Category Archives: Study hacks

October 29, 2010, 7:40 am

Pushing back

Seth Godin has a lot of good things to say in this short blog post, such as:

When a professor assigns you to send a blogger a list of vague and inane interview questions (“1. How did you get started in this field? 2. What type of training (education) does this field require? 3. What do you like best about your job? 4. what do you like least about your job?”) I think you have an obligation to say, “Sir, I’m going to be in debt for ten years because of this degree. Perhaps you could give us an assignment that actually pushes us to solve interesting problems, overcome our fear or learn something that I could learn in no other way…”

When a professor spends hours in class going over concepts that are clearly covered in the textbook, I think you have an obligation to repeat the part about the debt and say, “perhaps you could assign this as homework and we could have an actual conversation…

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March 17, 2010, 8:26 pm

You can't become an expert in college

Cover of "Outliers: The Story of Success&...

Cover of Outliers: The Story of Success

Here’s something of an epiphany I had at the ICTCM while listening to Dave Pritchard‘s keynote, which had a lot to do with the differences between novice and expert behaviors in problem-solving.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, puts forth a now-famous theory that it takes at least 10,000 hours to become a true expert in a particular area, at the top of one’s game in a particular pursuit. That’s 10,000 hours of concentrated work in studying, practicing, and performing in some particular area. When we talk about “expert behavior”, we mean the kinds of behaviors that people who have put in their 10,000 hours exercise as second nature.

Clearly high school or college students who are in an introductory course — even Dave Pritchard’s physics students at MIT, who are likely…

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September 29, 2008, 6:20 am

Monday GTD moment: Scholarship and GTD

This is the third installment of Monday GTD Moment, where I take a post to blog about Getting Things Done and how it applies in an academic setting. If you’re unfamiliar with GTD, here’s a good overview, and make sure to read David Allen’s book that started it all.

Last week I wrote about grading and GTD. I noted that grading is kind of a poor fit in traditional GTD. A prof can grade anywhere, so the idea of contexts fits awkwardly; and grading “tasks” are usually projects, although we think of them as tasks and although the next actions contained in those projects are usually nothing more than smaller projects. GTD wasn’t really made for the academic profession, and so the staple activities of academics don’t often fit well.

Another area similar to grading in its relatively poor fit within the canonical GTD philosophy is research, or more generally scholarship. By “scholarship” …

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August 2, 2008, 1:00 pm

Five big ideas for freshman orientation

This past week saw most of the incoming freshman class converge on my campus for an initial round of freshman orientation. At the end of the month is a much more extensive exposure to orientation, taking up what appears to be 80% of students’ waking hours from the Friday before classes all the way up through the end of the weekend. One has to wonder how much orientation leads to disorientation.

I'm thinking these students aren't learning about studying or time management.

I'm thinking these students aren't learning about studying or time management.

The purpose of a freshman orientation program ought to be, well, to orient freshmen in college — that is, to give students a “compass bearing” in the strange and unfamiliar world of college. Many such programs do not even remotely address or even desire this goal, preferring instead to indoctrinate students into the correct political…

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July 31, 2008, 6:51 am

Keeping the "extra" in extracurricular

Over at Study Hacks, they are floating the “dangerous idea” that

Outside of a few exceptions, college extracurriculars are of minor importance to your efforts to find a job after graduation. There is no benefit to be gained by suffering through an overwhelming load of activities at the college level. [emphasis theirs]

The article makes the point that extracurricular activities in college can add a little color to your job applications later, and of course it’s always healthy to be active in things you enjoy. But overall, they advise that college students keep the number of their activities small, use those activities to surround themselves with interesting people, and don’t be afraid to cut back.

I agree, and this fits with the idea I’ve blogged about before that time is a scarce resource that (like any such resource) requires budgeting and careful management. There are only a certain…

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June 19, 2008, 2:34 pm

LaTeX as a word processor?

Good article here at The Productive Student giving five reasons why students should use \(\LaTeX\) as their word processor and not Microsoft Word:

1. Never worry about formatting again.
2. It looks way better. [By the way: Very nice article on LaTeX's typesetting at that link.]
3. It won’t crash: LaTeX is basically a plain text file. You can edit it anywhere, in any text editor, and it basically can’t crash on you. File size is very small which makes it very portable.
4. It’s great for displaying equations, which is why it’s the leading standard among sciencitifc scholars.
5. It fits in with the workflow of a student and allows you to do one thing well: Write.

The writer also shares some of his practices for writing papers (not necessarily math or science papers) with \(\LaTeX\), stressing \(\LaTeX\)’s ability to handle bibliographic data as the “killer feature”….

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January 26, 2008, 3:06 pm

Happiness and productivity in college, the GTD way

I missed this the first time, but Study Hacks posted this article on Getting Things Done for College Students back last summer. It’s basically a self-contained overview of GTD, although it differs from “canonical” GTD in that it takes into account that college students don’t have a fixed 8-5 work day. Instead, they propose fixing down “work hours” and making that be your work day. There are other college-student specific variations in the main article. Well worth a look if you are a college student needing a trustworthy system for productivity.

That article is just one link in this massively-link-filled post on being productive and happy in college in general, which contains so much good advice on time and “stuff” management for college students that I think the average college student would be overwhelmed by it all. But it’s definitely deserving of a read from all students out there.

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January 9, 2008, 12:51 pm

Finding success at MIT, and anywhere else

I completely missed College Chronicles, a “blog-based reality series that follows real students attempting to overhaul their study habits”, until the first of three wrap-up episodes posted today at Study Hacks. That episode checks in with Leena, a student at MIT, who had a successful semester academically after some initial troubles.

The changes she made which had the biggest impact on her success?

  • The act of realistically plotting out when I was going to do things and how much time they would take.
  • GOING TO CLASS. It makes life so much easier.
  • Studying early enough to ask my questions at office hours.
  • Doing homework in office hours.
  • Not going back to my room until I absolutely had to.

Although Leena is probably studying rocket science at MIT, note that her keys to success in college are not rocket science: managing time responsibly, going to class, not procrastinating with…

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January 1, 2008, 9:03 am

Beating bad study habits in 2008

Happy New Year to all of you out there. For those of you about to start back to school (I don’t until February thanks to our January Term), Study Hacks has five bad study habits to swear off in 2008. Here’s a clip from the first one, which is “Studying Without a Plan”:

Do you still use “study” as a specific verb? For example, as in: “I’m going to go study, see you in 12 hours.” If so, you’re in trouble. “Study” is ambiguous. No one can “study.” What they can do is specific review activities, such as “convert first month of lecture notes into question/evidence/conclusion format,” or “quiz and recall study guides 1 to 3.”

I can’t recall the number of times a student has come to the office, having done poorly on a test or other assessment, and plaintively says “…but I STUDIED!” To which I reply, “OK, so tell me what you did.” And there’s often a stunned silence -…

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