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Choosing the Right Extra Curriculas

I’m not going to rant and rave about how you need extra curricular activities, because we all know they’re important, and why. But because a lot of people just talk about their extra curricular activities, they do either two things: 1) try to fit in as many as they can, and become floaters in the group, or 2) they are so concerned about finding the right pick, they end up without any at all. Neither are ideal, so it’s important you understand what you need to look for in an extra curricular, and what sort of variety you should have.

I tend to split the extra-curricular activities in the following ways:

  • Academic
  • Community
  • Recreational / Creative
  • Leadership

With each item as important as the next.


You don’t have to be a top student to be involved in academic activities. For those that are, there are probably things like Science, Mathematics, Technology, and Gifted clubs that you could be involved in, or competitions that you can enter. By the way, just because competitions are a one-off thing, they are still extra curriculars, and if you do well, they can look great on college applications. If you don’t want to spend your lunchtimes learning more things, you could join a homework group, or study group, which shows you have the initiative to seek help when necessary, and can even give you a boost to that B or A grade you’ve been looking for.


Giving back to the community serves to purposes: it makes you feel great, and colleges love it. You might want to focus on your school, your local area, your state, your country, or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, the world. Some examples are volunteering for a charity, raising awareness and funds for an issue the area is facing, helping the disadvantaged or just organising a fundraiser every so often. You’d be surprised at how addicting helping others can be.

Recreational / Creative

Some people are sports people. Some people are creative. If you’re neither, now’s a great time to try. Having a little down time in your life is great, and recreational activities are the way to go. You might say that playing a game of soccer isn’t relaxing, but it sure is a great stress reliever. And who knows, you might be an undiscovered superstar! Being able to step back from school, while not the most obvious choice for impressing people, shows that you are willing to try new things, particularly if you’re extra curriculars list is plastered with Science awards and charity hours.


The great thing about this is that you can probably combine it with one of your groups. Leadership doesn’t always mean having the title of President or Captain. Often, it’s the unnoticed leadership that is the most important. However, if you’re a great leader, you’ll be elected anyway. You could try taking a more active role in your charity, or taking on the leadership of a younger group of students in an area you’re interested in, or becoming your school’s newspaper editor.

There you have it. I hope this will help you when you’re signing up to extra curriculars. Just bear in mind two things. Don’t do stuff you know you’re going to hate, but at the same time, keep trying new stuff. How does meditation sound? Or pottery?

How to Set-Up a Killer Learning Journal on Your Computer Part I

I told you yesterday that I’m a lazy slacker. Well, to make up for that, I’m going to be starting a new series in the TechSavvy category. I’m really excited about this one, because I’m all for new technology. So what is it? I’m going to be teaching you how to set up a blog, using PyroCMS, on your own computer (not on the internet), that you can use for a Learning Journal [link to post]. We’ll take it slowly, and you can definitely contact me using the form if you need some help. I’ll try to be as clear as possible, but I can’t guarantee anything.

First of all, we need to set up XAMPP on your computer. This is pretty much a web server, but it’s not connected to the web. It will allow PyroCMS to run. But wait, what’s a CMS? A Content-Management System pretty much allows you to publish a website without writing a single-piece of code. However, for this you need a database, and a server-side programming language. You won’t need to worry about any of these. Just know that you need them, and XAMPP provides them. Let’s get started then.

Navigate to the XAMPP homepage and scroll down till you find your system (Mac, Windows, Linux). Then download the installer from the page it links to. It’s a really simple download, I’m sure you’ll be able to complete it.  If you need help, there are instructions on the download page, or contact me using the form. Or Google search.

XAMPP Home Page

Once it’s installed, you’ll be able to open something like this up. It’s the XAMPP Control Panel, and will be wherever your other applications are.  All you need  to do is start Apache and MySQL. Once again, don’t worry about what these are. If at any time you can’t open your web page, make sure that these are both running.

