As an adult with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), many of this week’s learning strategies (planning, time management, and organization) have been a fundamental part of my life. My ADHD was diagnosed at a time that medication was still relatively new, and cognitive and/or behavioral adaptations newer still. As a result, other than for a very short period of time, my parents did not give me medication to handle my condition. They also did not locate resources, strategies or skills to aid me with academic success. However, that did not prevent them from having exceedingly high expectations for my academic performance. Therefore, as a survival mechanism, I developed my own success strategies early in my academic career. These strategies cover the areas discussed in this week’s learning resources, specifically, planning, time management, studying and technology use.
Additionally, my background as a secondary instructor in Science and Health Science, plus my Masters in Instructional Design and Technology, have contributed to my rather large database of successful strategies and techniques in these categories. Therefore, I apologize ahead of time for being unable to find and/or list completely novel strategies. To compensate, however, I will endeavor to discuss many of the strategies of which I am familiar, have incorporated personally, or differ in some way from the learning resources so as to not be redundant to our cohorts’ learning. Further, I am positively looking forward to reading everyone else’s strategies in case someone has come across one I have not previously encountered. I am always on the lookout for a new tip or trick to make life easier, more efficient and/or more successful.
There are many ways to plan effectively. One suggestion in our resources includes making and goals (Watkins & Corry, 2011). In addition, an investigation of the additional links associated with our E-Learning Companion revealed some nifty resources to aid in making goals, including downloadable worksheets (About Goal Setting website, 2011). In fact, when I taught Health Science, one of my favorite activities was the creation and setting of reasonable and realistic goals. This is appropriate for every person at every stage of life, as well as for the many roles we play in life.
As a personal example, my husband is blessed with a very high metabolism. This works well for him because he also loves eating out. Additionally, his full-time job is working as a courier for FedEx Express allowing him extra activity to work off any extra calories he may ingest. Unfortunately, nature did not provide me with a high metabolism, nor is my employment activity oriented at the moment. (As a teacher, activity was inherent as I rarely sat down). As a legal secretary by day, I am primarily sedentary. Sadly, typing 95+ words per minute does not burn many calories. Similarly, on the weekend, I spend most of my time reading or writing in front of a computer for school. As a direct result of eating out with my husband, making poor choices when eating out, a sedentary day job, and a sedentary weekend life, I quickly gained extra weight. I recently re-enrolled with Weight Watchers (weight management is a life-long struggle for me), and promptly set a realistic goal to lose one to two pounds per week. In addition, I set a goal to increase my activity to 15 minutes walking twice a day. Had I skipped the small weekly goals and set the bar at 50 pounds it would be easy to become overwhelmed and sabotage myself. It is also unrealistic to set a goal to exercise at a gym for 1-2 hours 3 or 4 times per week with my time constraints. Small goals breed small successes, which over time, add up.
An academic example of a strategy I have used for my Walden courses for over two years is also mentioned in our learning resources. Specifically, preparation of a folder system on the computer prior to beginning class (Watkins & Corry, 2011). I have taken this a step further. The weekend before the course begins; I create a folder for each week of class under a master folder with the course name. I save each week’s instructions for learning resources, discussions and assignments in their own pdf or Word file for each week. Lastly, I download each learning resource that is not a textbook and save it as a pdf on my computer in the appropriate week’s folder. By doing this I ensure (1) I have access to the resources prior to the week beginning, as you never know when something may hinder this process (technology, time, or access); and, (2) I am able to determine ahead of time if there is a problem with acquiring the resource because it is unavailable, the link has changed or the library does not carry it anymore. This can save a great deal of time and frustration later. This process is beneficial because most of my courses have required accessing or downloading of numerous reference articles which would clutter up a single folder, but when categorized by week are easier to locate and quicker to upload or download to the cloud and/or mobile devices.
I also create an Excel calendar for each course in which I list each date of the week, when an initial discussion post is due and when response posts are due, as well as any assignments. Each deadline has a checkbox for me to check when I have completed them. If, as in this course, I am required to post to a discussion forum and to Turnitin, I have to sets of check boxes, one for each. Also, I create more than the minimum number of boxes for responses posts. I have attached an example of the calendar I created for this course (..\academic calendar.doc). Ideally, I prefer to respond to at least one or two more than required. I adopted this habit during my Master’s program because many of the instructors would only give full credit if you substantially posted responses to more than the minimum specified in the syllabus. Please note, this requirement varies between instructors.
Lastly, I utilize templates for everything. I have a template for my discussion posts set up as papers just as if I would turn them in as a formal assignment. I also have a template in Dreamweaver allowing me to convert my discussion paper into a legible html document for the discussion forum. This is purely for my personal preference. It makes me a little crazy to have my words different sizes and paragraphs disorganized by the formatting.
