S3EP3: Textbook study and markups

The Autodidactic Podcast
The Autodidactic Podcast
S3EP3: Textbook study and markups
/

Welcome to the audodidactic podcast season three, episode three. If you’re a new listener welcome aboard and if your a returning listener welcome back.

In season one I covered a lot of the methods regarding how to be an autodidactic, and in season two I covered autodidactics of the past and some of the methods they used for self learning. This season I’m doing a series called “My Destupidifacation”. I will be using all of the techniques and methods I’ve discussed previously to show these techniques in action. However, since a lot of the techniques require some elements that are best shown visually I decided to show what I’m doing on my YouTube channel.

I’ve really been struggling to do all of the study for this season and all of the projects I have ongoing. I counted up all the projects I have and I’ve got 21 project in trail right now. You may be aware that I write books both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve got two fiction books to complete which are already twelve months over due, and I’ve got a non-fiction book proposal to complete before the end of next month. I’ll put some links in the show notes if anyone is interested.

Later in the season I’m going to try and cover off some time management techniques I’ve been using, but also show how to prioritize and juggle some tasks.

However, this week on the Autodidactic podcast I’m going to look at textbook study, and creation of quizzes for yourself as you learn.

I’ve done two complete episodes on textbooks studies in season one. Episode seven and episode eight are both about studying textbooks. I recommend you listen to both of these if you haven’t already done so.

In season one, episode seven I discussed how to read a textbook to increase comprehension and retention of information using one of the three different study methods I described. These three methods were: P2R, SQ3R and S-SUN-R. There are probably at least a dozen different systems developed to help students understand what they read, and they’re all very similar but these are three of the most popular. You probably want to use a combination of these methods.

The first one we’re gonna talk about is a three step approach called P2R (or Previewing, Reading and Reviewing) and it’s designed for textbooks from easy to average level of difficulty. This isn’t for the really difficulty or information dense textbooks, but easier level or average level.

The first step is to preview a chunk of the textbook, e.g. ten pages, one section, one chapter. Something small and defined. You skim through this section, reading the section headings, or first sentence of the paragraphs, anything in bold print or italics, have a look at any figures, tables or charts. While you are doing this note down any questions this might bring up. You’ll try to look out for answers to your questions when you start active reading.

Once you’ve previewed, write down any information you gleaned while previewing Right yourself some sample questions, write a brief summary of what you think you’re going to get and then move on to active reading.

During active reading you are typically highlighting things, or putting notes in the margins, or writing in your notebook. Keep in mind when you’re when you’re highlighting. You’re just trying to highlight things that will be useful and relevant in summary later.

After you’ve completed your chunk of reading or at the end of the chapter, you need to review and do something to reinforce the important information. Now there’s a number of ways that you can review the text material, but the four most common ones are.

  • First, you look at your highlighted entries or the notes, and you read them aloud. You write questions in the margin of your text or notes at the end of each chunk, and then when you finished reading the entire chapter, you recite the answers to your questions
  • Secondly, used the headings to recite the key information on cover the details with your hand and then recite using only the headings as a clue.
  • The third ways to do some or any exercises or questions they may have at the end of chapter. Many textbooks have this sort of thing, at the end of chapters.
  • And finally, you can take the end of chapter tests or online test to review and monitor what you’re learning.

You can use SQ3R for more complex textbooks, but you can also use it for the easy ones.

SQ3R was developed by a fellow called Frances Robinson in 1941 on is probably one of the most widely taught system. SQ3R is an acronym for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. And this time we have five steps.

the five steps are:

Survey- you survey the chapter before you read it. You go through the chapter quickly, you glance at the headings, you read the final paragraph to get a general idea and the main points so very similar to the previous method and then question.

Question – Before you begin to read each headed section of your chapter, you turn the heading into a question. For example, you may have a heading “housing population” and so you would typically turn that into a question.

Read – So the next step is to read the material underneath the heading to try and find the answer to the question which you generated. Turning heading into a question helps you focus your reading, and the reading in this section helps you locate the answer to your question. Hopefully, and so you’ll get actively involved in the reading material. As you read the selection, see if you can answer your question and then the next bit is recite.

