There are so might sites online about studying and publishing/distributing notes that ERPZ.net seem to be getting pretty redundant. We've so far been operating on a one-man show kind of way despite having multiple authors (who are mostly non-contributing to be honest). Scott seem to do the same as me when it comes to blogging except I guess he does it better and categorizes stuff in better ways than me. He publishes eBooks (some of them free) as well! And that is quite an inspiration given that I'm hoping to write a PW Guide soon - check out our Facebook page where I challenged myself to finish the book before we reach 1000 likes. Not such a tall order since there isn't that many likes yet but it does put pressure on me especially when I'm studying for exams this period.
Then there is Notes Academy, which was featured on Straits Times going the 'open source' style where they mostly curate and moderate while waiting around for kind people to contribute notes. That's not so different from me as well since I've been asking for contributions for some time and we've gather some stuff from kind souls here and there. But then they are a radical departure from the way we moderate content so strongly that contributions are slapped with our site logo before being uploaded though we've made exceptions now and then. I guess the fact that Notes Academy is a little more O Levels oriented means that I'm not exactly in direct competition with them anyways. The fact they've got a team to do all that work is admirable though.
Of course, who can forget Open Lectures who have just revamped their site. They're a pretty geeky bunch with quality content (clearly carefully produced and curated), which is on the other side of the spectrum compared to Notes Academy. I don't really know where ERPZ.net sit at anymore. In any case, a potential criticism that can be levered on them (and also relevant for me) is their content is skewed towards Economics probably because they've more of their team dabbling with that area. They definitely need to gather more MOE scholars who're not planning to break bond (ie. not doing 'practical' subjects like Economics or Engineering but dealing more with Literature, hard Sciences).
For those who thinks publicly available stuff are crap (or that there are no goodies in freebies), there is Darryl, who is taking the more exclusive 'coaching' path for studies. He offers quite a fair bit of coaching content and has worked a bit of money into building and putting together his entire suite of 'formula'. The thing is I believe it's suitable for people who actually looks up these stuff and have a more or less keen desire to excel - not someone who believes in shortcuts, simply one who believes in doing things smart.
Having said all that, the future of ERPZ.net is wondrously uncertain. All my notes might end up somewhere like Notes Academy and I'll continue blogging random ramblings while perhaps doing some eBook writing. Or maybe the site will become something all together different. There are ideas to crowd-source for ideas on what to do but I'll have to come up with proposals first. But for now, my exams comes first...
After spending 15 years in education, I spent a brief two and a half year or so working (2 years in the military and then 6 months in the private sector). I returned to education after that; almost completing my first year of education since the hiatus. So I guess I know a thing or two about studying, or at least learning. Of course, everyone have different styles of learning but from my experience with people around me (who have mostly done remarkably well in the education system back in Singapore), studying/revising for school work almost definitely involves some form of active 'doing' rather than passive stuff (like plain reading).
The trick to absorbing new materials and learning in general is to involve as many senses as possible. This is a concept I explored a while back in 'Remembering Stuff'. It is then, more sensible to draw mindmaps while reading, to do underlining, annotations, taking notes while going through materials. When I go through my Economics notes, I often have to try deriving the equations myself because if I don't walk myself through the equations using my own interpretation of the logic of the theory, I will never be able to internalize the materials. This true for all the hard sciences (granted, economics is not exactly a hard science but when it comes down to the equations and formulas, we can reasonably assume it takes on that slice of nature of hard sciences).
But what about social sciences and humanities? It helps to draw mindmaps, basically to make connections between things that are studied. And the best part about mind maps is that it allows you to make many different complex connections. Although at the end of the day you might not actually find the stuff you drew particularly useful, the mindmap is really more of a tool to pin down your thinking of the connections than a visual representation of the actual concepts (especially true when you're doing revision) so it's fine. Getting in the mode of 'doing' activates your kinesthetic self and enlist the help of your muscles to 'remember' stuff for you. It's not that the muscle cells helps you to remember stuff but that the motor neurons help to provide another channel by which the new material enters your brains.
All that busyness also keeps you engaged and focused, especially if you're like me, dozing off easily as I stare at my materials. So for those who are studying out there, preparing for examinations, plainly trying to be consistent, don't waste your time staring blankly at your notes. Take some action and learn something.
If you're easy-going, and the story here sounds rather familiar to you; take comfort that you're on the right path and life is going to work out well for you.
