Dos and Don’ts for Reading Days

How many times have you said, “I’ll get this done during Reading Days?” I know I have said it at least ten times this semester. This semester’s reading days are Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27. Reading days (and the weekend before finals) are a great time to get prepared for your final exams and papers, but those two days go by very quickly. In this post, I’ll share some dos and don’ts for Reading Days success.

DO create an action plan. As soon as you can, look at all of your syllabi to get a better understanding of what exactly you have to do for your final assessment for each class. Do you have a final paper? How long is it? What kind of outside research does this paper require? Do you have to do a presentation about your paper in class? Do you have a final exam? Is it cumulative? Is there a study guide? Create fake deadlines for yourself before the actual deadline by bringing your paper or study plan to the Weingarten Center or by taking your paper to the Marks Family Writing Center. Making an appointment will create an accountability measure for yourself.

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DON’T start the day before. The worst time to start looking at exam material is a few hours before you take the test. If you create a plan and familiarize yourself with your professor’s expectations for the final, then you will know how much time you must devote to studying for that particular exam. Similarly, starting your paper the day before the deadline won’t yield the best result. You may need to get books from the library or interview someone to complete your assignment, so advanced planning is critical when completing these papers.

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Do prioritize. The end of the year comes with lots of fun activities that may get in the way of your exam and paper preparation. You are encouraged to balance work and fun, and the best way to do this is by putting all of your activities, fun or not, onto a calendar. We have April-May calendars in the Weingarten Center that are perfect for this activity. Once you see when everything will be taking place, you can make some choices. Perhaps choose one fun activity to do during the weekend before finals, and sandwich it between study/work sessions for your exams and papers.

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Don’t try to cram. Depending on how much time you have to study before your exam, you will have to make some choices about what you study. If you are short on time, focus on reinforcing the material that you know well and reviewing the topics that you can easily learn, rather than getting held up on the most complicated parts of your coursework. This strategy is the best way to get through as much as possible in a short amount of time.

For more tips on making the most of your Reading Days, visit us at the Weingarten Center! We’ll be holding two “Study Hacks for Reading Days” workshops on 4/23 and 4/24. Additionally, we are open for 50-minute appointments or shorter walk-ins if you would like to consult with a learning instructor individually.

Best of luck on your final exams and papers!

By Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

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Tech Tuesday: Rocketbooks and Frixion Pens!

 

Looking for an easy way to upload your class notes to your computer or cloud drives? Sick of wasting paper? Want a neat and easy way to stay organized?     

Then check out the Everlast Rocket Notebook and Frixion Pens! These tools were recently introduced to me by a student, and I wanted to make sure Penn students knew about them.

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Photo from getrocketbook.com

This notebook is reusable, syncs easily to your cloud drive, and works with any of the Frixion pens! It’s perfect for someone who prefers to take and save notes electronically, but that is in a class that requires them to take detailed notes on equations, pictures, or diagrams that don’t always format well in a traditional electronic note-taking devices or applications. It’s also great for those classes where your professors do not allow electronics!

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Photo from getrocketbook.com

How does it work?

  • Using one of the Frixion pens, simply write in the notebook like you would with any others.
  • At the bottom of the pages are icons where you can mark which cloud drive you want to send the notes to.
  • Using your phone, open the Rocketbook App and take a picture of your notes.
  • The phone and app will recognize the code at the bottom of your notebook page and will then send your notes to the proper electronic storage device.
  • After you have saved your notes, use a damp cloth to wipe the pages clean.
  • Give the pages a few minutes to dry, and then repeat the cycle!

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Photo from getrocketbook.com

Any drawbacks to using these tools?

  • The cost of the notebook on Amazon is $34, which is a bit hefty for one notebook. However, if this notebook is used properly, you won’t need to buy another notebook for a long time.
  • The notebook only works with Frixion pens. One is included with the first purchase of a notebook, but after that you will need to purchase more. Conveniently, these pens are erasable and not only work with Rocektbooks, but also with traditional paper.

Do you use the Rocketbooks? Let us know what you think!

Do you have any tools you would want to recommend to other Penn students?

Let us know and we can feature your ideas on our blog!

Disclaimer: Our Tech Tuesdays features are not an ad, we just like to highlight tools we think will be useful for Penn students!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Foregrounding Identity in Academia & Scholarship

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Right about now, we find ourselves knees-deep (maybe waists-deep!) in final projects. It is that time of the year in the Spring semester, Folks! At Weingarten, we empathize with the criticality and rigorousness of your final projects: term papers, capstone projects, portfolios, program thesis papers, and the list goes on! We also know our students, yes, YOU! You have been diligently examining your syllabus requirements, going through the assignment/project rubric with a fine-tooth comb, consulting with the Professor and/or the TA, integrating your course citations and materials, aggregating your own research references, and perhaps even disaggregating, coding and analyzing your collected data!