Recite – So at the end of the section the headed section, recite the answer to the question that you formulated. Recite the answer in your own words, though, so that it’s a summary without looking back at the text. And if you can’t recall part or all of the answer, then go back to the section again and then try and jot down the answer in a sort of an outline or a summary form. But don’t take any notes until you’ve read the entire section, and then the next step, the final step is review.

Review – So after you finished reading through entire chapter, look over the notes that you made to familiarize yourself with the important information and then check your memory by covering up your notes and reciting the main points out loud, and then cover each point in your notes and recite subordinate points that you’ve noted. So this type of review should only take five minutes because you’re only review in a very small subset of what you’ve, that you’re only studying a small subset.

The final system I want to talk to you about is called S-RUN-R. The S-RUN-R system was developed by a lady Nancy Bailey. This combines review steps to better help you with your comprehension because you’re focusing on one section at the time. This is also a useful technique for difficult or advanced textbooks which are, information dense.

The five steps here are:

S, survey

R, read

U, underline,

N, note taking

R, review

I cover this in detail in the season one, episode seven podcast and it would take too long to got through it all again here, so I recommend you go back the listen to that podcast. The advantage of using this particular system is that it highlights all the important information in every section in every paragraph, and it increases repetition as well, because you get more repetition of the important points because you’re not just highlighting it.

So how do you go about marking up your textbook? The main two methods are underlining or marking with a pencil. You can use either, but I would recommend that you use a highlighter, since this forces you to read a second time. You might think you get the same effect with underlining but studies have shown that people tend to look at the pencil like rather than the words. Highlighting doesn’t have this disadvantage.

When marking, markup sentences where possible. If you ‘re highlighting keywords, then you need to use linking to connect them together. While marking just try to remember to mark things in a way that they’ll make sense when you review a month or six months later. This is why it is better to mark meaningful phrases instead of just words.

Diversity is great, but not when it comes to text highlighting. You’ve probably seen people who have 10 different colour highlighters and they have one colour for facts, one for opinion, one for keywords, another colour for examples, etcetera. I would advise against this. It makes you think more about the colouring than the content. Using two colours is really the maximum.

What to mark? Headings, subheadings, main ideas, supporting details, definitions, examples, and statistics are important. Mark the main ideas of the section. Main ideas are the general statements that the author makes about the topic. The main idea statement, or topic sentence, is generally found in the first or second sentence of a paragraph.

Look for definitions, examples, facts, statistics, and signal words. Lists or enumerations, like definitions, should almost always be highlighted. Don’t omit information included in charts, graphs, and other diagrams. The information under photos, in footnotes, and in boxed features is also important to your understanding of the material.

For Math or Science books make sure to highlight all formulas, as well as any problems.

Remember you don’t want to over mark, it will simply increase your review times! If you highlight everything, you might as well just read the book again.

Be sure you’re not under-marking as well. You need to get all the important information, and not miss anything, without marking too much. So you need to be like goldilocks and mark it just right. Practice will help here more than anything else. As you get experience in marking and reviewing later you’ll find the sweet spot.

You also need to use your highlighting to generate self-tests and quizzes. You use these markings and turn them into questions which your future self can be tested on and review. It will help you to solidify your knowledge and make sure you’re retaining what you need.

I’ll show you on the YouTube channel how I use a pdf reader called Okular to highlight pdf’s and show you how to generate quizzes into text files which can then be combined into tests or examinations.

I will post any links to the YouTube channel on the autodidactic website and in the transcription of this podcast. The transcriptions and the links are at https://autodidactic.info

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding this series or any of the previous series you can contact me at rick@autodidactic.info. Or post a comment on the website or on the YouTube channel.

That you for listening and I hope to see you next week.


Last weeks update on YouTube

S3EP2: Getting resources, using mnemonics, and filling out a retrospective timetable for the destupidification challenge

The Autodidactic Podcast
The Autodidactic Podcast
S3EP2: Getting resources, using mnemonics, and filling out a retrospective timetable for the destupidification challenge
/

Welcome to the audodidactic podcast season three, episode two. If you’re a new listener welcome aboard and if your a returning listener welcome back. I’m sorry for the delay in getting the podcast out this week. I underestimated the amount of time that video editing for the YouTube channel in order to do a simultaneous release would take.

