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Methods of Learning

  1. Feb 15, 2015 #1
    This topic could be called metalearning. In other words, learning how to learn. I'm speaking to all academic topics in this post, not just physics.

    I think we all develop our personal workflow almost by accident. We stumble upon a method or 2 that seems to work, and we stick to it. On top of that, we also have our personalities that affect how we choose to look at new concepts.

    1. What materials, computer software, school programs, forums, etc do you use? Do you prefer drawings or text? Core equations or lots of example problems? OneNote or other note-taking software? Do you use a computer much while studying, or do you prefer to stick to physical books?
    2. What is your typical schedule? Do you spend entire weekends catching up on material, or do you do your best to avoid this? Do you prefer studying in the morning, at night, or midday?
    3. How do you approach new concepts in class? Do you accept it all as truth? Do you challenge it all? Do you rewrite everything in your own words, sometimes creating new, temporary theories until you've bridged the gap between others and yourself? Do you accept it all as truth until you can challenge the concepts on your own time?

    I'll post my answers to the above in a second.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2015 #2
    I use Freeplane, a mindmapping program, to organize all the concepts for every subject. It's great at showing you exactly where your gaps of knowledge are, and it's fun to try to unify seemingly separate topics. Most importantly, it allows me to take my physics knowledge into chemistry, and my chemistry knowledge into biology. (et cetera). Microsoft Mathematics is my go-to calculator and grapher on my tablet. I want to use OneNote more, but I haven't figured out how to be efficient with it yet. I also have Khan Academy and Wolfram Alpha apps on my tablet, which I am still digging into.

    My tablet itself is a 7" Toughpad made by Panasonic. It has a mobile i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256 SSD, 4G service with Verizon. Essentially, it my desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone (thanks to VOIP service) all rolled into one. When I'm at home, I connect it to a projector that turns it into a 10 foot screen with a recliner in front of it. I have a bluetooth keyboard and mouse to make the transition seamless. I sit there with my clipboard and do all my handwritten homework with the eBook projected in front of me.

    I study the best at night because I tend to be very high energy (meaning: weight lifting and women), so this is when I feel the calmest and clearest. I also tend to study all weekend because I like to not feel rushed during the week. Luckily, I don't mind this too much right now as all of the topics are interesting to me. The main downsides to these choices are that I end up burning both ends of the candle (meaning: I work late and have to get up early) and lack much of a social life.

    I'm not totally sure of the best way to absorb information. I naturally challenge everything and formulate my own views that I can test until I get down to the truth. Unfortunately, this is not a forum where I can do this, due to the speculative topic clause. I will do my best to ask pointed questions here to satisfy myself and avoid conflict. That being said, I also have difficulty finding the time during the school week to think very deeply on the topics. It seems that I have to get into the memorization/plug-n-chug mode to make sure I am ready for in-class quizzes and can complete homework assignments while also getting a good night's rest. One thing that bugs me quite a bit is that professors do not seem capable of delving further into topics than what the book describes. They are there to make sure you're certified but not to get to the bottom of everything. Then, I'm searching online to find answers, which can be tedious. This all goes into the struggle between surface-level understanding and deeper understanding of new concepts.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2015
  4. Feb 15, 2015 #3


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    If you do not have those things, then are you unable to learn?
  5. Feb 15, 2015 #4
    No, I got these things long after I discovered I was capable of learning things.
  6. Feb 16, 2015 #5


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    Look up the Kolb learning styles.
  7. Feb 16, 2015 #6
    I'm usually not much for psychology, but that is an awfully logical concept. Thanks.

    For those who are curious:

  8. Feb 17, 2015 #7


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    Everyone lies somewhere on this spectrum. That being said people can move based on the situation and over time.
    Just an interesting note, engineers tend to be converges, and scientists tend to be assimilators.

    There is loads of material on how each quadrant and subquadrants best learn, and how to leverage your stregnths.
  9. Feb 18, 2015 #8
    I'm not a student anymore, but I was recently, and you never stop learning, so in a way, I'll always be a student.

    I prefer just pencil and paper. I like drawings, but if the text describes things in a way that is easy to visual, sometimes, that can be as good as a drawing, so I don't entirely judge books by how many figures they have, although more figures is generally a good sign. You have to have a mix of the core concepts and equations and practice problems. I think worked examples can sometimes be okay, as long as you get enough practice at getting by without them. I prefer physical books in some ways, but the great thing about computers and the internet is that they can store a vast amount of information with minimal clutter. So, I have some free books that I got from online. It would be nice to print some things out and spare my eyes, but I don't like the clutter that physical paper can bring with it. That being said, I'll probably eventually have a massive bookshelf with lots of books. I already have a fair amount. Now that I've left academic math behind, I'd like to integrate my math skills more with my programming skills and use that to practice my math, but it takes a little practice to get going with that.

    I tend to take one day mostly off per week. Might do a few things. Other than that, I just work as much as I need to. I don't always take a day off, but I like to. It's good to set aside time that's sort of guilt-free time that you set aside for things other than working. I like studying at night--I tend to be kind of a night owl--but I don't think it's good for me, so with varying success I try to just get up early and maybe try to get the most done in the afternoon or early evening. Working too late can mess with your sleep.

    Ideally, I try to come up with my own version of everything--sort of an imaginary history of how someone might have discovered it in the most painless way. The actual historical discoveries are likely to be quite a bit more painful. I tend to like to understand everything for myself, but there can be times when I just don't have time to figure it out. I sometimes sacrificed my grades a little bit for the sake of having more time to investigate for myself, but sometimes, you have to throw in the towel, accept it as truth for the time being, and save further thought for later.
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