As you sit down in front of your computer to write your introduction, thesis or opening paragraph, BREATHE! Close your eyes, inhale deep, exhale loud, and CENTER YOURSELF… Yes, that’s it! We want to locate the YOU back in the research project!

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Due to the increasing professionalization of the Academy and the scientification of research, even social science research, it is easy to loose sight of our own IDENTITIES in being enveloped by the research process. But remember, YOUR PERSPECTIVES are UNIQUE and VALUABLE! You are part of a diverse University Community, which is bonded by all that makes us different, inasmuch as there is synergy in our factors in common. Your IDENTITY fundamentally influences your approach, methods and interpretations – whether or not you acknowledge it explicitly in your work.

YOUR IDENTITY OCCUPIES A CRITICAL SPACE IN YOUR CONCEPTUALIZATIONS

Here are a few tips in bringing back, centering and honoring the YOU in your research process:

What Inspired You?

Identify and track the source of  your inspiration. Was it a person, object or moment in time that served as catalyst for your inspiration? Was it a personal, academic or professional experience? Is there a story, a narrative behind your inspiration? Don’t lose sight of this inspiration as it will not only serve as fuel to sustain your academic work, but it will also serve as an interpretive lens in helping contextualize your conclusions and implications based on the source or triggering axis of your inspiration.

Look Back: What is your Legacy?

Reflecting on and examining your legacy will help you flesh out the theoretical framework to your project. Your legacy may involve histories, stories, narratives, memories and experiences that shaped who you are today. They often inform the ideologies, orientations and interpretive lenses, which can be teased out of your theoretical framework. Other times, they serve as counter-narratives, arguments or positions relative to your own or society’s dominant stances.

Explore Your Intersectionality

You are a phenomenally complex individual whose legacy, orientations and identity are deeply and richly rooted. The work of understanding the intersections of our identities, the matrix of their categorical representations (e.g. gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, citizenship status, etc.), how our identities are socially constructed, fluid and negotiated, and ultimately, what socio-political and economic power they afford or limit in different contexts can be labor intensive, but will prove invaluable to your research process. It will help reveal blind spots and assumptions in the research design, analysis and/or interpretations of findings. Identifying, wrestling with coherences, dissonances and/or boundaries of the scope of our research project is our duty as researchers.

Localizing and interrogating your own IDENTITY within Research is a critical means to Embracing and Valuing the authentic YOU and WORLD around YOU!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Tech Tuesday: Text Help with Read and Write

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Read and Write is a technology software recently introduced to our office by Amrou Ibrahim, our Assistive Technology Specialist. It’s an amazing application that can assist many students with their reading and writing needs. The tool offers support through various features, including highlighting texts, reading texts aloud, and utilizing talk-to-text features.

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Read and Write can be installed through a Google Chrome or Safari add-ons. Once it is installed, the application installs a toolbar that can be used with any tab in your web browser. Additionally, there is a desktop feature that can be downloaded so that Read and Write can be used offline as well.

This tool includes many different features which can benefit students here at Penn. Here are a few :

  • Text-to-speech features for selected passages or entire documents (works with emails, web browsers, PDFs, and more!)
    • While the text is read aloud, the associated words are highlighted on the screen. (This can help keep the reader focused)
  • Text and picture dictionaries to aid in students’ reading
  • A speech to text feature that can aid in students’ writing
  • A simplifying text features that gets rid of ads and other distracting features from web pages
  • Tools to highlight and underline while you are reading

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This is a great tool to try, especially because it is free! If you are interested in learning more about this tool or other technology that can be useful, call the Weingarten Learning Resources Center at (215) 573-9235 to make an appointment with Amrou or with one of our other learning instructors!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Fellow and Learning Instructor

What does this problem want me to do?

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Solving problems in STEM courses often requires identifying the correct procedure for solving a problem. If, under the time pressure and stress of an exam, you jump right at a problem, you may choose the wrong procedure to solve it.

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To train yourself to look before you leap, when working on problem sets, ask and answer the questions, “What does this problem want me to do? How will I give it what it wants?” for each problem.

Rashmi Kumar, Ed. D., STEM Specialist at the Weingarten Center, consistently teaches her undergraduate and medical students to ask these questions before they jump at the problem, so they are more likely to pair it with the right procedure:

What does this problem want me to do?

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Define the goal of the problem

It might make the work a little more fun, and you will be faster and better at problem-procedure pairing on the midterm:

How will I give the problem what it wants?”

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Identify the procedure that should be paired with the problem

Imagine…

Susana is about to solve a STEM problem. She asks herself,

What does this problem want me to do?

