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Hugo
09-04-2009, 08:29 PM
I thought it might be useful to have a thread that discusses what it is like to be at College or University and what it means to learn and learn well. Learning is wide ranging and will involve your rationality, your emotions, your motivation, your sense of values and for believers of whatever faith - spirituality.

So I will post some idea and tips and maybe you would like to do the same.
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Hugo
09-04-2009, 08:41 PM
This note is to try to help you to see the role of your tutor/University in progressing you through to your qualification. If I were your tutor I might think of you as a top class football team with me as the Coach. At the moment you are in the second team but I want to promote you if you are good enough to the first team (the next stage or final stage). So as you read this analogy of student life and learning ask yourself which profile best fits you?

As Coach I want to win all the time, never compromise on quality performances, and I pick my team to do that. I tell you as player what I want and I place my whole confidence in you to give your very best effort and I expect nothing less. Consider, the work you do for your tutor is like playing in a match and there is no point in playing a match unless you want to win so I need confidence in you to follow my instructions and you need to trust me as that I now what I am doing and have your very best interests at heart. In fact as a Coach I have several kinds of player available to me as follows: (so ask your self which one fits you?)

Reliable – I have some promising players with real talent. I can see their work is well prepared, they know the basics, they accept advice and criticism, they discuss things with me, they disagree with me; they are learning – they are not perfect but I see potential and with a little guidance from me and hard work (practice) from them they can get even better and promoted to the first team and play in the premier league.

Lazy – these are the players that don’t want to do any training, they don’t want to practice, they don’t care about my opinion, they have no awareness of how hard it in the premier division and they accept no responsibility for their own progress – if they don’t get in the team it’s the Coach’s fault or in fact any other reason that comes to mind. I notice with these players that its not that they are unaware of their needs as such but want some sort of short cut to glory in the team. I will never pick them because they cannot be trusted and they are not fit enough, will never be fit enough, to play in the big league.

Content - I have some promising players but they don’t want bother with the basics, they think they know it already and they are not very good at listening to advice or watching other players or team work. I feel real concern because I can see them wasting their talents by a kind on obstinate arrogance and I am not going to be able to use them in the first team as they don’t have even the basic skills. What shall I do with these players is my big problem – how can I get them to learn the basics, how can I get them to put in the practice, how can I make them see that unless they put in hard work now they will never reach their true potential and look back on it with regret, how can I make them aware of their own shortcomings?

Sometimes I take a chance and promote them on condition they show me what they can do but sadly often they never get to play in the first team because they cannot show their talents because they have not perfected them – they think because they are promoted to the first team I am bound to pick them to play in a match. But I am the Coach and I am not going to risk losing a match with some one who is not willing to give me 100% effort – I am putting in 100% and I expect the same from you. I am not going to pick you unless you have put in the training and learn all the skills needed – it’s a risk not worth taking and eventually I am going to exclude you altogether.

Self Satisfied - my last group are the saddest of all, they know everything and can do everything and have see everything. If you ask them to do a bit of training they say they don’t need it, if you offer them advice they ignore it because they know better, if you tell them to play in the centre they will move to the wing, if I take them off the field they throw a tantrum, if you try to work with them they say you are wrong and don’t understand what they are trying to do, if you put them back in the second team they accuse you of victimisation. spite or favouritism and so on. This group saddens me most simply because often they are indeed the most talented, the most gifted and with the most potential but they never see their fatal flaw and that is in life one needs just that bit of humility, self-awareness and effort so that you are ready to learn from anybody at all – yes anybody.

The Coach – none of the above means the Coach is infallible but he does know a lot and has a good deal of experience and the team principals will hold him responsible for failure. Players come to him for help and advice; players come and argue with him about tactics, players prove themselves to him, players come with skills they want to improve and from all this activity the Coach learns more himself but underneath it all the coach is passionate for success and passionate that every player reaches his full potential.

Three Illustrations
Tiger Woods, one of the finest golfers ever; wining 13 majors but at the start of each season he goes to his coach saying “let’s starts from the basics again”. He is not too proud or arrogant to go right back to basics and learn it all again, practice, practice it all again. He does not say I am a champion, I have won 35 tournaments therefore I don’t need to practice, I have nothing to learn, I don’t need any one to give me advice, no one can teach me anything.

A confession – sadly we can all be Prima Donna's at heart - some years ago I had a research student working for me on problem solving strategies and whether they could be transferred to neural nets. I was expert in problem solving strategies, I had published several papers and there was no one who could tell me anything, my ideas were new and I was king. I used to see the student a couple of times a week and in his little office he had complicated diagrams stuck on the wall with algebraic like characters at the end of lines, arrows and circles. My problem was, I did not know what they were but thought I ought to but I could never bring myself to ask else I show myself up as being a bit ignorant in front of the student – after all I was the expert wasn’t I?

Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I asked what they represented - they turned out to be diagrams on how to juggle with three coloured balls! You see there are no foolish questions and you only become a fool if you stop asking questions. We are all as ignorant as the next man or woman so don’t hold back, ask questions and never think you know it all – if you do you will live to regret it. Newton said “If I have seen further than other men it was only by standing on their shoulders” and the proverb “He who criticises a man will in the end find more favour than he who has a flattering tongue”. There is nothing to be ashamed of when you realise there is something you don’t know, there is everything to be ashamed of when you do nothing about it.

Al Ghazali, a brilliant conservative Islamic scholar, who you might expect to be certain about everything. Not so, for while he wrote about certainty he was perpetually on the edge of doubt, searching for truth by moving from one fit of scepticism to another. He said “no one believes until he has doubted”. Al Ghazali attributed his hunger for learning and how it was done to a chance observation made to him by an illiterate Bedouin – but that is another story.
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Hugo
09-06-2009, 04:03 PM
Starting College or University is an exciting prospect and one you should look forward to but you also need to act responsibly and thoughtfully, particularly in your first few weeks remembering that your principal reason for being there is to study and learn.

1. Most universities run induction courses and these can be very busy affairs lasting several days where you are given lots of information orally and written as well as looking over the university, meeting staff and often they will also show you the town or city in which you are studying. My advice is try to keep track of this information (particularly information related to your timetable or book lists) but it is not possible to absorb it all in one go so look for key things that you need. Almost always there will be a course Handbook and that is the one document you need to read with care.

Take particular care to find out the noticeboard (which may be electronic) and administrative offices related to your course and that is where you will get up to date information for your course and the place you can go to get help with general course queries.

2. It is also very likely that your university has hundreds of clubs and societies ranging from car mechanics to butterfly collecting. Therefore it is certain you will be bombarded with literature of one kind or another and requests to join this or that society. My advice is to take the literature but don't sign up for anything until you've had a good chance to settle in to your new environment and course.

It is almost certain that your university will have an Islamic society, a Christian union, a Jewish society and many others of this type. I would encourage you to join one of these because there you will meet people from all over the world who have the same faith and values as you and that will help bring some stability to your life as you start your course.

3. Become familiar with the students union as they often contain shops, a cafe, travel agency and many other things but also have Union Officers who specialise in various aspects of student life and from time to time you may need to contact them for help or advice.

Student Unions always have a bar and often drinking seems to be main preoccupation of some students. However the union is for all students and although you do not want to use the bar do not let that put you off using the rest of the facilities.
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Hugo
09-08-2009, 03:16 PM
In the UK this year many students even though they had the right entry qualifications have not managed to gain a place at any university. If this is your predicament don't despair but you might consider one or more of the following possibilities.

Don't regard it as a setback, but instead think of it as a challenge and an opportunity that way what is happening to you has a positive spin. Christians have a saying when things go wrong and it goes like this "disappointment His (meaning God or Allah) appointment". So if you have faith remember that through all this God has a plan for you and in a few weeks months or years time you will look back and see it not as a disappointment but as a God-given opportunity.

You may consider doing charity work or lots of part-time jobs of all kinds. You may find it enjoyable and it will certainly give you a lot of experience of working and life generally as well as meeting all sorts of people. For example, only this week I met two students who worked part time as vergers in their local church and week by week they helped to run the church during funeral services and so they felt they were doing something useful for the church and community as as well as receiving a small income. At the same time they learned about being on time, setting up the church, how to operate the sound systems, how to make digital recordings etc.

Others I know have become part time building caretakers, chefs, gardeners, window cleaners, tutors, sales persons, football instructors.... the list is endless and it is it will only be your own initiative and imagination that will hold you back. In all these roles you will learn if you want to valuable lessons.

It is also usual that a good number of students who have gained places will drop out of their chosen course. That means you should keep in touch with the University as you might find a place becomes available between now and Christmas. Also you should remember that many universities have an entry point in January/February so again keep track of what might be happening in your chosen university.
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GuestFellow
09-08-2009, 07:41 PM
This is quite useful. Thanks!
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Banu_Hashim
09-09-2009, 05:08 PM
Thanks Hugo. This is useful.
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Hugo
09-10-2009, 11:08 AM
As you approach your university course you may be wondering what kind of things you have to do. The idea of learning is a somewhat complicated idea and there is great misunderstanding as to what it involves. I hope that this note will help you gain an appreciation of what it is about.

1. The first thing to understand is that intelligence is not a fixed quantity because by effort and perseverance you can grow your intelligence and intellectual capacity. The fact that you are at university means you are at least good enough and if you work hard good enough can become excellent. If there is one central quality in learning it is about perseverance and pushing on even when things get difficult and you think you will never be able to understand what is going on.
Calvin Coolidge one said "nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
2. The second thing to understand is that all knowledge has to be put into practice. This in a very real sense is saying that unless you can use your knowledge you don't have it. For example, suppose I give you the following definition of primary data - Primary Data is data is new data in the sense that it will not exist as a set until I (you) define, collect and record it at a given point in time and usually it is collected by the researcher first hand. But it must be collected for a specific purpose in that the primary data set is representative of some aspect of the area under investigation and can be processed to get a defined Outcome that will resolve or partially resolve a stated problem theme when used by situation actors.

It is obvious that anyone can memorise this definition and reproduce it if asked. However, because you know the definition does not mean that you can use it. We can only be certain that you know it if you can use it. Therefore, if you know it you should be able to decide with certainty whether the following research description is referring to primary data, if cannot decide or feel absolutely certain then you do not know what is meant by the term primary data because you are unable to use it reliably - Suppose I want to define all the various accounting functions so I pick up a manual for my in-house accounting system and then go though it looking for all the various accounting functions and listing them – is that primary data and is this a valid research purpose?

3. The final point today is to tell you that asking questions about what you are learning is essential otherwise, you're learning will come to a stop. It does not matter who is teaching you or what book or books are being used, you are a student and it is your duty to critically question as your learning develops. Here are some apposite quotes about what it means to learn - find one that really speaks to you.

Curiosity
John Ruskin - curiosity is a gift, a capacity for pleasure in knowing, which if you destroy, you make yourselves cold and dull.
Jacob Bronowski - it is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to hero-worship what is known but to question it.

What makes a Good Teacher?
Lily Tomlin - I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework
Edward Bulwer-Lytton said - the best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes and inspires the listener with the wish teach himself.

Tapping into Potential
Miguel de Cervantes - love not what you are but what you may become.
Gustavus F. Swift - don't let the best you have done do so far be the standard for the rest of your life.
Woodrow Wilson - I not only use all the brains I have but all I can borrow.

Imagination
Albert Einstein - knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the whole world.
George Bernard Shaw - some men see things as they are and say, 'why'? I dream of things that never were and say, "why not."
Charles Kettering - our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.

Reflections on Education
Peter Brougham - education makes the people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but impossible to enslave.
William Butler Yeats - education is not the filling of a pale but the lighting of a fire.
Sydney Harris - the whole purpose of education is to try to turn mirrors into windows.
James Garfield - next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom or justice can be permanently maintained.

The Power of the Mind
Victor Hugo - a stand can be made against the invasion of an army; no stand can be made against the invasion of an idea.
Kahlil Gilbran - knowledge and understanding are life's faithful companions who will never be untrue to you. For knowledge is your crown and understanding your staff; and when they are with you, you can possess no greater treasures.
Frank Herbert - the beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.
Buddha - with our thoughts we make the world.

Failure isn't Permanent
Elbert Hubbard - there is no failure except in not trying.
George Bernard Shaw - when I was a young man I observed that 9 out of 10 things I did were failures. I didn't want to be a failure, so I did 10 times more work.
Marva Collins - if you never make a mistake, you can't make anything.

A Successful Career
Katherine Whitehorn - the best career advice to the young is: find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for it.
Julia Morgan - never turn down a job because you think it's too small; you don't know where it could lead.
Bill Gates - flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping. They called it opportunity.

A Lifetime of Learning
Henry Ford - anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80.
Will Durant - education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance.
Chinese proverb - learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.

Words to Ponder
Mark Twain - keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Ralph Waldo Emerson - what is success? Laugh often and much. To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children. To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty. To find the best in others. To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or redeemed social condition. To know even one life breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Note. All these quotations have been selected from a small book called " enduring words for the teacher" ISBN 1741249457
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Hugo
09-15-2009, 10:12 AM
Just about to leave home for the first time to go to College or University? Often this can be a terrifying experience when you wonder:

What will I do if I get ill?
Will I make any friends?
How will I do my cooking and shopping?
Will I be able to manage my money?
Will I be able to cope with what I have to learn?
Will I get drawn into bad things?
etc.

Well the first thing to realise is that you are not alone, every other person you meet will be feeling the same things and some will feel much worse that you. Secondly, millions of others have trodden this road before and got through it more or less unscathed.

So what can you do?

1. Say hello to people, smile at people that will help you and them.

2. Try to make a little plan for your first few weeks, what you will do, where you will go, what food you will buy, register with a doctor, etc. You will find I think that doing this will settle your mind and put you at ease. You don't have to follow the plan rigidly but the very act of making it will add some structure to your new experiences.

3. Don't go mad and spend all you grant or money in one go on things that you do not need and don't fall into the trap of convincing yourself that that nice new Ipod or Stereo is essential - never buy on impulse or let some salesman convince you, take your time, if you rush things you will regret it. Make a budget and try to stick to it.

4. I have said this before but Christian Unions and Islamic societies, faith societies are good places to be so look out for these and it is certain you will make good friends there.

Look out also for the local Churches and Mosques because you will find a ready welcome there and so become part of the local community. I am not sure about Mosques (but I expect its the same) but most local Churches will have students schemes and will often link you if you wish with local families so you can get invited out to lunch frequently (that avoids your own cooking!)

5. Your University and university city will have art galleries, cinemas, theatres and in general cultural activities of all sorts. Almost always you can get tickets at very good rates so take a little time to find out what is in your area. Just to give an example, I know Southampton quite well and even if we exclude the city then just on the campus there is an art gallery, a theatre and a concert hall. I would add that these are not minor entities but host concerts by internationally recognised artists in Jazz to Beethoven and everything in between.

6. Finally, look forward to this new phase of your life and believe that God is in it with you. Don't waste time and energy saying 'if only' or 'it is not as good as' - you are there so now make the most of that opportunity.


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Hugo
09-16-2009, 11:45 AM
When you get to University or College you will get a timetable and a list of courses that you will be studying. It is very important that you get a description of each course. So the following might help you understand what these descriptions tell you.

1. Different universities and colleges use different names for each subject class you go to. So an individual class might be called a unit or a module or course. In what follows I will use the term module for a single class-based subject covering a semester. Your task, is to find out what term is use by your university or college for a subject-based class.

2. Commonly, the number of hours spent in studying each module will be about 24 hours of class time. However, you must check this yourself as there is no universal standard. Overall, each module will require you to put in about a hundred hours of study over a semester but again there is no standard. So what you must do is find out: Total class time from each module and total study time for each module. When we speak of total study time it includes class time, tutorials, library study, preparing and doing the assessment.

3. The module specification will be divided up into sections but this structure will vary from one university to another but in general one would expect to find.

Module name.

Short module description expressed in very general terms or you may find one or two aims.

List of learning outcomes or sometimes the word objectives is used. This section is very important because it is supposed to tell you what you will be able to do (as opposed to what you might know) after studying the module. The importance of learning outcomes is that the assessment is always supposed to be based upon them.

The syllabus which gives a list of the topics and subtopics you will learn about in this module.

In short, the syllabus tells you what you must know and the learning outcomes tells you what you must be able to do with the knowledge you have gained.

Indicative reading list which shows you which books might be important to you. In general, you are not expected to buy all the books on the list or indeed any of them although mostly one of the two books will be recommended purchases. Be careful here as module descriptions may not be really up to date and a good way to assess this is to look at the publication dates on the listed books and if its more than 5 or 6 years old check with your tutor and especially do this in fast moving subject areas like technology.

The assessment description. For obvious reasons, these descriptions are important to you because they tell you what you must do to pass the module. In most cases that should tell you what percentage of the marks is awarded (as there may be more than one assessment), the type of assessment (examination, essay, practical etc) and what is being assessed.

