How to make the most of the “Lazy Days of Summer”

We’re deep into summer now. Last semester feels like a distant memory and we’re still a month out from the new school year. I’m sure the last thing you want to be thinking about right now is getting back into coursework, but here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin preparing for your return to campus.

1. Check out Canvas. Some professors already have their Canvas pages live for the Fall semester. You may be able to see the syllabus or get a head start on some of the early readings. It’s always good to know when the big assignments are due ahead of time so you can start planning around them. Plus, if you’ve registered for more classes than you plan on taking, you might be able to decide ahead of time based on the available syllabi.

2. Spend some time reflecting. What went well in previous semesters? What didn’t go well? Think back to your last round of finals and how you prepared for them. What would you want to do again in the upcoming semester? Accruing exam preparation techniques over the summer will put you in a better place when the first round of exams happens.

3. Have fun! Now is the time to catch up on sleep and activities that you enjoy but might not get a chance to partake in during the school year. Go for a hike or catch up on that science fiction book you’ve been wanting to read. Binge on a new Netflix series. Spend time with friends and loved ones. This way, you’ll come back to campus refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of a new school year.

Remember, if you are in the area this summer or want to do an online appointment, we are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we’d love to work with you! We are also already accepting appointments for the Fall, so give us a call once you know your class schedule!

Staff Writer: Cassie Lo

Scheduling to Reduce Stress Part 2: Google Calendar Edition

As promised, here is part 2 in the scheduling series. This time we will be focusing on the features of Google Calendar to schedule, plan, create and keep track of tasks.

Calculating Hours and Setting up Google Calendar

As in the last article, I recommend starting with a list of your classes and calculated estimated weekly hours needed to maintain academic success. A typical schedule may look like this:

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 7.23.36 PM

The next step involved is also the same as before with a few extra steps that will save you time in the long run. Create a schedule in Google Calendar on an hour by hour basis starting first with weekly events (such as classes, meals, meetings, etc.) that are consistent from week to week. Set each weekly item to repeat by clicking on “edit event” in the event creation pop up box. Below the time and date you’ll see a checkbox to repeat the event. Once you check the box, you’ll see a pop up that allows you to select different options:

Repeat box

 

I recommend setting the repeats to automatically end on the last day of classes. This is an important step because when you set up notifications later on, you won’t be left with notifications over the summer that you get used to ignoring.

 

Once you’ve finished building the schedule, it should look something like this:

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Calendar Notifications and How to Use Them

Google calendar has a multitude of notification options and I suggest trying out different ones to see what works for you. There are options for SMS notifications, traditional phone notifications and a daily agenda. The daily agenda is a rarely used and well hidden feature that I highly recommend. The daily agenda is an email agenda sent automatically every morning at 5am to your Gmail account that gives you an hour by hour schedule to follow for the day. You can turn on the daily agenda by clicking the small gear icon at the top right of the screen under your Google avatar then select the following: settings> calendars. Then find your main calendar and on the same row select “edit notifications.” On the next screen you’ll see many options to add notifications but scroll to the bottom to find the “daily agenda” and click the checkbox to activate it. The other options are available for both hourly events and all-day events with distinct options for both including email, SMS and notifications (via phone or browser).

Using Google Tasks with Google Calendar

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 2.45.07 PMIf you’re using Google Calendar for your scheduling, I highly recommend using the integrated Google Tasks function along with the calendar. It is somewhat limited in that tasks are only available on the desktop version and not the app, but the seamless integration is worth the minor inconvenience. By default, Google Calendar integrates “reminders” in place of tasks. To use tasks to you have to click the small triangle next to the reminders option and choose “switch to tasks” as seen in the screenshot above. Once you switch to tasks you can now add a task either by adding an item to the task list on the left-hand side or to a specific day. To add a task to a specific day, click on the day the same way you would to add an event and you’ll see an option to switch from event to task in the create an event popup widget.