In season one I covered a lot of the methods regarding how to be an autodidactic, and in season two I covered autodidactics of the past and some of the methods they used for self learning. This season I’m doing a series called “My Destupidifacation”.

In season three I will be using all of the techniques and methods I’ve discussed previously to show these techniques in action. However, since a lot of the techniques require some elements that are best shown visually I decided to show what I’m doing on my YouTube channel.

Therefore each week on the Autodidactic podcast I’m am going to cover the creation of lesson plans, the creation of self quizzes, the methods I am using to learn, how I’m going to find resources for learning, et cetera. Then on my YouTube channel I’m going to review at the end of each week how well I did and try to show visually what I did. So the idea is for example episode three of the Autodidactic podcast will be published at the same time as the video which shows the methods I discussed on the episode 2 podcast and the results.

I am hoping that listeners will be able to get value from seeing how I am using the methods which I discussed in seasons one and two in the real world.

To make this a little more challenging I have also decided all of the resources that I use should be free and legal. So this means I will be getting resources of the Internet or from the public library system, et cetera. I want to show that it is possible to do self-directed, self-learning with very little investment.

So this week on the Autodidactic podcast I’m going to look at getting resources, using mnemonics, and completion of a study plan using retrospective timetable.

Getting Resources

I have done my initial assessment of what I want to learn, how much I already know and how much time I want to allot to each topic. So the next thing is to find some resources. I covered finding study resources in Season 1 Episode 4 of the podcast. So you might want to go back an listen to that if you’ve not heard it already.

The resources you’re able to get will be very likely to impact your time allocations. For example, you might discover there are not textbooks available, and you need to log a lot of time watching videos.

In my study plan I have already created a list of topics for which I need materials, and the preferred material for me is something to read. I prefer written materials because it gives me the ability to skim parts, or skip things I already know. Unlike video presentations where I would more or less need to watch the entire thing. For written material I would prefer to have something from a recognised university or publisher when ever possible.

It is possible to find these books online as well as in the local library. It is only when a search for these fails that I would fall back on to YouTube videos, or perhaps Khan Academy videos. Not because the information isn’t accurate, but more because of the time cost associated with this type of medium.

For this season I’m not going to use any paid resources to get my study materials. You’ll remember that one of the constraints was not to spend money on resources or materials. This is obviously an artificial constraint which I’ve given myself. However, I’m going to ignore all the paid resources which I listed in season one, episode 4.

Typically my local library would be my first point of call, but I decided that because of the time it would take to find and then reserve the textbooks I would try an online search first.

There are a number of organisations and people who release textbooks under a creative Commons or public domain licence. You can download a number of these directly from the sites. An Internet search will provide you with a number of other sites but I will give these three honourable mention.

people.math.gatech.edu

openculture.com/free_textbooks

open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/

I managed to find just about all the textbooks I needed from the last one the Open Textbook Library. I managed to find textbooks for Physics, Human Geography, Physical Geography, Probability, and Chemistry. While these are college level textbooks, I downloaded the introductory textbooks where I could. This is because my aim is high school level knowledge not university level in these topics. For statistics I already have a physical book which I’ll use.

A problematic topic for me was British history. There aren’t any online textbooks so I went to the local library and placed a couple of books on-hold. Luckily for me my local library has an online interface where I can search for the books and then reserve them. When they are ready they are delivered to my local library for pickup. In the meanwhile I’ll either not do any study or attempt to find something else online.

I couldn’t find a Biology textbook online which I wanted. So I have decided to watch some videos which are available on the Khan Academy website.

Finally I turned my attention to English literature and needed to find some poetry, works from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries as well as something written by Bill Shakespeare. Do I headed off first to Project Gutenberg who’s mission is “To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.”

Here I found all of the works of Shakespeare and a ton of literature to choose from. If you’re looking for books or literature from the past this is a great place to visit.

That took took care of most of my resource needs and I then needed to turn my attention to mnemonics.

Using Mnemonics

In season 1 episode 6 I covered the usage of mnemonics for remembering things you need to learn. Mnemonics is a word derived from the old Greek Goddess of memory. You can listen to the season 1 episode 6 podcast for the full details on this subject. But I plan to use a number of mnemonics techniques in my season 3 challenge.

