?” In the classroom of everywhere, we try to answer the “how” for every student.

I invite you to explore our classes, our assessments and spend some time reflecting on your professional goals.

The time really is now.

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Distance Learning Victories

Distance Learning Victories

In tonight’s post, Caroline shares the news of victories in the area of distance learning. As early adopters of the virtual classroom, we know a few things about that here at LWS.

As we all know, it’s been more than a year since the world as we knew it closed down, including our schools. I still remember very clearly the last face-to-face day I spent with my younger students in 2020. Distance learning wasn’t something new in the world of adult education, but suddenly K12 education was thrust into the same platform and style of learning. Now, face-to-face means someone turned their camera on during an online course.

Here at LWS, we began to shift into a virtual classroom several years ago. The software we reviewed and selected was on the newer side, most live meetings were conducted with GoToMeeting, and this “webinar-style” delivery was an exciting thing to help create. Fast forward to the pandemic, and the software options seem endless and Zoom is a household name!

I think it is safe to say that we have all heard the horror stories surrounding distance learning. Tonight, I would like to bring us back to focus on learning success stories.

One of the aspects of what we do here at LWS is student choice: we engage with adults who want to improve their marketable skills within their field. Since 2014, we have fine-tuned that process into what feels like a new “school” on this side of the screen. As each student progresses through a class, they now have the option of listening to the audio or just reading content or doing both together. When we first started our online classes, feedback from learner surveys indicated that Ron’s voice could run to the soothing side – so we made a shift. We have also started to switch narrators, as I myself have begun recording audio tracks as well. My voice is not as soothing as my Dad’s: my high school students swear it isn’t.

We have brought full, professional translations of assessment and classes into French and Spanish. For the student who prefers to skip a formal assessment, we offer the self-assessment: you choose your training path, and you select your skill level. We have even developed coursework based upon student requests.

Where we once offered only traditional, multiple-choice tests, we now offer short response, multiple-choice, and reflection responses. If a student doesn’t want to write that response, they can upload an audio file and simply give the response verbally.

Even though I tend to be the more silent of the two of us (don’t tell Dad I said that, he says I speak in “pages, not paragraphs”), I can tell you this: when students have choices about not only what they learn, but how they demonstrate that learning, success is the outcome. I invite you to join us and start building your success story today.

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