Why Students Should Turn the Internet Off When They Study

By Stefanie Weisman

[Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on the Freedom website and has been re-posted with their permission.]

Okay, I admit it.  I’ve been having a little problem in the self-control department lately.  No matter what I tried to do – write an article, do research, read a book, etc. – I found myself typing the url of some distracting, time-wasting website, with Facebook being the worst offender.  It was a rather bizarre feeling, as if my fingers had acquired a mind of their own.  Before I knew it, I had been sucked into an internet black hole of silly videos and mindless trivia, which used up a good chunk of my time and energy.

My situation is hardly unique.  In my experience as a high school and college study skills expert, I’m constantly reminded of the problems caused by excessive internet usage.  On average, teens spend nine hours a day using media for entertainment – that’s more time than they spend sleeping and far more time than they spend studying.  Many students use social media and other “fun” sites while they’re studying or doing homework.  They may think such media multi-tasking doesn’t hurt their concentration, but study after study has shown this not to be the case.  According to a pioneer in this field, the late Stanford professor Clifford Nass, “people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking.”  In a 2012 study, researchers found that using Facebook and texting in particular were associated with lower GPA.

But as we all know, it can be hard to give up things that are bad for us.  The instant gratification we feel from sending a Tweet or getting a Like on our Facebook post creates a dopamine loop in our brains that makes us hungry for more.  We can all use a little help in the fight against bad habits.  Which is why, when I was given the chance to try Freedom, a program designed to eliminate distractions on the web, I jumped at the opportunity.

After downloading Freedom, the first thing I did was set up a recurring block of Facebook and other sites I have a weakness for, such as YouTube and Netflix, during the work day.  I was struck by how freeing it was to know these sites were off-limits.  My need to check on my friends seemed to evaporate, and my productivity increased.  At times when I needed complete concentration, I chose to block all websites – easily done on Freedom by checking a box.

freedom_full_view_cropped

A view of what the Freedom dashboard looks like on my computer.

I quickly discovered that Freedom has many features that make it superior to, say, disabling the wi-fi on your computer.  While shutting down wi-fi is an all-or-nothing solution, Freedom helps you fine-tune your internet consumption.  You can create multiple Blocklists, allowing you to block as many or as few websites as you want with the click of a button.  Freedom conveniently lets you choose from a list of the most commonly used (or should I say abused) social media sites, and you can manually enter any other sites you find distracting.  You can put these Blocklists into effect at any time or schedule them for recurring Sessions, which is great if you know you want to avoid certain sites at the same time every day, and sync your Sessions across multiple devices.  Perhaps most importantly, Freedom can keep you from giving in to temptation.  The problem with disabling your wi-fi is that you can easily turn it back on again.  With Freedom, you can select Locked Mode, which makes it virtually impossible to access the internet (or specific sites) for up to 8 hours.

This software would clearly be a great tool for students.  Those who use their PCs to take notes could set up a recurring block of all websites during class time, thus avoiding the distractions associated with in-class laptop use.  Similar blocks could be set up when studying for exams or writing papers.  And when students need the internet to do research, they can block social sites that would keep them from their work.

I used Freedom on a Windows PC and an iPhone.  Here are a few tricks I learned on how to use Freedom most effectively on these devices:

  • When I had a Session going in Locked Mode, I realized I was still able to end the Session by selecting “Quit” on the Freedom desktop icon. To fully enable Locked Mode, go to Options on the desktop icon and select “Disable Quit During Sessions.”  Developers will be syncing this to Locked Mode to eliminate confusion.
  • Having multiple Sessions going at the same time may cause unintended consequences. At one point, I had to restart my computer to regain access to the internet after a Session had ended.  To avoid this, select “Sync Freedom” on the desktop icon.
  • You may still be able to access the Facebook app on your mobile device during Sessions that are supposed to block the site. Developers are working on a way to block the app, but in the meantime, use this work-around.

I’m especially looking forward to the time when Freedom has a whitelisting feature, which developers are hard at work on.  This means that users will be able to block all websites except the ones they specify.  I would love to be able to access my email and a few other sites while blocking the rest of the internet.

I’ll leave you with one last thought, which in my view is pretty amazing: I haven’t checked Facebook once while writing this article.


Want more study tips?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Do Sweaty Students Make Better Students? The Connection Between Exercise and Better Grades

By Mathew Jade

It’s no secret that college students have jam-packed schedules. There are classes to attend, assignments to submit and socialization to be done. It’s hard enough to find time to sleep, let alone squeeze in regular exercise. You may ask why it’s important – there will be plenty of time to get fit once college is over, right?  However, what I was taught during my MBA, and what has long been taught in all top-notch business schools, is now being backed by scientific evidence: Regular exercise does not just keep you physically fit but also provides important cognitive benefits that can help you perform better in class – or in pretty much any setting where you need to use your brain cells.

Healthy Lifestyle Seamless Pattern

So how exactly does exercise help? Let me elaborate

  • Exercise acts as a stimulant for brain cell development

For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence on how exercise affects brainpower. Recent experiments have proved that there is a definite relationship between exercise and improved cognitive abilities.

For example, the New York Times published the results of a study led by Justin. S. Rhodes, a psychology professor in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. His study involved running experiments on four groups of mice. The mice who were given exercise wheels had marked improvements in brainpower. Mice exercising had more neurons – that is, brain cells – than those which did not.  In addition, the mice exercising regularly had developed more complex connections between neurons, meaning they could think faster.  Substitute a treadmill for a hamster wheel, and there’s a good chance you’ll see better grades over time.