Just to make sure everything is working, type http://localhost into your browsers address bar. Leave out the www. and the .com, otherwise it will get confused. If everything has run correctly, you should see the following page:

Next, you need somewhere to store your data on your website. Navigate to http://localhost/phymyadmin . On the home page, you’ll see this. Input something like learning_journal_db , and leave everything else. Also, make sure to take note of this for later.

Now, we need to create a user, in the privileges section (top bar). Simply add a new user. Input the data as so, and check all the global privileges. The rest of the settings can remain as they are. Hit go, and you’re done. Make sure to save your username and password as well. That’s all for the database stuff. Now you can install PyroCMS.

Open up and hit the huge download button. Save the zip file anywhere. Unzip it to the following location: C:\xampp\htdocs\pyrocms (Create the last folder). Give it time to load, then zoom on over to http://localhost/pyrocms. This will take your through the install process.

Use the settings from before for step 1, easy.

Step 2 just tells you what you do and don’t have. As long as the mandatory requirements are there, you don’t need to sweat.

Step 3 is just making sure it can make changes, and it’s usually already done. If not, access the folders stated here, and using right-click> properties, set the folders to writable.
The first section of step 4 is from before (learning_journal_db), and the second bit is just like any other normal sign up form.

Easy as pie, right? If you want, you can go to the control panel, or the website, and get familiar, but we’ll be going over that in the next post. I’ll also show you how to install a theme, and give you one that I’ve designed specifically for you guys. Oops, I think I said too much. Oh well, the cat’s out of the bag now.

I hope you’ve learnt something new, see you next week,


Frequent Study

BASIX: This section is designed for the study newbie. Sure, you’ve been at school for years, but that doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it properly. Get up to scratch here.

Tell the truth, how long before a test do you start studying for it? When you first find out, a fortnight before, in the week leading up to, or in the early hours of the morning before you sit down to take the test? None of these are good enough for long-term retention of the material.

What you study, how you study and how often your repeat it will definitely impact your performance under pressure. I’m not saying that studying is the end-all and be-all of test taking, and you should definitely check out Three Important Factors in Taking Tests, from Study Successful. It’s a great resource if you’re worried about your game-day performance.

So when’s the best time to start studying? As soon as you learn the material. At the end of each day, or lesson, if you are afforded the luxury, it is important to review, however briefly, the material covered in class. This is the first step in learning your material over time.

It is well-known the cramming is not the best way to learn new material. This is because the material isn’t reviewed after a longer period of time that a few days. In this case, answering questions becomes recalling information from your short-term memory, rather than the long-term. While it may be easier to take information from the thoughts that are placed on the desk, those found in the storage cabinet will become easier to find over time, so to speak.

Information needs to be reviewed frequently, but how often? Many students, teachers and academics following this schedule: review after five minutes, 24 hours, seven days, 30 days, and 120 days. This is best suited to longer topics. If you are beginning a topic, and the test is in six weeks, you may wish to alter the schedule to something like review after five minutes, 18 hours, five days, 20 days and 42 days. Like all techniques, you need to find out what best suits you and your situation.

Just to be clear, I’m not urging you to use this method for all your tests. For example, I would use it for a Maths test, because topics are usually related to one another. But I would always cram for a Vietnamese test. This isn’t because I think the subject is stupid, or boring, but because the way the class is taught, only the basics need to be memorised, and because I won’t continue the subject further than at a beginners level. It’s pretty much user-discretion so make your own judgment call.

What do you think? Don’t be shy, let us know in the comments.

Closing One Door Opens Another

Have you ever really loved a topic, or a course, and been really disappointed when it finished? Then you’ve been missing out an on excellent opportunity.

Students have a common mindset; once I don’t need to learn any more information, I stop. This is a problem if you’re looking to put yourself ahead of your peers. The desire for more information spoke of in the introductory passage is the Habit of Mind Remaining Open to Continuous Learning. If you have the desire to go beyond the course material, it can only be beneficial. Read More…

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.

Read More…