When you were going out for a snack and your mum makes you run an errand to some supermarket further up the street to get some rice? Being easygoing you decided to agree and seeing that, your sister tells you to pass a parcel to her boyfriend who lives in the next street. You might as well, since you're not exactly carrying anything for now. You carry the bulky parcel and pass the snack shop, thinking you should get the snack later; you go up to your sister's boyfriend's place and ring the bell - no one answers.
You wonder why you even agreed to walk an extra 100m or so to get rice for your mum in the first place. You called your sister and she says you'll have to wait for about 10 minutes for her boyfriend to reach home so you decided to wait, now regreting that you didn't get the snack before arriving at the place. Her boyfriend comes, and took the parcel and tried to tip you but you kindly declined.
You reach the supermarket only to realise that there's only 10kg sized rice left on the shelves and your mum confirms that she'll need you to buy it anyways because there's no more rice at home. You lug the 10kg nylon sack and pass the snack store, drag the sack into the store to get your snack. The miser boss says he has no change and you will either have to sacrifice your change or walk away without the snack if you don't have the right amount. Only then, you realised you should have accepted the tip from your sister's boyfriend.
Back at home your mum and sister thank you, but you wonder if your efforts should have earned you much more than a word of thanks. The overpriced snack don't quite serve as consolation either.
I spent some time wondering, why do people who are easy-going always end up getting on the bad end of every deal while those fussy snobs always gets to go scot free from work, hassle, errands and trouble? I'm not exactly easygoing but I found that in any environment, relatively easygoing people almost always definitely end up doing the bulk of the work and suffer from the majority of necessary trouble.
I grew up in a family with a fussy sister who is picky about food, particular about cleanliness and extremely paranoid about people moving her stuff around. And most of the time, I'm 'forced' to give in, letting her eat the rare stuff she loves to eat (despite those being my favourites too) and making way on our common table for her stuff. Using her powerful tools of complaining, whining and sometimes weeping, she pushes work, chores and various little errands around and often over to me.
Yes, so why? It turns out that applying economic thinking about incentives works great on this matter. When you're easygoing, you have less incentives than others to push chores/work away to others; in other words, you would rather do the work yourself than spend the effort trying to find someone else to settle it. For those who are fussy and going all out to slack, they'd have more incentives to force someone else to take up the chore; they'd rather sacrifice a friendship, be unpopular amongst their friends and waste energy flaring up than to do the work themselves. There, you've got the equilibrium - the slacker spends his energy-emotion currency convincing the easygoing dude to do chore while the easygoing dude expends his energy-emotion currency to complete the task.
Alternative outcomes are usually worse off for both parties. In an event when the easygoing guy accidentally manages to push the chore to the slacker; the slacker ends up feeling frustrated, does a bad job, complain wildly, leaving the easygoing guy feeling guilty, and sad that he upset the slacker.
So if you're easygoing and wondering why you've taken over a chore or duty from your friend who needs to go on a date with his girlfriend, you know you're not entirely losing out.
We all take notes during lectures; I've got friends who practically pen down everything the lecturer says and others who merely fills up blanks in the notes. I'm pretty sure neither constitutes note taking so I decided to explore what taking notes mean in education and learning. My questions was; how do you take notes that would benefit you in learning the stuff of interest?
At lectures, I found that the best was stick to the stuff given, filling in blanks wherever necessary and taking note of things not mentioned in the notes given. Don't allow the note-taking to distract you from learning during the lecture. Listening to the teacher and observing the projected slides or images or even looking at the demonstrations that the lecturers are showing are way more important than getting the notes down. The fact is that you're going to remember things more clearly when you focus and not when you write them down. Of course, information locked in paper has their kind of permanence but then you're compromising on some subtle details in those information if you're trying to get down everything during the lecture.
I believe that any knowledge or information impressed upon the mind in the form of the booming voice of a lecturer or the visual memory of a live demonstration in the lecture hall of an experiment would be way stronger than something you try to memorise off a sheet of paper. Besides, these strong impressions tied to your lecturers, professors and tutors would give you the confidence in the information you manage to lock within your mind. Information you read off notes or memorise from textbook would provide less confidence because you would have doubts about your own means of interpretation or your reading of the stuff when you're at exam situation.
Most people I know don't take notes during revisions. Revisions are the time to read through notes you've written, they say. Wrong! The thing about writing notes is that it's not so much for your reading pleasure later but for the act of doing it. The act of writing notes (in the right way, a point to be elaborated later) actually helps you absorb and remember the concepts. The idea is to transfer facts and knowledge into your mind and not on to another piece of paper. The paraphasing, the need to look up dictionaries for technical terms you're unsure about, the work involved in finding out what each concept or theory seeks to explain are all part of the process of note-writing when you're revising for your exams or tests and these are exactly the same things that will contribute to your learning.
