How to Develop Good Reading Skills in the Internet Age

By Samantha Levine. 

It’s no laughing matter how dependent our society is on the use of technology and the Internet. The great thing about it is that we are exposed to so much information, but this can also be very overwhelming. As we learn to read from screen to screen (laptop, cell phone, tablet), we have readjusted the way we receive information, which is causing our attention span to be much shorter.

When skimming through an article, you may not realize how much information you can actually miss. A great tip to increase retention is to read the headlines of a topic and ask questions about what you think it will be about. While reading, see if you are able to answer your own questions, and then make note of it. This helps you to read quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

man on iphone

Can you read on this tiny little screen?

I’ve noticed that the faster I receive information from the web, the faster I move on to read something else; and more often than not, I’m distracted by an ad to the right and left of the story I’m reading. However, thanks to my very awesome grade school teachers who taught me to love reading, I learned a few tips that can keep you on track:

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Opinion: What Traditional Colleges Can Learn From Online Colleges (Guest Post)

By Kelly Smith. Kelly works at CourseFinder.com.au, an Australian online courses resource. She also provides career advice for students and job seekers and works as a freelance writer.

The benefits of online education are immense – there’s been a lot of talk lately about the next wave of online training that will completely revolutionize the education sector. Zachary Karabell of The Atlantic pointed out the huge future benefits of this radical change: “The costs of obtaining needed credentials will plummet, and the ability to create more tailored, vocational programs aligned with the skills employers need will increase exponentially.”

It goes without saying that there are several things traditional schooling institutions might learn from their online counterparts even today. Read on to see some of the most valuable aspects of online learning that should be adopted by stationary colleges.

columbia

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3 Apps to Keep College Students’ Budgets on Track (Guest Post)

As a college student, you’ve got a lot on your plate: tests, papers, classes, jobs, your social life. It’s easy to let mundane activities like paying bills and grocery shopping fall through the cracks. But you can’t ignore these basic tasks. Before you know it, you’ll find the negative domino effect in action if, say, you forget to pay your electric bill or neglect to make your Internet payment.

Taking control of your finances will allow you to handle academic essentials with ease and peace of mind.

Thanks to rapidly evolving technology, you can enlist smartphones and tablets to manage your everyday life, which will help you make the most of your college experience.

A college student on campus with smartphone

1. Toshl Finance Expense Tracker

Never miss a tuition or car loan payment, and stay in good standing with your landlord with this mobile app, compatible with iOS, Blackberry, Android and other platforms. Maintain consistent and accurate control of your checking account with this free app (or upgrade to the Pro Version for additional features) by creating budgetary guidelines for your spending, then adhering to those guidelines by monitoring your spending. You can rest easy because you know where your money is going.

2. OurGroceries Shopping List

Keep a healthy diet by making sure you don’t come home from work or class to an empty refrigerator. Planning ahead with this free Blackberry and iOS-friendly app will help keep your body trim. An empty fridge can lead to ordering takeout, which is bad for your wallet and your waistline – so making sure you buy healthy and cost-saving groceries with the help of this app will keep you on track and guilt-free. You can also enter in your favorite recipes, favorite ingredients, special trademark seasonings and decadent dessert items reserved for special occasions. Easily edit your grocery lists from your mobile device, laptop or desktop computer, then use your smartphone or tablet while shopping to adhere to your list. Create multiple grocery lists to plan for holidays and birthdays well in advance.

3. ValPak Local Coupons

A free app to save you money is a great double deal. As a college student, what better way to keep your expenses in check than to find useful coupons for everyday items? Just like the bulky envelope that once came in your mailbox, this app gives you the best local deals around. Find deals on dining out, grocery items, laundry essentials, clothing and more with this Blackberry-friendly app.

By creating a healthy budget structure with your mobile phone, you’ll get much more out of your college experience.

Post by Max Cruise
Max is a technology educator at his local community college. He loves nothing more than teaching the next generation about digital trends, and he writes about these trends often.


Now that your budget is under control, make sure you’ve got your grades covered too.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

6 Great Apps For College Students (Guest Post)

Great apps for college students

Great apps for college students

Mobile devices like smart phones and tablets have become thoroughly integrated into the educational community. Whether or not professors use these devices, a growing number of college students have access to them. In the eyes of many, such devices are little more than distractions for students – but, on the other hand, their utility cannot be denied, and they’re not going anywhere! Here are 6 apps that can be particularly helpful for college students.

1. iStudiez Pro Think of this app as a student planner for a new generation. iStudiez Pro allows you to input everything about your academic schedule – classes, class locations, homework, deadlines, etc. You can check into the app to keep track of your week, and receive automatic updates when deadlines are approaching. The app also allows for coordination with extracurricular events, helping you to keep your whole college life in order.

