Time Management: The Tomato Method


Monday, April 17, 2017

With readings days fast approaching and finals week close behind, we are all struggling at the end of the semester to find motivation for this last push before the summer break. Ugh, why can’t it be here already? If you’re like me right now, who is so close to feeling burned out, finding the patience and determination to stay focused on small or large tasks seem daunting and unrealistic. One method that I have heard and used as a great strategy for those with short attention spans or low drive would include The Pomodoro Technique, also more simply and commonly known as The Tomato Method.

This time management technique was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. It’s super easy to implement and can increase productivity when doing tasks. Look at it this way: it’s like you have to run miles and miles to get to your destination, but with the Tomato Method, you accomplish this by doing many sprints with short breaks in between. That way you don’t just procrastinate and give up at the beginning of the line. There are tasks when we can just fly through them, but others times, its just such a drag. In a way, this technique is a lot like chunking your time and task. Check out this short 2 minute video that explains how to get started. Here is a quick summary on how to it all works: tumblr_nnjxvcPVbz1senxz2o1_1280

If you want to use some other websites or other apps on your tech besides a simple time keeper, here’s a list from LifeHacker.com that might be useful as well:

  • Marinara Timer (Web) is a webapp we’ve highlighted before that you can keep open in a pinned tab. You can select your timer alerts so you know when to take a break, or reconfigure the work times and break times to suit you. It’s remarkably flexible, and you don’t have to install anything.
  • Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux) is a cross-platform desktop Pomodoro timer that you can fire and forget, following the traditional Pomodoro rules, or use to customize your own work and break periods.
  • Pomodorable (OS X) is a combination Pomodoro timer and to-do app. It offers more visual cues when your tasks are complete and what you have coming up next, and it integrates nicely with OS X’s Reminders app. Plus, you can estimate how many pomodoros you’ll need to complete a task, and then track your progress.
  • Simple Pomodoro (Android) is a free, open-source timer with a minimal aesthetic. Tap to start the timer and get to work, and take your breaks when your phone’s alarm goes off. You can’t do a lot of tweaking to the work and break periods, but you get notifications when to take your breaks and when to go back to work, and you can go back over your day to see how many Pomodoros you’ve accomplished over the day. It even integrates with Google Tasks.
  • Focus Timer (iOS) used to be calledPomodoroPro , and is a pretty feature-rich timer for iPhone and iPad. You can customize work and break durations, review your work history to see how your focus is improving, easily see how much time is left in your work session, and the app even offers a star-based rating system to keep you motivated. You can even customize the sounds, and hear the clock ticking when you lock your phone so you stay on task.

Say “bye bye procrastination!” with this technique. Try it out! Or come into Weingarten to try it out with a Learning Instructor.

Staff Writer: Victoria Singh Gill

Scheduling to Reduce Stress Part 2: Google Calendar Edition


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

As promised, here is part 2 in the scheduling series. This time we will be focusing on the features of Google Calendar to schedule, plan, create and keep track of tasks.

Calculating Hours and Setting up Google Calendar

As in the last article, I recommend starting with a list of your classes and calculated estimated weekly hours needed to maintain academic success. A typical schedule may look like this:

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The next step involved is also the same as before with a few extra steps that will save you time in the long run. Create a schedule in Google Calendar on an hour by hour basis starting first with weekly events (such as classes, meals, meetings, etc.) that are consistent from week to week. Set each weekly item to repeat by clicking on “edit event” in the event creation pop up box. Below the time and date you’ll see a checkbox to repeat the event. Once you check the box, you’ll see a pop up that allows you to select different options:

Repeat box

 

I recommend setting the repeats to automatically end on the last day of classes. This is an important step because when you set up notifications later on, you won’t be left with notifications over the summer that you get used to ignoring.

 

Once you’ve finished building the schedule, it should look something like this:

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Calendar Notifications and How to Use Them

Google calendar has a multitude of notification options and I suggest trying out different ones to see what works for you. There are options for SMS notifications, traditional phone notifications and a daily agenda. The daily agenda is a rarely used and well hidden feature that I highly recommend. The daily agenda is an email agenda sent automatically every morning at 5am to your Gmail account that gives you an hour by hour schedule to follow for the day. You can turn on the daily agenda by clicking the small gear icon at the top right of the screen under your Google avatar then select the following: settings> calendars. Then find your main calendar and on the same row select “edit notifications.” On the next screen you’ll see many options to add notifications but scroll to the bottom to find the “daily agenda” and click the checkbox to activate it. The other options are available for both hourly events and all-day events with distinct options for both including email, SMS and notifications (via phone or browser).

