Building a Personal Learning Solution at NCLA


Last week I had the pleasure of presenting with my friend and fellow North Carolina Master Trainer Jessica O’Brien at the biennial conference for the North Carolina Library Association. Below are the slides we used, and I’m also uploading a copy of the PDF version of  Building a Personal Learning Solution. We’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and own experiences with personal learning. What tools do you use? What have you learned?

Building a Personal Learning Solution from Lori Reed and Jessica O’Brien

129 Tips on Using Technology in Virtual and Physical Classrooms from eLearning Guild

If you are looking for some new tips about using technology for learning or are looking for a refresher you might want to take a look at the free ebook from the eLearning Guild. 129 Tips on Using Technology in Virtual and Physical Classrooms. You’ll need to give contact information to download the ebook, but I’ve never been spammed by the guild and have confidence in recommending this to readers.


In this new, free 32-page ebook you’ll see short tips on everything from low-tech classroom training to using Google Hangouts as a tool for online learning. Topics covered include:

  • Using virtual-classroom and virtual-world features effectively
  • Instructional design and presentation skills for the classroom
  • Pros and cons of virtual classrooms and virtual worlds
  • Pros and cons of physical and blended classrooms
  • Games for the classroom
  • Mobile and social learning for the classroom

Download your complimentary copy from:

I’d love to hear what tips caught your attention. Add a comment and let’s discuss!

One tip that resonated with me as both a trainer and a learner is accountability during online training sessions or webinars:

A typical challenge in the virtual classroom is keeping participants from multi-tasking. After all, participants are often taking the virtual course on the same devices they get their email and do other work on. Many instructional designers and virtual trainers build in some level of interactivity (polls, chat, Q&A) to address this challenge. But it’s equally important to build in accountability. For example, assign participants a learning partner, then use the chat feature to allow participants to check in with their partners several times during the session.

~Anne Scott,  Training Program Developer, Sodexo

I’ve always tried to incorporate interactivity, but it’s challenging to keep learners engaged even with polls, whiteboarding, and chat. A partner makes accountability less intimidating for the learner and lessens the load on the facilitator.

A Tale of Two Schools: A Boy Learns to Love Reading

My son and media specialist Ms. Reeding (yes that is her real name)

My son and media specialist Ms. Reeding (yes that is her real name)

Becoming a mom, I was excited when each of my children entered school. If I loved learning and school, they would too, right? In Kindergarten and first grade my son had fantastic teachers. They both told us what a good student he was, he was happy all the time, and we looked forward to watching him grow and learn.

Second grade was a completely different story.  I was saddened to learn that it’s common knowledge among parents that your kids will have good years and bad years and those years are largely determined by who the teacher is. If your child has a great teacher he or she will learn leaps and bounds. If your child has a not so great teacher not only will he or she learn less but your child may fall behind.

Let’s not put all the blame on the teachers. Parents, school policy, administration, and even funding have roles here as well. For second grade my son had a new teacher. By new I mean first year out of college. Due to district budget cuts, there were no teacher assistants for classes. A new emphasis on testing was also put in place for all grades as the district moved to a pay for performance model for teachers (teachers’ pay is determined by how well their children score on standardized tests). For grades K-2, these tests must be administered orally as the children can’t all read yet.

This teacher, first year out of college, with a class of 25 students, would spend weeks at a time administering tests one-on-one, one-by-one with each child while the other children were given busy work and told to remain quiet in their seats. My son, in the second grade, seven years old, declared he hated school. He fell behind in most subjects, and his two parents, who both work in education, were ashamed to admit that no matter what they tried, their child could not read nor did he want to.

My son complained about the testing. He complained about the teacher yelling at other students. He withdrew and seemed depressed. At this point we were worried that he might have a learning disability. The school refused to help because his problems were not severe enough, so we paid to take him to a child psychologist who said my son was extremenly intelligent, mature for his age, and most likely was bored in school.

The relief! We had not failed as parents. He needed to be challenged more at school. However he was already enrolled in a learning immersion magnet program. But with all the testing there was little time left for learning.

I dropped in occasionally to see what was happening in the classroom. Nearly every time I dropped in, the class was out of control and the teacher was yelling at the students. Meanwhile my son would just look at me as if to say, “See I told you so.” We seriously considered home schooling.

Later that year, I took a new job in a different city and we moved and enrolled in a new school system. My son’s attitude about school changed almost immediately. His class had not only one teacher, but a full time teacher’s assistant, and a mostly-full time student teacher from the local university. His class, only slightly smaller, had three teaching professionals in the class all day. With less emphasis on testing, there was more emphasis on making learning fun. By the end of the school year, my son was at grade level and loved school again. He even began reading stories to his sister.