  • Exercise will help you be more focused

A Canadian school that caters to learning-disabled and ADHD children carried out an experiment in 2009, in which children exercised for 20 minutes on treadmills or exercise bikes before starting math lessons. Teachers noted a marked improvement in students’ concentration levels, information retaining capabilities, and their overall motivation to study.

  • Exercise relieves stress

We all know college is a stressful time. It’s a challenge to get enough sleep, and there’s tons of work to do. Exercise, even if it is 15 minutes a day (high intensity, enough to jack up your heart rate and breath) leads to the release of endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that keep stress at bay. So exercise can reduce stress and help you work your way through college more effectively.

Exercise is very important in college. Not only will it keep your brain sharp, but it will also help you stay physically fit. It’s common for students to suffer from the “Freshman 15” – that is, the 15 pounds freshmen pack on in the first year due to limited exercise and unhealthy diet. And following an exercise regime is something you should do for life. For example, Hong Kong business magnate Allan Zeman does 90 minutes of exercise every morning without fail; Zeman once made a U.S. president wait so he could complete his daily exercise routine.

About the author: Mathew Jade is a passionate blogger who loves to write on Economics and finance-related topics. For further updates follow @Mathew_Jade


Looking for more mind-brain study tips?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Home Alone: Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

By Susanne Loxton

There are many different reasons why modern parents consider homeschooling. Some do it for religious reasons, while others may do it because of lifestyle reasons and flexibility. Still others decide to homeschool because they’re dissatisfied with their local public schools, and private schools are not an option. No matter the cause, if you’re thinking about diving into the world of homeschooling your children, you need to remember that it’s not all fun and games. Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to homeschool your child.

homeschooling

Should you homeschool your child? (Photo by Rachel via Flickr)

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The Liberal Arts Student’s Guide to STEM

Even if you’re a liberal arts / humanities student, you will probably have to take a course in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) at some point in your college career.  Check out this new article I wrote on how to succeed in STEM, even if you think you’re “just not good at math.”


Want more tips on college success?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students.

 

Quick Tips Part 8: When to Quote, Paraphrase, and Summarize in Your Papers

Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing are all crucial to writing a persuasive, well-reasoned paper. But do you know when and how to use each one? The chart below can help with that.

Citation Technique Key Points When to Use It
Quoting
  • Use exact language of original source
  • Put quotation marks around original language
  • Use proper attribution
  • Avoid using quotes too often
  • Indent quotes of several lines (block quotes)
  • The language of the original text is important
  • The quote lends authority to the argument you are making
  • Paraphrasing or summarizing the text would make it lose some of its meaning or power
  • There is no other way to say something
Paraphrasing
  • Restate the original text in your own words
  • Restated text should have approximately same level of detail as original
  • Wording, sentence structure, and order of ideas should be significantly different from original
  • Faithful to the original meaning of the text
  • Use proper attribution
  • While quotes can be distracting, paraphrasing preserves continuity of style in your paper
  • You want to simplify or clarify vocabulary, sentence structure, or arguments of original text
  • You want to put technical language into language more appropriate for your audience
  • You want to show you’ve understood the text by stating it in your own words
Summarizing
  • Restate the original text in your own words
  • Should be much more condensed than the original
  • States only the main ideas
  • Wording, sentence structure, and order of ideas should be significantly different from original
  • Faithful to the original meaning of the text
  • Use proper attribution
  • The text you are summarizing supports your argument or provides background information
  • You want to draw attention to the points that are relevant to your paper
  • You want to leave out extraneous material
  • You want to simplify the material

Want more tips on how to write a paper?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students!

Quick Tips Part 1: Taking Notes in Class

By Stefanie Weisman

It’s back-to-school time!  I’m going to be posting a series of “quick tips” on this blog, to help you start the school year off right.

Here’s quick tip #1: When taking notes in class, make sure you use lots of symbols and abbreviations to record things quickly and efficiently.  Here’s a list to help you get started:

Symbol/ Abbreviation  Meaning
 + and, in addition to, plus
 –  except for, excluding, minus
 =  equals, is equal to, is the same as
 ∼  is similar to, is like, is about, resembles
 <  is/ has less than
 >  is/ has more than, exceeds
therefore, thus, because
leads to, results in, means, signifies
 ↑ gets bigger, increases, grows
Δ change in [something]
w/ with
w/o without
b/c because
ex. for example
vs. versus, as opposed to

You should also develop your own abbreviations for different types of courses – especially for long, complicated words that come up frequently.

And when the teacher uses multi-syllable words that take a long time to write, try to substitute them with shorter synonyms – for example, “means” instead of “signifies,” and “but” instead of “however.”


For more study skills tips, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

The Secrets of Top Students Back-To-School Giveaway

The Secrets of Top Students

The Secrets of Top Students

Hey all you students and parents out there!  Since it’s almost back-to-school time, I am giving away a copy of The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College.  All you have to do is click here to enter.

Rules: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The 50th eligible entrant will win. This giveaway started Aug 14, 2015 10:16 AM PDT and ends the earlier of Aug 21, 2015 11:59 PM PDT or when the prize has been awarded.

Click here to enter giveaway.

About the book:

The Secrets of Top Students includes tips and techniques that every student should know. For example:

  • What is the first thing you should do when taking a math test?
  • What is an often overlooked place for coming up with a thesis?
  • What music should you listen to while studying?
  • Why is it bad to be a perfectionist?
  • What are the good and bad types of motivation?
  • What foods should you eat to boost your brainpower?
  • How much do top students really study?
  • Should you bring your laptop to class?
  • What are three game-changing learning techniques?
  • And much, much more.

Written in a conversational, down-to-earth manner, The Secrets of Top Students shows you how to maximize your learning and get the grades you want. Filled with innovative, time-saving techniques, this book also includes advice on motivation, the mind-body connection, and technology inside and outside the classroom.