Making It Stick!

What has Research about the Science of Successful Learning taught us about Making It Stick?


Brown, Roediger & McDaniel (2014) identified 6 Research-based Principles and Strategies for committing information to long-term memory and increasing the probability of retrieving it as applicable knowledge:

➔  (1) Rereading text and massed practice are ineffective
➔  (2) Active retrieval interrupts forgetting
➔  (3) Create a mental model for new knowledge that connects to larger context and prior knowledge

A conceptual approach to active information processing and retrieval helps interrupt forgetting and deepen your understanding. Conceptual Mapping helps you:

  1. Synthesize the big picture,
  2. Do a deep dive where you need to be more granular,
  3. Establish simple-complex relationships and hierarchies,
  4. Identify gaps, and
  5. Try a variety of Conceptual Mapping tools:
1. Concept Map Anywhere!

All you need is any blank “canvas”: scrap paper, notebook, white board, etc.

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2. Concept Map Online: Search for a Variety of Free and Subscription Software Apps


3. Try this Free Online Concept Mapping Tool by Google: Coggle


(Click icon above to watch introductory video)
➔  (4) Space out practice and interleave subjects

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There is a minimum of 3 levels of time management for the semester:

  1. Semester: Major Deadlines
  2. Week: Logistical
  3. Daily: Individual Tasks
Think strategically before, during and after coursework


  1. Office Hours: Professor and Teaching Assistant
  2. Sleep
  3. Meals and Snacks
  4. Breaks
  5. Self-Care Activities (e.g. exercise, therapy/counseling, health care, etc.)
  6. Extra-curricular, volunteer and social activities
➔  (5) Extract underlying principles that differentiate problem types to prepare for unfamiliar problems/situations
➔  (6) Try problems before being taught solution

As you prepare weekly problem sets for class, recitation or online submission, OR before you compare your sample prior exam answers, step back and take time to:

  • Evaluate and differentiate types of problem by concept categories.
Conceptual Problems
Algorithmic Problems

Make It Stick

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, WLRC Learning Instructor

Tech Tuesday – The iPad Pro Pencil

If you already have an iPad Pro, the iPad pencil is a must! If you are planning on saving up for an iPad Pro, then make sure to save up for the iPad pencil too. Priced at $99, the pencil is a great addition to the iPad. It makes studying and taking notes so much easier. If you are already using apps like OneNote, EverNote, or Notability to help with your studies, the iPad pencil syncs easily to work with these applications.

kelcey tech


Annotating: Annotating and writing notes on PDFs is made much easier with the iPad Pencil. It is a much more natural feel, cleaner and easier to read than writing with your finger on the iPad screen.  This is one of my favorite ways to use the iPad pencil. I am someone who needs to write on what I read. Using the iPad Pencil allows me to still take great notes, while keeping all the PDFs organized by class (and saving a lot of paper!).

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Notetaking: With the iPad Pencil, the iPad becomes like a travelling notebook. It is much easier and more natural to take handwritten notes during classes or in other settings. These handwritten notes on your screen can transfer easily to other devices with apps like OneNote and Endnote.

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Drawing: This is one of the wonders of the iPad Pencil. Drawing and making figures on the iPad is taken to a whole new level with the iPad Pencil. This can also be useful for studying. Now you can create mind maps and concept maps right on your iPad.

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  • The pencil only works with the iPad Pro.
  • It’s $99.
Let us know if you have any other suggestions for tech products to review!

Note: This blogpost is not an ad. In our Tech Tuesday posts, we highlight technology that we think would be useful and helpful for students.


By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor


For several semesters, in collaboration with Weigle Information Commons, the Weingarten Center has offered a workshop called “Tools Not Toys.” What we emphasize is that apps and technology are great and all, but the important thing is how you use those pushy little helpers. In this post, I’d like to share a few apps that are currently working with me. They may not impress your friends, but they are sturdy work horses that have helped me manage the constant inflow of information, appointments, and tasks that would otherwise overwhelm my composition notebook.

To start, I’d like to mention something that is not an app at all. It’s a pretty basic way to annotate your electronic course readings, but (I’ve noticed) it’s often not utilized by Penn students. If you use a Mac, take a look at the Preview application. Most likely, this is the default program that shows up whenever you open a PDF. At the top of the window, you’ll notice a pen icon, which is your very handy highlighter. You’ll also see a toolbox (#1), which has lots of interesting goodies. The thing that I recommend for students to use here is the sticky note or comment function (#2). This will let you annotate directly on the text, and then you can change the view (#3) to see all of your “highlights and notes” in the sidebar. When I was still taking courses for my doctoral program, this was an efficient way to review my readings before or during class lectures and discussions. Note for PC users: a very similar function is available in Adobe Reader.

Preview Image 1

As far as apps, it’s not revolutionary, but I currently can’t live without Evernote. During every meeting and lecture that I attend, I’m typing away in this program and tagging my notes to keep them organized. I haven’t played around with the chat or share functions much, but these seem like great features for group projects and collaborative writing. I’m also using Wunderlist as my “to-do” list. It functions like every other to-do list, but you can set due dates and reminders and even share lists with collaborators, relatives, and friends (which, in my house, is great for groceries). My colleague in Wharton Advising, Liz Sutton, recently recommended Asana (not a yoga app) for to-do lists. The added benefit of this app is that it will display your items in a weekly or monthly calendar.

Because it seems almost impossible to keep up with the newest and the coolest in the world of apps, I find the App Smart video channel on the New York Times website to be a helpful curator. In each brief episode, Kit Eaton highlights three apps under a common theme, such as “Modernize Your Meetings,” “Improve Your English,” “Smart Calendars” and “Finding Happiness.” The “Back to School” episode is particularly useful for time management and graphing calculations.

As you can see, I haven’t discovered an app that will work as a panacea for the variety of challenges that come with academic life at Penn. But maybe you have! Please join us in the comments section to share the newest, greatest, and hopefully free apps that are currently working with you.

Staff Blogger: Ryan Miller