Using Google Tasks with Google Calendar

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 2.45.07 PMIf you’re using Google Calendar for your scheduling, I highly recommend using the integrated Google Tasks function along with the calendar. It is somewhat limited in that tasks are only available on the desktop version and not the app, but the seamless integration is worth the minor inconvenience. By default, Google Calendar integrates “reminders” in place of tasks. To use tasks to you have to click the small triangle next to the reminders option and choose “switch to tasks” as seen in the screenshot above. Once you switch to tasks you can now add a task either by adding an item to the task list on the left-hand side or to a specific day. To add a task to a specific day, click on the day the same way you would to add an event and you’ll see an option to switch from event to task in the create an event popup widget.

Once you add tasks they will show up on the task list, and on the calendar day if they are added to specific date.

 

Staff Writer: Randall Perez

 

Technology: Apps for Group Work Collaboration (GroupMe, Slack, GoogleDocs)


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

You hate it, I hate it; yet everyone assigns it: group work.  Before the internet, group work consisted of wrangling everyone for their availability before finally getting together in person and just wasting away a full day when really, we know one or two people will finish the whole thing. Nowadays,  thankfully, we live in the 21st century and no longer have to be bogged down with that outdated and fully infuriating methods. With technological advancement, so many apps and programs are geared towards collaboration and can be carried out remotely according to one’s own pace. In this blog post, the commonly used ones such as GroupMe, Slack, and Google Docs/Slides are covered.

GroupMe: Owned by Microsoft, GroupMe is a mobile group messaging and photo sharing app. It’s free, works on every device, and is geared towards working with multiple groups. For example, people usually have a group chat for family, friends, coworkers, clubs, etc. Here, students can create a group chat and plan when, where, and if to meet. Or simply, discuss how to divide and conquer and then casually check in for any questions, comments, or concerns. Each group member gets to decide who they want to interact in the chat on their own. For more detailed steps on how to use GroupMe, click here. Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 1.43.24 PM

Slack: If you’re looking for a more professional and business feel, users tend to prefer Slack over GroupMe. Slack has a free version and is an app for all devices. What makes this more professional than GroupMe is that it has not only messaging capabilities but also voice, video calling, and file sharing. With that comes a search and archiving features too.  “Channels” are like chat rooms and where projects are discussed. For more info on how to use Slack, click here.

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Google Docs/Slides: Google Docs was created to compete with Microsoft Word and Google Slides was created to compete with Microsoft Powerpoint. What Google has on these programs is that it is all online and can be collaborative and worked on in real time. If you have a gmail account, you automatically have access to these programs as part of your Google Drive. They are free and online and just because you don’t have internet doesn’t mean you can’t stuff done either. You can see people make changes to the documents as they type it in (if you’re logged on at the same time) and also leave comments on the side for to update the team on your thoughts and feedback. Again, like the others, these tools are available across all devices. For more detailed support on Google Slides, click here and for Google Docs, click here.

 

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Google Docs Sample

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Google Slides Sample

For more one on one consultation on a current group project, paper, or presentation, feel free to come into Weingarten for support! How do you use these apps? Leave a comment below if you want!

Staff writer: Victoria Singh Gill

Bigger Pictures: Keep It Classy, Quakers


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

“Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers”   ~  Sana, Weston & Cepeda

Is it even possible to run a spoiler alert before the title of an academic paper?  Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers.  Talk about ruining the ending.

In any case, I’m not planning to rehash the paper – I trust you can read that for yourself, and I hope you do.  What I am going to talk about is something far more basic.

So, first, a question:  how many times have you yourself watched another student “multitasking” during class?  I’m not talking about watching someone type lecture notes, I mean watching somebody respond to their email, update their Facebook status, check out 21 Adorable Child Stars Who Grew Up Sooo Ugly?

Okay, now how many times has that been you?

Yeah, I know.  But don’t worry.  It’ll be our secret.  Not that you and I keeping our mouths shut about these multitasking indiscretions matters, because someone else knows, too.  Do you know who that is?

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That’s right, your professor.  More than likely, your TA as well.  Don’t think for one minute that the person tasked with operating the front of the house is somehow clueless about what’s going on out there in the rest of the room.  They see.  They know.  Some of them even keep tabs.

But even that’s not the bigger issue here.  Sure, it is bad if you don’t get the full 10% for class participation.  That piece of the final grade might make the difference between a B+ or an A-, and I always advise students to never leave points on the table.  The bigger issue here is that “multitasking” during class is, quite simply, rude.  Your actions tell your teacher that what’s going on in the front of the room is far less interesting and of far less import than what’s going on in social media.  So don’t do it.  It’s not nice to passively insult these people.