So a quick reminder of the techniques:

  • Rhyming
  • Storytelling or Chain System
  • Sentence Systems
  • POA (Person Object Action)
  • System of Loci
  • Acronyms

The techniques I’ll be using will be:

  • POA / Dominic method
  • Story / Chain System
  • Sentence systems

The Dominic method is named after it’s inventor, 8 times memory champion Dominic O’Brien. It is a PA (or person-action) system where you memorise the numbers 0-100 where each number is represented by a person and each person has an action. Because I’ve previously memorised the 0-100 person and action list for myself I can now use this system confidently to memorise other numbers. For example I’ve already memorised PI to 50 decimal places.

The Story system is where you chain together images in order to remember disparate things. So you might imagine a story. For example if I want to remember the 3 things required for photosynthesis, sunlight, water, carbon dioxide. I might make up a story where I am walking around in a hothouse will of plants, but the sunlight is do bright it is making me sweat, and the water pours off me like a river, the only way to stop the sweat is to soak it up with a huge towel that says carbon dioxide on it.

Sentence systems are things I used to use to remember things, but might not be accurate any longer, such as: My Very Excited Mother Just Served Us New Potatoes.

Of course now that scientists have demoted Pluto from being a planet, I need a new sentence to memorise the planets in order from the sun.

For phone numbers, birthdays, for my family and friends I will probably use a combination of the Story and Dominic methods.

Creation of a Retrospective Timetable

I’ll also create a Retrospective Timetable which is related to the Retrospective Revision Timetable which I mentioned in Season 1 episode 11. If you go back and listen to that podcast you can see that I’m actually adapting the methods I talked about then to fit my requirements now. All the methods which I’ve talked about in the show can be modified to fit your needs and objectives.

Retrospective Revision Timetable is when you list all the subjects and topics which you need to review for a test, then you do a review and flag the review with the date you did it, and how well you did, Green, Amber, Red. Then the next time you sit down to review, you pick something you haven’t yet done. After you’ve done them all you go back and do all the topics you flagged as red, then keep doing that until you’ve eliminated all the red, and work you way through the yellow, then the green. The idea here is that you’ll only be studying the things you are worst at in order to bring them up to a green level. There isn’t any point wasting time before your examination on things you already know.

A Retrospective Timetable is similar, but because you are using this to study not to review, you flag things slightly differently. First you list all the topics to be studied, just like before, then you study them, making sure to study each thing. Each time you study you again flag it as red, amber, green, but here you are only saying how difficult you are finding the topic or the textbook you’re studying. You flag this because it can be an indicator that you might have selected material that is too high a level or too low a level for you. It can help you to identify when you need to find more help or perhaps more difficult materials.

The ideal would be marking everything with amber (yellow) to indicate that this material is “just right” as goldilocks would say.

I’ll be showing my completed Retrospective Timetable on the YouTube channel and I’ll show some of the techniques for mnemonics. I will post links to the YouTube channel on the autodidactic website and in the transcription of this podcast. The transcriptions and the links are at https://autodidactic.info

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding this series or any of the previous series you can contact me at rick@autodidactic.info. Or post a comment on the website or on the YouTube channel.

That you for listening, and I hope to see you next week.

S3EP1: My Destupidifacation Project

The Autodidactic Podcast
The Autodidactic Podcast
S3EP1: My Destupidifacation Project
/

Welcome to the audodidactic podcast season three, episode one. If you’re a new listener welcome aboard and if your a returning listener welcome back. In season one I covered a lot of the methods regarding how to be an autodidactic, and in season two I covered autodidactics of the past and some of the methods they used for self learning. This season I’m going to try something different.

This season I’m going to do a series called “My Destupidifacation”. Why? Well over the years I’ve started to become more dependent on my phone or computer to remember dates and phone numbers and other things. In addition, it has been almost 40 years since I left high school and a number of things that I was taught there have changed. For example there are no longer nine planets in the solar system. While I have kept myself busy learning new thing related to my career or interests, I haven’t really kept up with my general knowledge and the smart phone has allowed my memory to deteriorate.

