Training UP: Lifelong Learning In IT

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On 3/7/19 at 9:00am, I attended the North Carolina Computer Instructors Association Conference Session Training UP: Lifelong Learning In IT at the SCITECH Building at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC presented by Jill West, instructor at Georgia Northwestern community college.


Training UP: Lifelong Learning In IT

JIll West mentioned in the opening that she was very pleased with the NCCIA, and was interested in grabbing a similar conference in their area. Not quite sure how to do so, but she was very interested in making that happen.

Mostly, she is teaching intro to computers. It deals with a range of students from “no idea how to right-click” and others who “have built their own computers”. She can bring both psychology and cognitive psych to the table on thinking, learning, how do we process, learn and experience the world differently.

We started with some quick informational questions.

Myth or Truth?


Different learning styles and we learn best when taught to our best style.



If we continue to teach to the students, that’s how they learn. If you teach to the best way for the content, and also include several different modalities, you’ll find greater success. Especially if you’re using multiple different modalities.


Left-brained people think more logically?



People use one side of the brain more for specific tasks. Neither our personality characteristics nor cognition are determined by dominance.


Intelligence is fluid and can change based on mindset and environment?



Acknowledging a genuine effort and progress rather than their inborn talent encourages students to try harder and take more risks, which increases performance success.

Its important to see education as a journey, not a destination. View mistakes and setbacks as catalysts for growth without ignoring the need for standards of achievement.

Slide8Progression of technology. We’ve been teaching about technology that is older than the classes we’re teaching. Students that we’ve taught 10 years ago or 5 years ago are already outdated. How can we future-proof our students?

Learned some new techniques by practicing or using natural curiosity. What skills were I using? Audio, visual cues, experimentation, trial and error.


Are we learning things outside of our teaching-specific activities? What is it like getting back into the shoes of our students? Remember what its like for our students. As you’re looking at the class material, remember. When you leave here today, try to learn something new.


How do we get past those humps?

Monitor your own learning. Step back and say “here’s what I’m learning”, “what don’t I know”, “what do I need to learn what I don’t know?”. We need to be able to teach our students how to do this.

What did it feel like for you to learn. Why were you learning it? What worked best for you to learn it.


Progression of learning

We need to keep this learning going.


We learned a new skill in the class, an incapacitating hand grab

What was it like us?

Was it awkward to stand up? Was it awkward to touch anouther person? Was it awkward to learn an awkward skill set? How about walking through the steps? Who’s a germaphobe? Sometimes we couldn’t see what was happening. Sometimes there was a disconnect between what you wanted to do and what you saw or could do. Some people found it to be fun, engaging, and exciting. One said that they would not even know that they could do that. All these ideas could be seen in the classroom.

Was this something you wanted to learn? For some of us, yes. For others, not really. When the opportunity presents itself, it becomes fun. Did it take things outside of our comfort zone? Some of this becomes uncomfortable for others.


Stages of Competence

In the beginning, we don’t even know what we don’t know. From Naïve, we discover, and begin learning and putting in effort. It is here that we know we don’t know enough. From knowing things, we practice and move into competence (I know what I know and am improving) and eventually  it becomes muscle memory or second nature. That said, the hard part is that what we really need to do is use self-study and peer review to understand that I don’t know what I don’t know. This process of discovery allows us to repeat the learning process for ourselves.

How can I get the students to be motivated to get over the hump? Especially if they aren’t motivated.

“I was excited. My students, however, cannot be forced to be motivated and excited”

For some students, its overwhelming. When there is too much to know, learn, absorb, what should we do? In chemistry, this is called “tightering”. Make things easier and bring in materials a small piece at a time. Consider reframing this for students. It’s a great deal of information, it brings information, reframing this as a positive action.


Creating Momentum

How do we create momentum?

Share your passion. Why are you in IT? I like to learn, I like to see how things work? Why is it important to learn this material? Why should they be excited if they are not excited? Don’t be upset if you’re in it for the money. What is the motivation of the money? Successful? Provide for the kids and family? Keep taxes and society moving? You’ll make more money if you get better grades.

Help student develop their passion. Ask your students to go out and find out for themselves. Research shows that If you approach the problem as ”I’m going to help you tap into your skills and develop YOUR passion”.

Let students solve REAL problems. The best problems are the ones you don’t know the answers to. Here’s a real problem, I need a real solution. How did you do that? How can I ask the right questions to get to the right answers.

Highlight our purpose in IT (or design). Build up the people around us. Put this in a community context  and the purpose will help attract women to IT. If you can frame IT as a way to help people. This can draw more women



Fixed mindset is really about performance goals and showing off the abilities you have. Instead, use a growth mindset. Learning goals matter. Increase ability as a choice to increase what you know. Attribution teaory is  a major factor. To what do you attribute the loss or victory? How can you improve that?


How do you think?

