Happy Computer Science Education Week!

Happy Computer Science Education Week, everyone! I couldn’t resist throwing together a quick video, including a couple of things I’ve been working on this week:

(Music courtesy of Jukedeck.com – check out the YouTube link for a list of software I used…most of it was free)

My Approach to Applying Learning Theories to Instructional Design

Instructional Design for the 21st Century - Brittany Thompson Robinson

I thoroughly enjoyed the edX Micro Masters course: USMx: LDT100x Instructional Design and Technology: Learning Theories. This course went into great detail discussing the following learning theories:

  • Behaviorism
  • Constructivism
  • Connectivism
  • Cognitivism
  • Andragogy (Adult Learning Theory)

Since I create course curriculum and facilitate classes for both children and adults, I definitely see these theories and approaches fitting into the courses I design. After taking this course, I have a stronger idea of how I will use learning theories and complex assessments in my upcoming Instructional Design and Development projects.

I wouldn’t say there is one theory that is most “relevant” for my learners; rather, I teach in a blended learning environment that combines multiple learning theories and techniques for all learning styles. In my classes, the various learning theories and approaches work in conjuction with each other.

My courses are technical in nature – such as learning to develop video games, use Photoshop, or write JavaScript code – but there is also a creative aspect to them as well. Because digital technology is the solid background for all of my courses, there is a strong Connectivism component to my teaching. Students are even taught how to search the web for tools and resources to implement in their final projects, and are encouraged to do so.

HTML coding is a type of training that can make use of Behaviorism (Keramida, M.Ed., Marisa. 2015). For instance, I can use Behaviorism to teach my participants correct coding commands and debugging, while I can use Constructivism and group work or Social Constructivism during the project planning phase for the students’ final website project (McLeod, S. A. 2012, 2016.). Not only does this give my students a taste of real-world project management and scope; it also allows them to learn from each other, collaborate creatively, and build their own skills. In true Cognitivist form, their experiences and social connections help contribute to their learning.

Although I currently teach adults and children, my background originally was in Adult Learning Theory (Andragogy). For the past ten years, I have been teaching adult learners and naturally have been applying Knowles’ 5 Assumptions and 4 Principles to my classes (Pappas, C. 2017). Because adult learners bring their own prior knowledge and diverse past experiences into the classroom, I always start off by explaining the reasons why we are learning each topic, and providing task-oriented instructions. My online courses are particularly self-directed and autonomous, while also offering a Connectivist approach and providing guidance and support via digital tools such as email or private Facebook groups. I feel that this works well for brining interactive learning into the 21st Century “digital age”.


Pappas, C. (2017, July 20). The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles.
Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles)

“The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – Infographic”. (April 2, 2014).     Retrieved from: https://elearningindustry.com/adult-learning-theory-andragogy-infographic/

Keramida, M.Ed., Marisa. (2015, May 28). Behaviorism in Instructional Design for eLearning: When and How to Use.
Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/behaviorism-in-instructional-design-for-elearning-when-and-how-to-use

McLeod, S. A. (2012). Zone of Proximal Development.
     Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html

MacLeod, Saul. (2016). Bandura – Social Learning Theory.
Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html

The Fire Starter Sessions Workshop (Lexington, KY, USA)

Fire Starter Sessions Brittany Thompson Robinson Lexington Kentucky Workshop

This is the permission slip you’ve been waiting for…

Do you have dreams of quitting your 9-to-5 job? Taking the leap into running your own business? Traveling the world full-time? Or creating a brand new life for yourself? I want to help you say YES to your own genius so you can stop doing all the things that are holding you back.

Let’s cut through your thoughts, fears, and feelings so we can get crystal clear on your core desires. Using your dreams as fuel to move you forward, we’ll burn your illusions to a crisp so you’ll finally have the courage to live the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Register Online

Based on the book by Danielle LaPorte and led by Certified Facilitator Brittany Robinson, The Fire Starter Sessions workshop will:

● give you permission to want what you want (and show you how to go for it!)
● declare your “superpowers” and true strengths
● become better at time management
● expand your consciousness
● ignite your fire for following your dreams
● help you be incredibly generous with your love

Saturday, January 6th from 1:30-5:30PM

in the cozy, light-filled yoga studio at Centered in Brittany’s hometown:
309 N. Ashland Ave #180, Lexington, KY USA 40502

$50 Early Bird Registration until Dec 18th – Register Here
***Hot tea, water, snacks and worksheets are included. Dress comfy and bring a journal and a pen.

It’s time to create success on your own terms.

About Brittany:

Brittany Robinson is a designer, business coach, Creator of #SelfCareForSolopreneurs and Licensed Facilitator of the Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte. After leaving corporate America herself, she now helps new business owners bring their world-changing visions to life (and get plenty of self-care along the way). When she’s not working from home in her pajamas, she travels the world with her husband, Rafael.

Core Desired Feelings: Radiance. Freedom. Abundance.
What are your CDF’s? Discover them here


create your own website for free video tutorial by brittany thompson robinson

For a recent MicroLearning project, I was tasked with learning a new (to me) digital media technology tool or application that could support me as an Instructional Designer. I actually used several freeware applications to create a quick video for new business owners, or anyone wanting to create their own website for free without having to pay a designer (see below). As a self-directed, hands-on learner, I taught myself how to use Shotcut in the same way that I taught myself to read and write HTML code so many years ago: by playing with the software until I got stuck, then researching online tutorials and walking through the steps until I figured it out on my own.

(Disclaimer: I do have some prior video editing experience as well, so some of the software was fairly intuitive and user-friendly for someone who has experience using other programs for video editing. I was able to take a Constructivist approach here by building upon what I already know and reaching out to more knowledgeable people for additional help and resources.)

Luckily, this is no longer the 1990s and we have resources such as micro-learning, blogs, Google (and other search engines), and YouTube video tutorials to assist with rapidly learning new technology such as this one. YouTube videos were extremely valuable in my ability to quickly learn my way around Shotcut, Screencastify, and WordPress.com (which was shockingly different than the WordPress interface that I use when designing client websites). I also followed along with YouTube videos for using Canva (which I was already familiar with) for making YouTube video intro images (which I had never done before).

As someone who is intrinsically motivated, this type of Connectivist + Constructivist learning process worked well for me. I was able to quickly master the skills required for this video, utilizing a variety of digital media tools, and rapidly turn my knowledge into a tutorial that I could immediately share with other self-directed learners on YouTube. I plan to use these same tools to create other video tutorials on my channel and may even create a behind-the-scenes tutorial on how I combined all of these tools to make this video (in case other learners want to accomplish the same thing).

Biggest a-ha moment: While self-directed and intrinsically motivated, I’m used to blending Connectivism with Constructivism for my own technical learning & it’s made me a bit of an impatient learner. I get frustrated when interfaces are not user-friendly enough for me to intuitively figure out how to use them, and I click away from YouTube video tutorials that don’t immediately dive into the lesson & tell me steps for doing something I’m trying to accomplish. This is an important realization that could play into how I learn, as well as how I create YouTube videos and especially tutorials for other learners in the future.

I found the user interface and limitations of the “free” version of Screencastify frustrating. While learning, I ran into issues getting the audio and video to export in a format that I could use for video editing purposes. It was difficult to transfer these files to YouTube compared to Screencast-o-matic and Overwolf, which I have used frequently for other projects in the past. I have decided to stick with Overwolf and Screencast-o-matic for this reason, although Screencastify gets the job done if you need a nice in-browser app for Chrome.

On the positive side, this gives me an idea to start including an index on any YouTube tutorial videos that I upload (and maybe also mentioning at the start of the video so that people can immediately skip ahead if they want). Thanks, Debra!

You can watch the video and learn more about the tools I used to create it here:

Video Tutorial: How to Create Your Own Website Using WordPress

Tools Used:

Screencastify (in-browser screen capture for Chrome… after using this tool, I actually prefer Screencast-o-matic or Overwolf for user interface and ease of transporting files to video editing software or YouTube)

Shotcut (free video editor – an excellent alternative to Adobe Premiere Pro, very intuitive and lightweight, renders quickly – even on a laptop that is not indented for video editing)

Canva (photo editing site – excellent free alternative to Photoshop)

WordPress (create your own website for free)

YouTube (free video hosting site)

My Personal Learning Experiences with Cognitivism and Connectivism

Cognitivism Connectivism Learning Theory by Brittany Thompson Robinson Instructional Designer

Being a digital native, Connectivism has always played a large role not just in how I develop and facilitate curriculum – but also in my own personal learning experiences. For example, when I was a 14-year-old middle school student, I wanted to build my own website so I used Connectivism to teach myself how to read and write HTML code.

I was in middle school during the height of the first Dot Com Boom, and I just knew this “World Wide Web” stuff was important. I wanted to master HTML and web design – and maybe even start my first business – by building websites for myself and my friends. I started by using the search engine Ask.com, which was called Ask Jeeves back then, to search for HTML tutorials for beginners. Eventually, that led me to the excellent website, HTMLgoodies.com, which features a variety of hands-on tutorials for teaching yourself to read and write HTML, JavaScript, and more – all while you build working webpages.