2. Evernote This is a great note-taking app that can sync across all of your devices for easy access. With Evernote, you can take notes, take pictures of whiteboards and lecture photos, and even record voice reminders and notes to listen to later. It may be an adjustment at first, but you may find it’s an easy and convenient way to take notes and keep track of lectures.

3. ShareFile ShareFile is an advanced file sharing and cloud computing service used frequently in business environments. However, the services available in this app are becoming increasingly useful for students, as more and more of the college experience occurs online. Use this app to send and receive communications efficiently and securely, and take advantage of the cloud computing for incredibly convenient data storage. With access to a cloud network, students can store work online instead of on devices, meaning it’s accessible from any device that can access the Internet – a very convenient perk on a college campus.

4. Amazon Student E-books are becoming quite popular for students, as they often amount to cheaper alternatives to big, expensive textbooks. These electronic books can be purchased through various providers, from Barnes and Noble online, to Amazon, to the iBooks library. However, Amazon Student offers students another way of making textbooks more affordable – it allows you to scan barcodes of textbooks, and then performs a search to find those books wherever they’re cheapest. Additionally, you can use the app to sell back used textbooks to Amazon in exchange for gift cards!

5. IFormulas This is a pretty straightforward app, but for students toiling away in math and science courses, it’s pretty handy. Basically, it provides an incredible library of over 380 mathematical formulas that can be useful for various classes and applications. Of course, you don’t want to get caught using this app during a quiz or exam in class – but as a handy reminder, or even study tool, on your own time, it can be quite useful.

6. iTunes U This is a pretty revolutionary app that allows you to access and download legitimate course material from top colleges all over the world. Depending on your specific need or area of study, selection can be limited, but the app can also be a phenomenal reference tool. Of course, the notes from your own courses should be your priority, but if you’re looking for extra research, clarification of material, or even support for a paper or project, iTunes U might be worth looking into.


Want to improve your grades?   Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Thinking outside the box on education: 4 great books with a fresh new perspective

Some of the books with the most original, thought-provoking ideas about education these days aren’t even on education. They’re on subjects such as sociology, psychology, technology, and self-help, among others, but they challenge what’s going on in schools today. Here are some books that don’t fall into the category of education, but which have a lot to say about the way we learn.

1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain (Crown, 2012). This book is ammunition against a school system that increasingly views classroom education as an endless stream of group projects. While it’s important for kids to learn teamwork, all too often we forget the importance of solitude, concentration, and deep thought in the learning process. I know that when I was in school, I did my best work alone. As Ms. Cain writes:

What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. Practice sessions that fall short of this standard are not only useful – they’re counterproductive. They reinforce existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them. Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting. It requires deep motivation, often self-generated. But most important, it involves working on the task that’s most challenging to you personally. Only when you’re alone, Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve what you’re doing, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class – you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.” [page 81]

Another book about deliberate practice is Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, by Geoff Colvin (Portfolio Trade, 2010).

2. The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30), by Mark Bauerlein. (New York: Penguin/Tarcher, 2008). The title says it all. Technology may be causing untold damage to the brains of young people. I’ve written two articles about avoiding the pitfalls of technology in education (see my piece in USA Today and the follow-up post on my blog). In this passage, Mr. Bauerlein paints a disturbing picture of this country’s rising generation of scholars:

Most young Americans possess little of the knowledge that makes for an informed citizen, and too few of them master the skills needed to negotiate an information-heavy, communication-based society and economy. Furthermore, they avoid the resources and media that might enlighten them and boost their talents. An anti-intellectual outlook prevails in their leisure lives, squashing the lessons of school, and instead of producing a knowledgeable and querulous young mind, the youth culture of American society yields an adolescent consumer enmeshed in juvenile matters and secluded from adult realities. [page 16]

There’s a book on a similar topic, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), which I hope to read soon.

3. Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008). In addition to talking about the 10,000 hour rule (the theory that it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice for someone to become an expert in something), Mr. Gladwell also discusses why Asian students often outperform their American peers, especially in science and math:

We should be able to predict which countries are best at math simply by looking at which national cultures place the highest emphasis on effort and hard work. So, which places are at the top of both lists? The answer shouldn’t surprise you: Singapore, South Korea, China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, and Japan. What those five have in common, of course, is that they are all cultures shaped by the tradition of wet-rice agriculture and meaningful work. They are the kinds of places where, for hundreds of years, penniless peasants, slaving away at the rice paddies three thousand hours a year, said things to one another like “No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.” [pages 247-49]

4. The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss (Crown Archetype, 2009). This one may be a bit of a surprise. Am I suggesting that you can get great grades by working four hours a week? Not at all. Nor am I encouraging you to outsource your schoolwork to India. But Mr. Ferriss does present some useful advice on how to work more efficiently and effectively, whether you’re a student or an entrepreneur. Here’s an example:

Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials. If I give you a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. . . . The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus. . . . . There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of each other:

  1. Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20).
  2. Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law). [page 75]

What are some of your book recommendations?


Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

The Benefits of Going Low-Tech in College

Low-tech tools

USA Today‘s College Blog just posted my article on the benefits of going low-tech in college!  In it, I explain why ditching your laptop may be good for your GPA.  There were a bunch of things I didn’t get to include in the article, though, so here’s some more advice about how to avoid the pitfalls of technology in the classroom.

      1. How to use slides.In my article, I caution against relying too much on the professor’s PowerPoint presentations, which are now commonly posted online.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them at all – they can make taking notes easier and faster, if you use them the right way.  Here’s one way to do it:
        • If the slides are posted before class, print them out and number each one.  Bring the print-outs and a notebook to class.  Write today’s date on your slides and in your notebook.
        • Take notes directly on the slide printouts as they are covered in class.  Flesh out the slide’s outlines with details and examples provided by the professor.
        • If you run out of space on a slide printout, write that slide’s number in your notebook and continue taking notes there.  That way, when you’re reviewing, you can easily match up the slide with the relevant section in your notebook.
        • If the slides are posted after class, take notes as you normally would and use the slides as a supplement.

The benefits of paper

    1. When in doubt, print it out. Many professors have joined the environmental movement by posting syllabi and assignments online instead of printing them out.  This is all well and good for Mother Earth, but it may not be the best thing for your GPA.  If you don’t print out important documents, there’s a much greater chance that you will overlook some key detail.  I observed this numerous times in my paper-free classes.  For example, when essay assignments were posted online, many of my classmates were unaware of essentials such as the due-date and topic.  During finals, they often lost points because they hadn’t noticed certain required readings on the online syllabus.  During meetings for group projects, I was often the only one who could clarify the requirements because I had the assignment right there in front of me.  Printing out documents saves you from having to turn on your computer and navigate to your course’s web page every time you want to check something. If your conscience nags you about killing trees, remind it that you can recycle the paper when the term is over.
    2. Books aren’t dead yet. Dr. Jakob Nielsen, a web usability expert, has some alarming things to say about how technology affects reading comprehension.  “The online medium lends itself to a more superficial processing of information,” he says. “You’re just surfing the information. It’s not a deep learning.” Although reading speeds on electronic devices have improved, they’re still not as good as reading on paper: in Mr. Nielsen’s study, the iPad measured at 6.2% lower reading speed than the printed book, whereas the Kindle measured at 10.7% slower than print. And if you’re even thinking about doing serious reading on your iPhone, I have one word for you: don’t. Reading comprehension scores are 48% of the desktop level when using the iPhone-sized screen. That is, it’s twice as hard to understand complex content when reading on an iPhone versus on a full-sized computer screen.
    3. Be more independent. Lastly, this week’s Time magazine provides more evidence that we’re becoming overly dependent on technology and losing our ability to contextualize information. According to Annie Murphy Paul in the article “Your Head Is in the Cloud”

      Research conducted by Betsy Sparrow, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University, and published last year in the journal Science has identified three new realities about how we process information in the Internet age. First, her experiments showed that when we don’t know the answer to a question, we now think about where we can find the nearest Web connection instead of the subject of the question itself. . . . A second revelation: when we expect to be able to find information again later on, we don’t remember it as well as when we think it might become unavailable. . . . The researchers’ final observation: the expectation that we’ll be able to locate information down the line leads us to form a memory not of the fact itself but of where we’ll be able to find it.”

      Scary stuff. You can’t have an intelligent conversation if you have to look something up on your computer every 20 seconds. We must use technology with restraint, both in school and in our post-graduate lives.


Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Education Update

1) There’s an interesting article about the 10 most educated countries in the world. The U.S. did better than I expected. China isn’t on this list, which is evidently a sign that even though privileged Chinese students have been beating American students in science and math, the country as a whole has a long way to go.

Here are the top 10, with postsecondary education rates:
1. Canada
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 50%

2. Israel
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 45%

3. Japan
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 44%

4. United States
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 41%

5. New Zealand
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 40%

6. South Korea
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 39%

7. Norway
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 37%

8. United Kingdom
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 37%

9. Australia
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 37%

10. Finland
Pct. population with postsecondary education: 37%

2) Technology in the classroom.
There’s a good infographic about how professors are using social media:
Key stat: 80% of faculty use social media for some aspect of a course they are teaching.
Reading professors like an open facebook, or how teachers use social media
Courtesy of: Schools.com
And here’s an infographic on how 100% of colleges and universities are using it:
Pros and Cons of Social Media in Education

On a related note, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski have been promoting digital textbooks. I’m not about to join the debate on this divisive issue, but here are some thought-provoking articles:
The Promise of Education Technology (It’s Not Just About Lighter Backpacks), by Joel Klein
Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in classrooms?, by Michael Hiltzik


Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!