And when you take notes during revision, synthesize materials and knowledge you obtain from different sources - the textbooks, the reference materials, your readings, lecture notes and the informal stuff you've written down yourself. Write things down because they guide you to learn the concept/subject in question and not because they've been printed on the sources where you try to copy them from.
The Right Way
After being a student for so many years, I've come to believe that there's a 'right' way to take notes. First, take down only concise materials and not chunks off textbooks, readings and lecture notes. Next, write only things you understand and find out things that you don't during the process of note taking. In other words, get beside a computer and google stuff you're unsure about as you try to take notes from your readings and so on. Just don't become distracted by the computer and end up being on Facebook. Finally, draw diagrams whenever necessary but don't get too concerned with trying to beautify your notes and take hours sketching brilliant artworks - the whole point is to practice applying, penning the stuff you learn.
A final note is that your notes should ideally be comprehended only by people who are already familiar with the things taught in class or have already read through everything that you've read to compile the information. Your notes should not be a duplicate of everything explained on your lectures and end up becoming another textbook of sorts.
I love books, and I guess it's obvious. In fact it's not just about reading the text on them or the intellect of the contents; I love every bit of it: the pages, the preface, the introductions, acknowledgements, the blip which almost all books would have and the book covers (hard or paperback) - in short, everything about it.
Like Megan Buskey, on It is possible to read anything serious on computer?, I'll be real sad to see real physical books go but on another hand, I'm actually encouraging people to read on computer more by starting this blog - and I'm hoping people would read serious stuff on the computer when I write here. Implicitly, I believe that news bites, short pieces of contents here and there can be published and read online but at the end of the day, long writing ought to be enjoyed on books. I do loads of parallel reading (that is, reading many different books at the same time, hopping from one to another when I get bored and so on; it works great with non-fiction because they don't exactly hold on to your attention as much as fiction), which means that I would miss out the fun of picking up another book and looking at where I last ended off if I used a device like Kindle.
Nicholson Baker, New Yorker contributor also doubts Kindle is anything superior to the good old paper-based books in his recent writing, 'A New Page'. In his account of his experience with Kindle, he cited the influence of advertisements, the story behind the Kindle development, the pros and cons of the device and the various competitors. It was a long account although not the longest I ever got to read on New Yorker, written in a story-like manner that flowed continuously - the usual New Yorker style.
But Kindle still represents a great leap from the past. In 2000, The Economist published a survey on E-Entertainment and pondered over the reasons one could spend hundreds of bucks on a device to read a limited pool of publications available and in a dozen different kind of formats. It cited the chicken-and-egg problem facing commercialization of e-books, problems with copyrights, and that the only advantage the e-books had over their off-screen counterparts was that most were free and concluded that e-books were something not many would want.
5 years later, The Economist reported on the rise of digitalized copies of books made available online (though often incomplete) by the tech giants like Google. They made no mention about e-book reader technologies although they discussed the fact that the ability to search the content of published materials is a good thing for publishers since users could preview book contents over the net and be enticed to make their orders.
Kindle is a great success today to be able to find the market of people who don't mind purchasing the gadget and to fork out just a little below the printed book prices on those virtual gray text on the gray screen of their Kindle. Nevertheless, it will probably have a long way to go before even barely resembling a book or replicating the experience of reading a real one - books are here to stay, at least within my lifetime I hope.
I remember a time when I opened a Kit-Kat Chunky in my fridge to consume because I was feeling a little hungry and that chocolate bar seem to have been lingering around for a really long time (a sign that no one in the family claims ownership to it; besides, my Dad is a real sucker for chocolates and if it was his it would be gone by then). Unfortunately after eating half a bar I saw the 'Best Before' date on the wrapper I was holding and to my horror the date passed a month ago.
I promptly discarded the wrapper with whatever left of the chocolate bar and pray I wouldn't suffer a stomachache later. Fortunately it didn't happen and for a while, I wonder how chocolates really turn bad since they are so sweet. In fact, I now realise 'Best Before' dates are really not so important per se, after reading Lifehacker's Read and Understand Your Food Expiration Labels; I'm convinced we shouldn't take those dates that seriously. The suggestion that canned food can last forever, unfortunately, is quite shocking...
Real good stuff for those who have a flexible schedule to accomplish a hell lot of stuff, Dustin Curtis teaches you how to sleep to maximize your activity time in the day.