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Resources:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131512002254

Tech Tuesday: Duolingo


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A great app that’s been deemed “fun and addictive” when it comes to learning a new language would be Duolingo. Here is a quick breakdown of the app:

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If you have any experinces with this app, let us know your thoughts on it in the comment section below!

Staff Writer: Victoria Gill

Sources: 

Duolingo Review: The Quick, Easy and Free Way to Learn A Language

Duolingo Review

Tech Tuesday: New Presentation Platforms- Prezi, Animoto, and Glogster


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

This post is for those who want to move on and beyond the traditional, good old fashioned PowerPoint presentation style. This post is for those who are wanting to “spice” up their presentations and update them to this 21st century. Behold, I give you 3 semi-new platforms:

Prezi

Prezi is more and more becoming mainstream as an alternative representation platform. Although it takes more time than typing up text and copying and pasting a photo like for PowerPoint, it is worth the time to set up a Prezi. There are plenty of templates to choose from with cool and relevant themes. Here are some positives that come with Prezi beside the cool way the presentation moves:

  • it’s collaborative, work on a presentation as a group
  • easy to share and download
  • easily include pictures, YouTube videos, links, and audio
  • there’s a basic profile that’s always free
  • You can create it online and present from anywhere and any device. Like really, any device including your phone, tablet, computer.

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Animoto

Animoto is more of a video slideshow. What makes this platform different is that it could be used more of a presentation hook or opener. This fact makes Animoto actually extremely versatile in that you can use it for academic or business presentations as well as for personal reasons. You can create a video slideshow about a project or product for school and also learn how to create a simple video documenting your crazy time at Coachella with friends. The possibilities are unlimited. Here are some main features to care about for Animoto:

  • easily add any photos and music after selecting a template from the many options
  • easily produce your videos and share
  • can download the app for your Ipad or for Andriod as well
  • the free trial is 14 days

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Glogster

I saved the best for last! Glogster is my new favorite presentation platform because it’s like having a multimedia, digital posterboard! When I first started using Glogster a few years ago with my own students, I saw how easy and fun it was for them to create and express themselves. Here are the main details about Glogster:

  • there’s a one-time $10 app fee; download on your computer, phone, or tablet
  • easy photos, videos, graphics, and sound features on your poster
  • various creative templates to choose from whether it’s for school, business, or personal presentations
  • everything on your poster is interactive

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For more information or help with starting a presentation utilizing one or more of these formats, come into Weingarten and meet with a learning instructor. Also, if you want support with Powerpoint, we’ll help you too! Just want to practice your presentation with someone? We’ll be your guinea pigs. With these exciting presentation platforms, you’ll surely impress your next audience.

Staff writer: Victoria Gill

Tech Tuesday: Coggle, A Mind Mapping App


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mind maps are a great tool for not only organizing your arguments and ideas for a paper or presentation, but also for organizing information you need to know as a way to study for an exam. Consider mind maps as a way to neatly and visually organize all the information you need or want on topics. Coggle is a free website where this can be done. Here are the benefits of using this platform:

  • it’s always free
  • do real-time collaboration on a project with a partner or group. Partners can comment and chat. Track changes are available (like Google Docs)
  • upload PDFs or images to include in your mind map
  • it’s user friendly. You don’t have to know complicated features to use it or to create stunning visual mind maps
  • download the mind maps for studying later,  or include in a paper, or print out for presentations
  • easily share your mind map with others

Check out these sample Coggle mind maps!

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For more information or practice on how to use it, come into the Weingarten Learning and Resources Center anytime!

Staff Writer: Victoria Gill

Basic Digital Annotation Software


Friday, March 25, 2016

In today’s digital age it is rare to have professors who ask you to purchase bounded bulk-packs of printed readings for class. Over my past four years as a full-time graduate student, for example, I have only been required to purchase this sort of reading material for one course. Campus wide technology systems, like Canvas, allow professors to seamlessly upload and deliver documents digitally. Some students opt to print these readings (and sometimes more than one copy). Nevertheless, many of us have had to be resourceful and figure out how to make digital reading work for us. If you’re among those of us working with technology to make reading more active and engaging, check out the following readily available annotation tools that have worked for the students I work with at Weingarten and myself.

Adobe For most computers, Adobe is a default application that allows you to share, open, annotate, edit, and markup documents. As it is a common application it works rather well across devices and operating systems and allows you to make digital reading more active. As part of its standard features are the following powerful tools:

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Ranging from functions that highlight, underline, cross-out, or add text these functions allow you to actively engage with the texts you are reading. I recently shared these annotation tools with a medical student who was interested in improving her note-taking strategies. While she found all of the tools useful she identified the pointed text boxes, as we referred to them, as “revolutionary” since they allow her to take notes on graphs and diagrams without altering their nature, a problem she had in the past.

