Open Study

Open Study is a platform that allows students to seek and give help from/to each other.  It doesn’t look like we have a spot for Spanish yet, but there’s an open part.  Find a friend somewhere, anywhere in the world to work with!  Technology at its best.


I sometimes hear the Radiolab program on NPR in the evening.  Tonight I was listening to one about sleep and what happens in the brain when we are sleeping.  Check it out!

They have one on memory which seems neat too.

These topics have to do with some insights into retaining information that we feel we work hard to get into our brains.  Maybe a little more understanding of the areas will help us sleep more and remember more?

Information Overload?

Do you ever wonder if you spend too much time online or find that multitasking makes homework feel like it takes forever?  Do you end up getting less sleep because you’re texting, chatting or surfing or because you find that your brain can’t seem to shut itself down for the night?

The NY Times has an entire series devoted to such topics called “Your Brain on Computers.”  In An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness, a Dr. Kimberly Young is referenced for comparing net addiction to eating disorders.  Even adults are at risk for various problems involving our ability to parent and nurture as is highlighted by  The Risks of Parenting while Plugged in –there was a comparison between said addiction and alcoholism the way a parent might say to an objecting son/daughter “just one more text” while driving.   

In Attached to Computers and Paying a Price, we read of families missing big business deals, family problems and lower grades.  According to the article, “At home, people consume 12 hours of media a day on average, when an hour spent with, say, the Internet and TV simultaneously counts as two hours. That compares with five hours in 1960, say researchers at the University of California, San Diego.

If you’d like to test your own ability to focus, the NY Times features this test.  If you think you might be addicted and would like to find out more, check out the Net Addiction site.

For what it’s worth, I think technology can be helpful for practicing Spanish and staying up to date on your progress at school.  It’s even useful for contact between teachers, students and parents (at times).  What I take away from the NY Times series is how essential boundaries are in terms of when/where my family and I are plugged in–there have to be concrete limits for us not to get lost and fragmented.

NB: Richtel also did the 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winning Driven to Distraction series about driving and devices. Check out the online game/simulation to test your driving/distractedness.

memorizing help/tricks

5 Quick and Easy Memory Tricks

By Jay White @ DLM

Did you know that 50% of your memory ability is determined by your genetics?

Before you start feeling like you are doomed, remember that you have the power to affect the other 50% of your ability by practicing some smart memory techniques. Here are a few methods you can employ to remember names, lists, and more.

  1. Remembering People’s Names
    • Repetition: When you first learn a person’s name, say it 3 times in your mind. Repeat it back immediately out loud. “Nice to meet you, Hildegaard. What a nice name you have.” Make it a point to use their name several times while talking to them. And don’t worry about sounding funny doing this. The sweetest sound to any person’s ears is the sound of their own name.
    • Association: Next thing to do is make an association between the person’s looks and their name. Using our Hildegaard example, let’s imagine that she is a very slim person. So in your mind you might think “Hildegaard could use a guard to protect her” and imagine a strong guard with his arm around her. Whatever works. The only one who will know about it is you so have fun with it. The wilder the association, the better you will remember the name.
  2. Remembering Long Numbers: The Major System

    This could be used for remembering phone numbers or any time you need to remember a long number. If you don’t need to remember long numbers, then this might simply be a fun mental exercise. The Major System involves substituting consonant sounds for each of the numbers 0-9. These are the consonant substitutions:

    0 – s, z, soft-c
    1 – d, t, th
    2 – n
    3 – m
    4 – r
    5 – L
    6 – j, sh, soft-ch, dg, soft-g
    7 – k, hard-ch, hard-c, hard-g, ng
    8 – f, v – i
    9 – p, b

    First memorize these substitutions. Then, in order to remember a long number, you will create words out of the consonants by placing vowels between them. For longer numbers you will create multiple words strung together as a quick phrase or story. For example, the number 102 could be represented as “Too SooN.” For more information on how to memorize this chart above and how to use this technique check out these two resources:

  3. Remembering a List of Items

    For remembering a list of items you can use the Story Method. Simply take the words you need to remember and make them into a story by modifying the words as needed. Let’s say you need to remember a list of errands and a grocery list:

    • Post office- drop off mail, check PO Box
    • Health food store – buy ground flax seed
    • Blockbuster – return movies
    • Grocery Store – bananas, salad, chicken, kashi, croutons, cupcakes

    Here’s how your story might go:
    The Post man came to the house today to Drop off the Mail and he had a Box with him. He was the ultimate example of Health and his hair was like golden Flax. He tripped over the kids’ Blocks on the patio, Busting down their building. He Returned to his truck Moving his body in a very strange manner. He then grabbed a Grocery bag from his truck. He dumped it out onto our patio and this is what we saw. A yellow BANdana was at the bottom, there was a Chicken with a Crew cut sitting on a Kushion. He was wearing a necklace of Salad and eating Cake out of a Cup.