Several types of assessments are always involved as deemed appropriate, practical and always linked to the module Learning Outcome. In every case one or more of the following learning dimensions or aspects will be its focus: attitudes (including acquisition and perseverance), understanding, contextualization and application and it is accepted that these are all underpinned by development in critical thinking skills.

Normally, the class lecturer will give you a detailed description of each assessment and what you read here is just a guide but it does allow you to check that it matches. If you feel the description is not clear enough then ASK and such a description MUST be given to you very early in the term and preferably the first week.

Here is a simple example which illustrates what you might find. I have chosen a very simple one so it will be easy for you to follow. BUT please be aware that there can be enormous variation between Universities on the way this is all set out.

Module: College English

Module Code: ENG-101 No of Credits: 15 (be careful here as UK credits and US credits mean different things)
Status: Compulsory. Type: General. Prerequisites: None

Module Description
This course introduces students to a wide variety of written texts to develop their basic reading, writing, speaking and indirectly their listening skills. The course will be practically oriented and use appropriate writing activities including letter writing, postcards, preparing lists, short reports and presentations. These practice elements help students to gain a useful vocabulary used to master basic sentence and paragraph structures.

Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
1. Identify the required information from a simple text.
2. Convey simple, brief factual information in writing.
3. Convey simple, brief factual information in speaking.

Course Topics
The topics covered in the course will include:
1. Basic language structure: consideration of the use of words, basic grammar in sentence construction. Written and spoken modes and methods.

2. Reading and Writing: consideration of a variety of written texts and the development of basic informational reading and writing skills.

3. Presentational skills: modes of group communication, use of appropriate media, presentational formats, methods of persuasion, organization and planning, information delivery, dealing with participants’ comments and questions.

4. Common Written Structures: appropriate writing activities including letter writing, postcards, lists and procedures, descriptions and explanations, short reports, quotations for content which communicates information, instructions and ideas at a basic level.

5. Vocabulary: accessible language, types of words or phrase, word functions, word choice, spelling and degree of formality which is appropriate to the particular form of writing.

Indicative Reading
Homan, A. et al, (2006), Move Intermediate: Course book with CD-ROM (Paperback), Macmillan, ISBN-1405086165

Resources Required
Audio CDs and CD system

Assessment
The module will be assessed as follows and in accordance with the teaching plan shown below.

1. Practical in Class Sessions (10%) – to enable students to appreciate the necessity of dedicated effort and perseverance as a necessary perquisite to acquisition of knowledge. In this particular case it is vital that students participate as language only make sense in the context of communication with others and attendance helps students in practice of such skills in concert with others and hence establishes positive attitudes and perceptions about the classroom, about learning and about themselves.

2. Quiz (10%) – there are three quiz sessions and they are designed to be progressive and deal with understanding in terms of with basic knowledge and comprehension and concentrate on selection of words and structures that can be used to differentiate and describe.

3. Mid-Term Examination (30%) – this assessment will bring together knowledge and comprehension and require students to demonstrate their competence and learning acquisition, principally in basic communications skills and simple selection and use of appropriate media for a particular communication style.

4. Final Examination (50%) – this assessment will bring together knowledge and comprehension and require students to apply constructs and articulate ideas and hence demonstrate their competence and learning acquisition in construction of common communication vehicles and use of language structures, word selection focusing on effective and specific use of the communication artifact.

Note - I have shown 4 assessments to illustrate the way these things are supposed to be written but I would be surprised if in general there were more than 2 assessment artifacts in any given module.

Week Topics/Activity
1 Basic language structure, consideration of the use of words.
2 Basic grammar in sentence construction.
3 Written and spoken modes and methods.
4 Quiz 1 (3%). Consideration of a variety of written texts.
etc
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Hugo
09-20-2009, 04:59 PM
Some thought on your first few weeks at College or University:

1. Often students think the first few weeks at University or College are not very important and you are busy anyway but conveniently forget this is where the foundations in each subject is laid. It is obvious that if you do not know the subject basics then you have nothing to build on and as you progress through the term things will become more and more difficult and you will begin to fall behind.

So my advice is to take some time to make sure you attend and listen in lectures with care, picking up any notes or other materials especially in those first few weeks and then work hard to make sure you understand the basics. Remember, if you build on sand your house will collapse. Someone has with some wit expressed this idea in saying that in the first weeks of a course "if you aim at nothing you will probably hit it."

3. Secondly it is all too easy to be deluded into thinking that if you have the right collection of gadgets (laptop, IPhone, software, etc) or books or websites all will be well but sadly it can make you feel hard work is really not necessarily any longer. To put it another way; learning cannot be done if we remove individual responsibility, active involvement and choices from the process because to do so would undermine the values of any successful education: personal discipline, independence of thought, worthwhile learning effort and simple curiosity coupled with an understanding that in learning persistence in the face of difficulties is omnipotent.

4. Now this is not saying you should not get whatever gadgets and software you can but it is saying they are never going to be a substitute for hard work. So some ideas.

There is a site called software4students and if you have a University or College email you can then get huge software bundles for very small amounts. Go and look there before spending a lot of money. Recent offers were on a FULL MS suite of 8 applications. Also on offer was Dragon Speech Recognition Software so you can just speak into your computer what you want to say - it is how I created this entry without any typing.

If you have a Iphone or a Itouch or something similar then I recommend the following to simple Apps.

SaiSuke calendar/diary which can by in sync with any number of Google Calendars

WordWeb dictionary, this is in my view one of the best because it can not only look up a word but when you get to the definition you can touch ANY other word in the definition and it will define that one for you as well ad infinitum.

FINAL TIP

There is an App called TimeBook and put simply it is a kind of stop watch but of much more sophisticated and subtle design than a simple clock. However, what you do is tell the App all the areas of activity you are involved in: free time, playing the piano, lectures, using the library, private study, sport, daydreaming etc.

Then all you have to do it select the activity and press start and stop. It does not matter if you use other apps at the same time it will keep going. It can then be interrogated to see how much of your time you spent on every activity and it shows it with charts so it easy to read.

Therefore my most important tip is for you in the first few weeks RECORD all your time usage. I think you will be shocked at just how much time you actually spend on study and overall how much time you waste.

There is no better indicator of success that measuring the way you spend your time.
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Hugo
09-24-2009, 11:16 AM
Following on from post no. 10 where my tip was to keep track of your time.

1. So at a minimum keep track of your learning time and it needs to be on average about 20 hours a week, every week.

2. Remember if you let this time slip one week it will have to be recovered asap otherwise you will fall behind.

3. DO NOT think of the 20 hours as if you were clocking in and out of a job. Here we are taking about a minimal standard. So do not fall into the trap of saying "done 20 hours so no need to do any more", instead grasp every learning opportunity you can. Learning insights and opportunities cannot be totally organised and you might get insight on the bus, talking to the garbage collector, reading a news paper and so on. The point is that ideas will just pop into your mind, a flash of insight can occur at any time any where - when they do WRITE them DOWN - do NOT rely on your memory, if you do they will be gone and often gone forever.

4. Learning time includes: going to lectures, tutorials, work in the library, discussing your subject with the tutor or other students, reading at home, working in the assessment etc.

5. Get into a learning community, people who want to learn. People who are like that are not boring and they are not boring because they are interested in everything around them and will want to help you and if you have real interest in learning you will want to help them. Remember what Abraham Lincoln said "I do not think much of a person who is NOT wiser today than they were yesterday" and "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other". One might also not what George Washington said "Associate yourself with men/women of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better to be alone than in bad company"

6. So note all your study time - do NOT make a list in advance, record the time when it happens. So go to a lecture and the learning time starts when the lecture starts and when it ends and believe me that will not always be the same time as the class scheduled start and end times.

7. FINALLY - you MUST take regular breaks. You MUST give your brain a chance to process all the information that has gone into it. So for example, take a break every hour, go for a walk, listen to music, daydream, it does not matter what you do to take a break. In fact according to the latest research the brain when it is daydreaming uses considerably more energy that when it is focusing. So you might be daydreaming but you are giving your brain a chance to sort things out.

A concomitant here is that it is impossible to CRAM so if you think you can squeeze it all in at the end or make up loads of lost time just before the examinations or assessments are due then face up to the fact NOW that you are deluded, lazy and foolish.

NOTE - there may be exceptional circumstances which interfere with your studies such as significant illness or family problems that you could have done nothing about. I will talk about these in a later post and how to deal with them
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Hugo
09-30-2009, 04:14 PM
I expect by now you are getting into your first weeks at University and going through the registration process. So now is the time to find out things that may be important to you later on; particularly if you become unwell, have family issues or personal problems that put a break on your studies and cause you to get behind. These kinds of thing can occur at any time to any one and the University knows this and has provided systems and staffed units to help you through - so find out now what these units do and where they are located so when and if you need them there will be no struggle to access them.

Almost always if things unexpectedly get in the way of your progress the University will have a form of some kind which allows you to formally tell the University you are in difficulty. The reason this is important is because if you fail to submit an assignment or you fail an assignment then you will usually be given a chance to do it again but with the MAXIMUM mark capped at just the pass mark and capped marks my ruin your chances of getting high overall grades and degree classification. However, if the University accepts your reasons for lack of progress then you will get anther chance to do the assignment as if it was a first attempt so nothing is capped or they may give you extra time.

Evidence
Normally, you must provide evidence that your studies have been significantly disrupted and through no fault of your own. So if you are unwell you will need Doctors note or certificate for example but normally the guidance notes provided by the University will make it clear what sort of evidence it requires and will accept. Acceptance is not automatic and you will have to wait to see what the outcome is.

WARNING
These days we all have computers so we must look after our data. The point here is that it will be totally futile to go to the University and say things such as "my computer has been stolen", "my data has become corrupted", "my hard disc has crashed" and so on - such excuses will NEVER be accepted because it means you have not looked after your data so it is your fault and yours alone.

Backing up Data
I urge you to read with care the next section as it can save you a lot of trouble. Back up needs to be easy to do and ideally automatic.

1. Back up to a CD - this is easy but if you then lose the CD or it becomes unreadable or it gets stolen along with your computer then you are dead.

2. Back up by email - a cheap and easy solution is to email all important documents to yourself every time you change them - in Googlemail for example you have about 2GB free storage.

3. University Systems - you will all have a University account and an allocation of disc storage so you can use that to keep your data safe. It depends on the system but you may be able to copy your data to the University systems from home and that would make it easy and convenient

4. Online Back I recommend that you use one of these so that your data is 100% safe but there are some things you need to be sure about when selecting a system.
a. Make sure that it is an automatic system that runs in the background all the time your home system is on, that way YOU do not have to worry that something has been done or not.

b. Be aware that some of these online system can take several weeks to back up your data if you have a lot of it. Usually you can mark what to back up so mark the important stuff first and then add to it when that is secure.

c. Choose a system that gives you a trial period so you can then check it before serious commitment.

d. Most online backup companies allow you to join free but limit your size of backup and this can be anything from 2GB to 50GB.

e. VITAL VITAL
- you MUST choose a system that allows you to recover any lost file via a web site and that will mean you can recover data from anywhere you happen to be. The serious point here is that there are some systems where you can only recover data from the machine on which is was originally stored - therefore if that machine breaks down or gets stolen your data is more or less lost.

You may wonder why data is lost and the reason is simple, the backup data is almost always encrypted to make it safe but it does mean that even if the back company could see your file on their system they cannot read it because they don't have the encryption key so sending you the file that to you would be useless.

Here are some suggestions.

Idrive so visit www at idrive.com (2GB free)
Adrive so visit www at adrive.com (they say they give 50Gb free)
SkyDrive so visit www at skydrive.live.com (25Gb free)
Carbonite so visit www at carbonite.com
KeepVault so visit www keepVault.com
etc
Reply

Hugo
10-01-2009, 04:20 PM
Now you are at University or College it is essential you have a good email service so you might find the advice below helpful. Normally, you will be given an email account but you may have accounts of your own so want to do as I do and re-direct mail from my University account into a gmail account - that way although I have two or more accounts I only need to read one to see all my mail.

In fact that would be my tip of the week - go ahead and have multiple accounts but set redirection in all of them to one account and do all your reading and mailing from there. If the system you have does not allow redirection get rid of it if you can. There are many reasons to have multiple accounts but commonly because people have a work based account or want to be anonymous in some systems.

Mails System – there are many different email systems but commonly these days people have Internet based email service so that they can get mail almost anywhere.

Limits – depending on the mail service there may be limit on how many mails you can send in any one 24 hour period. This is not usually a problem as long as you don’t want several full mailings a day.

Multiple Accounts – many people have multiple accounts and this is not helpful because as it often means people say they have not got your mail because for that week or period they are using another account or they give you several accounts and ask you to mail to all of them.

Service – there are good and bad mail services so try to make sure you have all or most of these features in your email account listed below.

Provides a virtually unlimited storage capacity for mail (essential if attachments are involved)
Guaranteed to work from almost any location: hotels, airport, etc
Provide quality SPAM filtering, virus checking and is not on the SPEWS blacklist otherwise you will definitely not get email from the University.
Provide virus checking of attachments
Has an https:// internet address starter (also shown with a yellow lock at the bottom of the screen)
Allows POP redirection (so you can use Outlook and send from databases etc)
Use aliases address if needed
Allows you to set an automatic email forwarding address. Many services do not allow this so check this with care
Allow inclusion of your other accounts (so you can get mail automatically from your other accounts but also send from them without actually opening up that mail system)

BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) Addresses – this must be used for mass mailing else you tell everyone everybody’s address (including the Spammers) and that is unprofessional and unethical.

NDR (Non Delivery Report) and Auto-Replies – if a mail is not delivered or delayed you can get a message back. Also people set auto responders and what this can mean is you end up with a large number of unwanted replies in your account.

Groups – you must be able easily to create and select groups for mailing. In addition is advisable to be able to sometimes omit some people from the group in a given mailing.

Disclaimers – it will be necessary to compose some kind of disclaimer on all messages and also indicate what to do if for some reason the mailing goes to the wrong person.

Forwarding – you have to be aware that any mail you send out can be mailed on to any one else and this may be hundreds of people.

Sensitivity – one might need to be sensitive to what is being sent out to particular people. To be simplistic it might not be a good idea to send out a note about the joy of life to someone who has just had bereavement.

Updates – It is also necessary to be careful to remove people from your mailing list under particular circumstance – for example when someone dies. You have to be aware that people change email addresses and may not tell you or they may tell you their new address but you forget to delete their old one or they expect you to keep it.

Attachment Format – one has to use some format but ones that are able to be read by anyone are usually primitive. It will be a hopeless task to try to send one version to one group and another to someone else. One way round this is to publish it on the web so those who want to see it just click on the link. This would also help those who don’t have broadband as there would then be nothing to download in the mail.
Reply

Hugo
10-16-2009, 02:56 PM
A tip for those at College or University, particularly if part of your course means doing a project or dissertation, is about asking questions and how important that activity is for the opening of ones mind and intellectual development. Some people are afraid of doubt, particularly people of a religious persuasion, preferring absolute certainty; but God has not made us like that. Doubt can be creative because it forces us to ask questions and seek the truth. Just think what the world would be like if no one had persisted and overcame their doubts and doggedly pursued them through questions; no penicillin, no electricity, no Internet and so on.

I preface all these remarks by the best advice I ever got as a student from Prof Jacob Bronowski who said "it is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to hero worship what is known but to question it". This advice is essentially about the joy of finding out it's not about you being ignorant and insulting your teachers or just arguing for arguments sake.

Gregory Neal said said - I love questions. I love asking them and I love being asked ... if nothing else, they keep the brain juices flowing! No one should ever be afraid of questions; God certainly isn’t afraid of questions, and neither should we be afraid of them. If the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord – and it is – then the next step on the path to wisdom is being willing and able to say: "I don’t know." Only God is omniscient, and until we are willing to admit that we don’t know something, we’ll never be able to learn anything new. Think about that!

I love being asked questions that stump me. Why? Because those kinds of questions make me dig, study, and learn something I didn’t know before. Even if I don’t find a satisfactory answer, it’s not a loss; I’ve opened my mind and learned something new. And that’s the essence of wisdom: being open to learning something new. The instant one closes their mind and refuses to learn something new – or thinks they already know "it" all – is the instant when they begin to die.

Lloyd Alexander said - we learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.

Charles Steinmetz said - there are no foolish questions, and no one becomes a fool until you stop asking questions.

Albert Einstein - said the important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reasons of existing. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structures of reality.

One final point, asking questions means seeking the answers yourself from books, from experimentation, from research and asking other people, but don't start by asking other people begin this study by being persistent yourself. Often you will ask other people and they may give you an answer and some will become very annoyed if you do not accept it or want to explore it more deeply. Don't be put off by this and at the same time don't deliberately upset people who are trying to help you.