My son reading to his siter

My son reading to his siter

Reading in the Car

Reading in the Car

This year, in third grade, things are still good. Three adults in the class are still making learning fun. This year is the first year my son takes official EOGs, end of grade tests to ensure he’s on grade level. However, the teacher does not teach to the test or if she does she makes it fun. My son earned three As and one B on his last report card, and I’m proud to say he’s now reading at a middle school level. My daughter in Kindergarten also has three teaching professionals in her class and she loves school as well. Both children read for fun every night at bed time. My daughter reads no matter where we are, like her mom she always has a book in hand.

What happened here? How can our experiences be so different?

We did everything we were supposed to as parents. We read to our children daily. We have a home full of books. We are involved with the schools. We communicate with the teachers and attend parent teach conferences. We spend hours helping with homework. We use positive reinforcement. We sought out help when there were problems.

I am scared to think of what might have happened had we not moved. Would my son still be behind and hate school? I like to think I could have solved this problem somehow. But the truth is parents in public school systems are at the mercy of the district, its policies, and the teacher. The other thing I think about is that there were other kids who excelled at our former school. Each child is different, learns different, and our current educational system of standardized testing does not allow for that or at least not all teachers are trained properly in how to teach under this system.

As a parent, I cannot emphasize how important it is to be involved in your child’s education and know what is going on at school and in the school system. As educators we must either fight legislation like no child left behind or find a way to work with it that allows us to still instill a passion for learning in children. As parents we need to support our teachers and find out what they need to more effectively teach our children.

I’d love to hear from other parents and teachers about this. Have you had two vastly different school experiences?

Note:I’m happy to see that our former school system revoked the pay for performance program and the testing that went with it. However there are many systems looking to adopt this model. Had we stayed in this school system I believe we would have eventually enrolled in a charter school or began homeschooling.

What are your professional/personal development goals for 2013?

image of my journals

30 Years of Journals

Since I was in elementary school, I’ve kept a journal. I’ve written about everything from crushes on boys to having a baby to the joys and tears that come with moving and having a new job. Every year on New Year’s Eve I write about the past year and remember the good, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly. Then I write goals for the next year. This year I was so tired on New Year’s Eve I went to bed early, and I must confess I haven’t set a goal yet. New Year’s Day is really an arbitrary day and we could pick any day of the year to take stock, assess, and reassess.

I already know in my head what my goals are. I’ve brainstormed them at random times for the past month. But there is something about putting that goal down on paper and signing your name to it that makes it real, makes it a contract. So this year I’m skipping my paper journal and sharing my goals here. I hope that this will not only make me more accountable but that it will also inspire you to do the same.


  • Focus on less. The Power of Less by Leo Babauta is an excellent read. I have too much physical and virtual clutter in my life. I’m archiving all 3,500 unread Gmail messages and starting over with 0. I’m archiving photos to DVDs and selecting only the best to keep on my hard drive. I’m deleting files I no longer need. I’m taking two days off work this week to finish unpacking and declutter my home. This weekend it will be my children’s turn to do the same in their rooms. I am tossing anything that does not have meaning, importance, or is something that I am not in love with.
  • Focus on myself and my family. My children are at ages, 5 and 8, where they want and need constant attention from me when I am not working. I’ve cut down on nearly all my outside commitments to focus on them. In a few short years they will want to spend more time with their friends, so I don’t want to miss a moment of this precious time when their brains and hearts are like sponges ready to learn, love, and be loved. I made the difficult decision to put off graduate school until my kids are older. I have no regrets and feel relived by my decision. As I’ve said in the past, we can have it all, just not all at the same time.


  • Make email a tool for me, and not let myself become a slave to email. Enough said! When I figure out how to do this I’ll let you know.
  • Connect with customers. Now that I’ve learned much about my organization and its products and met some initial short term goals, I’ll be reaching out to customers in my role as customer relationship coordinator. My job is to make sure customers are having the best possible experience with our products and maximizing use of their products. I will help customers succeed in their goals.
  • Just like my personal email, I’m clearing out my RSS feeds and limiting myself to 10 feeds. When I can manage 10, I’ll add 5 more, and so on. Having more than 500 feeds is counterproductive and causes me to be so overwhelmed I just don’t look at them.
  • Complete my Facebook best practices for professionals project. Look for an updated survey soon!

So these are my goals for 2013. What are yours?

My Advice to the Class of 2012: Don’t Skip Pages or Chapters of Your Story

Last week I delivered the commencement speech to the East Carolina University School of Communication class of 2012. I thought I’d share the text here. In the process of writing this speech I learned so much about myself which mimics one of the themes of the speech–the journey is so much more interesting than the destination.

Your Life: The Whole Story

I’d like to start by telling you about my story. When I graduated high school in 1990, coincidentally that’s the year many of you were born, one of my friends signed my yearbook and said, “You’ll be great at whatever you do, as soon as you figure out what it is that you want to do.” At 18 I wanted to be a singer, an actress, a writer, but most of all, I wanted to teach and be a college professor.

Instead of going straight to college, I took a different path and in the past 22 years I’ve been a lifeguard, fire fighter, EMT, sales person, bank teller, waitress, computer programmer, and I know more about clogs than any person should.

