Copying or writing notes during lectures is the traditional, time- honored way to learn information. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to listen, copy, and comprehend at the same time. Students are usually forced to choose one of the three and hope they are able to make up for the other two in some magical way. This can lead to falling behind on essential conceptual learning. The optimal way to comprehend everything presented in class is for the student to have a basic idea of the concept before the instructor begins the lesson. This is possible if the classroom is flipped. This means that lessons are previewed in video format the night before they are presented in class. This allows for formulation of meaningful questions and reinforcement during class time.Everything written on the board or spoken in class is important!
It is no longer necessary to use actual paper and pencil for note taking. There are iPad apps, such as Notability, which integrate handwriting, typing, recording, and PDF annotation. You can take notes, organize and annotate them, and import and export. Copies of the lecture notes can also be made with smart phone apps, such as Whiteboard Photo+, which photograph the white board and filter out the bright white background. They allow the user to take pictures of a whiteboard and convert them to PDF files. Notes can be added and photos can be shared.Everything written on the board or spoken in class is important!
One method of resolving questions, which students often use, is to turn to their fellow student during lecture and ask them to answer the question. This option is not actually productive. It interrupts the learning of the student with the question, the student who is being asked, and any student nearby. Ultimately the entire class may be disrupted. The solution is fairly simple. Ask the instructor. However, the most obvious solution may not be that easily employed. There should be an agreement at the beginning of the course between the instructor and the student for resolving questions. Some students feel intimidated in a classroom full of their peers and think that asking questions may make them look “stupid”.Ask questions about concepts or problems you do not understand!
Just as all students do not learn in the same way, all instructors are not created equal. Some do not want to be interrupted and prefer to answer all questions at the end of the lesson. Some may want to respond to questions at the time the question occurs in the student’s mind. Traditionally, instructors set aside time during the regular day for office hours as private consultation time. This may alleviate anxiety about asking questions in front of the class. Instructors may be willing to implement alternative, or supplementary, methods of answering questions. Using texting, some instructors may encourage students to ask questions of them at any time of day. There may be a web site or a blog site where comments and questions may be posed. Instructors may use iPad apps, such as Screen Chomp, to work out problems and email them directly to the students upon request. These instructors expect and encourage students to communicate. Talk to your instructor to see if they currently use, or are willing to start using, these methods of communication.Ask questions about concepts or problems you do not understand!
In today’s world, students are pulled in many directions. Theyhave club, sport, community, and volunteer activities. There seems tobe an emphasis on college resume building beyond the GPA or thenational exam scores. According to the Top Ten Strengths andExperiences Colleges look for in High School Students, theseactivities are beneficial in the personal information portion of the collegeapplication, but colleges are still looking for students who have proventhat they can function independently in a strong academic environment. While, it is true that there will always be a small percentage ofstudents who will get scholarships due to athletic ability or anotherparticular talent, the vast majority of students will be chosen for collegeentrance based upon academic achievement in their course work inhigh school. While some instructors are becoming aware of this trendand assigning fewer but more relevant problems or shorterassignments, some are still taking up homework every day and gradingit as to completion and or accuracy. Homework is important!
The general rule of thumb is that for every hour inclass, there should be equal time outside of class spent onReview, Reinforcement, and Preview. Time must be budgeted tomeet these necessary components of conceptual understanding. Students should try picking the problems they can workthrough quickly first and then go back to the ones who will requiremore time or they understand the least. There are many timemanagement programs and apps available for thecomputer, tablet, or smart phone, such as Asana, which can helpwith listing and prioritizing tasks. Homework is important!
Practice makes perfect. Well, not exactly. Perfect practice makes perfect. Repeating the same process over and over incorrectly will reinforce the incorrect process. Answers need to be checked to make sure the student has actually mastered the correct process. Most textbooks have odd answers. Some textbooks have websites where students can go to check answers.Check your solutions to your homework problems!
Online programs are available with matching apps for the iPad and the iPhone, such as Wolfram Alpha, which work out mathematical problems for the student and show the steps in the process. To find extra practice, visit web sites such as Hotmath.com for problems and their solutions. Problems which were previously missed should be reworked to assure the student has completely mastered the concept.Check your solutions to your homework problems!
Many schools are now recognizing the importance ofelectronic devices and are allowing personal use during non-instructional periods of time. This may include the time betweenclasses. This allows for a brief interlude for a student to check emailor texts. Once a student arrives in class, cell phones should besilenced and used only as a learning tool as approved by theinstructor. There will be plenty of time later to catch up with friends. Focus! Focus! Focus!
The same goes for iPods and other MP3 players. Althoughsome students can study with music in the background, learningnew concepts is extremely difficult if focus is divided. If students payas close attention as possible to everything discussed in class, theywill find that less time will be required outside of class to learn newconcepts. Focus! Focus! Focus!
While this may seem obvious, the obligations of life cansometimes get in the way. Doctors can insist upon appointments atcertain times on certain days, and families seldom consider schoolobligations when planning weddings. Illnesses and deaths willhappen. These are all part of life. There will be times that it willsimply be impossible to go to class. Minimize absences from class!
