This and that…

July 23, 2015

I have been thinking a lot about notebooks and organization…

One of the reasons that therehas been such a big gap between my posts, is because I was ill for an extended period of time. As a result of that illness,I have some limitations particularly around keyboarding and handwriting  so I do a lot of dictation. The other thing that has changed for me is that many of the things that I used to keep in hardcopy, simple things like phone messages and grocery lists, I now keep electronically. I have become enamored of a program called Evernote. I am a total convert.

Evernote is an online set of notebooks. An analogy that I often use with students is to think of it as a set of three ring notebooks that you can carry around on your phone.  I am not a particularly organized person by nature, but Evernote has helped me to remember many of the things that age and my innate mental chaos would normally allow me to forget.  I have been talking with classes and groups about Evernote this year. I have enjoyed the give-and-take with student users about how they use it, and the  brainstorming about how they will use it in the future. We even have an instructor who has asked that all of her classes open accounts. I am looking forward to seeing what use they make of it.  A wealth of information about the program is available here:

This is the beginning of the semester, and so this is the time that students are establishing the way that they will go forward. The habits that they set in place now and the tools that they begin to use are more likely to stay with them than those they begin to use later in the semester. Having regular habits for managing all of their stuff is critical at the college level. My big themes around organization have always been that whatever system they decide to use should always be:

  1. First of all consistent. Most students have a great deal that they have to remember, particularly here at VTC where we are primarily STEM programs.  They carry very high credit loads, do a lot of reading, and generally speaking have a lot of work to get through each week. If they have a different organizational system for each class, they just complicate their lives so unnecessarily.
  2. Second, the system should be expandable. A first-time freshman has absolutely no idea how much stuff they are going to need to keep organized. I have been here for 10 years, and I had two children come out of high school and go through college. I have seen very well prepared students, and very poorly prepared statements. The one thing that they have in common, is that none of them have a clue about how much stuff there really is. It is important for their organizational system to be expandable so that they have a way to fit in all of those bits and pieces that they may lose track of in a logical way.
  3. The third thing that I think it’s really important is that the system has to be flexible. A flexible system, regardless of whether it is pencil and paper or electronic, allows you to accommodate the vagaries of different situations without throwing your entire organizational strategy out the window. Too many times, we become entranced with elaborate organizational schemes that look like they have the answer to all of our issues, only to find out that the schemas itself is more work than it is worth. A simple system, one that suits the work that you were doing, and allows you to make adjustments, is the best.

I used to talk with students about three ring notebooks as a model for an organizational system. They are a flexible place to capture the details of student life, they are expandable, they can be organized in a consistent fashion across all sorts of coursework.  Electronic workhorse applications like Evernote can serve the same purpose, with the added benefit of being extremely portable. After all, we all carry a phone…


February 14, 2008

It is Valentine’s Day…

Filed under: Post-secondary,Study skills,Support Services,Technology,Vermont Tech — learningspecialist @ 7:26 pm

and we are buried in snow:) It is beautiful, but it does make it a little hard to get around.  Driving is becoming an adventure as well, not because it is slippery so much, but I am too short to see around the giant snowmountains (piles does not begin to do them justice) that have built up on all the corners from the plows. Ah well. the sun is out and it is not snowing now so I will just enjoy the reprieve.

I have said before that I really appreciate technology. I love the possibilities it opens up. I am especially fond of MP3 players (IPods in particular) and all the cool new applications that can be used on them. On that note, I invite you to check this out: 100 Ways to Use your IPod to Study Better ( I first read this on on the Hartness Library Blog (our school library) but it was so fascinating that it is worth sharing here.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day/Weekend/Life! We can always find some time to share some warmth with each other- especially during this chilly time of year!


November 1, 2007


Filed under: education,Study skills,Support Services,Technology,Uncategorized,Vermont Tech — learningspecialist @ 6:34 pm

I was going to write about access stuff today and I may yet, but since yesterday was Halloween- one of my favorite times of year in my neighborhood- and the spirit of freebies is still upon me, I will share a couple of well recommended sites for downloading free software. the first one is called Game Giveaway of the Day

It has only recently started back up and has a nice list of games- mostly puzzle games now- with several that are suitable for younger children. The download process was simple and I now have a full featured demo version of a game called Arxon. I am sure I will enjoy it – if only for a little while.

There is a companion to this site called Giveaway of the Day that offers more utilitarian software choices- some of which are quite complex. There is a link to this site on the sidebar.

Antoher great resource is Software for Starving Students which give the downloader a CD full of great stuff- OpenOffice, Foxfire, some software deveoted to study skills like flashcards and a host of others. What is nice about it is that all these great programs are in one place- with links to the original site so you can see what you are getting. If you want to see the list of what is available you need to go to the Frequently Asked Questions Page. You don’t even have to be a student to appreciate some of the things the developers have gathered together. It is very cool.

Speaking of study tools, I came across another flashcard program, the Study Stack.   This is an online flashcard program, but it has much more! You register- it is free- and enter the data you need to memorize. Once you have done that, you can access that data through flashcards, a hangman game, a crossword puzzle…you can even have it sent to your cell phone so that you can practice in those odd moments between class or while you are waiting from someone.

