Hey Educators, How Do YOU Learn Best?

In education, our attention generally looks at the student. It is certainly our end goal but to effectively educate our students; it requires that we spend considerable time educating ourselves particularly due to the everchanging evolution of our digital ecosystem.

Have you spent much time reflecting on how you learn best? What are your strengths and challenges as a learner? To build on the work of Kathleen McClaskey and Barbara Bray, how do you like to access information? Kathleen and Barbara use the UDL Lens in their book How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper.

All learners are unique in how they access content and process information into usable knowledge* (Bray and McClaskey).

It is important to reflect on learners’ strengths, challenges, and preferences and needs in accessing information. Barbara and Kathleen focus on Access, Engage, and Express in building a unique learner profile that helps learners achieve agency, but for this blog post, we’re going to drill into access.

We are all learners; there’s no mystery there. If we aren’t continually learning, we are getting behind, but that fact also causes a lot of stress. How do you find the time? What if your district delivers instruction in a way that is contrary to your style of learning? Most districts today understand that our learners need a personalized environment and slowly but surely, leaders are also starting to understand that we need to look at all learners (that includes YOU) and deliver content differently.

I’ve recognized that my challenges in accessing new learning come from having a three-year-old at home. My commitment to learning undoubtedly exists but sometimes my desire to “not miss a minute” of my daughter’s life gets in the way of attending professional development events or having downtime at home to invest in my learning. Since I’ve changed positions and moved my residence, my two-minute drive has expanded to 30-50 minutes depending on traffic. I love it, as now I have time to listen to audiobooks or podcasts that help me grow as a learner. However, I have also recognized that once I get to work, I remember half of what I’ve listened to since my attention to the road also requires focus. Keeping this in mind, I’ve changed the way I manage my learning.

When I purchase versus borrowing from the library, I purchase the book and then purchase the audio addition which generally costs about $7 more. The order of precedence is important – Kindle first, audio (Whispersync) second. This allows me to go back and focus on areas of interest or if I feel that I’ve missed something referenced later in the audiobook. For me, this works. I use two primary modes of accessing information, books (audio and Kindle), and Twitter. What’s great about Twitter is that in a couple of minutes, you can grab important nuggets of knowledge to help you as a professional. At around 9 PM every night after my daughter is sound asleep (I hope), I hop on Twitter to see what’s happening in my district, other districts, and from professional organizations that I follow. I may watch a video, view an infographic, read a blog, or just read the comments. I try and capture new learning every day. It fills me up as a learner and makes me feel connected to my work.

What do I know about me as a learner when it comes to access new learning? I am short on time and need to maximize the time that I have but also know that I may not get as much from the experience when I listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Therefore, I know I need to deepen my learning by following up with spot-reading on more complex topics. Sitting in a lecture doesn’t keep my attention, and my mind tends to drift, so this method doesn’t work well for me. When I’m forced into this type of environment, I try and sketchnote or take notes to maintain attention. I also know that Twitter makes me feel like I’m getting the most current information which helps me understand trends in my field.

Reflect on you as a learner. How are you accessing new learning? Is it working for you? Are you consistently taking time to learn in the way that works for you? If not, how can you change your routine?

Quick Tech Hacks for Accessing Information:

  • Did you know your library gives you FREE access to digital books and audiobooks? Yes, it is true. I spend $20-$30 every time I dig into a new book. Now, I’m listening to Sprint, Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp for FREE on Libby through the Cincinnati Public Library. Through the library, I borrow the audiobook for 14 days. By speeding up the narration from 1x to 1.25x or 1.5x, I can get through it in no time! If you live in the Cincinnati area, sign up for a library card online. You are required to go into a branch to finalize your registration, but it is EASY and FREE! There are many titles available for checkout, and if you prefer to read or listen online, you can do so. The app, Libby, actually works extremely well and the design trumps that of Audible.
  • Try Blinkist, a service that provides book summaries in audio or readable book form. There are many titles available, and if you want to get the Big Ideas without getting into the weeds of a story, this site offers leaders the ability to glean important information from some of the top thought leaders in the world. I am getting ready to try it!
  • Remember, Kindle first and audio second – you’ll see the option as you purchase the digital version. It will save you $$!
  • For Twitter lovers, use Tweetdeck to organize your information. I’m interested in personalized learning and innovation, so #personalizedlearning, #edinnovation and #innovation rise to the top for me.

My latest reads/listens:


*Bray, Barbara A., McClaskey, Kathleen. How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper (p. 24). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.