In this way, I used various different digital tools to seek out information on the Internet from a variety of places. And I didn’t stop there. While reading the information displayed in each tutorial, I simultaneously typed the code in Notepad as instructed. As I followed along, I also compared my code to the visual images that were included in each tutorial. By testing my code in the Internet Explorer browser, which was the gold standard back then, I was able to instantly verify that my code was working. This was another way I used a diverse variety of digital tools (specifically, the Internet, a tutorial website, a web browser, and Notepad) to learn something new.

When I stumbled across a problem, such as broken code, I learned to troubleshoot and quality check my code. I also learned the important skill of searching the internet for help. By pulling information from multiple different resources, including various websites, search engines, and online forums or other communities, I was able to slowly piece together a working knowledge of web design and development. Of course, not all online resources are accurate. I had to learn good decision-making skills to discern which “advice” I should follow and to determine which tutorial websites were the best for what I was trying to achieve.

My social and cultural influences also played a role in my learning. I was friends with lots of teenage boys who were gamers, web developers, and what you might call “computer fanatics.” This social circle was extremely helpful to me as they supported my decision to learn to code, shared tips, tricks and resources, and assisted with quality checking my code when it needed debugging. These experiences allowed me to gain a mastery of HTML that I was able to build upon for decades to come, and also introduced me to JavaScript, which I now use in my curriculum development and instructional design role.

Today, with modern resources such as in-person coding workshops (which were unavailable to me as a middle school girl in Kentucky decades ago), YouTube video tutorials, podcasts, conferences, and a variety of social media learning tools and eLearning or MOOC websites, I would have an even greater opportunity to put Connectivism to work for teaching myself to code. Throughout my career in adulthood, I have been a lifelong learner using Connectivism and digital media to further my own learning experiences.

Through the Cognitivist Lens:

The scenario listed above was not purely Connectivist; it also has some elements of Cognitivism. For instance, the tutorial websites I looked at took cognitive load into account. Lessons were broken into smaller segments so I could pick up the technical information with ease. The tutorial images, such as screenshots, were placed beside the corresponding text to improve clarity and avoid any confusion. Non-essential information was omitted from the tutorials.

At the time, I recall the website being laid out in a way that reduced cognitive load. However, that was the mid-1990s and, as we all know, the look and feel of the internet in general was a bit of a mess overall back then. I’m sure if I were to go back in a time machine to take a look at the 1997 version of HTMLGoodies.com, it would be overwhelming and I would feel overloaded by the design and layout. (The current layout of the website is not very clean or modern, but the information architecture is at least organized in a way that I can easily find what I am looking for within a few seconds. Of course, my perceptions of the website today are shaped in part by my own history and knowledge, as well as my own cultural and social background.)

I had an internal motivation to acquire this knowledge and I used my social network of people familiar with web design to assist me with the learning process. HTMLgoodies.com taught the content in small chunks, making the information easier to absorb for a newcomer like myself. Courses were set up in a way that I could read the instructions and then try for myself. As I did this over and over, I built a level of self efficacy and grew to master the content, becoming motivated to learn more and more about this topic.

Cognitivism and Connectivism

Cognitivism Connectivism Learning Theory by Brittany Thompson Robinson Instructional Designer

An Overview of Cognitivism

In Cognitivist learning theory, the thought processes are important to learning. These mental processes are shaped by our past experiences, which also shape how we process new information. Cognitivism focuses on acquiring knowledge and information.

Social Cognitivism builds upon the theory of Cognitivism while also stressing that the learner is an active participant in his or her own learning process. Therefore, motivation plays a strong role in learning.

Cognitive Load

Cognitive load refers to the amount of effort it takes to process something in working memory. Working memory can generally hold between five and nine items of information at any one time (Atkinson and Shiffrin “Human Memory” – 1968.) For this reason, it is important that Instructors and Curriculum Developers do their best to reduce cognitive load and ensure the transfer of knowledge to all learners.

Here are some ways to help reduce cognitive load:

  • Break larger or more complex content into smaller segments that are more easily understood

  • Use a combination of audio and visual methods for communicating information

  • Any non-essential content should be ommitted

  • Text or verbiage should be placed near the corresponding imagery

An Overview of Connectivism

Connectivism is a modern learning theory for the digital age. Connectivist learning theory states that digital technology allows us to expand our network, therefore also allowing us to expand the number of tools, resources, and people where we can attain new information. The argument is that this contributes to greater intellect, although the learner must use good decision-making and critical thinking skills to discern between sources of information. This is essential in the modern digital environment, where information is all around us.