So this season I thought it might be useful to use all of the techniques for self-learning that I’ve covered in seasons 1 & 2 to destupidify myself and to show how to use these techniques in action. However, since a lot of the techniques require some elements that are best shown visually I decided to show what I’m doing on my YouTube channel.

Therefore each week on the Autodidactic podcast I’m am going to cover the creation of lesson plans, the creation of self quizzes, the methods I am using to learn, how I’m going to find resources for learning, et cetera. Then on my YouTube channel I’m going to review at the end of each week how well I did and try to show visually what I did. So the idea is for example episode three of the Autodidactic podcast will be published at the same time as the video which shows the methods I discussed on the episode 2 podcast and the results.

I am hoping that listeners will be able to get value from seeing how I am using the methods which I discussed in seasons one and two in the real world.

To make this a little more challenging I have also decided all of the resources that I use should be free and legal. So this means I will be getting resources of the Internet or from the public library system, et cetera. I want to show that it is possible to do self-directed, self-learning with very little investment.

So this week on the Autodidactic podcast the aim of the first podcast of the season is to:

  1. Discuss how to go about listing my objectives
  2. Discuss determining goals related to the objectives
  3. Talk about how to break down the objectives in to manageable chunks and do a gap analysis of them.
  4. Discuss how I will go about finding resources.
  5. Discuss how I will track my activities.
  6. Look at the constraints.
  7. Discuss how I will determine which methods to use for things like memorization or information gathering.

That is a lot of stuff to cover, but it shouldn’t be a problem. Then next week you’ll be able to see the results of this discussion and see if what I planned to do came about, or if I had to make changes because of various opticals.

Let’s start with listing my objectives.

What is it I plan to learn and how deeply into the subject I wish to go. If you listen to episode 11 in season one where I cover the creation of a study plan, I went into great detail about why determining what you want to learn and how deeply you want to learn it is critical for the creation of a study plan.

The first thing you need to do is determine why it is you want to learn this new skill or gain this new knowledge. And then you want to be really clear about what it is you plan to do with this skill or knowledge. This is also a good time to determine how much you already know about the subject and where you need to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

So this initial assessment should tell you:

  • what is it you want to get out of this self-directed learning.
  • what level do you want to achieve once the learning is over with.hel
  • what areas will you need to cover in order to gain the level of knowledge you require for what you want to do

So during this period I will be listing the knowledge that I want to gain, how much of it I need, and what I know and where the gaps are.

After I have generated this list and determined how deeply I need to delve into the subject to get the level I want. For example, for one thing on the list I might want complete mastery, for another just superficial knowledge. These goals will help to inform the search for research materials. If I’m only looking to gain a superficial knowledge of the subject there is no need to try and find a dozen different resources. One or two would be sufficient.

It also will allow me to break down the goals into smaller chunks. For example a goal like “Learn Maths” really isn’t good enough. So I need to make sure it is well defined, then I need to break it down into smaller units. Taking Algebra as an example I might break this down into:

  • Solving basic equations & inequalities
  • Evaluating functions
  • Graphs of functions
  • Quadratic equations & functions
  • Polynomial expressions, equations, & functions

So after having completed this exercise I have the ability to do a gap analysis of my knowledge. This could be as simple as just highlighting the various topics with red, amber, green colours to show how much or how little I know. It could be more elaborate with scoring from 0-100%. It doesn’t really matter at the moment, but just give some way to classify your knowledge so you can prepare for gathering resources.

At this point for each topic or subtopic I know:

  1. How much depth I am going into each topic
  2. A score related to how well I know the topic.

This allows me to determine the level of resources I will need. Let’s go back to the algebra example.

If I have scored “Solving basic equations & inequalities” as a green, meaning I already know a lot about it, and I don’t plan to go deeply into the subject, then I only need a textbook or a couple of video tutorials.

If I scored “Quadratic equations & functions” as red, meaning I know almost nothing about it, but I want to become an expert and go deeply into it, then I will need more resources. I will need a lot of resources. Perhaps two or more textbooks, a tutor, a large number of videos, etc.

I will also during this time determine what methods I will use to gain this knowledge. If I can learn everything from watching a couple of videos then that would be the only actions I would do, If it is multiple textbooks, videos, tutors, etc. then I need to think about that.

