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Do It Right the First Time with Cornell Notes

Today, we’re starting a new series, about note taking methods. And which better to start off with than the Cornell system?

Image copyright Lifehacker

If you haven’t heard of Cornell before, then you’re probably wondering why we should start with it. It’s because the Cornell system has a do-it-right-the-first-time attitude. Very fitting for the first post in the series, don’t you think? This is a very short series, so in the following weeks, we’re going to talk about mind mapping, and outlining for note taking. We’ve already discussed these in terms of brainstorming, but I think that they are slightly different when the content’s being spouted at you like a sprinkler: you don’t know where it’s all going.

I just told you that it works with a do-it-right-the-first-time mindset, but what does this really mean? Well, a lot of other methods require you to rewrite your notes afterwards, because they’re messy, unorganised, or hard to study with. The Cornell system thinks this is wrong, and offers you a way to fix it.

Setting up your page to take Cornell-style notes is as simple as one-two-three.

  1. Title. How are you going to know what the notes are about without a title? You might also want to put the date, in case your notes get scrambled.
  2. Cue Column. Set aside about 1/4 of your page, on either side, for your cues. I’ll explain these in a second.
  3. Summary Box. Mark out a couple of inches at the bottom of your page, and at the end of class, write a summary.

You should now have a blank section in the middle. This is for your actual notes. You didn’t think I’d miss that out did you? Just take notes like you normally would, using different coloured pens, sticky notes, diagrams, whatever you please.

After class, you can fill in the remaining two boxes.

In the cue column, write phrases, ask questions and draw pictures to help you remember the corresponding notes. When you come to study these later, just cover the notes section, and see if you can remember what was there by looking in the cue column.

The summary box does just what you think. It’s really just a simple way to find the notes you’re looking for, and study the right page. Make sure you’re concise, because there really isn’t a lot of room in there.

If you’re looking for more, be sure to check out LifeHacker’s in-depth article.


5 Ways to Improve Your Self-Evaluation

Self-evaluation is the most important aspect of improving yourself, aside from actually doing what is necessary to improve. After all, how can you become better, if you don’t know where your skills are lacking? We’ve talked about evaluation before, in the form of learning journals, asking your teachers, and January’s freebie, the Knowledge and Control of Process eBook. Today, we’re going to talk about it in general, because I know that many people do not understand the full potential of self-evaluation. Here’s 5 ways to be better at self-evaluation.

  1. Make it Personal

    The most important thing about self-assessment is that it is totally personal. While you may ask other for advice, it is up to you whether you choose to take on this advice, or whether you throw it away. There’s no point following someone’s advice if you don’t think it’s worthwhile. It’s also important to make sure that you believe what you’re saying, because if you don’t, how can you believe it can be fixed?

  2. Be Intrinsically Motivated

    By making it personal, you are also providing yourself with an extra incentive for completing your goals. After all, who really likes doing what people tell them? No one, it’s much better when you are doing it for yourself. There is no better motivation for doing something than the pure desire to learn and improve.

  3. Take Your Time

    There isn’t a limit on how much you improve, so why should there be one on how much time you spend thinking of ways? Don’t rush through it, it’s for your eyes only, so you don’t have to worry about feeling dumb. Think over your answers properly, taking time to say what you really want to. And never use the excuse I don’t have time. There is always time. If you can’t seem to find any, try Chris Baty’s Time Finder.

  4. Don’t Be Cynical

    If you’re looking over your evaluation, whether a few weeks, months, or even years after it was written, be positive about what you were saying. If you’re negative, it may stop you from writing again, because it seems stupid, regardless of whether it is or not. That leads us nicely into the final point.

  5. Be Confident

    While it’s good to be wary of your weaknesses, don’t let them get you down, or stop you from writing. Even being critical of previous evaluations will leave you with a lower self-esteem. It’s not only losers who spend time evaluating their work, and you are able to solve your problems if you first identify them.

So that’s it. What did you think? Do you think you’ll give self-evaluation a go? If you’re a seasoned evaluator, what tips do you have for the newbies?

Keeping a Learning Journal

A learning journal, or reflective journal, as it is sometimes called, is really just a collection of your notes, observations, thoughts, and reflections about a lesson, subject or course. It is totally free-form, and there are not set requirements, unless your school or subject find it compulsory. It’s your journal, to do what you want with it. If I’ve lost you already, let me assure you, this is not something you have to do, nor is it one of those lame exercises students are often made to do. If you find it useful, then go ahead and use it. If not, then don’t bother. But at least let me explain the concept, as well as it benefits, and methods for completing it.

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An Introduction: Habits of Mind

I first came across the Habits of Mind when I began high
school. They are an integral part of our education, and I firmly
believe they help students reach their full potential, whether they
realize it or not. Although the Habits of Mind are mocked by
students, the teachers persist in using them in assignments and
lessons, and they eventually reach students. Habits of Mind are not
a quick-fix solution like dieting pills and any product you may see
on any current affairs program. They are meaningful tools that
require effort to make an impact. Like any worthwhile solution, you
should not approach the Habits of Mind as a simple get-smart-quick
scheme. You need to be prepared to put the effort into learning,
incorporating and noticing the Habits.

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