April 27, 2010

learning strategies

I've been experimenting with various forms of studying trying to find the way that works best for me.  It varies from class to class and I've even found that it varies from lecturer to lecturer.  Some give very comprehensive detailed outlines that makes studying straightforward.  Others kind of ramble and write prosaic diatribes.  Some stuff requires wrestling over the material on a white board to draw the pathways.  The method I'm trying right now is to outline each lecture before watching.  I tend to be more of an auditory learner so my thought is that if I go over a bit first on my own, then when the prof explains the material, it should be self evident.  Last semester I tinkered with that a bit by doing it the old fashion way and writing it down.  I thought I'd go digital this time with the thought that rather than flip needlessly through my notes trying to find that one obscure fact, I can just hit Ctrl+F and find it automatically.  Now I'm trying typing them into Word and I've learned several things.

  1. Microsoft Word does NOT recognize many scientific words at all, nevermind abbreviations.  Look at the image above and notice how many words have little red squiggly lines under them.  I got tired of adding them to the Word dictionary and just ignore them now.  Consequently, I have no idea when I actually do  mispell something.
  2. For me who grow up at the edge of the digital frontier, I learned to write before I learned to type.  I could write papers on a computer but I always had to print them out to proofread them.  So I'm not quite a digital native.  And what I've found is that when reading something and writing it by is not the same to me as reading something and typing it.  When I write by hand, I consciously think about what I want to write, or, when I write it forces me to consciously think about it.  When I type, my brain can shut down a bit and just blindly type what I read without really committing it to memory.  Consequently, I have to train my brain to actually read what I'm typing and not just transcribe it blindly.

Being able to search your notes by keyword definitely helps, especially around final, but I don't think it's working quite as well as I had hoped.  I still need to fine tune it.  I just need to address point #2 better so that when I type my notes up, it sticks as well as if I had written them out by hand.

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