At this point or perhaps concurrently while thinking about all of the above, I will create an actions spreadsheet with three workbooks. The workbooks will be labelled today, this week, this month. Here I would just open a spreadsheet or on a bit of paper begin to list out some of the things I will need to do as they occur to me. This might be such things as; find a free open source textbook, find a tutor, etc. basically developing the actions and the resources that I will need to reach my goal.

But rather than just dump them on down as one big todo list, I’ll organise them by when I plan to do them. So in this spreadsheet I will put all of the actions while I am thinking of them. For example, I might put “Order textbook from library” into the “Today” workbook. I might put another action called “Hire a tutor” into next weeks workbook, and

This spreadsheet will become core to my study plan, and it will be a living document that I update daily. So while studying I might run into a reference for another resource I want to find. So in the action spreadsheet I might put in an entry for tracking down this resource.

This spreadsheet is difficult to describe and is one of the reasons that I’m also doing video updates on my YouTube channel. I think it is a lot easier to understand what I mean after you’ve seen one in action. This is even more important for the study plan spreadsheet.

Now I will look at the constraints I have. The two biggest are, as usual, time and money. One constraint I mentioned earlier is to not spend money, but only use free and legal resources. Another constraint is time. I will only have an hour or two per day to study, and I want to complete this at the end of my third season podcast, so I only have 13 weeks. So this tells me I will only have between 90 and 180 hours of study time, and it will have to be divided up between subjects.

There is a number of different ways to use this information, but if I were to just have a rule of thumb that any subject I marked as green, meaning I already know a lot about it, will only 5 hours maximum time spent on it. Or I might start will saying I will spend 50% of my time on red subjects, 40% on amber and only 10% on green. Regardless of how it is done, it is worth creating a budget for both the time and money.

You’ve determined how much time you have, so in my example I have 13 weeks with between 90-180 hours. I would take this and allot time against subjects. So for example, I want to spend 50% of my time on red items, the things I don’t know. 50% is 45-90 hours, and I have 10 things in this category. So I can only give each one 5 to 10 minutes per day? That doesn’t sound like a lot of time to go deeply into a subject. Over the course of the 13 weeks, it adds up to 15 hours.

But I would prefer to study a topic for longer. So I might decide to give each topic an hour every ten days or maybe 30 minutes every 5 days. I might decide I am spread to thin and decide to reduce the number of topics, or give 60% of the time to red topics. It is really up to me.

You can then use this time budget to “sanity check” your plans. It allows you to cut back on the number of topics, or increase the frequency of study, or reduce the depth you want to go in the study.

After you have budgeted your time and money and levelled any other constraints you can increase the accuracy of the study plan as you go along.

For example you may have downloaded a textbook from one of the free online distributors and you want to start studying. Looking back at your constraints column let’s assume that one of those constraints was time. You scheduled 20 minutes each day for this topic. With this in mind open the textbook and do a swift evaluation of how long you believe each chapter will take you to study, generate questions, and take notes related to the chapter. Then determine how many chapters or what percentage of a chapter you can get done in the time constraint that you have. Then you need to map this into your study plan schedule. You may determine that you can complete the entire textbook within one month if you do one chapter every two study period. So you just need to schedule that in. Having this in your schedule allows you to not get yourself overbooked, it also means you don’t spend time worrying about what to study next. It is already there for you when you sit down.

So that is the basic strategy I will be using to start to plan out my study for the next 13 weeks. Prior to the podcast I had a few days to determine what I want to learn in this 13 week period and the list I came up with is this:

  • Memorise all my immediate families phone numbers, birthdays, and the license plate numbers of their cars.
  • I want to learn all the new information in the English Baccalaureate / GCSE given to English high-school students in 2020 which I don’t already know because of my career, e.g. computing.
  • I want to learn how to play a musical instrument.

So those are a few of the things I want to learn. I’m going to spend a bit of time and work through my goals and objectives and hopefully you’ll be able to see the results of that next week on the YouTube channel. I will post links to the YouTube channel on the autodidactic website and in the transcription of this podcast. The transcriptions and the links are at https://autodidactic.info

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding this series or any of the previous series you can contact me at rick@autodidactic.info.

That you for listening, and I hope to see you next week.

My YouTube channel for video updates.