Overlap Between Constructivism and Connectivism

There is some overlap between Constructivism and Connectivism. Jerome Bruner was responsible for developing many theories of both Constructivism and Connectivism. Additionally, both learning theories take social and cultural influences into account when it comes to learning.


Jonesrebandt, Erin. (Oct. 22, 2013).  Connectivism
Retrieved from https://youtube /cFCYjm6nf40

MacLeod, Saul. (2016). Bandura – Social Learning Theory.
Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html

Siemans, George (2005). “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”
Retrieved from  http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/ article01.htm

Atkinson and Shiffrin. (1968).”Human Memory”.

Guyan, Matthew. (2013, November 1). “5 Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in eLearning”.

     Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/5-ways-to-reduce-cognitive-load-in-elearning



Infographic on Constructivist Learning Theory

During my college course on sustainability and environmental studies, my professor took a Constructivist approach to learning. He would present topics such as global warming, carbon footprints, and political beliefs for class debates. The discussions and debates allowed us to learn from each other while challenging us to think differently about these topics. These discussions had a profound effect on me and remain some of the most memorable of my entire college career.

With Constructivism, learning builds upon what we already know as a foundation before proceeding to what is new or unknown. Similar to constructing a house, instructors can provide scaffolding as a foundation for their students, enabling them to build upon what they already know as they continue learning new skills.

I have personally experienced this type of scaffolding with my math and science courses. As a student, teachers taught us the foundational skills of basic mathematical formulas and scientific knowledge before moving on to more advanced material that built upon those same skills.

As an instructor myself, one scaffolding strategy that I use is teaching learners the basics of JavaScript coding first, before moving on to more advanced code. I break the code down into small pieces, and teach my students about variables and functions individually, before combining them into increasingly complex lines of code.

I take a hands-on approach by modeling the proper code for my learners and then allowing them to write their own code while I assist them with debugging any error messages. When students are struggling, I offer hints and clues or ask them open-ended questions to assist them rather than immediately telling them the answer. My goal is to teach them critical thinking skills while also gradually raising their confidence and their coding abilities.

In the extremely popular Minecraft courses that I facilitate for kids, I teach children (ages 6-14 years) how to read and write JavaScript code by using their favorite video game (Minecraft) as a learning tool. I will often break the classes into pairs of 2 students to allow for social constructivism. I try to match students who have a good grasp on the material with others who might be struggling, and I walk through the room and assist each pair with their code. As the students work together to solve problems and create solutions, they gain confidence and begin to develop a better grasp on the course material.

As you can imagine, all of these Constructivist approaches to learning help my learners to take an active role in constructing their own knowledge.

My Personal Experiences with Behaviorist Learning Theory

Over the years, I’ve had many experiences with Behaviorism, both as a student and as an instructor or facilitator. One learning scenario that presents the Behaviorist learning theory in practice is when I was taking a college course on sustainability and environmental studies.

Interestingly enough, the professor for this course took a Constructivist approach to learning. Some highlights included class debates, during which he would present topics such as global warming, carbon footprints, and political beliefs, and would challenge us to think differently about these topics:

  • What do you believe?
  • Why do you feel the way that you do?
  • What if you considered it from this perspective instead?
  • What is the problem with this scenario?
  • What behaviors or actions created this situation?
  • Are these actions and behaviors sustainable long-term? Why or why not?

This class also included a lot of field work using the Constructivist model. From touring solar farms to looking at pollution levels in local streams and soil samples, we would experience things for ourselves and ask open-ended questions. These chances to explore the world around us and develop our own perspectives through critical thinking remain some of the most memorable experiences from my college career, and profoundly shaped who I became as a person.

Although the majority of this class was taught using a Constructivist approach as outlined above, there were times when the professor switched to an approach that more closely aligned with Behaviorism. As discussed in my blog post on Behaviorism, Behaviorism has some key features, including: learning is observable, and behaviors are influenced by positive and negative reinforcement.

For instance, the professor used Behaviorism to teach use scientific approaches to measuring the acidity levels (pH) of soil and water in our local college town. These are scientific standards and there is a “correct” and “incorrect” procedure for collecting the samples as well as measuring their pH level. Doing this incorrectly would have negatively impacted our data for the class research project during our field study, so we practiced before we departed. The professor observed us, offering words of encouragement if we were doing it correctly as well as assisting those who were struggling.