One final warning is to be careful about using the Internet as all sorts of people with all sorts of motives post all sorts of things and usually there is no way for you to check the sources are reliable. There are also a large number of discussion boards like this one and often you will see answers to what are complex questions but again in general you cannot be certain of the reliability - that means of course you have to question and consider what I have said here not blindly accept it.
Reply

Hugo
10-16-2009, 03:11 PM
Do you want a complete set of 8 MS programs for £35 - as long as you are a student in the UK or NI you can get it and to prove you are a student you usually only need to have a university or college email account.

Official Microsoft Office 2007 - Buy Microsoft Office Software

The site represents a federation of almost every school, college and University in the UK and focuses on any software that works on a PC so its not just MS products. But there is no set stock everything comes and goes as special offers lasting a few weeks. If you register you get e-mails when an offer appears. Be aware the site also offers Microsoft software that works on the Mac so for example you can get Microsoft 2008 office suite for £35 in the current offer.
Reply

Hugo
10-20-2009, 07:37 PM
Is is important that every student knows what mindset they have - it might be a good one or it might not. If you don't know then you cannot change can you and that will definitely limit your potential? What would be your level of agreement with the following statements?
Students who are seen to have high ability relish a challenge.
Success Energises students.
Praise, particularly praising intelligence is hugely encouraging.
A students’ confidence in their own intelligence is the key to success.
Here is a self-completion questionnaire to allow you to assess your 'mindset', nothing sinister, it just so can assess how you think and learn. We are all a bit arrogant about our own powers of thinking and ways of learning but it’s as well to really find out if you really know and can honestly face up to how YOU think and learn; why? because your way might be deficient or defective. To try this send a private email to me by clicking on my board name (that way anonymity is preserved) and include a string of Y/N answers, one for each question. I will then send you a key so you can interpret your own responses. I am doing it this way so that the questionnaire is not spoiled for later readers - that is, if you know the key before you start then the questionnaire is worthless. Just answer Yes or No as you go through

01. When you do a multi-choice test is your first concern to know if you were right or wrong?
02. If you and others posted answers to a question on a discussion board for tutor comments. Would you mostly only look at just your own entries?
03. It is a positive outlook on life never to attempt anything unless you know you can succeed?
04. The saying “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again” is wishful thinking, it wastes time?
05. There is a saying that “practice makes perfect” so if you get stuck when learning it is best to seek help rather than struggle with it?

06. Success is the key incentives for learning?
07. Is it a sign of weakness to admit in a meeting of colleagues that you made a mistake?
08. Think back to the times things went wrong for you, was your first reaction to make an excuse or blame someone or something?
09. Is success essential to the way you think about yourself, your self esteem?
10. Is it important that others have a high opinion of you?

11. Are you ready to give praise and encourage others?
12. Do you ever say “I was never good at mathematics”, “I cannot spell” or there are subject or skills beyond you, you will never be able to do them?
13. Are your choices often conditioned by what others have, say or do?
14. Do you think you are not really very bright and that is just the way it is?
15. Do you have a learning strategy that always works for you?

16. Positive feedback is important in producing better work?
17. Negative feedback is too discouraging to be really helpful?
18. Is it important to you that tutors make it easy to learn?
19. The tutor’s job is to ensure that I learn well?
20. Would you be willing to accept the blame for some mishap, even when it is not entirely your fault so that time is not wasted?

21. Is it true that the more intelligent you are the more successful you are likely to be?
22. I am motivated when I get praised for my work?
23. Is it true that “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy”?
Reply

tango92
10-25-2009, 05:43 PM
thx dude, very good stuff - especially all the quotes
Reply

Hugo
10-28-2009, 04:55 PM
I have just be reading some posts in other threads and one struck me particularly - the person said "my way of learning is..." and it seemed to me it was said in a way that implied it was a good way and indeed for him the best way.

Do you feel like this, you have a way of learning and it is a good way? If you do think like that you are a fool to yourself because there are many many learning strategies and sometimes or perhaps often one has to change what you do or you will not make progress and if there is no progress you are going backwards.

You may for example, say to yourself, I like to study in quiet with a cup of coffee and music but if you do think like that you are putting LIMITS on what is possible.

Any comments? I also posted a questionnaire to asses your mindset in post 16 but so far no one has taken it up so are you afraid to find out or don't want to know, is your ego getting in the way of you getting to the best?

Before I post some possible strategies let me ask you a question - how many ways do you know of solving problem, any problem at all and can you name them (hint there is more that one way but not as many as 10)
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cat eyes
10-28-2009, 05:37 PM
the stuff on here is useful. cool thread:)
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Salahudeen
10-28-2009, 11:00 PM
Thanks alot hugo, great tactics, I'm working on being the managers best player, today he left his fone behind in the class room and I grabbed it and chased him and said to him

"your gonna wanna give me top grades after this :) and handed him his fone he got soo happy"

Fink I'm in his top 11 now :) lol.
Reply

Hugo
10-29-2009, 04:31 PM
In life if one wants to succeed one needs information and motivation. Information so you know what you have to do and motivation so that you do it even if the going gets tough - and it will. So here are two tips for you if you want to succeed BUT if you think you can succeed without hard and persistent effort go and lie down now and be content with where you are now because you will never get anywhere else.

Take Personal and Active Responsibility some students believe that knowledge is passed on from tutor to students in some magical or simple (spoon feeding) way that requires no effort from them. This fallacy is summed up in the old academic joke “the subject matter goes from the teacher’s notes to the students’ notes without passing through the mind of either”. Teachers can pass on knowledge using notes and examples but no one can rationally believe that therefore learning has taken place. Learning cannot be done if we remove individual responsibility, active involvement and choices from the process because to do so would undermine the values of any successful education: personal discipline, independence of thought, worthwhile learning effort and simple curiosity.

Motivated to succeed through effort to improve one’s own intelligence and ready to accept ideas and learn from just about anyone or anything, not setting arbitrary limits on where or who learning comes from. Thoughtful learners KNOW that they can improve by their own efforts so they look for critical feedback on work (not just reassurance that it is right) because they want always to get better; regarding failure or setbacks as a challenge, a means to improve, a reason to plan not as a sign that they lack intelligence.
Reply

Hugo
11-03-2009, 12:44 PM
Negotiation and Persuasion - because a good learner is not passive but seeks to find solution to all sorts of difficulties or obstacles and so must work with tutors and many others to get the best out of a situation in the time available. The difficulties might include class timings, the course notes, you may feel the work is too hard or too simple, you may not like the way it is taught, the equipment might be poor, group work not organised - the list is endless. There are a number of negotiation/persuasion strategies that might be employed.

The win/win Approach – the suggestion is that agreement can be reached if concerned parties consider their underlying interests, requirements; possible decision consequences rather than stubbornly defending their own positions and so can often reach a decision that is mutually beneficial.

Consequences Approach – any decision entails risk and so we can never be sure if our probability estimates are sound or not but what we can do is know about the consequences of each decision and that is often a better guide as to what to do. This of course is not a new idea and King Solomon in the Bible famously used it so deal with an argument between two women and one baby. This is sometimes called ‘creative’ because it challenges you to look at a range of alternatives where each party to an issue ends up with something.

Advocacy – here one works with argument to obtain the most favourable outcome or at least the best alternative that is available. It is generally thought that good advocacy involves persuasion and that might be accomplished in many ways.

Modes of Persuasion – the New Scientist (May 2008) published an article on persuasion and here is a summary of what was suggested there.

Mimic the mannerisms if the ones who are being persuaded.

Framing or leading people to think about an issues or opinion in a way that is advantages to you. Instead of saying inheritance tax say its death tax if you oppose it

Less is more; that is don’t give too many reasons to back up your argument as it can harden opinion against you and it is suggested that often two solid reasons or arguments are the most effective. (tip: I have found this to be the MOST effective means of persuasion)

Grind them down or nagging but do it with care and note the factor ‘less is more’

The medium is the means and in the modern world you will not always be able to pick the most suitable means to negotiate and so you have to factor that into your planning so that you get the best available means.

Style over substance so don’t hesitate or stumble or give them time to think and this means planning what it is you want to say before you say it. One must also exercise some humanity here as it’s not just a matter of getting what you want at any cost.

Get them angry and feel a sense of injustice; essentially anger accompanied by the feeling that there is a solution to the problem then your message is more likely to be persuasive.

Resistance is not futile – move toward a target bit by bit. Sometimes there will be a deadlock and so one might present a position closer to your target’s views and if you do that you are closing the gap but doing it little by little.

This is not about pestering academic or other staff night and day over every difficulty large or small but rather a responsible and reasonable attitude which seeks for help and guidance leading to an improved learning experience. One might note here that the ability to negotiate is something one needs to do right through life and of course others will negotiate with you.

Another point here is that negotiations need decisions at some point and in general it is best if those decisions are arrived at collectively, that way they have a chance of being fair by being more fully discussed. The only real exception to collective decision making is when the decisions requires some kind of expert opinion and in that case one seeks out a relevant expert to help you through the discussions.

Finally, negotiating a better learning situation is not intended to make your learning effortless - if you think that then you have not understood a word I have said and you will never succeed because persistence in education is omnipotent.
Reply

researcher
11-03-2009, 05:19 PM
Hi Hugo,

I was very interested in rthe mindset quiz answered them and tried sending a private message but it was rejected as I need to post a set number of posts before I can do that!

Any chance of directing me to a link that will give me the results once I complete the quiz? I'd be very interested in discovering my mindset,,,


many thanks
Reply

Hugo
11-04-2009, 03:05 PM
Originally Posted by researcher
Hi Hugo,

I was very interested in rthe mindset quiz answered them and tried sending a private message but it was rejected as I need to post a set number of posts before I can do that!

Any chance of directing me to a link that will give me the results once I complete the quiz? I'd be very interested in discovering my mindset,,,

many thanks
It is not permitted to give out email address so either ask the administrator for a special dispensation wait until you have made a few more posts
Reply

Hugo
11-04-2009, 03:12 PM
One or two have asked me what is to be valued in learning so over the next few posts I will offer some suggestions and you of course might add a few yourself.

Learning Incentives are often hard to pin down and students sometimes have only vague ideas about qualifications and better job prospects and that engenders an attitude that treats learning like a visit to the supermarket; get it over with as quick as possible or to put it another way you sign up for a course, you do the course and get a qualification then you stop learning until the next course. Here are some real possibilities but they are not automatic, one has to make positive choices towards effort to attain them:
Investment – learning is an investment for the future and like any investment it needs a good environment in which to grow but also there is a price to pay and a risk to take in effort, perseverance and accepting challenges. A concomitant of this is to act irresponsibly in a learning situation implies you are wasting everyone’s time as well as throwing away a golden opportunity and opportunities once lost may be very hard or even impossible to retrieve.

Private Values – a good education is to be highly prized as it not only helps you with regard to employment but it is a source of pleasure all by itself because with the right attitude you are always learning not just when you are on a course of some kind. This idea was aptly summed up by B. F. Skinner when he said "Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.”
Reply

Iris
11-04-2009, 07:16 PM
Interesting thread.
Reply

Hugo
11-08-2009, 02:54 PM
Here is a continuation of my ideas on why we want to learn or the motivations for learning. Here we just shift a little from practical motivations to what I shall call creative and spiritual ones. The point here is that one cannot expect God to reward you with success if you have no values and do no work or to out it another way it is good to offer prayers for your studies but if that is all you do and start believing the effort is not needed then you are deluded.
Joy – does this sound too strong to you? That learning can be a delight, a buzz, a pleasure, an amusement, a satisfaction, a thrill, an adventure, a stimulus, a self-rewarding experience if you want it to and you are willing to pay the price in effort and perseverance. One might say here that the opposite is true that the experience of learning can be a bore, a turn off, irksome, an irritation, a waste of time, hard work but some of the negative elements might just be part of the price to pay; no one can win an Olympic Gold but just by turning up, no one can be a great pianist without the toil involved in leaning scales and practicing, no one can be a great scholar without hard study, some of which may be a real struggle. But it’s all well worth it; if you don’t think so then that is a choice you make and tacitly you therefore accept any concomitant consequences.

Public Values – someone with reliable learning, educated, will in general be valued. One might note here that this is not just about qualifications and one only has to consider how many people in the world have a PhD or an MSc or a Microsoft Qualification or any number of other qualifications but they do not as of right get well paid jobs or command general respect where they work. The world we live in is market place and the commodity you really have is an education. This idea was perhaps expressed very well by Rousseau who said “So let us excel, never mind in what. I will be sought after, opportunities will present themselves, and my merit will do the rest”.
Reply

researcher
11-10-2009, 12:09 AM
Originally Posted by Hugo
Here is a continuation of my ideas on why we want to learn or the motivations for learning. Here we just shift a little from practical motivations to what I shall call creative and spiritual ones. The point here is that one cannot expect God to reward you with success if you have no values and do no work or to out it another way it is good to offer prayers for your studies but if that is all you do and start believing the effort is not needed then you are deluded.
Joy – does this sound too strong to you? That learning can be a delight, a buzz, a pleasure, an amusement, a satisfaction, a thrill, an adventure, a stimulus, a self-rewarding experience if you want it to and you are willing to pay the price in effort and perseverance. One might say here that the opposite is true that the experience of learning can be a bore, a turn off, irksome, an irritation, a waste of time, hard work but some of the negative elements might just be part of the price to pay; no one can win an Olympic Gold but just by turning up, no one can be a great pianist without the toil involved in leaning scales and practicing, no one can be a great scholar without hard study, some of which may be a real struggle. But it’s all well worth it; if you don’t think so then that is a choice you make and tacitly you therefore accept any concomitant consequences.

Public Values – someone with reliable learning, educated, will in general be valued. One might note here that this is not just about qualifications and one only has to consider how many people in the world have a PhD or an MSc or a Microsoft Qualification or any number of other qualifications but they do not as of right get well paid jobs or command general respect where they work. The world we live in is market place and the commodity you really have is an education. This idea was perhaps expressed very well by Rousseau who said “So let us excel, never mind in what. I will be sought after, opportunities will present themselves, and my merit will do the rest”.


learning is definitely a 'buzz' - mental stimulus and 'engagement' with disentangling and constructing knowledge... In my opinion 'learning' is one of the greatest 'blessings' SubhanAllah.

There's nothing that beats the feeling of finally having 'understood' something esp where days or weeks of thought and reflection and reading have gone into it... the feeling of 'satisfaction' and accomplishment are surreal...


Sorry Hugo not trying to 'hijack' your thread
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Kabeer
11-10-2009, 01:58 PM
Thanks for the tips Hugo, Im still on page one but it's helpful!
Reply

Hugo
11-10-2009, 07:03 PM
Originally Posted by researcher
learning is definitely a 'buzz' - mental stimulus and 'engagement' with disentangling and constructing knowledge... In my opinion 'learning' is one of the greatest 'blessings' SubhanAllah.

There's nothing that beats the feeling of finally having 'understood' something esp where days or weeks of thought and reflection and reading have gone into it... the feeling of 'satisfaction' and accomplishment are surreal...

Sorry Hugo not trying to 'hijack' your thread
No need to be sorry at all and I am delighted with your comment. When you study and persist there is nothing quite like that moment of discovery when you finally see through the haze and 'get it' and sometimes what you see is breathtaking - when that happens you don't need a pat on the back or someone telling you how good you are because you know you got there by effort so getting there is it own reward and now you are excited, vitalised to get to the next peak and get the buzz all over again.
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researcher
11-10-2009, 11:27 PM
it's 'addictive'... once your 'hooked' it's hard to stop... and it doesn't stop - you always need your next 'fix'...


of mental 'stimulation'

learning is definitely lifelong Alhamdulillah! Nothing that quite 'beats' the feeling... always something interesting to 'mull' over or discover....wooow


definitely from the 'cradle to the grave'...
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researcher
11-10-2009, 11:29 PM
sorry had to correct the typo!

Originally Posted by researcher
it's 'addictive'... once you're 'hooked' it's hard to stop... and it doesn't stop - you always need your next 'fix'...


of mental 'stimulation'

learning is definitely lifelong Alhamdulillah! Nothing that quite 'beats' the feeling... always something interesting to 'mull' over or discover....wooow


definitely from the 'cradle to the grave'...
Reply

Hugo
11-11-2009, 04:15 PM
Critical Feedback
It might sound odd to say that critical feedback, which of course can be both positive and negative, is in fact an incentive. The reason it’s an incentive is that it’s useful information because it tells you what to do next, it forces you to confront issues and make choices. It might be easier to see this if we use an analogy. Think of your learning as if it was a product which you want to bring to market and sell. Well, it’s obvious if you are to be successful with your product you need market information and some of that might be positive and some negative but if you accept it openly it all helps you to know what actions to take so that when you launch the product it will be successful.

One might notice how hard it might be to get negative information about your product (your learning) because there is a sense in which you really don’t want to hear that because it’s uncomfortable and praise is much to be preferred. But it’s obvious that to ignore criticism it is utterly foolish because it means you might end up with a flawed product that no one wants and sadly it implies a tacit choice not to want to learn.