Overextending of schedules throughactivities, however, can be controlled. Not going to class because ofjust not feeling like going will inevitably cause issues because realillnesses will pop up. Learning to meet personal obligations whenone doesn’t really want to and showing up on time are life skillswhich are expected in the work force. When a student is absentfrom class, there is a very good chance that something will bemissed. Minimize absences from class!
“Did I miss anything?” is one of the most frustrating questions that absent students consistently ask of their teachers. If they were not in class, there is a very good chance they did! Teachers prefer the question be posed as, “What did I miss?” There are several ways this issue can be avoided altogether. If a student knows in advance that they will be absent, getting assignments ahead of time is a better option. However, students seldom actually work on that assignment and even more rarely understand the material well enough to complete the assignment while absent. In the event of an unavoidable absence, ask for classnotes or handouts from the teacher or a fellow student!
Collaboration with teachers and fellow students by electronic means is a superior option. Check with the teacher to see if handouts or assignments are available online through a class website. If not, the students can ask the teacher to email the assignment to them if the assignment is available electronically. The teacher or another student can scan the handout with a smart phone app, such as Genius Scan, and email the scanned document. The teacher or other students can set up a Google Doc through a gmail.com account and share notes and documents with many students at the same time. Sometimes notes may need to be converted to .pdf files due to issues with mathematical symbols. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter can also be used to disseminate information regarding classwork or assignments. The teacher could also sign up for an account with Edmodo, an internet based education forum with a Facebook appearance, where students can interact and find assignments. In the event of an unavoidable absence, ask for classnotes or handouts from the teacher or a fellow student!
The teacher may not always be available for help when astudent wants or needs it. There are web sites, such as KahnAcademy and PatrickJMT, which provide videos explaining manytopics. These can be used to Review, Reinforce, or Preview thelesson of choice. A private mathematics instructor may also be ofhelp. Seek help from outside sources.
Even though many students have private music instructorsand private athletic trainers, some students may think it sign offailure or personal weakness to employ a private instructor ratherthan see it as an investment in their future. Hiring an experiencedinstructor to make sure the student does not fall behind can solidifythe knowledge on which future knowledge is based. Seek help from outside sources.
The majority of a student’s grade is calculated from the scores achieved on tests and quizzes. This is their chance to show what they have learned to their instructor. The traditional classroom is still largely using paper and pencil to determine the knowledge level of each student and thus assign a grade. The old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” never rings truer than when it comes to preparing for a test or quiz. You must set aside time to adequately review for these assessments. Just as time must be budgeted for homework, the same holds true for tests and quizzes. Time management programs and apps, as mentioned above, are available for the computer, tablet, or smart phone which can help with listing and prioritizing tasks. There are also calendar programs, such as the one available through Google, or apps such as Informant, which can help manage tasks by scheduling specific hours of the day.Preparation for assessments is imperative
Being in class is imperative. Listening and focusing are very important as well. However, class notes and homework should still be reviewed before assessments. Problems need to be reworked. Instructions need to be reviewed. The big concepts need to be thoroughly understood. Notes can be saved in Evernote, Drop Box, or Google Docs and then shared between students, if desired. Be sure to discuss with the instructor the type of test which will be given. Will it be at school or at home on the computer? Will it be paper and pencil? Will it be multiple choice or free response formats? Does every question have the same point value? Is there a penalty for guessing on the multiple choice questions? Are there parts of the test which can be taken with a calculator and others without a calculator? All of these questions can lead to one form of studying or another. Knowing the format of any test going into it is a big advantage.Preparation for assessments is imperative
Even though they may feel they do not needit, teenagers need sleep. A teenager needs 8 ½ to 9 ¼ hours ofsleep each night. One study shows that typically only about 15%of all teenagers actually get this much sleep. According to theNational Sleep Foundation, “excessive sleepiness may be thecause of learning, attention, and school problems”. Sleep is food for the brain. Sleepiness can limit theability to solve problems and make good decisions. It can lead toskin conditions, obesity, aggressive behavior, nervousness, anddepression. Sleepiness can also be fatal if a driver falls asleepbehind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Get a good night’s sleep
Naps are a solution to the problem of insufficient sleep, butstudents sometimes try to take naps during class. The obvious problemwith this, of course, is there is a lack of focus on the lesson. Thesecondary problem, which teachers have also noticed, is the generaldrowsy state in which the student may remain after awakened from thenap. Arousing the student from sleeping may also cause a classdisruption and thus interfere with other student’s concentration. Regular daily exercise can assist with the ability to fall asleepand sleep more deeply, but not within three hours of bedtime. Limitingcaffeine and eating no later than two hours before bedtime can alsohelp. One solution for getting to bed and falling asleep is to adopt abedtime routine, just as they had as small children: warm baths, calmingmusic, reading. Students need to plan a study routine that does notrequire staying up so late One hour before bed, turn off all television andvideo games, all iPods and computers, and all Facebook and Twitter. Letthe electronic world rest along with them. Get a good night’s sleep
Questions? Sue Pinion 706-202-5157Sue@AStepAheadMath.comwww.AStepAheadMath.com