Once you add tasks they will show up on the task list, and on the calendar day if they are added to specific date.

 

Staff Writer: Randall Perez

 

Bigger Pictures: Make a Note

“I don’t know what I think until I’ve written about it.” ~  Various Attributions

Of all the things I talk about here at your learning center, the one I always feel a little bit guilty about is notetaking. I always feel like the subject is like a benignly neglected child in a big family, the kid who basically raises herself in a household that is far too stretched and busy to worry about someone who is more or less okay. That’s notetaking.

Lombard_scribeAcademic notetaking has been largely conscribed by one thing:  the lecture. And historically, this makes sense. Back in the mists of time, professors would intone and, well, profess, and students would scratch away, trying to get down every word. It wasn’t uncommon for “serious” students to learn how to take shorthand in order to get down every word.  This technique can be described as truly Mediaeval, with its roots planted firmly in the monastic scriptorium, where sacred text was read aloud while Brother Scribes took down copy. What a gig.

Academia has embraced a few technological advances since the Monastic era, most notably the slide deck. Ah, yes. PowerPoint. Our frenemy. No matter where you come down on the ubiquitous deployment of PowerPoint in the higher ed classroom, there is one undeniable plus: the mad rush to get down every word has been alleviated, at least somewhat. So long as the slides are made available, you don’t have to worry about copying out the entire slide during class. All you really have to worry about is what is said off slide.

But there is another part of notes that gets routinely neglected, and that is the notes you make to yourself, and if you don’t do that now, I’d encourage you to give it a go, especially if you are currently in the type of humanities or social science courses that require you to come up with your own paper topics. These notes capture what you think about the lecture topics or reading material. Think of these kinds of notes as the record of what you think.

And one more thing: these types of notes don’t have to be declarative. Solid questions arising from the reading material count as notes too.

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Scheduling to Reduce Stress

Many of the students I see in the Weingarten Center come in because they feel like they are not using their time efficiently or are studying all the time. When I ask them how they schedule their day and manage their workflow, many students pause then explain that they keep their schedules, deadlines, and assignments in their head, referring to planners or schedules as too rigid. There are many stated reasons that students dislike the rigidity of keeping a planner or calendar, but the most common objection is that the perceived rigidity stresses them out, or they feel they don’t have enough time in their day as it is, so planning daily would be another burden added on to an already stacked plate. The reality is that it takes time to develop new habits and planning sufficiently should reduce feelings of stress over time. There are a variety of resources students can use to fit all working styles such as Google Calendar, Apple iCal, a traditional paper planner and methods of planning referred to as “unscheduling.” This last one tends to resonate with students most hesitant about traditional planning methods.  This blog post is the first in a series that will cover each one of these methods in detail. This first post will focus on traditional paper planning with electronic planning (via Google Calendar and iCal) and unscheduling to follow in subsequent posts.

For most students, my preferred approach to planning includes a combination of setting a regular but flexible weekly schedule, combined with making a daily task list. The first step I suggest to students is to make a list of all of their classes and then estimate a total number of hours of study time necessary to maintain academic success in each class. A typical schedule for a Penn student might look like this:

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 7.23.36 PM

The next step in the process is to map a typical week on an hour by hour basis including class schedule, meals, work study, athletic requirements, sleep, and any other regular weekly meetings other commitments you might have and then fit in study time and self-care/free time in the remaining space.  A typical student schedule may look like this:

Sample Schedule

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This approach is also helpful when registering for classes. It is important to consider the demands of each class and how demanding they are of your time. There is only so much time in a day and making time for things such as self-care, exercise, sleep and free time is essential to prevent burnout and promote academic success. You may have noticed that I scheduled in general study time instead of assigning work for specific classes in each of those spaces. This is to allow for the flexibility that is necessary for the changing workloads typical in classes throughout the semester. A heavy week in one class may be paired with a light week in another class. I suggest students spend the first 15 minutes of their study time each day making a task list of work for the day. Make sure to break up assignments into smaller tasks of approximately 45 minutes for each task. This is referred to at Weingarten as “chunking your work” and should help to mitigate the desire to procrastinate. You should also take frequent study breaks of about 5-10 minutes after every 45-60 minute work session. This will help maximize productivity and increase knowledge retention.