Our final project consisted of us reading required learning materials and preparing a presentation for the whole class on why a particular person, belief, or topic was aligned with sustainability or was in fact “unsustainable.” This is also known as the “discrimination” approach (Keramida, M.Ed., Marisa, 2015). We used our knowledge of statistics, scientific data and research, modern technology (thanks to our field studies) and mathematical formulations to make our determinations. The positive “reward” for correctly determining whether our particular research topic was sustainable or unsustainable was a high grade from the professor and approval or agreement from our classmates. In this situation, negative reinforcement would have included feelings of shame or embarrassment, a lower grade from the professor, and possibly even having to respond to challenging comments from disapproving/disagreeing classmates.

To this day, this particular class stands out as one of the most long-term beneficial (and interesting) classes of my entire college career. I’m grateful that my professor took a blended approach to learning. I think his class would have been much different if it had been solely Constructivist or Behaviorist. By skillfully using Behaviorism to help us understand scientific methods, memorize terminology, and grasp new information, he helped us gain knowledge that would allow us to better approach the Constructivist parts of the course.

If my own experience is to be used as an example, it shows just how much the blending of these methods allowed me to retain the information from the course. Over 15 years later, I still remember some of these facts, discussions and presentations as if they were yesterday!

When NOT to Use Behaviorism (A Personal Learning Experience)

In my previous blog post about Behaviorism as a learning theory, we discussed some of the psychological foundations of behaviorist learning theory. If you read my blog post or are familiar with Behaviorism, you probably already know that it works well for certain learning scenarios, such as:

  •  Memorizing standards
  • Mathematical formulas and equations
  • Scientific facts
  • Language vocabulary
  • or other information that can be memorized and has a clear “right” or “wrong” answer.

Behaviorism works well for science and mathematics courses. It can be an excellent way to memorize equations and formulas. It also comes in handy when learning foreign languages, allowing participants to master vocabulary and basic sentence structures.

However, Behaviorism – like all learning theories – has its limitations. There are some situations where Behaviorism might not be the best approach for knowledge transfer.

When NOT to Use Behaviorism

I can think of a situation when Behaviorism was not the best way to present the learning material, however, when I recall my husband’s tales of his web design professor. Design is a skill set that is best learned through some guidance. The instructor can provide scaffolding for the learners, for instance, and can build upon the learner’s existing knowledge of the subject matter. In my design classes throughout college, we were grouped with other students, allowed to collaborate and learn from each other, and received one-on-one guidance from our instructor to help us become the best possible designers.

My husband’s professor, on the other hand, took the opposite approach and did not offer guidance. Instead, students were expected to memorize the “rules” of design straight from the textbook and grades were based on passing true/false assessments. While Behaviorism works well for some subject areas, I do not agree that it is the best approach for learning creative topics such as design. A different approach, such as Constructivism, may have been more appropriate in this scenario.

Behaviorism – What Does Pavlov’s Dog Have to Do with Learning Theory?

What does Pavlov’s dog have to do with learning? The foundations of Behaviorism as a theory for explaining human behavior actually started quite by accident.

At the turn of the 1900s, a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov was researching the digestive processes of dogs when he noticed something completely unexpected.

Although the dogs in his lab salivated while being fed, they also began to salivate when they associated a stimulus with feeding. For instance, if the dogs heard a bell or saw a lab assistant each time they were fed, they would eventually start salivating anytime they heard the bell or saw the lab assistant – even if they did not receive any food.

This is called “classical conditioning” and it doesn’t just apply to dogs; it applies to human behavior and learning as well. B.F. Skinner would later build upon Pavlov’s work with his research on “operant conditioning,” in which the positive or negative reinforcement of a behavior occurs after the desired response (Alana Barnett, 2015).

Connections to Teaching and Learning

How does Behaviorism fit into Learning Theory? Like Pavlov’s experiment with the dogs, Behaviorism theorizes that all actions or behaviors can be learned and unlearned. When external stimuli cause us to have a reaction, positive reinforcement can encourage us to learn a behavior (and repeat our action in response to the stimulus). Likewise, negative reinforcement can teach us to “unlearn” a behavior (and cease our reaction).

When external stimuli cause us to have a reaction, positive reinforcement can encourage us to learn a behavior (and repeat our action in response to the stimulus). Likewise, negative reinforcement can teach us to “unlearn” a behavior (and cease our reaction).

Behaviorist learning theory looks at learning as teacher-initiated, performance-based, and focused on external behaviors that can be visibly observed by others. As one can imagine, Behaviorism has its limitations. However, it can be useful for learning standards, mathematical formulas, scientific facts, language vocabulary, or other information that can be memorized and has a clear “right” or “wrong” answer.