During the years of bouncing from job to job, career to career, I attended college part time. During that time life happened and obtaining a degree often took a back seat. I constantly questioned myself, doubted myself.

What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m too good? How will I attend school and plan my wedding? How will I attend school with a baby and a job? How will I do it all? Am I too old to go to school?

I realized that I was going to be 30 by the time I graduated. Then 30 turned to 35 and then 35 turned to 39. And this was only for my bachelor’s degree. At this rate I’d be maybe 45 for my masters, 50-something for my PhD. Maybe I should just throw in the towel because I’ll be too old to do anything.

Yet each time I wanted to give up, I found a solution. The distance ed program at East Carolina allowed me to work full time, be a mom, and obtain my degree. But it wasn’t without additional challenges along the way. While working for a major computer company which I’ll call the evil empire, I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease. A week later I lost my job or as the empire so eloquently put it “my contract was terminated.” Devastated, I began the long search for a new job. I honestly didn’t know how I would get through this. Not only had I lost my job but I was faced with a major illness. Who would want to hire me?

Six months later I was hired by a public library to teach computer classes and it was there that I discovered my calling. It turns out, the reason I had always wanted to be a professor is because my passion is helping other people learn. Losing that job was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Losing that job brought me to the library.

The public library is often called the people’s university. The knowledge you can obtain knows no bounds and has no price. There is no tuition, and its doors are open to anyone from the President of the United States to the single mom with two kids to the new college graduate, looking for his first job.

Most people who work as librarians have a master’s degree in library science. Years away from any degree, I refused to let anything stop me. I refused to let anything stand in my way. I learned on the job. I read. I networked. I read some more. By the time I graduated from East Carolina I had several articles published in journals, traveled across the US and Canada to speak about libraries, and even took a semester off to coauthor and publish a book about teaching and learning.

Thinking back to my graduation, I remember looking around as I stood in the procession line and not only feeling old but a little intimidated. The guy in line in front of me had a giant pirate ship on his head. It was rumored to fire cannons during the ceremony. What was in those cannons I was not sure. When I was handed my eye patch I put it on over my glasses determined to show my pirate spirit and walked with the class of 2011 into this auditorium barely able to see yet reveling in the fact that after 20 years, I was finally graduating.

As I listened to the speakers and anxiously waited to walk across the stage many different things were running through my mind as are probably going through yours. How would having a degree change my future? Should I go to graduate school? What if I trip when I walk across the stage? Would the speeches ever end? After making that walk across this stage, I sat down and I asked myself if I felt different and to my dismay, I realized that I didn’t feel different at all.

Since graduation I’ve realized that it’s not the piece of paper that matters, though your parents are surely glad that you will finally have it – in just a few moments (I promise). What matters is the journey you took to get here. The things you’ve learned along the way. The friends you made. The papers you waited until the last moment to write. Group projects. Research. Studying for finals.

As you walk across this stage today remember that this day is only one page of your story. The last page of your chapter here in the School of Communication.

It’s true that you are graduating in a difficult economic time but it is also an exciting time for communication graduates. Jobs created today not only didn’t exist ten or twenty years ago but they could never have been imagined. The Internet and social media have changed the way we communicate forever. The skills that you have learned here are the foundation for your career, for your life, for your story.

If there is one piece of advice that I can give you that I wish someone had given me it’s accept yourself for who you are right here and right now. There are so many times in life when we are looking for something or we are waiting for something to happen and thinking that – whatever the something is will make us happy.

The problem with this thinking is that there will always be something more that you will want and something more that you can accomplish. Be happy with who you are now. Live in this moment. Don’t try to skip any pages or chapters. Even the bad ones.

One of my favorite stories of all time is Harry Potter. I’m sure many of you have read it (or seen the movie). Imagine only reading the end. Imaging missing out on the moment when Harry learns he’s a wizard. Imagine missing out on the moment when Harry wins his first Quidditch match. Imagine missing out on Dobby the house elf. Imagine missing out when Harry defeats Lord Voldemort. (I hope I didn’t spoil that for anyone.)

Life is like a series of great stories. There are exciting headlines and leads, there are boring facts to muddle through, there are ups and downs, and there are heroes and villains. When you craft your life, your story, you get to choose your plot and your characters. Choose well. If someone is bringing you down. Rewrite him into a minor character. Don’t let anyone else write your story and most of all don’t miss a moment of it.

There is a myth that successful people have some master plan and that we have always known what we wanted to do. But the truth is … we really just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We try things. We make mistakes. We try again until we find our passion, our calling, our story.

What happens from here is up to you. East Carolina has given you a wonderful foundation to do anything that you want to do. The School of Communication and the work that you’ve done has prepared you for the 21st century workforce. The class of 2012 is going to do great things. You have the power to change the world. You have the power to change lives. You are going to create a fantastic story.