There is a caveat to the Annotation features on Adobe. Not all of the text-specific functions work if your document has been scanned. Adobe reads these documents as images and therefore does not recognize text lines. You can optimize your readings for this to occur rather easily if you choose to invest in a more sophisticated Adobe version (insert link here). Shapes, thought-bubbles, and all of the Drawing Markups continue to work on these imaged documents.

Preview Similar to Adobe, Preview is a standard application for Mac computers. Preview’s tool layout is rather intuitive to understand and work with. In my experience I’ve found that Preview’s functions are quicker than Adobe’s by a slight margin. Perhaps this is due to the application’s specificity to Macs.

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Different from Adobe, Preview allows you to highlight in not one but FIVE different colors which makes strategic highlighting a reality. Another one of the functions I am a fan of in Preview is the ease with which colors are available for shapes. This function is also available on Adobe but requires a bit more clicking.

Like Adobe, some of the text-specific features like highlighting do work if your document is a scanned PDF or book chapter. Also like Adobe, shapes, underlining, and text-boxes continue to work on this sort of document.

Adobe and Preview are the most accessible annotation tools for computers given their robust, universal, and straight-forward designs. If you are interested in more sophisticated digital reading, sorting, and storing systems visit our colleagues at Weigle Information Commons for an extensive collection of tutorials on different programs. Next week, a guest author and I will share specific reading strategies to continue our exploration of digital reading.

Staff Writer: Erica Saldívar García

Tech Tuesday: Study with Spotify


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Midterms may have come and gone, allowing you to take a moment to breathe but finals are looming near and fast approaching. With around 6 weeks left of the semester, it’s time to mentally get into “hyper-focused” mode. Although there are many techniques and strategies that assist you in keeping your concentration, listening to music can be a way to increase academic performance. Ever heard of the “Mozart effect” (Rauscher et. al, 1993)? The study conducted by researchers Rauscher et. al (1993) revealed that by listening to Mozart for around 10 minutes, subjects were able to significantly improve their spatial reasoning skills. In addition, according to other and more recent researchers, “listening to a pleasant music while performing an academic test helped students to overcome stress due to cognitive dissonance, to devote more time to more stressful and more complicated tasks and the grades were higher” (Cabanac, et. al, 2013).

Of course, you might not get beautiful sonatas to listen to while taking your exams, but this a nice strategy to use while studying. At the very least, it could help with decreasing stress levels. Spotify is a free music radio app that can be downloaded from their website for any electronic device (laptop, phone, tablet). Once it’s downloaded, create your own playlist with any type of music that you think will help you stay focused. Or you can go into the “browse” section and click on pre-ready made “Focus” playlists. Whatever your taste may be, you might find it. There are playlists titled from “Electronic Study Music” to “Epic All Nighters”. Who doesn’t want a soundtrack to their life and why not even during the times of intense academic work? Here are some of my favorites:

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Fig. 1: General “Focus” playlist page. Scroll down this page within the app to find a playlist you like.

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Fig. 2: The “Peaceful Piano” playlist have some of the most relaxing piano pieces for when you are working at a slower and calmer pace.

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Fig. 3: The “Cello 50” playlist is a powerful collection of some of the most celebrated cello pieces. This helps me focus but also stay pumped and motivated to keep studying/writing.

References

Cabanac, A., Perlovsky, L., Bonniot-Cabanac, M., & Cabanc, M. (2013). Music and academic

performance. Behavioral Brain Research. Volume 256:1. Pgs. 257-260.

Rauscher, F.H., Shaw, G.L., Ky, K.N. (1993). Music and spatial task performance. Nature. Oct

                  14; 365(6447):611.


Staff Writer:  Victoria Gill

 

 

 

Tech Tuesday: How to Activate the Dictation Feature on Your Mac


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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Tired of typing papers? Or maybe you’re just really not feeling like typing and want to dictate your notes, thoughts, or next assignment? If you have a Mac, use these simple 8 steps to get the dictation on your computer working instead of paying loads of money for the Dragon software or other apps:

1. Go to the apple menu

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2. Click on system preferences

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3. Towards the bottom, click on “Dictation & Speech”

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4. Click “on”

5. Then click “Use Enhanced Dictation”

6. Let the “enhanced” version download really quick. Should be less than 3-5 minutes depending how good your internet connection is.

7. You can use this feature in Word Documents or even in other note-taking applications like Evernote!

8. Press the “fn” (function) key twice to activate! Let the paper writing begin!

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Staff Writer: Victoria Rodriguez

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