Freebies are fun to find and share…let me know how you like these and if you have any others!


September 21, 2007

More technology things…and some reflections.

Filed under: education,Post-secondary,Study skills,Technology,Vermont Tech — learningspecialist @ 5:16 pm

Math is always such a challenge in my life- for personal reasons:) -and because it can be very difficult to accommodate effectively. Extra time is easy, and use of a calculator is never such a big deal at the post-secondary level, but many of the students I work with have significant issues with their handwriting, and most of the computer programs available seem do almost too much of the work. Students who are enrolled in Algebra classes- and even those who are beginning Calculus- need to be able to show their work to the instructor- and the instructor needs to know that the work is in fact theirs- not the result of a few keystrokes. It is why those classes frequently have a “no calculator” section on tests and quizzes- so the instructor can see the student sort their way through the sequence of an equation without the distraction of actually solving for a variable. Process- not product more or less.

Finding software that is intuitively easy to use, contains enough symbols and sufficient formatting to get through college level math, be reasonably priced and will behave more or less as a pencil has been difficult. Until now! The folks at Efofex Software have developed a suite of programs designed to meet this need (I read about it on the Quality Indicators for Assisitve Technology listserv-a veritable wealth of information those folks are) and checked it out. I am impressed. The data entry is consistant with regular keyboarding but the formatting looks just like what you might write- and it allows the student to do- and show- their work.

Now, anyone may purchase this and use it. Qualiifed students with disabilities on the other hand, as long as someone certifies that they are indeed eligible- sort of like what I do with publishers for alternate format text- can download the program for free. I am going to start talking this up immediately!

Here is the link:

I hope people find it useful.

I have been teaching in Freshman Orientation classes for the past few weeks. I really like teaching- I am not sure what I would do if this were only an office/one:one sort of a job. I generally, at this time of year anyway, talk about study skills and test taking. I am a real fan of the Master Notebook system from Landmark College- or at elast the bones of it.

I am not sure how ready first semester freshmen really are to organize themselves this way without a lot of support from their instructors, but I like to do it because then(aside from the charge I get from working with a group of students), when someone comes to me for help in this area, we at least have a common vocabulary to work with. We also talk more about goal setting- many freshmen- many students…- have not really ever had an internal mandate for getting things done and tend to rely on outside systems like parents and study halls. Makes a lot of sense but does not necessarily work at this level. Soooo… we talk about it a lot.

August 28, 2007

Wow…what a week!

Filed under: education,Post-secondary,Study skills,Support Services,Vermont Tech — learningspecialist @ 7:00 pm

This has been a completely wild beginning to the semester- I have hardly had a moment to breathe- and I do not have many moments now so I will be brief.  What wonderful students we get here! They are so much fun and I am delighted with this new group of Freshmen that I am getting acquainted with.

We are in the midst of traveling to Freshman Orientation classes, introducing ourselves and what we do here in Student support Services. It is fun- and I frequently get to return and talk more about what it means to learn at the college level. That is even more fun. However, it also makes me think that it is a good time to offer up my sure fire  study success tip…Daily Time With Your Notes or DTWYN.( I wish that made a word- maybe someone will help me out with this)

DTWYN means that you spend some quality time with the material you have been given to learn EVERY DAY. It does not have to be a long time- but it does have to be meaningful and it needs to be long enough so that you are keeping the learning fresh in your mind. It is criminal to leave a class after a 50 minute lecture and not be clear about what you were supposed to be learning. You should be able to articulate that- and if you cannot then you should be back with that instructor or a tutor to figure it out- and to figure out how today’s learning hangs together with yesterday’s and last week’s. You should be finding the key vocabulary and practicing them. Write down what you do not understand so that you can ask about it during the next class. Fifteen to twenty minutes a day should do it per class- and do not count your homework time. That is a separate issue. I can promise that when you start preparing for your first quiz or exam you will be a much happier individual- reminding yourself of what you know rather than trying to relearn it!

Take care!

July 24, 2007

Gliffy and TeacherTube…

Filed under: education,Post-secondary,Study skills,Support Services,Technology,Vermont Tech — learningspecialist @ 11:47 am

I love technology. I love the possibilities for sharing and collaboration.

This is a video aboout using Gliffy , an online webbing tool similar to Inspiration -which we have loaded on all our lab computers here at the college. Inspiration is a huge gift to folks whose brains work like mine:) because it allows you to brainstorm pretty randomly and then organize your brainstorm with very little effort. I do lots of planning that way- all my presentations for example. Gliffy is online, which means that more than one user can contribute to a given document-a huge advantage to students planning group presentations or to departments who need to communicate more efficiently than email allows. Anyway, watch the video. She does a much better job than I do at explaining how it all works.

July 17, 2007

The Bridge Students have arrived…

Filed under: education,Post-secondary,Study skills,Support Services,Vermont Tech — learningspecialist @ 2:07 pm

and I figured it would be a good idea to post some information about studying. Sooo…I have included a link to How to in the sidebar called “How to hit the books when they hit back…” They have compiled an amazing amount of really excellent information and presented it in a very engaging manner.

There are several inventories and lots of diagrams and cartoons. Very well done. I will tuck other links in there as time goes by.

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