Do not fall into the trap of only wanting positive feedback because that is just another way if asking for praise and often work is of such poor quality that it is hard to find anything good to say about it. Face it, if I were your tutor and responded to your work by just saying "very good" then your ego might have been stroked but as far as usefulness in moving forwards it would be next to worthless. Nabokov in his lectures on Russian literature aptly summed up the inestimable value of criticism when he said

“next to the right to create, the right to criticise is the richest gift that liberty of thought and speech can offer”.
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Hugo
11-13-2009, 10:13 AM
Shared Knowledge and Experiences
Learning is not private, there is a whole community that you can access; a community that values learning and where you can give and take. There is a vast amount of information literally at your finger-tips and its all more or less free, a kind of gift to you from Socrates, Newton, Al Gazali, Hodja, Hawkin, Darwin, Churchill, Feynman, Turing, Von Neumann, the Beatles, Mozart, Bobby Moore, the list is endless and awe inspiring when we think of such giants gifting their thinking to you! Sharing is a vital aspect of learning. One might recall what the Dali Lama said “share your knowledge; it’s a way to achieve immortality”.

If we examine the latest research in social grouping of various kinds, you will learn that we are all influenced by those around us and also more surprisingly those around them. It’s as if a virus is let loose so good humour and kindness can spread through a group just as much as grumpiness, hate and unkindness. So be mindful of your social grouping and inject good things into it and its more or less certain you will be rewarded.
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OurIslamic
11-15-2009, 06:52 AM
Thanks for the guide! I can't wait until I can go to university! :D
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Hugo
11-19-2009, 05:59 PM
Here are some further thoughts on what is the benefit and value of education and leaning.
Life Long – learning stays with you throughout life and it touches all parts of your life and in general enhances its quality because it opens a wide window on what life is about and how it’s to be enjoyed and made useful.

Expanded Choices – if you learn well and become educated then that will give you more choices in what worlds you can enter, jobs you can do, what people you get to know, what clubs or organisation you join, what entertainment you can experience, what good works you can do and so on. In simple, terms a good education expands your horizons and let you live just that little bit more. It is not guaranteed of course as we cannot know what the future holds but it’s certain you will be better able to deal with whatever it might be.

It is tempting to think that life is fully defined in much the same way as Ohms law, Archimedes principles or gravity is – they don’t change with time and no decision you or anyone else makes will allow you to avoid them. So for some, perhaps many people it’s as if the past fully defines their future and whereas it is obvious that our own past has some effect it is not an iron law. In short the past is over, you cannot change it and whatever happened there cannot be undone. But the future is a different matter and YOU can make choices and therefore make a difference to your own life and that of others. So don’t stand idly by lamenting or praising the past make a choice and make a difference for good.

God in his infinite wisdom has made the Universe to obey unfailingly the natural laws of nature but at the same time he made us rational thinking beings who are able to make choices and I think God expects you to exercise the brain you have.

Now of course one cannot know the future but for every choice of action you can know the consequences and by looking at those you can evaluate your choices. For example, if you make the choice not to do work (and make no mistake about it, it is a choice) then you can easily work out the consequences.
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Hugo
11-24-2009, 07:44 PM
I notice there are other threads in this topic but it seem a good idea to post my thoughts here.

Finding a subject major can be difficult but it’s not the end of the world if you get it wrong either and most Universities will be flexible if you find when you get there that the subject you chose is not quite right. It will almost always be possible to see a tutor and change course; you lose a little time but at 19 or 20 it's not that important even if you take a year out. Some points:

1. It is also important to be aware that the study choices you make will not necessarily ruin your whole life so although you must make choices rationally it is not the end of the world if you make a wrong one and all that may happen is that you lose some time but its best to do that than persist with something that is not right for you.

2. It is also quite well known that as you move through life many many people change careers many times so again at this stage one cannot predict what will happen to you so don't get over-worried but don’t get lazy about choices either. I know personally people who started out as Engineers and ended up as teachers, medical doctors who became writers, bankers who became retailers, teachers who became actors and so on.

3. It is fine to talk over your choices with anyone who will listen sympathetically to you, that way you will get a chance to explore your choice in an open manner. However, there are plenty of people who will tell you what or what not to take - listen to them and question them as to why they take that view and see if they have any real knowledge of the relevant subject and again that will help you form up your own opinion. However, I would steel yourself against automatically accepting such suggestions no matter who they are from because they are not you and they will not suffer any consequences however well-intentioned they are.

4. You can try inventing criteria such as: subject difficulty, job prospects, level of personal interest, university cost, parental suggestions, is the subject rapidly changing, do you want to go on to research, do you want a challenge, where are you friends going etc. But these must not become a kind of algorithm, they are just another way to explore your choices.

5. It is probably always best to choose a subject that you like in some way but look for a challenge also. You want something that inspires you because it is bound to get more difficult as you progress and that is when you need a reason to fight and persevere and if you don’t like the subject it’s all too easy to give up on it.

6. In some communities and some families there is pressure to move into certain areas such as becoming a medical doctor and that is fine if that is what you want but if everyone was a doctor who would look after our libraries, plumbing, car, cooking, food production and so on. It’s a fallacy to believe that say a medical doctor is better that a poet or car mechanic or mathematician – we all will end up eventually with our place in the world and the world needs all sorts of people.

7. Be aware that some directions mean a long long academic study period to get to the top. For example, if you want to be a top flight physicist then it’s going to take you about 10 years moving through undergraduate studies to doctoral work and then into a major a research team and publications. There is no short cut.

8. Accept that you might not make the best choice, there is no way to be 100% certain that your choice is right because the future is unknown. But as I said earlier, there is no shame and no great loss in going a step or two back if that becomes necessary; see such an event as a challenge not a setback - better to do that than face years of drudgery and disappointment, always wishing you had chosen something else.
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Hugo
11-28-2009, 10:17 PM
Learning and knowledge are gifts that must be treasured not regarded as prizes to be won or simply a means to an end; so love learning for its own sake. Always be ready to encourage when you see learning in others and see it as a spur to greater personal effort not being afraid to abandon old learning strategies even though they might work but always on the lookout for new ones or improvements to old ones. Recognise that self esteem comes from knowing that you honestly worked hard and put real effort into something not in seeking constant praise for achievement.

There is a very odd phenomena and that is that if you give students a questionnaire on learning ideas and in that questionnaire you ask students “do they value success” unsurprisingly they will say “yes”. Similarly, if you ask “do they think effort is necessary for success” they will also say “yes”. However, if you try to correlate these two responses in the questionnaire for a group of students it almost always turns out to be zero; implying that although they value success they have no value at all for the effort needed to get it – in other words the only thing that matters is success. Sadly, such an attitude is destructive to ones personality and to use an analogy it would be like saying only the gold medal winners in the Olympics are any good, and if you are not one of them then you are rubbish. The message is then, that you must learn to value the necessary effort because only then will you begin to appreciate what it takes and be willing to give it to get success.

Sadly, our teachers and parents are very good at praising and rewarding success but very poor at doing the same for effort as if the success cost you nothing and that is I think a bad attitude.
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Hugo
12-03-2009, 01:26 PM
Reflection
Is an essential learning tool and it is tied in to our emotions and feelings because whilst taking time out to look back it can also be a bit painful because it often will disturb our certainties. The trouble with certainties is they can shut our minds down and we stop reflecting (because we are afraid we might lose our certainty) and this cuts off the possibility of new insights and learning that might follow.

Learning demands one to slow down from time to time and reflect because any learning may require that you modify what you already know or even get rid of what you know in its entirety. This can be very hard to do even traumatic that is why one needs to slow down and give yourself time to absorb the learning. But one also needs to understand that this ‘time out’ also allows you to enjoy the moment, the now as one savours (just like good food) what it is you have learned.

It is interesting to consider how the brain works here and the very latest research suggests that as soon as you stop focusing on the particular it switches over automatically into a self-reflective mode, it’s as if the brain is daydreaming but at the same time sorting things out for itself. Indeed when the brain is in this daydreaming state it actually consumes more energy that when focusing on a given problem or topic. It follows, that it is a good idea to take breaks from learning to give your brain time to sort out all the information that has been passing into it; in fact if you don’t do it deliberately the brain will do it for you and you will find your thoughts wandering or suddenly wake up because you have fallen asleep. A concomitant of this is that cramming, leaving everything until the last minute is actually impossible and almost always leads to very poor learning and failure.

So try taking a walk, read a novel, do some gardening, chat to your neighbour, play table tennis at lunch time, read a newspaper, have a cup of coffee, go for a swim, listen to music and so on the list is endless. As the English saying goes “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy”

It might help some of you to think of the Arabic word 'Ijtihad' which is similar to the English word reflection but also has the idea of effort, struggle attached to it. This means you must take time to do it because there may be new things to learn, there may be modifications to what you know and even disposing altogether what you know and it is obvious that often any of these activities will be a real struggle.
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Hugo
12-06-2009, 05:50 PM
Be Inspired by Effort seen in yourself, those around you and those from history who have often struggled and gone through pain to achieve something and appreciate that effort is invariably worthwhile, be inspired also by those people who often selflessly gave their time and knowledge and skills to help and aid you to get where you are or want to be. Learning as Gladwell suggests, involves autonomy, complexity and an unbreakable connection between effort and reward. Autonomy because only you can do the learning and complexity because one has to manage a whole set of factors but most of all understanding, a really deep understanding that effort, persistent effort is the key and will bring its own rewards.

Effort and practice imply perseverance and that quality in terms of success is both omnipotent and sacred. I wonder, do you found it odd that I say ‘sacred’ here – but the reason I say it is that you must be devoted to learning not because it will get you a better job or massage your ego but because it is a gift that must be treasured. In every society, its constitution will only give you the right to purse learning but you have to catch it yourself and as Benjamin Franklin said “without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning”

Franklin also said “being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn". But how would I or anyone know you are 'unwilling' - well its easy, they would just look at how much effort you put into it. You see if you ask ANY student "are you willing to learn", they will of course say 'yes' but willingness is proved by action not platitudes.

This is not a new idea and indeed it is as old as learning itself and we find the idea in the Agamemnon by Aeschylus, one of the oldest plays (and some say the best play) ever written about war, sacrifice and pain when at its start we hear the watchman signalling that all is well to a chorus of elders from Argos reflecting “Tis Zeus alone who shows the perfect way of knowledge: He hath ruled, men shall learn wisdom, by affliction schooled.” In the same manner Seneca writing in Rome some 2,000 years ago said "No man was ever wise by chance”.
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Hugo
12-14-2009, 11:46 AM
Some Final Thoughts on attitudes to learning

Grasp Opportunities – it does not matter how bright you are or think you are, if you miss you opportunities then what you hope for might be gone forever. One might say here that we can all be blind to opportunities because we feel we have ’made it’ and then later realise we missed a golden opportunity.

Grow into an Expert – we all perhaps want this but forget we have to learn how to become one. No one starts out knowing everything or with high level skills, they have to be learned over many hours, days and years; there is no short cut for anyone and research suggests that to get to the highest levels will mean between 10-20 hours/week (not including holidays) study for perhaps as much as 10 years.

Acceptance that learning cannot be rushed - because some things are hard to learn so require perseverance and therefore recognise you must work harder rather than become frustrated and give up when at first you may be baffled and just can’t get to an understanding. You must persevere because you know that sooner or later and often when you least expect it the key to understanding will come.

An even temper when you start a new learning process. Rather than start out with the absurd notion that everything should be be understood straight away and when that does not happen (as is the usual case) throw a tantrum blaming the notes, the set book, the tutor, the dog, anyone or anything in range thus turning what should be an exciting, stimulating and self-rewarding experience into your own living hell. Cultivate what the well known song says “the strivings more important than the gaol”.

Make choices rationally and not be distracted by irrelevancies caused by what others have, say or do so that when things go wrong they realise that it was often about choices and so review them intelligently and do not seek to blame anyone or anything because you see that direction as futile and means you effectively give up the power to change (because always it’s not your fault).

Having an armoury of learning strategies because often when we get in difficulty it never occurs to us to make a choice (which may be a struggle) and try something else so we end up with a self-constructed boundary because although we know there are other choices we avoid them either implicitly or explicitly.

(I will spend the next few weeks outlining some of these strategies)
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Hugo
12-18-2009, 03:07 PM
Two observations:

Awareness that in all learning there is an element of serendipity, but whilst it is important to recognise that leaning can occur at any time or place a good learner will understand and take serious steps to be systematic so their work is structured and organized rather than haphazard. Additionally, they will also see clearly that their work has to be systemic as well so that every part contributes to and helps every other part. In this respect as long as you are good enough (in the sense that you are prepared for it, you have got up to that level) to get onto a course then if you make the effort, put in the required hours of work, you can succeed at the very highest levels.

Expectation of one’s Tutors – it goes without saying that one expects the Tutor to be thoroughly knowledgeable, experienced and current in the subject being taught otherwise it’s is not really possible to have confidence in what they say by way of academic lessons, guidance and feedback. However, over and above these one can expect and in a real sense demand kindness, sympathy, encouragement and the respect that goes with simple humanity in the way you are treated – not to act in this way means the Tutors has failed you.

These qualities are not conditional but they are not to be strained and rendered worthless by a careless, irresponsible and lazy attitude to learning - that would be to ‘bite the hand that feeds you’ and to reject in this way a dedicated and genuine relationship with your tutor is perhaps the saddest of all attitudes to find in a student and in a very real sense but not academic sense; the student has failed. One might also say here that your tutors will hold the subject in high esteem and care very deeply about its content and quality and if they are aware that a student is careless, unconcerned or contemptuous in learning they might find that attitude offensive and unworthy and that may well strain their natural sympathetic tendencies because such a student attitude wastes valuable academic time.

One might say here that a Tutor must and usually does know what he has to do to enable learning to take place; however, that does not mean they can do it. But in the same way there is no excuse for a student not knowing what they have to do and turning that lack of knowledge into blame. A good tutor will give you the necessary resources including a syllabus, notes and reading lists and will offer guidance and feedback as learning progresses but they can never tell students every next step to take and therefore there is a responsibility on students to know what they have to do and do it.
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Hugo
12-24-2009, 11:01 AM
Key Pointers in Learning.
Here are some key pointers in learning but underpinning all these is a single principle: personal choices, conditioned by your mindset and self-awareness. You can act responsibly and choose to put in committed effort and learn thoroughly evidenced by setting aside time, knowing about due dates and deadlines, reading the notes, doing the exercises, reading books, steadily working on the assessments, asking questions, feeling you are part of a learning community and so on and that will inevitably bring success.

Alternatively, implicitly or explicitly act irresponsibly with no real commitment choosing not to learn evidenced by not setting aside time, ignoring notes and tests, waiting until the deadline is near before doing anything, trying to copy examples, guessing answers, using ideas in answers that you do not understand, skimming through notes and examples, wanting things always to be easy, finding excuses for not working or not understanding, blaming the resources or never knowing the deadlines and this will inevitably bring failure and disappointment.

Associated with the notion of choice are two further aspects. The first is a choice related to commitment to learning and if you are genuinely committed to learning you will find it spills over into many other aspect of your life; most of which will enhance it. Secondly, commitment is demonstrated by putting in real effort because learning will not always be easy or comfortable; this does not mean you work all the time, 24/7, but does mean you work steadily pacing yourself and allowing time for reflection. In summary, you as student must:

Accept responsibility for learning by knowing what you have to do and doing it.
Be aware that both success and failure hinge on making choices.
Learn what it means to read for your learning.
Learn the subject basics otherwise there is nothing to build on and progress will not be possible.
Be aware of your habits in learning and constantly evaluate their effectiveness and make changes.
Have an armoury of learning strategies because there is always more than one way to learn.
Admit failures and then find out the reason without resorting to the blame game and plan a way to recover
Appreciate that not everything is easy so be motivated and committed towards effort and struggle.
Appreciate that confidence comes from seeking challenges not avoiding them.
Appreciate that confidence comes from persistence in the face of obstacles and not giving up.

Understand that learning take times and it cannot be rushed as it moves from the simple to the complex.
Understand that rushing, looking for short cuts leads to superficial learning.
Understand that trying to learn by cramming because you have left things too late is impossible.
Understand that taking breaks from direct learning is essential to allow your brain to reflect and sort things out.
Plan your learning and when it gets tough for whatever reason, plan your way through difficulties.
Appreciate that learning is really about problem solving.
Don’t be afraid of doubt, doubt can be creative because it drives you to find the answer.
Know and feel that self-esteem comes more from effort than success.
Know that teachers and other elements are learning resources, but only YOU can do the learning.
Be aware of the benefits and contentment that follows getting learning tasks completed
Learn to negotiate with your tutors and others in order to deal with difficulties and obstacles.
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Hugo
01-01-2010, 05:03 PM
Growth Minded Learning Strategies
Over the next few weeks I will discuss about over 50 strategies (many contain sub-strategies) that can be used to help you learn; there is no shortage of strategies and it’s only the will and the choice to take action can prevent you (other than exceptional circumstances) using them and gaining satisfaction by working and gaining success. One might say here that it is essential that you arm yourself with knowledge of these strategies and not rely on what you currently do otherwise we fall into the trap wisely stated by Abraham Maslow; "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." So any learning strategies MUST be composed of one or a combination of the following (if you disagree then make a suitable post)

Five Basic Strategies - learning is a kind of problem solving activity with only 5 basic strategies possible. In learning and wanting to learn it helps if you like solving problems and will work at them as hard as you can avoiding the temptation to give up and always on the lookout for a new route to a solution:

Trial and Error – that is one guesses at ways forward and often this is how we start a learning process.

Top Down – we start learning by a process akin to simplification by breaking down the learning into small sections.

Generic – this simply means when we look at some new learning we ask if we have any similar learning to draw upon to help us understand new things.

Viewpoints – when in difficulty it is often a useful strategy to try to see the problem in another way and that often breaks down mind barriers we have to understanding.

Relationships – often one bit of learning is related to other elements and so we get in difficulty because we cannot or will not look for links between elements of learning.
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Hugo
01-05-2010, 01:52 PM
Don’t be afraid that you might not have the brains
Sometimes, well very often really, we get stuck and convince ourselves that we will never ‘get it’ (and other people will confirm it) so we implicitly or even explicitly avoid work and of course that then guarantees we will never get it. But perseverance is omnipotent and if it’s a hard struggle all the better because the learning will be deeper and the achievement sweeter. Let me use an analogy, suppose you want to be good at Scrabble then it will take you about 200 games before you can really play well or suppose you wanted to learn to play Chopin’s piano Ballade No 1 then its an uphill struggle because it’s a very hard thing to do and you might need to play it a 100 times before it was half decent as well as hard practice of scales as well.

The same is true for any learning, all learning takes practice; you have to stick at it and do dozens of example and learn techniques and methods, read books and join in discussions – there is no easy route and if you think there is or ought to be then you are seriously deluded. There are of course special revision notes and sites but if you think learning is about those you are again on a very slippery slope and sooner or later you will fail badly. Think of it like this, suppose your medical doctor told you he did not work hard at his studies but got by with summaries and revision notes then I think my best advice to you would be find another doctor. There are NO easy route to learning, there are no quick fixes and the sooner you realise that the more efficient and more rewarding learning will be for you.

TIP
Some people, (like me) use a tally counter such as the Iphone App called Tallmander to keep a count of what has been done – so if I were studying mathematics I would keep a count in each subject area of how many examples I had done and I know that if I am to be really proficient I have to ensure that the count gets into the 100s. Similarly, I often use an App called Timebook to record every minute more or less I spend on my different activities (including non study ones) during a day – it’s not arduous, I just tap the screen to set the timer going and tap it again to stop it. If you try either or both of these simple counting and timing ideas I think most people will be really shocked at just how little time they are spending in study.

I think I am quite good at playing the piano but I used Tallymander for a month and found that my average daily practice time was 5.6 minutes - well let's face it, there is no way on earth I am going to get any better than I am is there and if one does not get better it is almost certain you will go backwards?
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Hugo
01-09-2010, 03:52 PM
Read as much as you can
Reading is a major source for learning, so one must cultivate a habit of reading all the time, anywhere and anything. Nassim Taleb in his famous book ‘The Black Swan’ says how he gave up reading several newspapers in the mornings and it helped him read about 100 extra books a year. When reading, obviously we use subject area text books but if you limit your reading to those you will stunt your intellectual growth as well as possibly bore yourself to tears most of the time. Reading is about getting your brain working and so read anything that you can get your hands on from newspapers to novels to major text books to great works of literature and even comic books. Just as a little illustration some years ago now I struggled with how to help students see the difference between the notions of induction and deduction but light eventually dawned not when I was reading a learned text on logic but when I was reading a crime thriller called "All the Colours of Darkness" by Peter Robinson, so if you shut your mind into compartments you will miss great moments and deep insights.

A first step is to know the main authors and Journals in your particular subject area but then get going on anything that interests you. Consider the tiny list of available authors shown below and if you have never heard or read some of them then you will most certainly lose out by such neglect. You might note that many of these authors were banned, the knowledge in their books was regarded as forbidden knowledge, or suffered in some way for what they wrote, for example, Rushdie, Mahfouz, Voltaire, Machiavelli to name but a few. Some of these authors wrote almost 3,000 years ago and others are still living but these authors wrote for you, so don’t disappoint them.

If you read these authors or others you will often find the best times in reading is when you find something (and it will be often) that really speaks to you and it’s as if the author reaches out his hand to you with a precious gift, as if he or she wrote it just for you so be ready and eternally grateful for such gifts and if you miss them then you will miss out on some of the really great moments and thoughts that this life has to offer.

Aeschylus, Aristotle, Augustine, Austen, Francis Bacon, Balzac, Berkeley, The Bible, Boswell, Carroll, Cervantes, Chaucer, Chekhov, Christie, Cobbett, Conrad, Dante, Darwin, Descartes, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Doyle, Du Maurier, George Eliot, T.S.Eliot, Emerson, Euripides, Faulkner, Fielding, Fitzgerald, Gibbon, Gibran, Goethe, Grass, Haggard, Hardy, Hegel, Heidegger, Hemmingway, Herodotus, Hobbes, Homer, Ibsen, Ishiguro, Henry James, Joyce, Kafka, Khayyam, Kierkegaard, Lucretius, Machiavelli, Mahfouz, Mann, Manning, Mankell, Marx, Melville, Milton, Moliere, Nabokov, Nietzsche, O'Neill, Orwell, Pasternak, Plato, Poincare, Proust, Popper, The Quran (Koran), Qabbani, Racine, Rushdie, Rousseau, Shaw, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Spinoza, Sterne, Swift, Thoreau, Tolkien, Tolstoy, Twain, Virgil, Voltaire, Waugh, Wittgenstein, Wilde, Woodhouse, Woolf, Zola etc.

The vast majority of books are written and produced in the Western world with books in English from the UK and the United States amounting to more than half of all books published but wonderfully, other countries are catching up fast. In 2008 the estimated number of books published was about 950,000 for the whole world. It is a good idea to tell yourself that these books were written just for you!

Do not fall in to the trap of saying only books in English or Arabic or German or whatever are any use or suggest that they are somehow the best because they are in a particular language for that would be to make available knowledge equal in measure to your own small mind - if a book is any good it will in my view be good no matter what language it get translated into, if that is not true then I doubt its value and so should you.

Sadly, some countries severely restrict what can be published and there is no doubt there are bad books but education is the answer not banning and burning. One might recall what Geothe said when a friend made moral objections over a simple romance he had written called ‘Elective Affinities’, Goethe replied "But I didn't write the book for you, I wrote it for little girls!" Meaning the book is altogether wholesome and romantic and that only a moralizing old man could find anything in it to object to!
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Hugo
01-14-2010, 05:55 PM
Take Personal and Active Responsibility
It is important for me to repeat again that some students believe that knowledge is passed on from tutor to students in some magical, effortless way that requires no struggle from the student. Learning cannot be done if you abdicate individual involvement and choices from the process so that taking responsibility for the ills of one’s own making, loses out to the ease of blaming anything and everything on others and in so doing you undermine the values of a successful education: personal discipline, independence of thought, worthwhile learning effort and simple curiosity. There are several important aspects:

Consider personal Learning Incentives – what are the drivers for learning; this was discussed earlier with possible incentives being: learning is an investment for the future, learning gives you more choices, appreciation of your own world view and its associated values, a good education is to be highly prized, employment prospects, learning can be a delight, a buzz and so on, your learning will be valued by others, learning is a shared experience and learning stays with you throughout life.

Setting Challenges and Targets – an excellent way to demonstrate that you are taking charge of your learning is to continually set yourself challenges then plan a way to achieve them and finally putting effort into realizing your plan. Try to do this in a structured, little by little way, gradually but continuously moving forward in your learning.

Be aware of the Consequences – when learning is rushed, difficult or work avoided there are bound to be consequences later on. It is interesting to note that we cannot know the future but we can work out the consequences of our actions with a fair degree of certainty. It follows that if you learn badly then it’s easy to see what the consequences are for further leaning and events such as examinations and job interviews.

Manage the Cacophony - our lives are full of moments, people, events, decision, deadlines, responsibilities, interconnections and sometime they can overwhelm us in much the same way that excessive noise can bring us to a standstill. It is said that our brains receive and process 11 million inputs a second so it’s not ever going to be easy to slow down and work steadily and reflect. But if you are aware of the cacophony we all live in you can plan your way through it or around it.

Don’t be, or Accept a Cuckoo – this might sound an odd idea but sadly there are plenty of people who don’t want to do any work themselves and they will, like the cuckoo, get someone, anyone else to do it for them including the tutor. Their methods might be as simple as to copy but more often it’s to badger everyone to help them or show them what to do next and such people can place huge burdens on everyone around them because they demand all the resources but give nothing in return and often we can feel obliged, just like the cuckoo’s foster parents, to help even to our own detriment. So don’t be a cuckoo and recognise cuckoo’s when you see them and avoid them or make sure they know you have recognised them. Learning is something one shares with not steals from others.

Avoid the negative – it is inevitable that in learning (and life) things from time to time will go wrong, you will feel let down, you will feel depressed or sad and in general these things cannot be avoided entirely. However, they can make one negative and if it remains unchecked it can become a total negativity where you begin to blame everything and everyone: they don’t understand, they are not helpful and so on. However, grinding out a list of things or people to blame on its own is not a way forward and you must begin to see your own part in all this and start considering the choices you made and can make and in so doing plan your way out of this downward spiral.

Often we can be like Cassandra in the play Agamemnon where she laments “Ah, mortal affairs: in times of good fortune you may compare them to a shadow; but ill fortune, a watery sponge wipes out the picture at a stroke”. This of course is true that one moment we see a rosy future and things look good and the next moment it’s washed away at a stroke. But even though this is the way things are in regarding how we might feel they will only stay that way if YOU let them.

A moment’s thought will show a rational mind that for example, blaming someone or something will not help get you out of a difficulty neither will pushing the responsibility of your plight onto someone else move you forward or just grumbling that you don’t know what to do. This does not mean that all you difficulties are your own fault but it does mean that if your only response is to grumble and brood over your situation, then nothing will change - you have to take some action yourself and that action might be to get advice, make a phone call, collect some resources or any number of small steps but you must do something positive!
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Hugo
01-19-2010, 01:13 PM
Record your study time
This is really part of taking responsibility for many failures occur because too little time has been spent on study in all its forms or if you like practising your subject. We all learn at slightly different paces but there is very good evidence to suggest that if you really want to get to the top flight academically, really reach your potential then you need to put in about 1,000 hours study per year according to Gladwell (2008) or more simply about 20 hours a week or something like 3 or 4 hours a day (assuming a 5 day working week).

Research indicates that this has little to do with talent (though that might give you a better start) or how intelligent you are, it’s the same for everyone, to get to the top you have to be dedicated. Another way of looking at this is to say if you are good enough to start a course then you will succeed and get to the highest standard if you put in the required hours of work. The corollary is of course that if your make the choice (either implicitly or explicitly) not to put in the hours of work then you will never get to the top, it’s impossible.

One needs to remember that learning is not just sitting in a garret somewhere on your own night and day. Learning is about a whole range of activities including the most obvious ones: learning on your own, talking with others, spending time in a library, reading books (or Journals, magazines, reading anything), joining seminars, discussion over coffee, using message boards, meeting your tutor, classroom lessons, talking to someone in the corridor; the list is endless as one can learn anywhere, anytime, from anyone or anything. Daniel Goleman in his excellent book Emotional Intelligence recalls one of the most importance and unexpected lessons of his life and it occurred when he was in no mood to learn – it occurred on a bus in New York City on a steamy August afternoon and the lesson came from a middle aged, black bus driver. Believe me, if you think you can only learn from textbooks on your subject area or in classrooms or only from those you respect you are going to throw away huge amounts of often the most valuable learning time and the opportunities it brings.

One does not have to work all the time and it is just as important to take a break as it is to study. The problems occur when you are forever taking breaks. It depends how you work it out but it is a good assumption to consider that you have about 15 hours every day available to you for activities. Therefore, with just a little bit of discipline it should not be all that difficult to set aside say 4 hours a day on average. But I emphasis, this is about motivation, perseverance and discipline and these are the foundation of a good education.

So I recommend you keep at least for a few months a record of all the time you use to study in all its forms and then see how close to this golden figure of 1,000 hours per year you get and that will be a very good indicator of your likelihood of success.
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CosmicPathos
01-19-2010, 01:26 PM
I dont know, maybe its just that phase of my life, I feel that finishing my bachelor's degree (with success) has not benefitted me any more than what learning farming benefits a young farmer. Reading books is an investment of resources. Especially in the evolutionary struggle, all resources must be directed towards reproduction and survival. I am not sure how reading more books than those which I have already read will help me in survival.... not to discourage anyone, just my different opinion on the scheme of things in life. Maybe I'll change it when I become happy in few days.
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Hugo
01-19-2010, 05:41 PM
Originally Posted by Wa7abiScientist
I dont know, maybe its just that phase of my life, I feel that finishing my bachelor's degree (with success) has not benefitted me any more than what learning farming benefits a young farmer. Reading books is an investment of resources. Especially in the evolutionary struggle, all resources must be directed towards reproduction and survival. I am not sure how reading more books than those which I have already read will help me in survival.... not to discourage anyone, just my different opinion on the scheme of things in life. Maybe I'll change it when I become happy in few days.
This is a very honest answer but may I tell you it is not uncommon. Often when you complete something you are left feeling a little empty, the struggle the excitement of the challenge is over and so you wonder was it all worth it. Winston Churchill, no slouch with regard to getting things done once said that "ambitions and achievement are like ice, it melts as soon as you touch it". I had a student with me the other day and he had just won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music - he should have been overjoyed, happy but he ran into the same brick wall you have - what does it all mean, is there not something else in life?

There is an old saying of Geothe "We are never further from our desires than when we imagine we possess what we desire." And Aeschylus writing 3,000 years ago said "Ah, mortal affairs: in times of good fortune you may compare them to a shadow; but ill fortune, a watery sponge wipes out the picture at a stroke." One might also mention OT prophets and the prophet of Islam who all went though tough times and paradoxically, often after success.

But although life is uncertain we can hold on to a certainty that comes through faith because God has somehow the future in his hands and you have a place there whether small or great but you can make a difference for good. You might find some help in the words of Isaiah for its is not ours to know the future (we are blind to it) but it is our privileged to trust God for it.

Isaiah 42:16 - I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
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Hugo
01-25-2010, 12:43 PM
Give and Take Feedback
Broadly speaking there are two kinds of feedback: positive and negative. In terms of value, negative feedback is typically more useful because it helps you see flaws and weaknesses in either your learning or your attitude or characters. So negative feedback in particular is essential information that allows you to make changes contrast, positive feedback tells you where your work is correct but that might not be all that useful to learning. For example, suppose the only feedback you get is “this is a very good answer, I like the way you structured it” what real value is that to you as far as growing your knowledge is concerned although it may boost your ego.

Now, I am not saying that feedback should not be positive but the point being made is that if your outlook primarily seeks positive feedback, confirmation that you are right then that may have a detrimental effect on your learning. Far better to seek even welcome feedback as a real aid to you getting better and better, then you don’t need ego boosts YOU know you are on an upward trajectory. Basically:

Seek Critical Feedback not Simple Confirmation – many students send work to the tutor but their only interest is in knowing if it is ‘right’ so they can stop working. Now, of course you want to know if you are on the right track but if you stop at that point your strategy is next to worthless; no true learner one hopes is silly enough to believe that his work is perfectly ‘right’ and therefore impossible to improve.

Give Feedback – a tutor’s job is to give feedback but often students make it impossible because they will not explain where they are having difficulty; it may be hard for you to do this but you must try and show that you really want to understand. It is impossible to believe that a student can have studied the notes, examples and exercises but not be able to show where their difficulties lay because then something might have been done.
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Hugo
01-28-2010, 09:29 PM
Learn to Debate and use Valid Arguments
We all need to become skilled in assembling our answers to questions and so one needs to learn about the way we assemble honestly evidence both for and against and then use persuasion and argument to reach a valid conclusion. This is not a simple matter and cannot be just learned from text books, it has to be practiced. There are of course rules of logic and they will help us avoid contradictions, inconsistencies, exaggerations (in our own arguments) and you can easily look them up. But it might be a good idea to join an on line discussion board on a subject you are interested in and start adding your own thoughts, reading what other say, listening to what others say, refuting arguments, proposing your own arguments – get practicing.