Images, words, pictures, cause and effect. Picture your bedroom at home. What does it look like? If you cannot look at your room in your mind, you may have affentasia. Can you think what it would look like on the other side of the room? What if it were on the ceiling? What if all your walls were dark purple? Relying on pictures in your mind can be normal. Hyper affentasion is an awareness but not knowing how to see pictures which might be changing as above. Its not a disability, its just different.




Thinking about thinking. Students do not naturally know how to do this on the whole. Some students will have to be taught how to do this. The way to do this is to be really brutally honest with yourself.  How do I find my blindspots? How do I know how to do this?

Become aware of thoughts, make decisions about that information. Take ownership of the learning process: identify confusion along the way and at the end. Make informed decisions: think in terms of cause and effect.

What did you really think about this. Really think about it. What did you learn? Why did you learn that? How could you improve your learning of that?

Consider encouraging your students to take a myers-briggs test to get to know themselves. has a free one. does also.

For some students this can be an eye opening experience. Do you like working with people, how do you actually start thinking about things differently.

Engage courageously.


Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The farther we get in the understanding and context. The words tell us how deeply they need to know the material. Students need to know the different depths of understanding. We need to start helping them to understand that there are different ways and different depths of ways to know and understand materials.


How to teach metacognition.

Awareness:L explain metacognition and draw attention to thinking. Self Reflection: Ask students how they think. Ownership of learning: Ask students how they learn.

At what age does metacognition develop?

No piaget age can be given, but at age 4-5 they learn with questions, but at 4th grade, there is a large shift where they engage at an awareness level.  At the teen level, they may not have the full ability to understand everything. They can engage with the idea and let that build on the idea themselves. Give them the language and it will feed itself.


Desirable difficulties

Learning isn’t always easy ,and always shouldn’t be easy. Pre-testing- knowledge begets knowledge. They cannot pass the pretest, but prime the pump and help them to see that they don’t know everuthing, and help them to see what they don’t know. Concept a and concept b in the brain are related. If one is connected to the other, you can go forward and backward to make the connnecitons clear. They must have the connections. A few pieces fall into place, and while its uncomfortable at first, it will clean up and fall into place later. Knowledge begets knowledge.

Make mistakes.

Forgetting- and then remembering and restoring (learning loop) is a positive thing, it makes things better to learn

Procrastination (except absolute last minute) is the same as incubation

Interruption (especially at the worst time) is the same as percolation (zeigarnik effect). It is worked on items in the back of your brain and this allows you to move on to complete the materials more succinctly. Those who are interrupted often do better on the final.



Teach Critical Thinking Skills

Socratic questioning. Understand their thinking. Real your own questions. Answer back with questions.

Culture of curiosity. Problem-based learning. Never know it all

Self explanation. Link new learning to old knowledge. What is it that I still don’t understand.



Distributed Practice.

Spread studying over longer periods of time. Schedule repetitions, not every day, but spaced longer as time goes by. schedule re-exposure to information based on Wozniak’s calculation.


Interleaved Practice

It better to do a little of each thing, and spread the items out a little at a time. Learning needs to be connected to other ideas. As pieces are learned, they are connected in pieces and more is learned over time. Switching items back and forth are very helpful.


Self Testing

Students who tested themselves did better than those who studied fully and then tested. Put info in and practice taking it out.


Contextual Clues

Context both internal and external. Consistency vs. variety. These items allow us a backdoor connection to the material. If you’re tested in the same room, study in the room. Those who studied in different rooms, were able to test better in different rooms. Study in different places- home, coffee shop, school.


Becoming An Expert.


Set students on a path. Teach them to find themselves on the cutting edge by:

Reading the materials which are breaking news, and constantly updating their knowledge base by investigating materials on the internet.

Consider Certifications in their discipline. There are lots of different ways in which your students can learn, test their knowledge, get recognized as an expert, and otherwise seek out ways to test themselves and seek approval from outside sources in an effort to set yourself apart from the competition.

Seeking Involvement with the Community. Within each discipline, there is a community. Some are randoms and others are partially interested in the community. Others are movers and shakers, professionals working in the field, on top of the industry, and otherwise deeply involved in the industry. Still others are geeks, a thorough and distinct knowledge of the material to the Nth degree. Teach your students to interact with this community- through forums, websites, reddit, Q&A forums, discord servers, etc.

If they aren’t petrified of doing so, have them visit with some! Go to meetups, leads groups, and other items where people meet to discuss the best of their industry.

Go to Conventions. Conventions are places in which professionals from many industries get together to discuss items in their bailiwick. Mostly these are attended by industry professionals. This is the perfect way for students to hobnob with individuals on the cutting edge, hear about items of knowledge given to those people, and learn about new technologies which should be considered. This is a great way to go where the movers and shakers gather (for getting hired), and learn about skills which are being suggested as new standards. Its a great place to network!