Time management is difficult for most people, and most certainly for individuals with ADHD. Walden’s orientation course has a good activity to visualize where our time is spent in the form of a pie-chart (Cengage Learning website, 2011). Unfortunately, my time is so structured time management is simply ensuring I do not waste what little free time I do have. For instance, I get up at 5:50 a.m. so that I can go for a walk before work, watch a television show with my Dad (his version of quality time, while I scrapbook, pay bills, or do some online research for class), take my son to school across town and make it to work by 8:15 a.m. I work from 8:15 until 5:00 p.m. when I pick my son up from Boy’s Club. At lunch I walk for 15 minutes, play a video game for 15 minutes and do homework for 30 minutes. If my son is not done with his homework when I arrive at Boy’s Club, I help him with this homework and try to complete some of my homework. When I get home from work, I have approximately one hour to eat dinner, watch a television show with my family (again, their idea of quality time. This is one of those times I am able to prepare templates for school papers), and take another 15 minute walk (with my husband or dad) before scurrying after my son to get ready for bed at 7:30 p.m. Typically, the hour between 7:30 and 8:30 is taken up with reading the Power Bible, playing with my son, prayers, and other family related activities. After my son goes to bed I have approximately one hour to work on homework before I crash for the night between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. Clearly, during the week, time is a commodity that runs short in my life.
I try to minimize some of the time constraints during the week by preparing ahead on the weekends. I limit my outside activities (non-family related) and spend the majority of my free time reading ahead for class, writing papers and posting in the discussion forums. The weekends are also the time I try to set up my papers for the next week. For instance, I input all of the citations I am likely to use for my papers and discussion posts. I also put in the discussion or talking points and/or outline. I save the document in the appropriate folder with the actual title of the document. I only save a renamed version in the appropriate labeling style right before I send it to Turnitin. This may seem tedious, but by doing this ahead of time I can concentrate on reading every chance I get, reflect on the topics during my walks, and then sit down and right the paper or post without sifting through everything looking for citations. I just delete the ones I do not use.
One of the topics usually mentioned is the benefit of exploring what type of learner you are and/or which modality of learning benefits you the most. I learned early in my life that I am a visual learner, not auditory. This means that being given verbal instructions or being read to literally pass through my ears, apparently without stopping in the cognitive portion of my brain, and I remember next to nothing. However, my reading comprehension and writing skills are fairly well developed. Further, I have a tendency to remember a large portion of what I do read. Additionally, I learned when very young that if I read before bed that information would repeat in my mind as I slept. This was especially true when I was anxious over an exam the next day. I would dream I was reading the text from the page. (This makes me wonder if there is actually a psychological advantage to this method of study. I may look it up to see if there has been any research into this type of phenomenon).
In a somewhat related category to studying, I am an open learner. What I mean by this is that if I do not understand a word in the context with which it is written, I will immediately look it up. Similarly, if I am unsure about the grammar, punctuation or a particular APA formatting technique, I will look it up. In fact, prior to this course I had already purchased the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010) because the pocket guide was not complete enough for my needs. In addition, I have several bookmarked APA related sites so that whenever I have a specific question I can jump to it in another screen rather than wait and possibly forget later.
Similarly, I have been to the Walden University Writing Center and downloaded a variety of useful documents that have been enormously useful. For instance, it is difficult for me to remember the exactly appropriate method of citing the videos watched through our learning resources. I have, therefore, printed out the reference recommendations from the Walden Writing Center, including the relevant examples. It helps ensure I cite the videos properly.
Effective Technology Use
In addition to some of the strategies already mentioned, some additional technology and software related ideas include:
I use a variety of software for my citation management. For instance, I use Perrla.com software, which sets up my papers in APA format and keeps a database of my citations. I also use Mendeley Desktop for citation management. This software imports any pdf files I select into the program and then tracks it for me. One great feature of Mendeley is that it has an option to go online to Google Scholar and obtain the article doi information if I do not already have it.
Another software I utilize frequently is Adobe Acrobat Pro X. This software is great because it allows me to download pdfs from Walden University, mark the document up with notes and highlights, and then print it out. It is also great for copying and pasting passages I want to use in my paper word-for-word with the citations. Along with the Adobe Acrobat Pro, I also have Omni Page Pro. This is an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software that can read the characters if the pdf was saved as a graphic file, rather than as a text file. This can make all the difference if you are trying to annotate your pdf.
One absolutely great software I use is Dropbox. This allows me to store documents in the cloud and access it from any computer or mobile device I use. This is an enormously beneficial feature because I am always on the go. I can access my documents from work at lunch, from the downstairs computer, my laptop upstairs, my iPad or iPhone. I also have a Cloud account that allows me separate access if my Dropbox account goes done for some reason.
Our resources discuss a litany of important topics for technology related to passwords, search engines, and backing up documents (Watkins & Corry, 2011) so I do not want to beleaguer the topics.
About Goal Setting website. (2011). http://www.about-goal-setting.com/
Cengage Learning website. (2011). http://college.cengage.com/masterstudent/shared/content/time_chart/chart.html
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2012a). Tips for effective online composition and communication [Video webcast]. Available from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1381615_1%26url%3D.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2012b). Effective online communication: Scholarly writing in online discussion [Video webcast]. Available from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1381615_1%26url%3D.
Walden University. (2012). Citing a DVD or online video/webcast. Retrieved September 16, 2012, from http://writingcenter.waldenu.edu/624.htm
Watkins, R., & Corry, M. (2011). E-learning companion: A student’s guide to online success (Laureate Education, Inc., custom Ed.). Mason: OH: Cengange Learning.