Right now, somewhere in the world, there is a poor student trembling, butterflies screaming around in their abdomens (figuratively for those of you who aren't studying medicine), palms drenched in sweat, hands shaking like their owner is withdrawing from mainlining Heroin, and their vision is strangely blurred. Nope, it's not the thought of watching another Twilight movie with their girlfriend. It's the dreaded............presentation.When I typed that word "presentation", I was thinking of the voice of the guy that does the voice-overs for movie trailers. Anyway, moving along. I've adapted these five questions from chapter one of a book called Perfect Presentations by Andrew Ivy and you can download it free of charge from here.
Topical IndexAs you are reading through your textbooks and deciding how to arrange the information, I want you to note down in a separate place the major topics that are mentioned. This word is difficult to define, so let's use as an example a brief excerpt by way of illustration taken from a Wikipedia article on the Neuron :
cell body, dendrites, and axon. The soma is usually compact; the axon and dendrites are filaments that extrude from it. Dendrites typically branch profusely, getting thinner with each branching, and extending their farthest branches a few hundred micrometres from the soma. The axon leaves the soma at a swelling called the axon hillock, and can extend for great distances, giving rise to hundreds of branches. Unlike dendrites, an axon usually maintains the same diameter as it extends."As an exercise, before continuing, try and see which are the major topics covered in this excerpt. Before you dive in though, let's set some ground-rules : Although neurons are very diverse and there are exceptions to nearly every rule, it is convenient to begin with a schematic description of the structure and function of a "typical" neuron. A typical neuron is divided into three parts: the soma or
- They are not an Index of every word besides "and, a, but, the".
- They are not only the title of a chapter.
- They are not only the title of a major section in a chapter.
- They are common themes that permeate the chapter and/or book to a greater or lesser extent - in larger subject textbooks such as "Biology 101", Topics will be confined mainly to "Parts" or groupings of chapters of the textbook instead of the whole book.
- Always put the textbook name and page number down next to the topic
ComparisonNow you take your topics list and compare it to :
- Your own infrastructure/skeleton
- The Index pages of the textbook/s
- The Topical Index pages of the textbook/s if there are any
The screen-clipping above is from my Logos Bible Software program. In the left section is the passage from John chapter 3 verse 16 and following. In the right column is the related part from a book called the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. This book is, in essence, an extremely detailed cross-referencing system of the whole Bible, and you can see how detailed the cross-referencing system is, by all the different symbols etc.
Classify and Arrange what you have Read and UnderstoodRemember, at this stage, you are not doing any "studying". You aren't necessarily directly applying any of the chunking principles that we have discussed before. However, this aspect of classifying and arranging the information that you have understood is absolutely crucial to help you before you actually begin the task of memorizing, and applying the information to problem-based and equation- or solution-based examinations. 1. Put infrastructure and textbooks side-by-side. As I noted previously, often your lecture notes will be your infrastructure. The lecturers will give you a very good idea as to what type of skeleton they like their subject they want their subject to have; and how to apply that to each lecture. However, not every lecturer is of the same quality. Now that you have gained some degree of understanding, put your lecture "skeleton" next to your textbook/textbooks. This is the crucial question : does the lecture-note skeleton measure up to your understanding of your textbook/s reading?If not, see the next point. 2. Begin to create your own infrastructure. Yes! You are allowed to do this! One of the driving forces of Schooled for Life is that the Student is the one drives the learning, not the lecturer! You are in control of how to arrange the information to suite how you understand and remember that information! But, don't misunderstand me here. I am not saying you are allowed to change the facts themselves. I cannot suddenly barge into my lecturer's office and say "The earth is the centre of the universe." Well, I suppose I could, but I wouldn't exactly get very far within the academic community, would I? No. What I am saying is that the way the infrastructure is arranged and given to you can be changed any way you want it to be changed. 3. Create your own "textbook". We live in the digital age. Scanning sections in textbooks can take seconds. Arranging them can take seconds. What I mean by "Create your own textbook" is that you can now add the relevant information onto the infrastructure that you have now created. If you are short on time, you could simply draw a large skeleton and write page reference numbers with the relevant textbook under each branch or limb of the skeleton. If you have more time, you can literally create your own textbook by digitally using your own infrastructure as a type of Contents Page, and scan the relevant pages from the textbooks and paste them into the pages in a word processor on your computer. Then, either print it out, or use it on your computer as your own textbook. Be sure to reference all the scans. You could also make a large textbook on a wall in your room. Draw the skeleton, and Prestik the scanned sections from the textbooks under each relevant limb of the infrastructure. In the next post, I am going to begin a more detailed look at chunking, and will follow that with a cross-referencing system that will blow your mind!
- Help! I'm stuck! (schooledforlife.com)
- Free textbooks (gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com)
- Follett and Inkling partner to give more digital textbook access (teleread.com)
- Future U: The stubborn persistence of textbooks (arstechnica.com)
- Lectures 101 (schooledforlife.com)
- Cool Tool | Bookboon Makes e-Textbooks Free (edtechdigest.wordpress.com)
- Lectures 102 : What not to do (schooledforlife.com)
- Just Do It (theresurgence.com)