Be careful, this is not about you becoming a pain, not letting anybody else get a word in, thinking you are always right, you are always objective. It’s about learning and sharing even when you profoundly disagree with someone. It is as well to take to heart and warning from Francis Bacon said:

“The human understanding is not composed of dry light, but it is subject to influence from the will and the emotions, a fact that creates fanciful knowledge; man prefers to believe what he wants to be true.”
Here are eight suggested modes of persuasion where you can use just one or more than one but they will be of no value unless you know what your main premises area with clarity. These I think apply to writing or speaking.
Mimic - the mannerisms if those you are trying to persuaded.
Framing - lead people to think about an issue in a way that advantages to you: instead of saying inheritance tax say its death tax if you oppose it etc.
Less is more - giving too many reasons in favour, hardens opinion against you - working on two reasons to support your arguments is optimal
Grind them down – nagging, keep at it but with reason not brute force.
The medium is the means, always consider what to use in you argument
Style over substance - don’t hesitate or stumble or give them time to think
Get them angry and feel a sense of injustice so justifying your ideas
Resistance is not futile – move toward a target bit by bit

There are some things you should not do: don’t insult or denigrate, don’t accuse them of unethical motives, don’t say they lack knowledge, don’t say they are uneducated, don’t call them names, don’t say they are lying etc. Strategies like these will always look as if you are attacking the person not the arguments so we must always act with integrity and honesty.

Based on: Jones, D, L. and Motluk, A, (2008, May 10), How to get exactly what you want, New Scientist, Pages 32-37
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Hugo
02-01-2010, 02:02 PM
Keep it simple
Anyone can be organised by simply knowing what they have to do and then taking the time to write things down and make planning decisions. Everyone has the necessary skills to do this but often the habit of using them is missing. Allen (2008) suggests there are 5 stages to taking control of your workload: collect, process, organises, review (or you can say evaluate) and do. Allen then offers the following guidance.
Collection - the first and essential step is to gather together everything in your life that needs attention into a list or what Allen calls an ‘inventory’; this is really the same as knowing what you have to do and unless you do this there will be a gnawing sense of anxiety because you are not in control and often this leads to you hoping for the best, ignoring the need for effort and although by then you may know what you have to do you will not have done it and find yourself disappointed, looking round for appeasement or blaming the world around you.

Process – when you know what you have to do based on your inventory you must take time and as a first step, ask for each item, ‘do I need to take action’ and if the answer is yes, decide the physical action and get on with it. Often when you do this you will find the actions to be in principle simple but awkward or embarrassing; this is usually tied up with your personality; but you must get through that and make that call, delegate a task, get permission, set up a meeting and so on. The vital idea is to get into good habits and develop self-discipline so one is not just doing what we want because it gives us a kind of instant gratification and avoiding what we feel to be unpleasant.

Allen suggests you should also be ruthless with your inventory at this stage, especially if something does not need action; be aware that our lives are often filled with things like this and they can and do get in the way; they may be just rubbish that you should forget about, just things you need to file away for future use or a project ideas for the future so just set up a reminder and move on. One point here is that if you come across tasks that will only take a few minutes (Allen suggest 2 minutes) such as a phone call or making a note then do it straightway.

Simplify using Divide and Conquer – most people when they draw up their inventory and try to keep it going day to day will end up with huge lists of unfinished work. Partly this is because often we do not set priorities but mostly Allen suggests it’s because we don’t group similar things together so we contextualise the tasks. For example, put all calls on one list or all things you have to collect on another. This does not mean you have dozens of lists but you have just one but it’s grouped. As an analogy, my wife has a shopping list on the computer which she prints out every week and it’s organised in the same way as products in the actual supermarket, that way when she does the shopping she does not have to wander up and down rows, go backwards and forwards and rarely forgets an item she needs because similar things are grouped together.

Review – this means going through you list of tasks or reminders, your inventory, to keep track of long term goals, plan your next set of actions and see what is new. It’s like supermarket shopping, some things you buy every week and others less frequently and occasionally, a new need arises and you add it to your list or you decide that certain things are longer need so they get crossed off. One might notice here that we often buy on impulse and this tends to muddle our lists and this is how sometimes in our work we add things to our inventory and then live to regret it.

Systematic Filing – Allen suggest you get rid of your ‘pile file’ and instead develop and efficient general reference system because it’s a simple fact of life that if it takes you more than a few minutes to file something away carefully you will not do it and instead throw it into your ‘pile file’ and effectively lose it.

I cannot say what it might be for you: a labelled folder, alphabetic organisation, a cabinet but whatever it is, think carefully about its design and keep it as simple as possible. Using my shopping example earlier, one might have a very efficient grouped listing system to do the shopping but if you then get home and stuff all you have bought from the supermarket into your cupboards and pantry haphazardly because then all the gains you have made in efficient shopping are lost because you now never know where anything is when you want it. In a similar way, if you have a well organised personal inventory and then become haphazard in the resources you use to deal with it then the inventory is rendered worthless and will then be source of further anxiety because it reminds you just how inefficient you are.
Allen, D, (2008), Making it all Work: Wining at the Game of work and Business Life, Viking Adult, ISBN 067001995X
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Beardo
02-01-2010, 02:05 PM
I'm somewhat new to this thread. :ermm:

But I love the content. Thank you for sharing!
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Hugo
02-05-2010, 11:15 PM
Be aware of Wobble
It is unfortunately often true that when we make a mistake or a poor choice or we are ignored or get criticism it can shake our self-esteem and our confidence wobbles, tending to make us defensive when anyone points these things out so that instead of looking for solutions or resolutions we look for excuses or someone to blame. Be aware that wobble can occur even if you turn out to be in the right and that can end up as self-righteousness or pomposity.

This is all perhaps a natural reaction and we often cannot help ourselves but we can try to be aware of it so that we don’t misinterpret help, criticism or being ignored as a personal attack or fall into self-righteousness. So when something offends you and puts you into a wobble, be like a spinning top and wait until you settle down before you consider and respond always remembering that you may in fact be very much in the wrong or completely innocent but that of itself is not as important as to how you respond positively to what happens to you or what is said about you.
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Hugo
02-13-2010, 06:04 PM
Learn to Value Effort and Struggle
It is unfortunately often true that students attach little real value or gain a sense of self-esteem because of the effort and struggle needed to learn. Yet one cannot have success (legitimately) unless you work hard so there is an unbreakable bond between effort and success. It follows, that effort is as much a reason for self esteem as success because one cannot have the one without the other.

If something is to be done well it seems that there is always struggle. Beethoven in his 5th Symphony, one of the most popular and well known works every written wrote many drafts over many months as he struggled to get it just right. In the “Rainbow” by D. H. Lawrence, we can see in almost every line of his original manuscripts there are crossings out, changes and additions. So if these intellectual and creative giants had to struggle so do we and one might recall those famous words of Frederick Douglass on the abolition of slavery but is every bit as true about learning, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”

The whole point here as any one who has struggled to learn will tell you, the fact that you struggled and got there on your own is worth as much in terms of pride and self-esteem as gained by achievement - in any case no one who works hard and struggles will fail to get where they want to go in life.
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Hugo
02-18-2010, 09:40 PM
Be Optimistic
It is easy to become discouraged when learning because of the effort needed no matter who we are and we realize how little we really know. But it is like this for everyone: Einstein did not discover relatively over a week end, James Maxwell spent a life time in Cambridge developing his four famous and earth shatteringly important equations, the Beatles spent 10 years defining their sound and so on - learning has a price tag and that price tag is your persistence, commitment through good times and bad.

Michael Thomas a famous language teacher talked about the effort to learn a new language but he also said that if we are committed and optimistic then the effort can be exciting, stimulating and self-rewarding and what is true for language learning is true for any learning.
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heavenlyspot
02-20-2010, 12:25 PM
Is anyone afraid of not being hired after graduation? Especially if you're in the social science field & taking something like politics/law/sociology.

It's not very often that you're flipping through the newspaper when you see an job-advertisement looking for someone with a Bachers degree in politial science.

I guess this is my struggle in life. SubhanAllah... one of the most difficult things is the inability to know what your future holds, and whether or not you'll be happy with it. It's so hard that it frustrates me.
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Hugo
02-20-2010, 01:17 PM
Originally Posted by heavenlyspot
Is anyone afraid of not being hired after graduation? Especially if you're in the social science field & taking something like politics/law/sociology.

It's not very often that you're flipping through the newspaper when you see an job-advertisement looking for someone with a Bachers degree in politial science. I guess this is my struggle in life. SubhanAllah... one of the most difficult things is the inability to know what your future holds, and whether or not you'll be happy with it. It's so hard that it frustrates me.
In some ways that is what is exciting about life, that it is uncertain and whether we like it or not that is that way God has made it. Think how boring it would be if we could know the result of a cricked or football match before it even stated, how we would miss those highs and lows as the match progresses.

It is not often that job adverts ask for a degree name since they are advertising a job so that is what they will say and talk about - an employers wants to ask you what you can do not what your degree is.

So do some research, find out what sort of Jobs political scientist do, ask your friends, find out what the journals or magazines that go with your subject are, ask your tutors, go to the careers guidance or even think of another career - if you stop worrying and fretting and blaming the way the world works and start fighting and struggling for your future you will certainly get there. No one is going to offer it up to you on a plate.

Remember that is the way God has made us and to complain about it or get frustrated over it is to in effect put the blame on God when he has built it that way for you to reach the skies..
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Hugo
02-21-2010, 07:10 PM
deleted for the time being
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Hugo
02-23-2010, 04:10 PM
Empathy
It seems that we are all ‘wired’ for social engagement and such engagement changes over time and it may be that our boundaries expand or sometimes become smaller. In the Enlightenment many great ideas emerged and one major strand was that we are all rational human beings, detached agents pursuing our own self-interest and typically nation states reflect that view. But this must I think be seen a one part of the picture and an empathetic view expand s the picture. We can see this is families and communities and perhaps in the modern world most importantly in written communication and it is easy to see how this expands or extends our social networks and because it bring understating, expands our empathy – that is why it is such a dangerous trend in any society or community to try to close the door on communication be it in restrictions on books, or what people say, or making people see the world through some social, politically, religious or any other form of self contracted or accepted lens.

Jeremy Rifkin said that it is a conundrum of history that a complex civilization bring more people together but they create more entropy (or you can say disorder) in the process so we need to find a way of increasing empathy but decreasing entropy. This can be done by having a law for everything and everything has a law but institutions and circumstances don't stand still so in a way is an impossible goal and in any case, human nature simply cannot tolerate such totalitarianism. One possibility is further more powerful and open communication facilities and so a greater sharing of information and through that resources and perhaps the creating of new institutions.
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Hugo
03-02-2010, 09:33 PM
Reflect, Refresh without Rushing
Learning takes time and effort and that learning has to be refreshed from time to time; it’s not a once only experiences. The main way to learn and refresh is by reflection and that means looking back over what has been learned but what is often not understood is that reflection is the act of deliberately slowing down our habitual learning processes so we can take a closer look at our experiences and learning. We might summarise as follows:

Look for Ripples - When you get one bit right, one bit you really understand work from it to get other bits right because if you can work and understand one part you can with effort do that everywhere.

Learn Little by Little – learning takes time, little by little; one simply cannot learn everything in some intellectual ‘Big Bang’. Usually, we learn in small nuggets of insight and understanding, rather like jigsaw pieces, but eventually and gradually over time our minds, thinking and understanding are built up.

Treasure Constant Review – ask how your work has gone so far, has it been simple, what helped you, what did not help, were there any mistakes and can I avoid them in the future, were the notes useful and if not why not, has it been hard, have you shared it with anyone, did you make good use of your time, have you asked the tutor or anyone a question, can I change or improve my learning strategies and so on. Once you have done that make a plan to improve even more in the way you work.
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Hugo
03-10-2010, 03:14 PM
Reflect on your Learning Habits
We all have certain ways or habits in which we like to learn; some of these will be good habits and some will be bad ones but all good habits can be improved and new habits created. We all habitually use a particular strategy because we feel comfortable with it but that does not mean it’s a good one or that it cannot be improved or even discarded. So it is necessary to look at our habits and review them for possible improvements or abandon them as no longer useful
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Hugo
03-15-2010, 01:05 PM
Become self-aware
Most of us think we know who we are but often that knowing excludes or pushes into the shadows the uncomfortable things about our personalities tending to make us look for excuses rather than facing up to and fixing any failings we have.

This aspect was mentioned earlier but it is vital to know how you see and organises your world and generate meaning from your experiences. You may think of this as examining Weltanschauung, which is often loosely translated as world-view but carries the idea that our world view is shaped by who we are; our culture, our teachers, our religion, our family, our friends, our choices and indeed a whole host of things over which we have in general little control in their formative years and means that two people will not act in an identical way even when confronted by identical circumstances and indeed we ourselves may not think, feel and act in the same way from one more or less identical situation to another at a different time or place.

We cannot do much about who we are but we can become more aware of ourselves, our thinking, our feelings our actions; that will help us stop blaming everything but ourselves and over time our learning will change who we are because the meaning systems that people adopt, usually unconsciously, are as important or perhaps more important than logic in shaping their thinking.
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Hugo
03-21-2010, 04:12 PM
The Woody Allen Reflection and Management Strategy
In earlier sections we have talked about reflection and some aspect of that activity but being practical, we do need a strategy to deal with it because one of the biggest obstacles to reflection is that most of us are reluctant to make changes in the sense of learning something new, modifying what we know or getting rid of stuff that is outdated or even wrong. You may think you are open to new insights but when we are really tested that is not usually the case because we like to learn something and say to ourselves more or less that certain work processes or learning is now complete, finished, done with, cracked but it never is and openness should help us expand, confirm and sometimes reject what we already know.

Allan Alda, who often worked with the Woody Allen, explained how Allen, the director worked and it was amazing and insightful. The method was simple, if the actors did not do a scene as expected Allen’s method was to go over that scene during the night and re-write and keep doing that night after night until the actors did what he wanted. Put simply in learning terms, you produce work and get feedback; you then modify the work and try again until it is a right as you can get it and you keep doing that forever.

The same applies when you are learning because you get to a point where you feel you have a complete or at least clear understanding and it’s tempting to stop there. But that is unwise, and so we must be continually on the lookout for new insights or examples or updates that will expand our leaning and when they come, go back and revise our notes to update our new or enhanced understating.

Be aware that many students never do this because they believe their learning is complete but almost always only those with a superficial learning ever think like this. This is perhaps best summed up by Rousseau in his ‘Confessions’, when he said “in complete contrast to theologians, doctors, and philosophers, they only admit to be true such things as they are able to explain; they make their own understanding the measure of all possibilities.” Although here I have focused on learning the same malaise affects the processes and structures we set up and we simply assume that they were right, perfect and tacitly resist any notion of changing them.

Finally, one must say that an argument against the Woody Allen method is that it looks like you are changing things all the time. This is however is not the case, one works as hard as you can to get started and produce something solid and typically, if you are alert modifications will arise very quickly after that and as you incorporate them things will start to slow down and a stable process or understanding emerges and from then on it is usual that further changes come less frequently – but they will always come and the secret of growth us never to resist or stifle them. A simple rule might be useful here. If you put in place a process or understanding and you subsequently discover it is clearly not working or wrong, change it straightaway but for all other things keep the updates until a convenient moment arises.
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Hugo
03-26-2010, 10:34 PM
Be Systematic and Systemic
We know that serendipity plays its part in learning but it is wise to be systematic rather than haphazard about learning, starting with the basics and working from there plus organising and structuring your knowledge and skills via notes and practice. One needs to be systemic so that you are ever alert to links between one part of your knowledge and another and that alone will increase your learning powers and potential.

In a practical sense you must be systematic in your filing so repeating what was mentioned earlier, get rid of your ‘pile file’ and develop an efficient general reference system: a labelled folder, alphabetic organisation, a cabinet but whatever it is, think carefully about its design and keep it as simple as possible and don’t delay updating it because you “don’t have time” or any other reason because all that will do will be to render any organisation you have useless.

The world is a complex place and when you are learning there are 1001 things you have to remember and that is a next to impossible task unless you are organised and one of the best ways of organising is to use simple lists, checklist if you like and this can be on paper or you can use Iphone Apps
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Hugo
04-02-2010, 10:07 AM
Review Personal Learning Strategies
Try a different learning strategy to the one you habitually use. If your strategy is based on always using examples and copying from them then change it to writing your own notes instead, if it’s about working with others then work on your own, if it’s your usual way to just give up and guess hoping for the best then try some struggling instead, if you can only work at night in total silence try working in the park or in the bus or train etc. If you put any arbitrary limits on where, how or what you can learn it’s like shooting yourself in the foot on the starting line of 1,500 meter race, you might still finish but no one will be there to see it.
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Hugo
04-09-2010, 05:02 PM
Appreciate that what YOU have to say will be valued
Too often students simply assume that if they memorize everything then that is learning which allows them to pass any assessment by just giving back to the teachers what he or she gave them. However, there is a huge difference for example between memorizing a definition and using a definition in a problem situation. Memorizing shows only partial learning but usage, being able to apply the definition in many situations demonstrates conclusively that you have leaned what that definition is really about. As a very simply analogy, someone might memorize a poem in German without understanding a word of what they are saying.

Teachers are interested in what YOU have to say, they find value in that, they want to see what it is you have leaned and they do that by seeing you explain, explore and apply the knowledge gained by diligent reading into and around the subject. This applies everywhere, if we were discussing a novel in class there is no value in simply repeating back to the tutor what he or she has told you – no, you must use what you have been given and researched yourself and then by exploring, and explaining and applying it add a new idea or viewpoint or insight of your own.

Goethe, the most celebrated of late 16/17th century German polymaths talked about other people’s work that he had assimilated and then used in his own writing when he said “what is there is mine, and whether I got it from books or life is of no consequence. The only point is, whether I have made a right use of it". This is a liberating idea and shows just how eagerly you tutors will be to see you assimilate knowledge from books, journals and life and then in your own writing showing that you made excellent use of it.

Similarly, if we were dealing with precise scientific things we still need to demonstrate what we know by application. For example, you might learn Ohm’s law for electric circuits and that would be easy but at some point you will be given perhaps a complex circuit and have to find out the various voltages and currents and the real test as to whether you know Ohm’s law will be shown if you can deal with any circuit not simply by being able to reproduce the law.
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Hugo
04-18-2010, 03:08 PM
Learning?
In the previous item it was stated that the tutor wants to hear what you have to say. Now this does not mean simply inventing things to say which have little or no foundation. It follows, that when you include your own thoughts and ideas you need also to show how they arose and that invariably means from your wider reading where you noticed something or a connection to something or it made you think of another direction. This kind of thing can occur anywhere at any time so keep alert and don’t despise anything. For example, at one time I had trouble understanding the real difference between induction and deduction and it was only when I was reading a detective novel and how they set about finding a piece of evidence that the ‘penny dropped’ and I finally understood.

Be warned, if you think that learning can only occur at certain times or at certain places or that only certain books have anything to say then you will be shooting yourself in the foot by adding such useless restrictions. The fact is you can learn at any time from anyone or anything. I once heard someone say they would only accept advice or information from someone they respected. This is understandable but nonsense because it means that you are putting the source above the information, presumably because it strokes your ego? This does not mean we accept anything but it does mean we listen sceptically and then see what can be leaned. In this way you let your own day by day experiences enhance your knowledge and understanding.
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Hugo
04-25-2010, 10:14 PM
Ask good Questions – the tutor wants to help you but questions of the form “please comment on my answer” are hopeless, just a different way of saying ‘is it right’. The trouble with just asking for comment is that the tutor will say what he thinks but it may still leave answered questions in your mind (which the tutor has no access to). If you have really learned the work you should KNOW that your answer is right, but if after a struggle you are still uncertain about one point or another then ask a question about those and then your learning will be complete.

Stop thinking that everything must be easy - and if not it’s you who are a bit dull or the notes don’t cover it or the tutor is hopeless or any number of excuses as long as you can avoid seeing that YOU need to work harder. Learning can be a pleasure even a delight, discovering new things and if it requires a bit of struggle or a huge struggle then go for it not give up at the first hurdle. Some things are of course easy but most are not and you will have to dig deep and work hard. Often students will find something hard and rush to the tutor asking 'show us an easy way' and that betrays a mind that wants to avoid the struggle that always attends learning. To avoid the struggle is to throw away the wonder of discovery for some kind of instant gratification with zero lasting effect.

I often think it’s like running the 1,500 meter race, the first 400 are fine but then it starts to get tough, people get ahead of you, you get ahead of people, there is barging and tactics and then the last 400 are a real struggle but in the end you get there and know you trained as hard and did your best - contrast that with getting there but knowing it was not your best. As the great Billy-Jean King said “don’t look back saying I could have done that, look back saying I did it and I tried my best”.
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Hugo
05-01-2010, 10:31 AM
Teach a topic – it is an old cliché to say one only really knows a subject when one has to teach it. It is certainly true that one has to feel confident to teach and often when teaching two things commonly happen. Firstly, one gets insight about a subject as we teach it or secondly, we often suddenly realises while we are teaching a topic that we don’t really understand it. So one way of learning and checking your learning is to explain what you have learned to another student, group of students or indeed anyone who will listen to you.

Be aware of the source of Reassurance - you are not a dullard with low intelligence, you can learn BUT being assurance in this can only come if you are willing to put in the necessary struggle and effort and stop looking for the easy way: short cuts, a magic formula, hints and tips or more and more examples to copy.
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Supreme
05-07-2010, 09:45 PM
This thread is wonderful, Hugo!
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Hugo
05-07-2010, 09:59 PM
I will make a few post over the next week or so on dealing with your emotions in study because often one can get really down and start to fall behind.

Use Images, logic and Narrative – when one gets into difficulty resulting in frustration, anger, fearfulness, resentfulness and so on with learning or with life’s circumstances because things are not easy or not going your way, your emotions and feelings can start to dominate and often make it worse. So dealing with emotions and feelings is a part of learning (and life) and generally there are several ways of combating them. The ideas here can be dealt with alone or we can share how we feel with those we trust or indeed anyone who will listen.

Labelling – it is often helpful to label your emotions and feelings so you know what they really are and can take steps to deal with them. You may not be able to change the circumstances or fix what has gone wrong but you can deal with how you feel about them. There are of course a whole range of emotions both positive and negative: anger, outrage, vexation exasperation, indignation, acrimony, animosity, hostility, sorrow, gloom, melancholy, self-pity, low self-esteem, loneliness, despair, anxiety, apprehension, edginess, dread, panic, shock, contempt, scorn, distaste, revulsion, guilt, embarrassment, remorse, chagrin, humiliation, regret, contrition, no skills. We also have more positive ones such as: happiness. joy, bliss, delight, amusement, contentment, pride, thrill, gratification, satisfaction, acceptance, love, friendliness, whimsy, euphoria, trust, kindness, affinity, devotion, surprise, wonder and amazement.

If you can name feelings you can plan a way through them. For example, if you feel gloomy one might go and watch the ducks in the park, work in your garden or someone else’s garden, offer to help someone, have a good cry and talk it over with someone and so on but the key is to take action, it will not always be easy but this is where positive choices can be to your advantage because ultimately actions bring benefits. One might think that getting a bit down or sad is always a bad thing but we have to face the fact that as human beings that is how we are built. It follows, that sadness is a part of our ‘being’ and indeed it can often help because it makes us slow down and re-evaluate what it is we are doing or thinking and so enable us to plan a way out.
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Hugo
05-14-2010, 10:46 AM
Dealing with problems - a continuation of my previous post.

Logic - we can just work through the emotions and feelings logically, arguing as it were with ourselves to find a way through. The trouble with logic though is that it all rests on premises and if we are not honest with ourselves we construct them in such a way as to avoided the truth so this needs care and integrity.

Cycles – our lives are a series of cycles as we move through various events and Paulo Coelho helpfully describes them as shutting doors or ending chapters but what matters is to leave in the past the moments of life that have finished. Did you lose your job? Has a loving relationship come to an end? Did you leave your parents' house? Gone to live abroad? Has a long-lasting friendship ended all of a sudden? It follows, you can spend a long time wondering why this or that has happened, you can tell yourself you won't take another step until you find out why certain solid things that were so important in your life have turned to dust, just like that; you can blame yourself, someone else or circumstances. What has passed will not return and cannot be undone, things pass, and the best we can do is to let them go, before a new chapter is begun, the old one has to be finished.

This is not about forgetting the past because it is often a warm experience to relive parts of it although often there are parts we do not wish to recover. So we can and must learn from our past but nevertheless we must let it go, so that we are not constantly reliving it and wasting the now. Living in the “now” may mean dealing with the consequences of the past but that just become part of your plan for the future.
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Hugo
05-19-2010, 05:03 PM
Dealing with problem, continued.

Narrative – this just means something like turning what is happening to you into a story in the hope that it will help, not necessarily to make things right (because sometimes things cannot be fixed) but narrating your own story may bring you a level of understanding so you can interpret events and move on. Often narrative is helped if its done as a dialogue but sometimes we or the other person is unsympathetic and so incapable of genuine dialogue and one or other of us end up ranting, scolding and lecturing the other. But incapacity for true dialogue implies incapacity for listening, tolerance, self-reflection and empathy and that can be totally destructive.

You may have found this idea hard to accept but in all relationships it is necessary to let others see at least a little of who you really are and one does this most often by talking and listening. Many of us like to ‘hide’ behind our personalities in case we let out something about ourselves we don’t like or don’t want others to know or we think it weakens our status or because we don’t want people to ask us to do things. This does not mean we ‘bare our soul’ to all and sundry but it does mean we have to show ourselves to be human, have some humanity and humility. One might say that often relationships are enhanced because of small and seemingly insignificant kindnesses and also sometimes because someone or some event shows us the truth about ourselves and that allows us to ‘open up’.
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Hugo
05-24-2010, 07:24 PM
Imagery and imagination – this simply means recognising or creating an image or images (or you can say a picture) as to how you feel emotionally or how you feel about learning. You may also think of this as being rather like drama where one watches actors on a stage and as you listen and watch you are drawn into the action and your own thoughts and feeling get stimulated and often that experience can change how you feel and perceive things.

For example, you might struggle over something and feel it’s like an iron bar across your neck or you feel like a dried up flower or you are being treated like a rag doll. We all do this kind of thing instinctively but it’s worth reflecting on the image we create because often, very often that can open a new window, a new perspective on your troubles and therefore help you through them and gives you insight. Images work because they often capture the crux of a situation then shift you from narrative or logic to a symbolic structure (you can draw it as a picture if you like) and that can often spark insight and that insight may allow you to move on to action and the benefits that accrue from that. (Imagery can also be used as a direct learning tool).

Narrative and imagery are two essentially abstraction tools we can use to help us through hard times. As an illustration one might consider a mathematics problem we are stuck with, let say it’s working out the area of a rectangle with side 5 and 6, so think of that as your personal problem with its particular details. But if we can create an abstraction and instead of dealing with the actual number 5 and 6 we have the abstraction that area equals length times breadth it’s easier to stand away from the actual problem details and look at it more dispassionately.
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Hugo
06-06-2010, 08:32 PM
My last few posts have been about what kind of things you can usefully do when you get into difficulties of various kinds. This post is a summary and conclusion.

All the above are suggestions may bring you insight but if it stops there then it’s of no value to you, the insight must drive you to action and unless it does that whole experience may be wasted from a learning point of view. Action often expresses itself in two ways: its spurs you to plan a way forward because the image or narrative may give you direction and it should drive you towards your learning community so you can share what you have with them.

One final point; actions lead to consequences and if they are honest actions there will normally be positive personal consequences for you in terms of a sense of achievement and growth as well as a sense of peace and contentment that you are moving forward. This is not a new idea of course and one can find it in very ancient writing such as the Bhagavad Gita written perhaps 3,000 BCE where it talks about “loving the fruit of one’s actions because they bring peace”

One might also say here that it’s easy to become sad, depressed and anxious when things are going wrong or not as well as we had hoped but of itself those feelings may be part of your way of working through difficult times as often distressing events slow us down and make us re-evaluate where we are and that perhaps is a first step to planning your way through troubles, disappointments and worry giving you a renewed hope for the future. This also is not a new idea and Aeschylus 3,000 years ago said “hope forces back insatiable worry” and exhorted us to “throw off the vain burden of anxiety” and even suggested in one place that troubles past and present can be seen as “kindness because they teach us wisdom”.

A word of caution is needed here because sometimes things can get very serious and in those circumstances we need and must have medical help and advice. There is no shame attached to this and it must be treated like any other illness with care, time and action.
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Hugo
06-14-2010, 03:57 PM
I hope now to make three very important post on learning strategies.

Focus and Learn the subject Basics - Be honest with yourself and ask if you really know and understand and can use the basics. For example, in research we might define them as: problem, target, actor, activity, data spotlight, study style and type, modes of thinking, research question, Research Methods, Data collection methods and processing methods. If you are ignorant of these basics, no strategy in the world will allow you to get to the right standard.

There is always plenty to learn but no teacher or text book can ensure that you know every twist and turn and nuance in a subject area so one needs to almost always focus starting with the basics and then moving on from there. It’s rather like watching out for shoplifters, we if try to watch everybody who comes into a store and watch them all the time you would need an army of people and technology and most of the time it would be a complete waste of effort. Instead, security staff look at customers for tell-tale signs, so they can pin-point who to watch more closely.
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Hugo
06-29-2010, 11:46 AM
Access the Learning Community
We are surrounded by a learning community: fellow students, teachers, family and we may extent this to authors via books and other resources. So access it. Share what you have and others will share and help you. The community is not for those who want always to take or copy the hard work of others but it is for genuine sharing and support. Learning can and should be a shared experience and often in a group we find that people have slightly different perspective or ideas and this can be a means of opening up a subject area and your mind to deep learning because in essence the problem solving power of the group is greater than that of a student working alone.

It goes almost without saying that sharing in a group is a great social experience and as you share you grow and you also share in one another’s success. Julia Chrysostomides, who died in 2008 was an outstanding scholar in Byzantine history and she (taught by no less a luminary than Iris Murdoch) called this learning community a “brotherhood of scholars“ and so emphasised the family like nature attached to fellow learners and like any family it’s for life. If you really engage with learning you will not only grow intellectually and open up your mind but you will make friends for life in the process. Good fellowship of this nature is like a virus, it spreads rapidly through the group and out of the group.
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Banu_Hashim
07-04-2010, 10:26 PM
I have lecturers that are experts in their fields, and I don't fully take advantage of that. I don't really talk to them out of lecture hours but I'll try to do so from now on inshaAllah so I can fully benefit from my time at university.
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Hugo
07-07-2010, 04:03 PM
Based on my last post where I recommended you access the learning community I give some tips on doing that. It will often be hard work and sometime annoying but its always in the end ultimately good and worthwhile.

Set up a Study Group - There are some cautions we might apply if we form study groups and that is to do mainly with their size, though there is no easy guide we might note again the work of Parkinson, of Parkinson's Law fame since many people have tested this law and modelled it mathematically and simulated it in use using computers. Interestingly, the work suggests quite strongly that group sizes of 6 members (US National Security council), 9 members (UK Monetary Policy Committee) and 20 members (many world governments have cabinets of this size) are good sizes if you want to get things debated and decisions made. But oddly, though no one quite understands why, a group with a membership of 8 will almost certainly fragment and factionalise and become unworkable.

The other thing you may note about groups is not only its size but its member types and the one type to avoid is colloquially call a ‘cuckoo’ because their only purpose in joining your group is to take what they can from it but give nothing to it and one often finds that they dominate the group by drawing everyone into helping them and very often they don’t attend meetings but will demand that everyone brief them or send them notes of what was discussed.

One must also say that although your group may have a “correct” size and composition there may be times it cannot function because information is not to hand or a stakeholder is not available. In such cases you must recognise this and ensure that you get whatever is needed in reports, notes or the presence of an expert (not technically a member of the group). If you don’t acknowledge that the group needs support you are in grave danger of making mistakes or rendering the group ineffective. Here as some brief suggestions for setting up and running a workable group.

Group Size – ideally, groups should be about 4-20 people but note that ideal sizes might be just 6 or 9 but never 8.

Location – you can meet via an online chat room at any time, you can meet in a Skype conference, you can meet in IM. All you need is to be a little disciplined in terms of getting together.

Leader –to set times, dates, mailing lists and just do the necessary administrative work.

Time – set a regular and convenient time to meet and meet regularly.

Duration – this is up to you but it is best to set a limit of about 1.5 hours on any one meeting.

Resources – be aware that every group needs resources and these might be notes, books and occasionally people are invited with special skills or knowledge or a stake in what is being discussed

Tutor – if you want to discuss something specific you can ask if the tutor could join with you but it best to work hard within your own group because if a tutor is there the focus is on them.

Topic – decide what you are going to discuss when you meet: look over test questions, review a lesson, review one another’s work but do not copy, look at difficulties encountered by a group member in the notes or workbook.
Finally. all groups are social learning centres and I will have much more to say about this in a later post. But in your group you can have fun, you can make friends, you can meet just for the joy of it anywhere any time. Remember these people will often end up as friends for life.
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Hugo
07-13-2010, 03:35 PM
Social learning - it is better sometimes to learn from others than to muddle along on your own although no one quite knows how it works but in essence we copy behaviours from what we see around us or perhaps from what we read. However, if we only copy there is a catch because we need innovation to help us cope with change - one cannot copy everything blindly because the information may be wrong, outdated or unavailable. Possible models for social learning might be the:

Conformist Transmission Model - where we copy what is common not what is rare or to put it more simply we as it were follow the crowd.