    Of course, you could just write out a list, but sometimes you don’t have paper. Give it a try. At the very least this exercise will give your brain a great workout.

  4. Remembering Information for an Exam
    • Writing. Don’t just read the information you need to remember. Write it out. Re-write out all your class notes and any other information given to you by your teacher. Obviously you can’t write out your whole text book so use an outline method. You might want to write your notes out twice, or as many times as it takes to remember. By writing you will be actively imprinting it in your mind. You will likely be able to close your eyes during an exam and “see” the information you need by remembering the act of writing it out.
    • Cheat Sheets. For math or science type classes where official cheat sheets are not allowed, create one anyway with the intention of memorizing it. Write out the the cheat sheet several times. You may also want to draw pictures or create stories about the formulas that will help you remember them.
    • Mind Maps. This is another way to write out information in order to recall it at a later time. With mind maps you can use more creativity to make the information more sticky such as color coding, using pictures, and cross linking of information. To see more information on this method, visit MindTools.
    • Embellished Stories. For classes like history where you need to remember stories, you can try embellishing the story with current events from something that interests you like sports, celebrity gossip, or current politics. Do this by asking yourself, “what current day story is this similar to?” Or by placing a current day figure into the historic story.
  5. Short Term Memory Aids

    Say It Out Loud. Do you ever walk into a room and forget why you went in there? Have you ever lost your keys? Do you panic trying to remember if you turned off the curling iron before leaving work? All of these kinds of day to day memory lapses occur because the information was not properly logged into your brain. The solution is to get the information loaded in correctly. How do you do this? Say it out loud 2 or 3 times. “Placing keys on counter.” “Turning off the stove.” “Going to get my sewing kit in the bedroom.” Will you sound like a crazy person? Maybe, but at least you won’t feel like you’re losing your mind because you’ll finally remember stuff better!

Boost study habits

  1. Visceralize – You’ve probably heard of visualizing, right? Visceralizing means taking all of your senses and connecting it to information. Studies have shown that people remember more vividly information that comes to us in an emotionally aroused state. Linking feelings, senses and imagery to bland ideas makes them more real. You probably counted on your fingers when learning numbers, why can’t you do the same when you are learning now?
  2. Metaphor – The heart of holistic learning is relating things together. Metaphors are literary devices that link two things that normally don’t go together. Come up with metaphors to describe more complicated ideas in simpler terms.
  3. Ten Year Old Rule – Explain ideas to yourself as you would to a ten year old. Sure, this isn’t always possible in your last years of a medical degree or learning how to apply neural networks to computer AI. But the idea is that you should be able to “dumb down” an idea enough so it seems obvious to yourself.
  4. Trace Back – Put away your books and start with a random fact or concept. Then relate that idea to another concept in your subject. Keep doing this tracing pattern until you’ve linked many ideas together. The Gupta Dynasty reminds you of ancient Greece which reminds you of Socrates, reminding you of Confucius…
  5. Refresher Scan – Scan through information in your text book. Notice whenever you encounter information that you either don’t remember or weren’t 100% sure about. Quickly link that information back to existing ideas through viscerlization and metaphor. If your refresher scan is turning up more than a few points per chapter, you haven’t learned it thoroughly enough.
  6. Compress Information – Not all information works well for holistic learning. A common point cited to me is learning anatomy for first year medical students. Anatomy involves learning arbitrary Latin names for hundreds of different elements of your body. There often aren’t clear patterns and constructs, just a dry list of facts. When encountering information such as this, your goal should be to compress it. Find ways to group information into smaller chunks of memory through pictures or mnemonics.
  7. Write – Take a piece of paper and write out the connections in the information. Reorganize the information into different patterns. The key here is the writing, not the final product. So don’t waste your time making a pretty picture. Scribble and use abbreviations to link the ideas together.

Scott Young is a blogger on learning, productivity and habits. You can check out his website here. If you want to learn more about Holistic Learning, download his free e-book: Holistic Learning: How to Study Better, Learn More and Actually “Get” What You Want to Learn.