Staff Writer: Randall Perez

Working with Penn Tutoring

The Tutoring Center at the University of Pennsylvania offers undergraduate students a variety of options to supplement their learning experiences. As the tutors employed by the Center demonstrate a diverse array of knowledge and skills, they are also continually looking for ways to maximize the impact of their engagement with students in terms of learning outcomes for tutees. As part of that effort, Donna Brown, the Center’s director, has developed an ongoing working relationship with the Weingarten Learning Resources Center to facilitate collaboration across fields and areas of expertise, particularly in helping tutors to appreciate students’ learning styles and how to respond to them accordingly. She recently contacted Dr. Rashmi Kumar and James Arrington for a workshop for the tutors to help deepen their understandings for tutoring in the STEM fields.

Picture1.pngDr. Rashmi Kumar asks the tutors about their learning styles

            The workshop was designed to engage the tutors’ knowledge of learning the STEM subjects. After recalling various experiences and challenges encountered by students and tutors, Dr. Kumar connected these narratives to Bloom’s Taxonomy of knowledge, focusing in particular on instances of declarative, procedural, and critical knowledge work. This demonstrated what one tutor described as moving “from basic understanding to higher level understanding.” The two WLRC staff then reviewed what one tutor called a “variety of strategies that can be used to help students,” including concept mapping, constructing hypothetical test questions, and syllabus analysis. Overall, the tutors found the workshop “engaging and useful” for their work, and the activity further deepened the ongoing collaboration between the Tutoring Center and the WLRC.

Staff Writers/STEM Workshop Facilitators: Dr. Rashmi Kumar and James Arrington

How to Make the Most of Office Hours

Office hours: It’s that thing listed underneath the professor’s contact information on the syllabus, the thing we all glance at to make a note of, but rarely take advantage of. Meeting a professor during their office hours can be intimidating, but if utilized correctly, it can be a goldmine of a resource. Here are just a few quick tips on how to make the most of your office hour sessions:

  1. (unless specifically asked to) Don’t go just to go. Set a purpose to your meeting. Be prepared to ask open ended questions or get clarification on a certain class topic while you’re in front of the professors. Make sure you aren’t asking the kinds of questions that could have been easily answered elsewhere; i.e. Google, a peer, the class syllabus, or the readings. office-hours

2. Do show up early. By arriving 5 minutes before office hours start, it’ll give you a better chance of meeting with the professor first. This way, you can make sure your questions are answered instead of having to wait around, looking for the best time to interrupt another student.

3. Do be honest. Don’t be coy if the professor is talking about something and you don’t quite understand. Admit to it and you’ll get an even better or different explanation. Also, don’t make excuses for your performance or go in attacking the professor. If there are issues academically, professionally, or personally occurring in your life, let you professor know. They are human too and they will understand and work with you to best accommodate or resolve the issue. montreal-que-february-3-2015-mcgill-university-profess

For more support on how to make the most of your office hours, come set an appointment with a learning instructor and we will work with you individually to prep you for a meeting with your professor!

Staff writer: Victoria Gill

Back From Break

Spring break is a one week event in the semester. Academics are a fourteen week event. It’s important to value the time you spend accomplishing academic goals as much as the time you spend outside of the classroom.

studying

Ask yourself:

  • “What do I need to accomplish academically for the second half of the semester?”
    “What strategies were successful?”
  • “Why were these strategies successful?”

Build on your strengths as a scholar to move in the direction wherein you are already succeeding and make an appointment with a learning instructor at WLRC to finish strong.

Staff Blogger: Marty Sullivan