Copy an expert – this is or can be an excellent strategy; because one hopes that by doing this you feel confident that you are learning the best practice or most relevant and current knowledge.

Copy the most successful – here you might look around and follow those who appear successful and whatever they do therefore might well be good for you. There are obvious dangers here, for example because the latest ‘celeb’ endorses diet X implies nothing about their actual practices or knowledge?
Social learning is in some way underpinned by an implicit trust in others. However, this has its own difficulty perhaps best illustrated by the famous Prisoners Dilemma which shows how in certain circumstances what happens when members of a group trust each other; they can choose a course of action that will bring them the best possible outcome for the group as a whole. But without trust each individual may well aim for his or her best personal outcome - which can lead to the worst possible outcome for all.

In the Prisoner's Dilemma two participants as prisoners who have been jointly charged with a crime (which they did commit) but questioned separately. The police only have enough evidence to be sure of a conviction for a minor offence, but not enough for the more serious crime. The prisoners made a pact that if they were caught they would not confess or turn witness on each other. If both prisoners hold true to their word they will only be convicted of the lesser offence. But the dilemma occurs when the police offer each prisoner a reduced prison term if they confess to the serious offence and give evidence against the other prisoner. This sounds like a good deal, confess and you get the minimum possible term in jail - although your partner will get the maximum. But then you realise that if both you and your partner confess then both will be given the maximum term in prison. So the dilemma is whether you trust your partner to keep quiet - and if you do, should you 'stitch them up' to get out of jail quicker?

It is easy to see from the above how in group leaning you may sadly always find there are individual who sponge on the group, lurking in the background scooping up what others have done but adding little or nothing themselves. Therefore with the above dilemma in mind we may state broadly three ways to learn:
Innovate by individual learning – this means you have to put in the hard graft and in so doing produce something new; not necessarily intrinsically new but you have uncovered the knowledge or worked hard to acquire the skill by your own dedicated and persistent effort - this perhaps is the most rewarding way to learn and has the most lasting benefits.

Observation - acquire new learning by social learning, implying there is a sense of trust from and toward you and a sharing in some sense of the burden involved. It is worth saying here that this form of leaning may easily become total exploitation where you take but give nothing.

Formal Teaching – one must not forget the role of formal teaching where there is an intensive effort to pass on skills and knowledge in a defined setting.
In all learning you must take time out to rest and reflect and just let the learning ‘sink’ in. Research suggests that this might be up to 1/5 of the available time thus you space out learning by thinking about pay offs or tradeoffs. One final point is that in social learning there is a kind of parasitic dimension because eventually you run out of things to copy and then someone has to do the hard graft to gain new skills or knowledge that can then be copied. It follows it only pays in the long term to do social learning if there are some innovators around

Finally, when you copy, other individuals have probably filtered the stuff for you so you have to weight up the relative costs and benefits of sticking to a behaviour you have or inventing/copying a new one. As humans of course we are aware of how quick information gets outdated or a skill lost or no longer needed but you can look to the future, talk about what might happen and consider consequences.
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Hugo
07-30-2010, 04:40 PM
Two very important issues

Listen – many times in this list of strategies you will see the word “listen” because often we are very poor at doing just that and as a result stop ourselves learning because we only want to hear something agreeable or something we already know so we get confirmation instead of listening for useful and critical comment and that is most to be desired because it allows knowledge to grow. Be aware that often this takes the form of us reviewing what we thought we understood but a question pops up and we suddenly almost realize that in fact we don’t quite understand it.

Be cautious with Certainty and Assurance – one can often get into a position of certainty over your own knowledge; a kind of assurance that you have finally got there. Now this sounds wonderful and indeed it is nice to feel that you know and can do something well. The trouble is it can shut your mind down so reflecting from the standpoint of certitude allows no new meaning, no deeper understanding no surprises to emerge, indeed if you are certain you will implicitly tell yourself more or less that reflection is pointless because there is nothing new for you to learn.

It follows, that certitude may simply reinforce the way things are emotionally and intellectually so in that mindset reflection can become stale and unappealing and we rely on current experience and perspectives and so frustrate movement toward insight, or to put it more bluntly when something new comes along we “don’t want to know”. To counter this you need to always be on the lookout for new ideas and insights, they will not always be obvious, you do not have to swallow them wholesale but you do have to honestly chew them over, you have to be aware, seeing them as precious gifts aimed just at you, in this way you grow continually in knowledge, intelligence and emotional awareness and share what you have with others in your learning community.

It is tempting to avoid the idea of doubt because it can have negative connotations. But it is a way of thinking that is to be cherished because doubt, when you are not sure, drives you on to seek information and struggle until that doubt is removed – that is creative doubt. Doubt therefore is what brings you eventually to the truth, the answer. One might usefully recall what Dostoevsky in the Brothers Karamazov said “Without criticism there'd be nothing but Hosannas. But man cannot live by Hosannas alone, those Hosannas have to be tempered in the crucible of doubt..”
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Hugo
08-08-2010, 06:45 PM
Be a “Renaissance Man”
Life is about thinking, feeling and believing and these all go together. Unless you think for yourself you will never get an original thought and 50 years from now you will regret it. So with regard to learning you might ask, “what do I get out of it" or “what’s in it for me"? Well you might get a qualification or win a prize but is that all there is to it? Real learning changes you and makes you “think”, “feel” and really “believe”, perhaps for the first time because you are not afraid to face up to any question, you may not get an answer but you will learn something in the process. Often we talk about this experience as becoming a “Renaissance Man” which in modern parlance refers to someone who is constantly wanting to learn and master new knowledge and get new skills not just in one narrow area but in almost everything that interests him or her.

The genesis of the term was the renaissance in Europe driven in some large measure by Arab learning but also a new freedom to explore whatever questions came to mind, anything and everything could be 'dug up' and turned over; a return to learning and this learning spawned some of the greatest thinkers and practitioners the world has ever seen or is ever likely to see. You must understand that the great men and women of history were not just clever in one narrow field but had learning and skills in several: they were painters, historians, philosophers, mathematicians, runners, jumpers and medical practitioners all at the same time.
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Hugo
08-15-2010, 03:04 PM
Avoid the Quick Fix Outlook
The trouble with the “quick fix” when you don’t really understand something is that sooner or later it will come back to “bite you”, it will show itself again and again until you do fix it so don’t waste time with supposed short cuts. There is a saying “the shortest way round is the longest way home” and that is almost 100% true in learning. Another reason why there is no quick fix is that answering one question invariably makes you want to ask another, and another and so on in search of a deeper and deeper understanding – that is why research in its own peculiar way is always exciting.

Wittgenstein used an analogy here to explain learning and he thought of it like a high building with various levels reached by ladders. So as you wander round at one level, questioning and learning as you go eventually you bump into a new ladder and up you go to the next level where again you wander round and eventually find yet another new ladder and up you go again. But once you are up a ladder it’s taken away; you cannot go back down again or to put it more simply you cannot un-know something.

At each level one might struggle but eventually you will find the ladder (though it may not be the same ladder for everyone) and that learning experience will almost always be positive. It might not be comfortable because you may have to modify or even discard things you had certainty about but nevertheless it’s positive because always you are moving upward, there is no turning back. One might recall what Popper said in 1945 in this respect.

For those who have eaten of the tree of knowledge, paradise is lost. The more we try to return to the heroic age of tribalism, the more surely do we arrive at the Inquisition, at the Secret Police, and at a romanticized gangsterism. Beginning with the suppression of reason and truth, we must end with the most brutal and violent destruction of all that is human. There is no return to a harmonious state of nature. If we turn back, then we must go the whole way - we must return to the beasts.

Do you find this a fearful idea? No turning back? No it is an exciting idea because the future opens up before us. If we fear learning then it means we don't want to solve problems and if our forefathers took that attitude we would not have penicillin or eye surgery. Science has a history of great men and women who REFUSED to accept received wisdom and two of these come to mind. Sir Ronald Ronald Pitts Crick who refused to accept that nothing could be done about glaucoma (raised pressure in the eye that is a leading cause of preventable blindness) and so today we have early diagnoses and treatments. Secondly, in the early part of the last century there were hundreds of people studying the cosmos and gravity but the brilliant break through came from the 26 year old Albert Einstein, working alone as a patent clerk.
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Hugo
09-02-2010, 01:47 PM
Two thoughts for today.

Assemble Learning Resources – it is important that you assemble carefully all the notes, exercises, examples, time tables and so on that you need and this also applies to any group working needs. This is not usually difficulty but it does need discipline and some organisational skills. One needs a little common sense here else you will get swamped by all the things you think you need so a certain level of circumspection is required. One might recall again Parkinson’s Law “that work expands to fill the time available for its completion” and by extension “resources needs expand to such an extent it is impossible to do the work.” One might also say here that when you look at all you have to do and all the things you need if you are not very careful you create so many dependencies that again nothing gets done.

Be open minded – be ready to listen to new ideas even if they frighten or even offend you because unless you learn to listen, debate and analyse logically, learning will always be a chore for you and your intellectual growth stunted. Open minded does NOT means we have to accept or agree with everything we hear but it does mean we have to give it a hearing. Knowledge is a gift, millions before you have trodden this path and it’s their writings and example that has been passed to down to you freely as a gift. Open mindedness implies three particular things.

Be ready, without rushing, to consider new learning that comes your way
Be ready, without rushing, to modify what you know in the light of new learning
Be ready, without rushing, to discard what you know as no longer valid in the light of new learning

Finally and perhaps most importantly, open mindedness means you try to become acutely aware of your own biases and predispositions – if you do not gain this awareness you will just dismiss things out of hand because they are ‘obviously’ of no value and that might be a disaster for you. As Professor Jacob Bronowski said "It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to hero-worship what is known but to question it"
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Hugo
09-21-2010, 04:48 PM
Some ideas

Read and Record - Read the learning material over again a few times and write your own short outline. If you feel unsure about something then use a book, the internet, look at the examples or call on the tutor again and it’s certain that sooner or later you will understand.

Keep an Ideas book - Make notes as ideas or questions occur to you no matter where you are, use your phone to do it or a small note book but whichever way is best, do it. Good ideas and questions can disappear in seconds and once lost they are often gone forever. I use a small note pad with a pencil attached (there is nothing more annoying that having a great idea, having a note book but no pencil!)

Use your Long Term Memory - You have both short and long term memory and practice putting what you know into long term memory by careful, directed repeated study effort. For example, when you find a new insight or understanding of something update your notes or at least make a concerted effort to put it into your long term memory. This might mean going to an answer that has been marked and re-writing it for your own learning consolidation, you might also tell the tutor, he would like to know if you have uncovered anything of interest – he/she will not mind no matter if it’s a minor point because it then become a shared experience.

Test yourself/Practice – look at the tutor’s examples or comments, see if you can spot where answers might be weak or improved or have elements that you don’t quite understand. Look at other people work and offer a critique and see what you can learn, look at samples but don’t just use them as things to copy from use them as things to learn from. It is simply astonishing that so many students never look at anything but their own work.
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Hugo
10-23-2010, 04:01 PM
SMART
This is just a way of thinking about projects and their essential elements. It is a little circular in its working but the basic idea is that once you have an overall project plan you need to turn your attention to developing goals or you can say objectives that will enable you to be successful. The idea is simple and in some ways obvious but the trouble is that it does not tell you how to get any of these very desirable features.

In summary, Goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based however it does have a number of slightly different variations in the literature. Just a simple example, a goal/objective might be to hold a weekly meeting with project team members but the one key idea that binds the 5 elements together is to make sure there is always a milestone; that is an artefact that can be seen and used. In the case of the meeting mentioned above it might be a list of actions or a summary or a report that sort of thing. Essentially, we say that if there is no milestone (a kind of “proof”) then there has been no activity either. In the meeting case if there is no milestone then for all practical purposes we say the meeting did not take place.

Specific or one might say significant as made clear in the statement of milestone

Measurable and meaningful (hence the milestone) and that of itself might be motivational

Agreed upon with stakeholders but must be attainable and acceptable but action-oriented

Realistic in the sense of relevance and rewards within available resources so results-oriented

Time-based meaning timely, enough time, tangible (hence the milestone) and trackable
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Hugo
12-02-2010, 03:00 PM
Code of Conduct and Discipline
Codes of conduct are a kind of definition of professionalism where you spell out ideals and duties. But they all have at least common elements.

Expectation of selflessness - we who accept responsibility for others – whether we are doctors, lawyers, teachers, public authorities, soldiers, or pilots - will place the needs and concerns of those who depend on us above our own.

Expectation of skill - we will aim for excellence in our knowledge, expertise and practice.

Expectation of trust-worthiness - we will be responsible in our personal behaviour toward our charges.

Expectation of discipline - discipline in following prudent procedure and practice and perhaps most importantly of functioning with others.

This last concept of discipline is almost entirely outside the lexicon of most professions who tend to hold up “autonomy” as a professional lodestar, a principle but it stands in direct opposition to discipline. But in a world in which success now requires large enterprises, teams of professionals, technologies, and knowledge that outstrips any one person's abilities; individual autonomy hardly seems the ideal we should aim for. It has the ring more of protectionism than of excellence.
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Hugo
12-18-2010, 02:57 PM
Structure
This word is used all over the place but it seems that few know what it is supposed to imply about the area to which it is applied. Giving something structure implies that it is supposed to be predictable towards a certain end. So if the degree course is said to be “structured” it implies that it has been designed with its end purpose in mind and that the structure we have given it assures us that we will get the required end result.
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Hugo
01-04-2011, 11:37 PM
Social learning - it is better sometimes to learn from others than to muddle along on your own although no one quite knows how it works but in essence we copy behaviours from what we see around us or perhaps from what we read. However, if we only copy there is a catch because we need innovation to help us cope with change - one cannot copy everything blindly because the information may be wrong, outdated or unavailable. Possible models for social learning might be the:

Conformist Transmission Model - where we copy what is common not what is rare or to put it more simply we as it were follow the crowd.

Copy an expert – this is or can be an excellent strategy; because one hopes that by doing this you feel confident that you are learning the best practice or most relevant and current knowledge.

Copy the most successful – here you might look around and follow those who appear successful and whatever they do therefore might well be good for you. There are obvious dangers here, for example because the latest ‘celeb’ endorses diet X implies nothing about their actual practices or knowledge?

Social learning is in some way underpinned by an implicit trust in others. However, this has its own difficulty perhaps best illustrated by the famous Prisoners Dilemma which shows how in certain circumstances what happens to members of a group that trust each other; they can choose a course of action that will bring them the best possible outcome for the group as a whole. But without trust each individual may well aim for his or her best personal outcome - which can lead to the worst possible outcome for all.

In the Prisoner's Dilemma two participants as prisoners have been jointly charged with a crime (which they did commit) but questioned separately. The police only have enough evidence to be sure of a conviction for a minor offence, but not enough for the more serious crime. The prisoners made a pact that if they were caught they would not confess or turn witness on each other. If both prisoners hold true to their word they will only be convicted of the lesser offence. But the dilemma occurs when the police offer each prisoner a reduced prison term if they confess to the serious offence and give evidence against the other prisoner. This sounds like a good deal, confess and you get the minimum possible term in jail - although your partner will get the maximum. But then you realise that if both you and your partner confess then both will be given the maximum term in prison. So the dilemma is whether you trust your partner to keep quiet - and if you do, should you 'stitch them up' to get out of jail quicker?

It is easy to see from the above how in group leaning you may sadly always find there are individuals who sponge on the group, lurking in the background scooping up what others have done but adding little or nothing themselves. Therefore with the above dilemma in mind we may state broadly three ways to learn:

Innovate by individual learning – this means you have to put in the hard graft and in so doing produce something new; not necessarily intrinsically new but you have uncovered the knowledge or worked hard to acquire the skill by your own dedicated and persistent effort - this perhaps is the most rewarding way to learn and has the most lasting benefits.

Observation - acquire new learning by social learning, implying there is a sense of trust from and toward you and a sharing is some sense of the burden involved. It is worth saying here that this form of leaning may easily become total exploitation where you take but give nothing.

Formal Teaching – one must not forget the role of formal teaching where there is an intensive effort to pass on skills and knowledge in a defined setting.

In all learning you must take time out to rest and reflect and just let the learning ‘sink’ in. Research suggests that this might be up to 1/5 of the available time thus you space out learning by thinking about pay offs or tradeoffs. One final point is that in social learning there is a kind of parasitic dimension because eventually you run out of things to copy and then someone has to do the hard graft to gain new skills or knowledge that can then be copied. It follows it only pays in the long term to do social learning if there are some innovators around

Finally, when you copy, other individuals have probably filtered the stuff for you so you have to weight up the relative costs and benefits of sticking to a behaviour you have or inventing/copying a new one. As humans of course we are aware of how quick information gets outdated or a skill lost or no longer needed but you can look to the future, talk about what might happen and consider consequences.
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