She answers,

Hmm, it wants me to calculate the torque at a perpendicular force.

Then she asks,

How will I give it what it wants?

And answers,

First I have to convert the units into the expected format. Next, I’ll need to identify the right equation. Then I’ll be ready solve the equation.

Simple and easy, right?

Practice it until it is an automatic habit and you will do it under pressure.

And for added fun, try saying “problem-procedure pairing” ten times fast!

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By Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor

Spring Clean Your Academic Life

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Image from UPenn Facilities website

While it might not feel like spring outside yet, it is definitely around the corner. Spring break is over, and this semester is already halfway complete. Before we become busy with spring social commitments, with enjoying the nice weather (it’s coming, I promise!), and with beginning to study for finals, this point in the semester can be a great time to do some academic spring cleaning.

Sound new to you? Often, we often only think of spring cleaning as a chore we complete with our dorms, houses, or apartments, but actually this can be a great point in the semester for taking time to reorganize your academic life. Spending a few hours clearing out old papers and organizing important files can help you feel recharged and ready to take on the rest of the semester.

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Image from NewBridge Recovery

So turn on some music, open up the curtains to let some sunlight in, and get ready to get organized. Here are some suggestions for how to spring clean your academic life:

  • Take some time to go through your folders (or the paper crumpled at the bottom of your backpack).
    • Recycle the papers you don’t need anymore.
    • If papers will be useful or helpful later in the semester or in future classes, place them in a labeled folder.
  • Organize the files on your computer.
    • Make sure you have created file folders for each of your courses this semester. Sort your files accordingly. Make sure to add any downloaded files that will be useful.
    • Delete the computer files you no longer need.
    • If you are reading a lot of PDFs, make sure you are keeping them organized for easy reference when you are writing future essays. Tools like OneNote, Notability, or Zotero can be great for helping to keep PDFs organized.
  • Sort out your Inbox!
    • This task can be dreaded, but now can be a good time to take charge of your email if it’s gotten out of hand.
    • Delete unread or unneeded messages.
    • Place important emails in their applicable folders
    • Take yourself email chains that you don’t need or send them directly all an advertisement folder so they aren’t clogging up your main inbox.
  • Take stock of your books and textbooks.
    • If you’re like me and you have too many books, make sure you’ve made any returns to the library.
    • See if you can sell back any books on Amazon or another site.
    • Donate books you no longer need to on-campus donation sites or a local library.
  • Review your planner and/or schedule.
    • Make sure your spring commitments are updated.

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Image from Waterford Technologies

What else do you do to recharge and reorganize during the spring? Let us know!

Remember, instructors at Weingarten are here to help with any of your academic needs! Call 215 – 573 – 9235 to make an appointment. Or, stop by Monday thru Friday from 12pm to 3pm and Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 4pm  to 7pm for walk-in appointments.

By: Kelcey Grogan, Weingarten Learning Instructor and Learning Fellow

Exam Analysis

Often, students spend all their time studying and preparing for exams before they take a test. Did you know though that some of the most important studying and preparation comes after you take exams?

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One of the best ways to prepare for future exams and to ensure that you understand course material is to analyze your exam after you take it! This ensures that you are thinking critically about your learning and preparing the best way possible for your next exam.

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When you receive your test back from your instructor, first examine the questions you answered correctly.

Think about:

  • How did you study for this information?
  • Why did you get this question right?
  • What can you learn from it?

Use this information to help you prepare for your next exam. Identify what strategies worked for you when you were preparing for this test, and be sure to use them again.

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Next, look at the questions you answered incorrectly.

            Identify why you answered incorrectly:

  • Was it a content mistake? Meaning:
    • You never saw the information.
    • You didn’t study the information.
    • You studied the information but learned it incorrectly.
    • You studied the information but could not recall.
      • From these content areas, see if you can identify if your mistakes were coming from the same section.
      • Do you need to go back and review a chapter section?
      • Would it be helpful for you to review this with the professor, a TA, or a tutor?
  • Was your error in the application of the material? Meaning:
    • You studied and recalled the basic information but could not apply it to higher order thinking problems.
  • Did your error have to do with how you approached the tests? Meaning:
    • Did you misread or misinterpret a test question?
    • Were you too impulsive or overconfident on certain tests questions?
    • Was it test fatigue?
    • Was your pacing off for the test? Were you running out of time?

Use this information to help you adjust your studying for the next exam.

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Make an appointment with a learning instructor at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center for more help on how to make the most of your exam analysis. Here is a link on our exam analysis appointment protocol. We are happy to help you think more critically about your class, about what you learned, and about how to prepare for your next exam!

Blog adapted from resources prepared by Dr. Ryan Miller, Executive Director of the WLRC.

By: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor