S3EP4: Creation of quizzes and exams to test yourself.
Hello and welcome to episode 4 season 3 of the autodidactic podcast. I’m sorry about not getting an episode out last week. I recently started a new job and I just didn’t have time to record an episode. Nor did I manage to edit and post the YouTube video. The show isn’t sponsored or paid for, so really it is just best endeavours. However, I should be able to keep up the weekly schedule, although I don’t know if I’ll be able to always manage to get it out on the Tuesday.
It seems that I need to work on an episode about dealing with sudden changes to your study schedule. I’ve had to cut my ambitions back drastically with regards to the amount of things I’m going to be studying in the next few weeks. I’ve decided that I will carry on the memorisation tasks since they are straightforward, and I’ll keep the literature reading. This is because I can do this on my commute and hopefully will not have a lot of impact. The textbook study will become more difficult, but I plan to keep at least one science topic active.
However, most of the other topics will have to wait, and I’ll try to pick them up later. The good news is that I can still apply the learning and self-teaching techniques to the smaller scale of topics I’ll be studying. This means I can still show you how I am doing and what I am doing with the method I am using.
This week I want to look at how to develop quizzes to give to yourself each study period, but also use these quizzes to generate a test/exam for yourself at the end of each book. This is very straightforward.
I personally use a couple of methods for generating these questions. Let me describe the one which I use with textbooks first. Typically I’m going to be using the book in sections, normally chapters. So I create a folder for the textbook on my computer and start with a text file called Chapter1questions.txt and Chapter1answers.txt.
As I read through the chapter and review I build up questions and answers. I open the two files on my computer and then type the question into the file and then the answer in the other file. This allows me to later concatenate all the chapter files together into one long examination and I can also combine all the answers into one answer key.
You might want to just have one file to keep all the questions in, and one other file for the answers, but I find that breaking them up into small sections for quizzes and combining them later to generate a long exam works better for me.
When I complete the chapter one question and answer files I will leave it, then the next time I start to study I just open the question files for the last section I was one, in this example Chapter one. Save that file as a Chapter1quiz.txt and type my answers into that file. I can then compare with the answer file and review the things I got wrong.
When I create the questions I am typically using the information which I have highlighted in the book. For example if I highlight a header which is: “Areas of misuse in a biological environment.” then I simply change the header into a question: “Name the 10 areas of misuse in a biological environment.”
You can make your own questions easily from the material you have studied, but when you make them there are some things to remember:
Don’t make the answer yes or no. This is too easy and doesn’t force you to recall the information
Don’t use multiple choice for the same reason as above. Open ended questions are always best.
Fill in the blank questions can be useful, but should be limited.
To encourage better questions, think about and focus on some of the tougher or more important concepts you encountered in the lesson, and then propose questions that start with “explain” or that use “how” and “why” framing.
Take a page out of project-based learning and ask driving questions such as “Why do leaves have different shapes?”
Open ended or essay format questions are excellent for measuring higher level cognitive learning and overall comprehension of a subject. When writing good open-ended questions, keep the following tips in mind:
Be sure that the test question clearly states the answer you are seeking. For example, ‘explain an election outcome’ is a poor question.
If you are looking to test comprehension, a good opening line for the test question is, ‘Explain the following…”
If you are seeking to test the student’s ability to analyse a concept, a good opening phrase for your test question is, ‘compare and contrast…..”
I am also trying to memorise things and here I have a different approach. I need to have a set of prompts and then I fill in the answers. For example I am memorising all the squares from 1 to 100 and to prompt myself to recall them I just printed a paper with the numbers 1 through 100 with one number per line and I tried to write the square down beside each number.
But to do it the other way from the square to the square root I can’t just list the numbers, because they would be in order and I could just count up or down. So in order to test myself going from squares to square roots I need the prompts to be in a more or less random order. So to do this I use excel and create a random number field beside the answer and then sort it by the random number and print the prompts.
So when you are trying to create recall questions you should only need the prompt.
That is all for this week, a very short episode, but hopefully I will be able to get back to doing a longer format show next week. If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to comment on the website, autodidactic.info or on the YouTube channel. I try to respond as quickly as I can. You can also email me at email@example.com .
I will put a link to the YouTube channel in the show’s transcription and show notes on the website.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to record a YouTube video for the previous episode.
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:
N, note taking
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Or post a comment on the website or on the YouTube channel.
That you for listening and I hope to see you next week.
Hello and welcome to the Autodidactic podcast, season 2 episode 4. I had an email in my mailbox this week from a listener named Kenyatta (forgive me if I have mispronounced your name). She was wondering about my definitions of Autodidactic, Polymath, and self-learner. So I thought I would expand a little on these terms this week, and how I tend to use them.
She also asked why I ask for donations. Well that one is easy to answer, I don’t have any corporate sponsor, and I pay for all the podcast hosting and things myself. So the donation is just if someone liked the show, and wanted to show their appreciation by buying me a coffee.
Back to Kenyatta’s musings. I’ll give you the dictionary definitions then talk a little more about each one.
Self-Learner – Learning done by oneself, without a teacher or instructor.
Polymath – a person of great learning in several fields of study.
Autodidactic – a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person.
So you can see that a self-learner and an autodidactic are actually the same. It is someone who learns by themselves. While this might mean they are learning one thing only, they could be learning in multiple fields. Autodidactics then may or may not be a polymath, and a polymath, may or may not be an autodidactic.
In this podcast I try to explore techniques and methods for self-learning and hopefully this is of some use to either type of autodidactic, polymath or non-polymath. But one assumption that I have a tendency to make is that many people who are listening to the podcast are more likely to be polymaths and trying to learn skills in multiple fields.
Using myself as an example; I self-learn mathematics, electronics, programming, metal working, knife-making, cooking, and languages. While I’m certainly no expert in all of these, I enjoy working in these disparate fields. As a writer I find it helps to have a broad knowledge of a lot of topics in order to write characters convincingly.
Autodidacticism and self-learning we’ve covered, but let me explore polymathism with you.
A polymath is from the Greek and means “much learned”. So this is a person who has knowledge in multiple fields of study, but might not be self-taught. In the renaissance, a period in Europe covering the 14th through the 17t centuries, started in Italy in the late middle ages. The idea of a “Uomo Universale” or universal man was someone who could play musical instruments, speak many languages, write poetry, paint and so on.
Normally these ideal persons were nobility or sons of nobility and required a rounded universal education. Interestingly, the idea of a universal education was essential to achieving polymath ability, hence the word university was used to describe a seat of learning. The idea behind a university was not to specialise but to give a general well-rounded education to these young courtiers so they cound then go forward and specialise in a specific field.
Marching forward to the 21st century we find a renewed interest in polymathy in the scientific community. Robert Root-Bernstein worked in the area of polymathy and two other types of categories which were the specialists and the dilettante. He regards a specialist as someone who has great depth in a subject with without a breadth of knowledge, and a dilettante is someone who has superficial knowledge of many subjects. However, the dilettante unlike the polymath has acquired these skills without any regard to understanding broader applications or implications and without integrating knowledge across these fields.
So for Robert Root-Bernstein a polymath is someone who has knowledge in multiple fields, but can “put a significant amount of time and effort into their avocations and find ways to use their multiple interests to inform their vocations”.
Robert Root-Bernstein argues in favour of polymathy. The argument that universality of domain favours the creative processes. Which means other interests outside of the primary domain can feed the mental tools required to generate creative ideas. A prime example often cited is Albert Einstein and his love of the violin. Einstein once said that if he hadn’t been a scientist, he would certainly have been a musician.
In “Life Stages of Creativity”, Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein suggest six typologies of creative life stages.
Type 1 represents people who specialize in developing one major talent early in life (e.g., prodigies) and successfully exploit that talent exclusively for the rest of their lives.
Type 2 individuals explore a range of different creative activities (e.g., through worldplay or a variety of hobbies) and then settle on exploiting one of these for the rest of their lives.
Type 3 people are polymathic from the outset and manage to juggle multiple careers simultaneously so that their creativity pattern is constantly varied.
Type 4 creators are recognized early for one major talent (e.g., math or music) but go on to explore additional creative outlets, diversifying their productivity with age.
Type 5 creators devote themselves serially to one creative field after another.
Type 6 people develop diversified creative skills early and then, like Type 5 individuals, explore these serially, one at a time.
So why is there a decline in polymathy since the middle ages? Well Peter Burke, Professor Emeritus of Cultural History and Fellow of Emmanuel College at Cambridge believed that due to the rapid increase in knowledge from the 17th century onwards with was increasingly difficult from an individual to master as many disciplines as before. Professor Burke warns that in the age of specialization, polymathic people are more necessary than ever.
Michael Araki is a professor at Universidade Federal Fluminense in Brazil, who sought to formalise the polymathic development. Professor Araki’s work shows although there are many different perspectives and definitions of a polymath, they generally assert three elements which are; Breadth, Depth, and Integration.
Breadth means a comprehensive knowledge of the subjects, rather than a narrow specialisation. This is the primary indicator of a polymath. Depth refers to the accumulation of knowledge, as opposed to the dilettantes superficial knowledge. Finally there is integration which requires connecting, articulating and synthesising knowledge from different frameworks.
How do I use these terms? Well I’m assuming that you wouldn’t listen to this podcast unless you are a self-learner, or my mother. I also make the assumption that my listeners are studying in multiple fields of study. But even if you aren’t a polymath, I need to try to make my podcasts relevant to the person studying biology as it is to the person studying avionics just because of a diversity of listeners.
Also I think that a lot of people who are willing to put in the effort to self-learn, to be an autodidactic will naturally want to study and understand more than one topic.
Autodidacticism is simply education without the guidance of subject matter experts such as teachers or professors. In general an autodidactic has chosen the topic themselves and might be trying self-learning for the first time. When you need to select your own study material, create your own study plans and find the time yourself, it is useful to know that you’re not alone and that many people have trodden this path before. There is a well worn path, you just need someone to point it out to you.
It might be as an autodidactic you’re studying independently as a complement or an alternative to formal education. For example, learning how to program a computer could be a skill which is a complement to work you’re already doing.
In this pandemic lots of people are using their newly acquired spare time to learn other topics they have an interest in. A 2016 Stack Overflow poll reported 69.1% of software developers appear to be self-taught and I suspect in the current climate these numbers will only increase.
Well that is all for this week. It was a bit shorter than normal, but hopefully enjoyable. Next week I plan to return to the investigation of an autodidactic and try to ascertain their methods and adopt them for us to use.
If you enjoy the show, please give a rating on the platform you’re using to listen, and please share the podcast with friends and family who might be interested. Also, please feel free to email me like Kenyatta did to email@example.com, or leave feedback on the website autodidactic.info.
Thank you very much for listening.
“Polymath” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
S2EP2: Exploring the study methods of Ben Franklin.
Hello and welcome to the Autodidactic podcast, season 2 episode 2. I’d like to apologise for the delay in getting this weeks episode out. I ran into some technical issues and also getting a quiet area to do the recording. Hopefully I’ll be able to be more consistent in future.
This week I’m going to start delving into the lives and study methods of autodidactics through the ages and into modern times. I’m going to start with a person who most listeners inside the United States would need no introduction. I haven’t yet worked out the format of these podcasts about autodidactics, but I will generally start with telling you a little about the person, what they accomplished, and what we know of their methods. Then I’ll try to dig a little deeper into the methods they used and relate it to what we can emulate today.
The person I’m going to talk about today is Benjamin Franklin. Ben Franklin was born in what would become the United States on January 17, 1706 and died on April 17, 1790. Franklin was an American autodidactic and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a leading writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette at the age of 23.
Benjamin Franklin became a luminary in everything from politics to physics, and he did this without modern educational techniques such as schools, teachers, or the Internet.
Franklin was a prodigious inventor, but Franklin never patented his inventions. Probably the first advocate of opensource/open knowledge movement he wrote: “… as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”
Franklin studied, electricity, ocean currents, population and demography, wave light theory, meteorology. He was an avid chess player, and with a friend learned Italian. The loser of these matches had to perform some task given by the winner, such as reciting sections of Italian grammar, or 100 animal names at the next meeting.
Ben Franklin’s autobiography can give us many clues about the man and how he used his time and many of his writings are available online to read. I’ll put links to his writings at the end of the transcript on the autodidactic.info website.
Although there is a lot to learn from his writings, I believe that Franklin had two methods we can emulate as autodidactics. The first is known today as “deliberate practice” and the second is measurement or monitoring.
Of all the things Franklin does these two things lend themselves most to self-study and autodidactism.
First let’s look at deliberate practice. What is it?
Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance. What sets deliberate practice apart from other training methods is a rigorous sequence of ongoing performance assessment, tailored goal-setting, and systematic skill-building informed by expert feedback.
Franklin shows us how he used deliberate practice when he taught himself to become an author and better writer. Let me read an excerpt from his autobiography.
About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try’d to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them.
—Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography
Here Franklin is doing what is known as “deliberate practice” in order to improve his writing. K. Anders Ericsson likens it to how artists practice by trying to imitate some famous work. Mathematicians are taught to attempt to prove most theorems themselves when reading a book or paper — even if they can’t, they’ll have an easier time compressing the proof to its basic insight.
Deliberate practice can be used to learn any skill from music to computer programming.
Let’s use some examples of how you could use deliberate practice for something other than writing as Franklin does.
Many people are self-taught programmers who use a programming textbook to learn a programming language. But if you just read the book and cover to cover you’ll not get the maximum value from it. Instead when you come to a section in a chapter showing a small snippet of code to open a file. Look at the snippet, close the book and actually try to create the program yourself without opening the book. Chances are you’ll fail, however when you open the book back up you’ll be able to compare your work against the snippet. You’ll get some immediate feedback about where you’ve gone wrong.
Otherwise when studying you can use this method by simply reading a page of the book you’re learning from, a recorded lecture, etc. Close the book or pause the video/audio and try to write down everything you’ve just read or listened to. Try not to do a summary, but to remember everything. It would be tedious to reproduce and entire book verbatim but this method would give immediate feedback about knowledge gaps. It might show you that the information you’ve missed tends to always been at the end of paragraphs, so you can modify your behaviour to focus on the end of paragraphs as well.
But deliberate practice is bigger than this. The exerpt I read from Franklin didn’t cover the three primary things you must do for deliberate practice. Mostly because Franklin himself had done the other steps “off camera”.
The three steps are:
Have a specific goal, and break it down – Break down what you want to know or practice into a well defined small amount. For a textbook this might be into chapters for example.
Create a plan – Have a written plan for how you’re going to practice, with times and a schedule. For example, you might decide on a chapter per week, with X number of exercises.
Get a coach (or some form of feedback) – this is probably the most important thing to have. Remember Franklin used the original Spectator articles as feedback to compare against his own writing. You also need some type of feedback mechanism. In the programming example you have the authors version of the file opening snippet.
When you do your plan you need to keep your goal in mind. When you break this down into practice sessions you need to have a goal in mind for each section.
Play or sing a certain song at a specific speed with no mistakes three times in a row.
Memorise the first 10 digits of pi.
Type at 50 words per minute with no errors.
Summarise each page of the textbook with no gaps.
If you’re interested in deliberate practice I recommend the book Peak by K. Anders Ericsson
The other area we can emulate from Franklin is tracking or monitoring of progress. Franklin had a little book where he would track his errors each day, monitoring himself to try to improve.
A phrase most managers in most companies will immediately recognises is “You get what you measure.” It’s human nature to shoot for the objectives set, and it is human nature to pay attention to the metrics which are being measured. However, a word of caution here. You need to make sure that you’re measuring the correct thing, or that the instrument you’re using to measure is correct. Just measuring time studying doesn’t indicate amount learned.
Sir Arthur Eddington, an English astrophysicist, told a short story involving a scientist studying fish by pulling them up with nets. After checking all the fish hauled up, the scientist concludes that there is a minimum size of fish in the sea. But the fish seen were determined by the size of the holes in the net, the smaller ones having slipped through, unmeasurable. The instrument you use affects what you see.
So you need to think carefully about what you are trying to learn and try to find a way to measure your ability.
If you are learning from a textbook you might create a simple form to fill out at the end of each chapter with some questions rating from 1-7 where 1 is defiantly not, and 7 is defiantly yes. Some statements might be:
“I understand ALL the concepts in this chapter.”
“I found this chapter easy.”
This type of survey would let you judge how well you learned from this book, and if you should re-read, or find an easier or more difficult resource.
If you were learning a skill such as learning how to remember names you might score yourself 2 points for all names remembered and -1 point for any name forgotten. Then you review your scoreboard each week, plotting it to spot trends. You might discover you typically fail to remember when introduced to a group of people at the same time, but are ok individually. Then you can use deliberate practice to focus on remembering names at group introductions.
If you were learning photography you might have your photos scored based on framing, lighting, focus, filtering, exposure, etc. Then you design practice sessions with deliberate practice on the elements you score low in.
For monitoring you need to:
Break down and list your goal into things which can be measured.
Eliminate things from the list who’s measurement isn’t essential
Be clear on what you need to measure, why you are measuring it, and how you’ll measure it.
Schedule periodic reflections on the measures
Design repetitive, deliberate practice to overcome measured defects.
Remember you can’t improve what you don’t measure, but measuring the amount of time spend generally isn’t useful. Review what you’re measuring in order to design better practice, and review your measures to ensure you’re still measuring essential matrix.
Well that is all for this week. If you enjoy the show, please give a rating on the platform you’re using to listen, and please share the podcast with friends and family who might be interested. Also let me know if you find these explorations of the methods used by other autodidactics useful, and if there is someone in particular you’d like me to research. As always you can leave feedback on the website autodidactic.info, or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Hello, everyone, and welcome back. This is Episode 9 Season 1 of The Autodidactic Podcast. If this is your first time, I welcome you, and if you’re a returning listener, thanks for coming back.
Today I want to cover the topic of lecture notes. As an Autodidactic, self-learner you’re probably not gonna attend many formal lectures, although you might. Other than attending class every day, taking good lecture notes is probably the single most important activity for college students, but if you’re self learning, you might not think you need to worry about this sort of thing.
However, like I pointed out last week, a lecture may take many different forms. It could be an online lecture, or it could be a class from an on line tutor. It could be a speech at a conference, or it could be a podcast or YouTube video. If someone is verbally imparting knowledge to you, you should consider it a lecture and try and take some notes.
If it is recorded audio or video lecture, you could re listen. But this isn’t a very efficient use of time. With these types of information, you’re not going to get things spoon-fed to you like you did back in high school. There probably isn’t a blackboard where the important stuff is itemized in a list for you. You’re going to have to listen closely and pick out the most important parts for yourself.
Developing good note-taking skills takes both time and practice. Taking lecture notes
promotes active listening, provides an accurate record of information, provides an
opportunity to interpret, condense, and organize the information, and provides an
opportunity for repetition of the material. Learning and practising effective strategies for how to take lecture notes will help you become a more successful autodidactic.
By taking notes, you can improve your concentration because you’re focusing your intention on what is being said. You have a purpose, which is listening for the next point that the speaker will make so you can write it down.
Taking notes is a very active process. You can generate a high level of involvement in your own learning by taking notes. Note taking involves more than just writing down what the instructor is saying however, it includes thinking about what is being said, determining what is important, recognizing the different points and how they relate to each other. Anticipating what will be said next and putting the information into your own words and organizing the information in your notes, condensing and interpreting the information helps make it more meaningful for you, which helps you to learn it. The process of taking good lecture notes can help you become both an active listener and an active participant.
Research studies indicate that without rehearsal, you may forget 50% of what you hear in a lecture within 24 hours and 80% of it in just two weeks. And in fact, in one month you may have forgot 95% of it. So you can’t rely on your memory of the lecture, you need your notes too. Taking lecture notes forces you to interpret, condense and organize information.
You’ll quickly find that you can’t write a quickly if someone can speak. If you could write that fast, you could simply write down a lecture verbatim and then re-read it later. But re-reading is the same as re-attending or reviewing a video recorded lecture. It just isn’t an efficient use of your time.
You have to condense the information and you have to think about each sentence and interpret it, often putting the information into your own words as you write down the information in a condensed form, you’re also forced to create a system of organization that separates the main and supporting points. You structure the information your way and in a way that will make sense to you.
So now that we know why it’s important to take notes, how do you do it? You can judge the effectiveness of your notes by reviewing them against recorded lectures were possible in making sure that you’re picking out the important information and condensing it properly.
I wrote a book about note taking; and the majority of the book covers ways of making notes faster by using abbreviation and speed writing and also some general methods for note taking and meetings, etcetera. I’ll put the link in the show notes. (Effective Note-taking: Note-taking for business)
When you start doing lecture notes, you need to consider the organization of the notes and the way that you’re going to structure the material. If you just try and write down everything as quickly as possible, you’ll end up with a tangled mass of disassociated ideas and sentences so it’s important to separate the main points from the details and show the relationships between the ideas.
Therefore, before you even start to watch the lecture or enter the lecture hall or go to the conference centre, you need to have prepared your notebook or your app or whatever you’re going to use. You should try and be familiar with what’s going to be discussed a much as possible. And if you have a textbook on the subject, study it before the lecture so it’ll be easier for you to pick up on the main points and organize your notes if you have a good idea of what’s gonna happen next.
Personally, I recommend that you use a paper based notebook simply because it allows more freedom and it allows you to do some additional work with it after the lecture, and we’ll cover that a bit later. Now, remember that you only get one chance to listen to a lecture unless, of course, it’s been recorded. But you can read the textbook or your notes as many times as you want.
Try to make sure that you see and hear the speaker and that you’re not going to be distracted. So to take the notes, you need to:
Decide that you want to listen.
You need to be paying close attention to the lecture.
You need to select the relevant information and ignore any distractions.
You need to interpret the information to make sure it’s meaningful. And you need to condense the information before writing it down.
organizing the information into appropriate headings and subheadings
you take notes
When writing down the notes in your notebook, never, ever right on both sides of the notepaper. And I’ll tell you why in a little while.
People often confuse hearing with listening on listening means that you’re engaged in. You’re paying attention and you’re interpreting what you’re hearing, and you’re trying to assign meaning to it. Active listeners air physically, intellectually and emotionally involved in the lecture. Some strategies to become Active listener are:
read any text you can before the lecture to build up a background on the topic
review your last set of notes before a lecture begins. (If this lecture is related to a previous one)
make sure that you want to listen.
Focus your attention by physically sitting up and making eye contact with the speaker. (If the if the lecture is live but otherwise sitting forward and paying attention to the screen or the audio, focus your attention mentally by eliminating or avoiding distractions.)
Listen with an open mind and set aside your own biases. So don’t be distracted by things you might find unappealing about the message or the messenger and concentrate on what’s being said.
Try and control your emotional response to what is being discussed.
Listen for the main points and the related details.
When you’re taking your notes, ask any questions if that’s possible for recorded materials right down the questions as they occur to you so that you can review and look up later.
Monitor your listening. In other words, check that what you heard or think you heard is what was actually said. So you can do this by checking with the lecturer or another audience member if it’s live or if you’re unsure the information, or you can just watch it again if it’s recorded. So basically, just monitoring to make sure that what you thought you understood, you actually understood and then hold yourself accountable for the material that was presented, you know, make make yourself learn what is being discussed.
One of the systems for note taking is the Cornell system developed at Cornell University, which has an excellent format for setting up your note page. But I recommend that you have different notebooks for different topics. So don’t mix up your I don’t know mathematics study with your Electronics study, for example.
Although there are many, many note taking systems, there are three that worked particularly well for lectures.
They’re called the Informal Outline, the Block and the Modified Block style, and they all work well in lectures. So try them all and see which one works best for you.
The informal outline is similar to the formal outline that many people learned in school where you have the headings with a capital A and in subheadings are 123 etcetera. The end former outline is a very similar system, but you just don’t label things you know ABC or 123 etcetera. In addition on informal outline contains a lot more information. So you’re not just putting single word headings and subheadings you’re actually writing, you know, full sentences. And after writing the main points next to the you know margin line. You just use indentation to show that the following points are subordinate to the lines above.
And now the block style of note taking is another very simple system. Block notes are especially useful if you need to record a great deal of information very quickly. Are you listening to someone who talks so fast that you can’t keep up who never goes back over information? Well, when taking block notes, you need only to write down the heading and then focus on writing as many details as you can. So block notes are written continuously across the page, separating any details by dashes or slashes.
The modified block method is similar to an outline. However, you simply have a heading and then a paragraph underneath of it with all of the details.
The block and modified-block methods allow you to take notes efficiently and
effectively because you have to concentrate on only two things:
writing down the main points (headings) and
writing down any details about them.
You don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out where to place or how to label
each new piece of information.
But still, there’s the question. What should I write down? Or perhaps you find yourself thinking. Should I write that down? If you’re asking yourself the question, should you write that down? Then the answer is yes.
After you’ve written your notes in the lectures done, congratulations. You have completed the first draft. Now you have to edit your notes.
You need to edit, revise your notes and correct errors. Clarify meanings. Make additions improve organization etcetera. Editing your notes helps you become a better note taker because you’re basically giving yourself feedback on the quality of your own notes. And as you go through the notes checking for accuracy and filling in gaps and information and proving organization, you can see where you made mistakes, and this feedback will help you take better notes next time.
Editing provides you with an opportunity to review both the text and the lecture material, and it gives you a chance to integrate the course material textbooks or other subsequent information. This additional repetition, which requires both critical thinking and active structuring of the data, helps you to reinforce what you read and heard and leads to a better understanding of the material.
So editing your notes, you need to do within 24 hours of the lecture, because if you wait too long, you’ll have for gotten too much.
Note editing is very straightforward. There’s basically five steps that you’re trying to do.
Fill in the gaps and missing information. As you read your notes it will jog your memory and you’ll be able to add more detail.
Refer to a textbook or other information sources to help fill in gaps in your notes.
Check for accuracy. If you notice some incorrect information in your notes or if you’re unsure of the accuracy of some points, check with the lecturer if possible or textbook or other sources of information to verify whether the information is correct.
Expand your notes. Make your notes more understandable, expand abbreviations, finish sentences, correct spellings, etc.
Rewrite your notes in order to improve the organization of the information.
This last point is the reason why I said earlier, never right on the back side of the paper. As you’re taking your notes, the back side of the page is blank, but because it’s related to the information other side, you can rewrite your notes on the back in a more organized and accurate way. And then later, when you review your notes, review the back side of the notepaper, not the front.
And to review your notes is similar to the other reviews that I mentioned in previous podcasts. You need to develop recall questions and generate many quizzes to test yourself. If you need to go back and review previous a podcast, now would be a good time to do it, because now you know how to take lecture notes while you’re listening.
Okay, so that’s it for me this week. Next week we’ll try and cover concentration while studying. So how to make sure you’re concentrating on your studying your concentration levels, concentration problems, strategies for overcoming issues?
Thanks for listening and as always if you have any feedback I would love to hear from you. You can email me at: email@example.com or you can put comments on the website. Thank you very much for attention on. I’ll see you soon.
In this episode we’ll discuss what to do with your study time.
The Autodidactic Podcast
EP3: Using your study time
Welcome to the Autodidactic Podcast with your host Rick Dearman.
Hello and welcome to the Autodidactic Podcast, Episode Three – Season One. If you’re a new listener, I’d like to welcome you and encourage you to give feedback on this show by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can visit our website where you’ll find the show notes and transcriptions of this podcast.
On today’s show, we’re gonna be talking about what to do with the study time that you have and how to create a study plan. I’ll give you some suggestions for how you can take the topics we discussed today and generate a study plan template that you can use as an autodidactic or polymath.
But don’t get too obsessed with the creation of the perfect study plan. As General George Patton said; a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.
Today we’re gonna talk about three things. Study frequency. Inter-leaving and testing. These three things together will probably do more for your study and retention than just about anything else you can do. The problem with these, of course, is that they’re difficult
But if you’re aware of them and you can work them into your study time, it will help you improve significantly. After we cover these topics and discuss them in greater detail, I’ll move on and briefly discuss something called a reverse revision timetable, and finally, we’ll talk about a study plan.
In the last podcast, I left you with something to think about. So let’s return to the question I asked, which was; Is it better to study four subjects for 15 minutes a day or each subject for one hour over the course of four days? Well, the answer is that there is no correct answer, but research indicates that spacing is more beneficial for long term learning. So by dividing up the four subjects into 15 minute intervals and studying each of them every day, the primary benefit is that you’re forgetting curve is less.
Longer periods of time between study sessions mean that you’re more likely to forget more about the previous session. But because you’re studying a subject every day, albeit for a limited amount of time, you’re not forgetting as much and the following day you’re reinforcing your memory.
In addition, other studies have shown that students who cram for an hour for an examination or quiz will generally score the same as students who studied for shorter periods over the previous week. However, on subsequent examinations of the same material, the students who studied small amounts of material more frequently over time, rather than cramming, remembered almost 50% more than the students who took the second examination. [should have been: However, on subsequent examinations of the same material, the students who studied small amounts of material more frequently over time, rather than cramming, remembered almost 50% more than the cramming students in a second examination.]
So what does this tell us? Well, by breaking up the material into smaller pieces and reviewing it more frequently, students had a higher retention rate than students who simply crammed for the examination the next day. So if you only want to learn enough to pass a test, cramming will work fine. But if you’re attempting to learn a lifelong skill or create a knowledge base then breaking it up, and reviewing it more frequently is a much, much better way to go.
In fact, in another research study, they broke three sets of students up and ask them to learn 50 Spanish words in eight sessions. The sessions for each group were broken up into the next day, the next week or the next month. For example, the first group had one session every day for eight days. The next group had one session every week for eight weeks, etcetera.
So then these three groups of people were tested eight years later. And the people who learned the words in eight sessions over eight months still remembered 50% of the vocabulary, whereas the other students were significantly lower in their percentages of recall.
Another advantage of short but focus study sessions is that you’re more focused and therefore more likely to retain the information. In a long study session your mind will have a tendency to wander, and you’ll not be is focused on the task as you would be if you knew that it was just a simple, short but intense session of study.
So research has shown that spacing out your learning has a benefit on retention. In addition, inter-leaving of information or methods can increase retention. Inter-leaving is simply using multiple sources for your study or multiple methods for your study.
So in one research study students were asked to look at paintings which were grouped by artists, and another set of students were asked to look at the exact same paintings but were in a random order. The students had to critique the paintings and understand the differences between them all. So students who looked at paintings in a random order were better able to remember the critique of the paintings.
You can use interweaving in your own studies by mixing resources So for example, if you are attempting to remember a specific grammatical usage of a word in a foreign language, you might want to read the grammar book description and then looked through another fiction book for an example of that grammatical usage. Or listen to a native speaker who is using that grammatical method in in a sentence. You might mix up Resource is by studying two different books at the same time. Inter-leaving or mixing up as much as possible is a very useful strategy.
The third topic is testing, and as a self learner, you’re probably not going to have a test administered to you by a third party. But research has shown that a large part of the retention of information is being tested on the information.
For example, the more times you have to remember a phone number in order to dial it, the easier it becomes to remember the phone number. And although most people would today society keep their numbers on smartphones, the principal stays the same. Use it or lose it.
At the University of Louisville, psychologist Keith Lyle PhD used a captive audience of his students, his undergraduate class, to prove a point in one 75 person class. At the end of each class session, he asked students to complete a 4 to 6 question short quiz about the material that had been presented during that lecture. Cumulatively, the quizzes counted for just 8% of the final grade.
He also taught a second class using the same syllabus, but didn’t give daily quizzes, and at the end of the semester, he found that students in the quiz class significantly outscored students in the non quiz class in all four midterm examinations.
So although most professors won’t use daily quizzes in their courses, students can and should test themselves by asking questions after each study session. Now, as a self learner, the results of Professor Lyle’s daily quizzes shouldn’t go unnoticed. This is something you can do for yourself easily and practically for the last few minutes of your study period or while you are studying, simply write out a small quiz of what you have studied. It’s relatively easy to generate a question from a paragraph that you just read, and you can use this quiz not on yourself that day, but on your future self tomorrow. So in effect each day you create tomorrow’s daily quiz for yourself. So at the start of your study session, you answer your queries from yesterday and that the end of your session you generate a quiz for tomorrow.
Okay, so let’s bring all of this research together, and how do we apply it? Well, the first thing to do is identify key facts and areas of study. Think about the key sets of facts and areas that you’re going to want to remember 20 years from now or next year or next week. At the end of each study session generated quiz for yourself. Break all of the big ideas into smaller pieces that can easily be quized and try and study from more than one resource at a time.
Try to compare and contrast the information in the various resource is that you’re using, so that covers the three topics of spacing, inter-leaving and testing. Now let’s move on to something I like to call reverse revision timetable.
Of course, I’m not the first person to have used or promoted the reverse revision timetable, but I would like to discuss it, since many people will not have used reverse revision timetable and have only be aware of a revision timetable, which was typically used in school or when studying.
A revision timetable is simply scheduling the time you will use to revise when you have learned a class or a textbook. So, for example, the typical revision timetable will say; On the second of August, I will study the circulatory system; On the third of August, I will study the respiratory system and it goes on like this.
However, one of the problems with this revision timetable is that it doesn’t actually allow you to focus in on the things that you’re having problems with because you are simply doing it in the order in which it was scheduled, and it is bound only to a time-frame.
A reverse revision timetable is different because it focuses on the subject, and the time frame is secondary. To create a reverse revision timetable, you would first list the subjects you’re going to study and not worry about the times that you’re going to study them.
So if we were to use a spreadsheet, you would open it up and in column A you might write a list of 10 subjects that you plan to study or revise. Then what you do is in column B beside the subject that you have studied that day, you write in the date that you studied and you give it a colour coding known as a rag status.
A rag status is a project management term, which stands for Red, Amber, Green. Red means there is a problem, and something needs to be done about this immediately. Amber is a warning colour, saying that there’s a potential problem that needs to be dealt with. And green means everything’s good
Now, on the first pass of a reverse revision timetable, you work down through your list of 10 topics, for example, studying the circulatory system and then the respiratory system, etcetera, etcetera, and after you’ve completed all 10 subjects, you go back and review the rag status of each of those topics. And the next thing you study is one of the red subjects.
So, for example, if you had colour coded, the respiratory system has Red but the circulatory system was green. You would do the respiratory system before the circulatory system. So you study all of the red subjects until you’ve done them all one more time and you colour code those and then you do all of the amber. And on the third pass, you look for more red or amber subjects.
You’ll notice that we ignore Green in this example, because if it was green, it means you already know it. And you simply continue to do this each time, working on the Red and Amber’s to try and make them all Green.
The benefit of this method is that you’re focusing your attention specifically on the items which you are struggling with. In the normal revision timetable, you study the subject again on the next date it’s due. Whether you know it or not, so this is sub optimal. If you want to ensure that you understand the various topics that you’re studying, you should always be studying the thing that you don’t understand or the thing that you understand the least.
Now, Finally, I’d like to outline my suggested study plan template. Here I’m going to assume that you are learning more than one subject at a time, and I’m gonna make this simple and say that you’re only studying two topics.
In this example we’re going to say that you’re studying one foreign language, French, and you’re studying mathematics. You have one hour of dedicated study time every day, which means you’re going to break up these two topics and give them one half hour each. The very first thing you would need to do is to create a study plan.
Now, this is slightly different from your revision timetable because you haven’t actually studied anything yet. The study plan is what your future intention is to study. To create a study plan you look at the resource is that you have available for each topic one at a time.
So let’s start with French. You have one audio resource, two textbooks on a fiction book. So you decide you’re going to use the audio resource during your stolen minutes, and if you don’t know what I mean by stolen minutes, have a listen to the previous podcast. So you won’t be using your audio during this study period, so you’re going to use the two textbooks and the fiction books.
You’re going to start with the smaller textbook, and after completing each section, you will try and find the same information in the larger textbook to compare and contrast the information that they’re giving. The fiction book you will read every other study period, underlining unknown vocabulary and putting them into flash cards, and you will use the flash cards in those stolen minutes. And that will be your study plan for the next month.
For your study of mathematics, it’s very similar. You have four mathematics books, basic math, algebra, trigonometry and geometry. You decide that you will do them in the order of basic math, geometry and trigonometry. But you will use the algebra book every other day while making your way through the other three books over time. In hopes that this inter leaving of algebra with the other maths books will help for the retention of all, or at least give you some ability to see, compare and contrast the subjects.
Finally, you open up your spreadsheet and you list your topics. You break the topics down into sub-categories as much as possible and as appropriate. You decide that each month you will collect up all of the daily quizzes that you generate, and you will take them all as one big test each month.
So in addition to daily quizzes, your daily quiz becomes a large test at the end of each month. And the results of these monthly examinations will be used as indicators for your reverse time table revision.
So let’s say, for example, you had divided your French into two sub-categories vocabulary and grammar, and in your monthly exam, you see that you should be studying grammar more frequently. This allows you to modify the next month study session and focus on grammar. So the results of your testing and you’re quizzing and your revision allows you to look forward to the next month and create a new plan.
Now you don’t have to use this study template because you’re studying something might be radically different from what I study. However, I think the principle of using daily tests monthly exam and a reverse revision timetable will help you to maintain a steady schedule and record your progress as a self learner.
That’s it for today, and I’d like to thank you for listening to today’s podcast in the next podcast, I’m going to cover Gathering Resource is in order to study as a self learner. There are a large number of free and legal resource is available to you as a self learner on the Internet today. You can get textbooks written by colleges and universities, as well as professors who are releasing textbooks under Creative Commons licences that allow you to print them or use them, as you see fit. There are apps to help with spaced repetition or memorization, their language learning apps, their courses that have been released into the public domain. So in addition to all this free and legal resource on the Internet, there’s also paid subscriptions, other websites where you can get additional resource is and will cover all of that, as well as libraries, used book-stores, charity shops and other places to gather materials in the next podcast.
Thank you for listening to the auto didactic podcast with your host Rick Dearman, if you enjoyed this podcast, please consider giving a donation by a Paypal. Thank you very much, and see you again next time.
This episode we’ll talk about how to find time for self-learning.
The Autodidactic Podcast
EP2: Time Management
Episode Two, Season One
Welcome to the autodidactic podcast with your host Rick Dearman.
Hi, and welcome to the autodidactic podcast. This is Episode Two, Season One and I’m your host, Rick Dearman.
If you’re a first time listener, I want to welcome you to the show, and I’m glad that you’re visiting. If you haven’t already, please visit the website autodidactic.info where you’ll find links to all the show and to the show notes, which contain any links to anything I talk about on the show.
Today, I want to discuss time management. Why? Because when you’re going to study, when are you going to find time to study if you can’t manage your time effectively? So I’m going to cover most of the basic things about time management and some important ways to steal time. Later in the show. I’ll tell you what I found to be the most effective way of keeping on top of studying by the use of what I like to call dead time.
If you’re interested in giving me feedback about the show or suggestions, please email me at rick@ autodidactic.info. I’ve had some feedback already from beta listeners and I’m shaping the episodes for the rest of the season accordingly. I’ve been struggling to get everything related to the podcast done while still continuing my own study regime. So, I know your pain if you’re struggling to implement some of the stuff we’re going to talk about today.
I quoted to one of my friends recently; If you love life than value time, because that is what life is made of and remember: you don’t have to be perfect just better than you were yesterday.
Okay, so let’s talk about prioritization using four quadrants. Imagine you’re drawing a square on a piece of paper and then split the square in the middle from top to bottom with another line and then split it again from left to right.
Let’s discover prioritization using this square and it’s four quadrants. Imagine that you put a label on the bottom line called urgency on a label on the left-most line as importance. So the point at the bottom of our square zero and the level of urgency grows as you move to the right and the importance see grows as you move up.
Now imagine you’re writing a letter in each quadrant. In the bottom left quadrant of the square, we’re going to put the letter A.
A represents things which are not important and are not urgent. As we move along the right, to the right quadrant, on the bottom will mark this one is B. Because B is urgent, but it’s not important.
Now if we go to the top left quadrant we’ll mark, this one as C. That is because it’s important but not urgent.
And finally, we’ll put the letter D into the top right quadrant because this is both urgent and important.
Now. If you were to take your to do list and categorize every action that you have to do as A, B, C or D, then you’ll be able to see the priorities of your to do list. So my suggestion is that you would immediately strike out anything that you marked as A. Why? Well, because they’re not important and they’re not urgent, and they will just suck up your time and not let you get on to other things.
Once upon a time, there was a professor who showed his class a glass tube, which he then filled with well rocks, and he asked the class if it was full when he had got to the top and they all said yes. And then the professor reached under his desk and pulled out a bag of sand, which he then poured into the glass container. Then he told them that it was full.
But had he done it the other way around and filled it with sand first, he would have never got the rocks in. Now the point here is to not fill your day with small, unimportant tasks. You need to do the big stuff first, which means you need to schedule time for it.
Now if we go back to your to do list and we looked at the items that were marked as category B, these are urgent, but not important. And here you need to use some discretion, but you should probably just ignore all of these or as many of them you can as well, because they’re not important.
So finally we’re left with C and D. Well, you’re gonna need to work on things marked D, because not only are they important they’re also urgent. But D is a funny category because if you looked at the things that are in D you can probably see that at some point in the past, the things that we’re now categorized as D, urgent and important, probably sat for awhile in category C because it was important and it’s always been important, but until recently, it hasn’t become urgent, and you weren’t working on it.
One of the things that generally tends to sit in category C for most people is self education, career enhancement, that sort of thing. And these things don’t get moved into quadrant D, typically until it’s too late. So, for example, you may have had a goal of learning a second language and that sits in category C. But you can’t wait until two weeks before you arrive in country to start, because you’re never going to get it done. You should have been working on it when it was in Category C, long before it ever got into Category D. And many things in self education, self improvement or career enhancement tend to fall into category C.
Now, time management really isn’t about managing time because, quite honestly, you can’t manage time. It isn’t like managing money. You can’t borrow it. You can’t sell it. You can’t buy it. You can’t loan it out and you don’t get any interest on it.
The universe is very equal and fair. All humans, insects, birds, mammals, absolutely everything, and everyone, gets exactly 86,400 seconds each day. No more, no less. How you use those seconds are up to you.
So if you’re listening to this podcast and chances are you’re aware that time is ticking and that you need to be working on your category C stuff. Removing all of the category A and B things should help you buy some time. But one of the best things I found for studying is to put it in your calendar and schedule time to do it.
A lot of people tell you to get up an hour early to study, which should be a quick and simple solution. However, someone told me this once, and I decided that that advice is just a little bit too flippant because, you see, at the time I was getting up at five am to commute to a job. So getting up an hour earlier at 4 a.m. it wasn’t gonna happen.
But scheduling time into your day might work. So, for example, your hour at lunchtime. Getting up an hour earlier might be a solution for you, but for me, it wasn’t a solution. Now, one solution I did find is what I call studying during dead time.
What is dead time? Well, dead time is a time where I’m forced to do something, but it isn’t really productive. And a very good example of this was commuting into work on a train. I used to commute for about an hour and a half back and forth to work each day.
Which meant three hours of dead time every day, 15 hours of dead time per week. Now I could have done what most people do on the train and just read a newspaper or listen to music, or even watched the film. But I decided I was gonna put that time to work. So I studied. I studied French and Italian or I read books which I needed for career developed and that three hours a day or 15 hours a week was some of the most productive time I actually had.
But there’s other examples of dead time. For example, for a different job, I had to drive to work. Now, here too, I had a lot of dead time. It was not productive, and there wasn’t really anything I could do. What I decided to do during this time was listened to audiobooks. Or speak into a voice recorder and used the transcripts software to turn it into text. Two of the draft of some fiction books, which I have published, were written while in that car, driving back and forth to that job.
So dead time can be your friend. You just can’t waste it, and you need to find ways to use this dead time. If you’ve got an hour or two of unproductive time each day, then you need to see how you can use that time to accomplish your category C goals.
Now, another thing that a lot of people do, and some advice that is given out, is to stop watching television, since it doesn’t really help your education. And I do agree with this or as Groucho Marx once said: I find television very educational because every time someone turns on the set, I go into another room and read a book.
Everybody’s got dead time or unproductive time that you could use instead for education. But if you can’t find any of this dead time, then you’re gonna need to steal time. Now, how do you steal time?
Well, I was able to get three hours of dead time on my train journey, as I told you earlier, but I also stole time in order to study languages. If you remember the story about the professor and the sand, we view the rocks as the dead time that you were getting back these large hours here and there. Then we can look at the sand as the few minutes where we normally spend waiting for something. You’re waiting for a tea kettle to boil or for the barista to hand you your coffee. You’re waiting in a line at the bank. You’re waiting in a line for the train. You’re waiting to get a ticket.
Human beings will spend approximately six months of their life in a line waiting for something, which is about three days a year queuing up. 72 hours of time, which you can steal back every year and you can steal back this time by being prepared and using things like flash cards. So if you’ve got a flash cards already made, you can pull them out of your pocket while you’re waiting for your tea kettle to boil and you can study it.
But nowadays, with the advent of technology, you can use an app like Anki (https://ankiweb.net) which allows you to memorize just about anything. Anki is a spaced repetition software, which is available on most devices and computers. And it will allow you to memorize parts of the bodies, capitals of countries, Russian vocabulary, the periodic table, square roots, you name it. It’ll help you memorize it through space repetition. And you just need to be ready to use these moments and to steal them when they become available.
Outside of stealing time and finding dead time. As I said before, one of the best techniques I found was to schedule your study time. If you’re going to schedule it, it might be your lunch hour. It might be one hour after your children go to bed, but during that hour, or you’re dead time or the stolen seconds, you’ll be progressing in your category C tasks of the coming autodidactic.
So in closing, I hope that what I’ve shared with you today is giving you some incentive to try and manage yourself and your time a bit better. Hopefully, it’s given you the incentive to study time management in more detail. You really can’t go wrong in your quest to be an autodidactic by starting with the study of time management techniques.
In the next episode, I want to dive into the actual study time itself and look at how we divvy up this study. Now, this is especially important if you want to be a polymath on a polymath as a person who is well schooled in multiple subjects.
Now, with that in mind, I’d like you to leave you with a little question to think about until the next podcast.
Is it better to study four subjects an hour day, rotating the subjects each day? Or is it better to study each subject for only 15 minutes of your hour?
If you’re interested in giving me feedback about the show or suggestions, please email me at email@example.com, and I’d like to thank you too, for taking the time to listen to this podcast. And I hope you feel that this was time well spent.
Thank you for listening to the auto didactic podcast with your host Rick Dearman, if you enjoyed this podcast, please consider giving a donation by a Paypal. Thank you very much, and see you again next time.
This is the introduction to The Autodidactic Podcast and an introduction to what we’re going to discuss this season.
The Autodidactic Podcast
EP1: The Introduction
Episode One – Season One
Welcome to the autodidactic podcast with your host, Rick Dearman.
Hello and Welcome to Episode one.
The first question you’re probably asking yourself is; What is an auto didactic? Well, it’s pretty simple an auto didactic is a self taught person, so a self learner, somebody who’s taught themselves the subject in great detail, but did it without necessarily classroom or a teacher.
Generally, autodidactics are individuals who choose the subject they want to study. They’ve chosen their studying material. They study rhythm, and the time is of their choosing, and the depth to which they study and gain knowledge is also completely up to them now.
In addition, many people who are autodidactic are also polymaths. A polymath is a person who’s knowledge spans a significant number of subjects. So this is somebody who’s learned not just maths, but violin or some scientific endeavour or language. Now many people have been polymaths or autodidactic. This list includes John Steinback, Mark Twain, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln and Frank Lloyd Wright and many, many, many others.
According to a recent poll of software developers, it seems that about 69.1% of all software developers are also self taught.
Now, the role of self directed learning continues to be investigated in many learning approaches, and it’s constantly evolving. Thanks to the Internet, we have colleges and universities offering more distance learning degree programs and technology providing numerous resource is to enable people to have a self directed learning experience.
So on this show, we want to discuss ways means, methods, resources and things that will help you become autodidactic. Also, hopefully, to build a community who can share resources and also talk to each other and give tips and advice about becoming a self learner, a self directed learner.
Now how do you go about becoming an auto didactic? Well, the very first step is determine what it is you want to study and commit to active learning. Now active learning occurs when a person takes control of your learning experience. Since understanding the information that you’re given as a key aspect of learning, it’s important for self directed learners to recognize what they understand, what they do not understand and how to take corrective action.
Basically, this is a form of learner autonomy, which was a phrase coined by Henry Olek in 1981. And it’s practice quite frequently in language learning, but it’s useful far, far beyond just learning a language.
This autonomy means moving the focus from the teacher to the learner and from the teaching to the learning process. The autonomy affords maximum possible influence for the learner. So it’s the learner who’s directing what needs to come next, autonomy that encourages and yet needs peer support and cooperation. You need others to talk to, others to bounce ideas off, and to learn from. And this autonomy makes use of your own self or peer assessment.
Because you’re not gonna be given a test at the end of the semester, you’re going to have to determine how much you know and how much you’ve learned by yourself. Which means you really need to be very self aware when you’re learning and to have the ability to look at what you’re doing and understand that you don’t understand this portion. You need greater clarification or some way to work on that, and that’s just part of learning how to learn OK, but a lot of the characteristics which are generally associated with autonomous learning or autodidactic or polymaths are basic resourcefulness, initiative and persistence.
Now, the most important point here is persistence. And, like our tagline says; You don’t have to be perfect just better than yesterday. But this is because we all want to be better, and we need to strive forward and be better. But we, as human beings, have a tendency to judge ourselves a bit too harshly, right? And so 90% of being auto didactic is just showing up and doing the work. Now, over the course of the next few episodes over this season, we’re gonna talk about the various things you need in order to become autodidact.
So we’re gonna have episodes on how to gather. Resource is for various types of learning, you know? How do you get textbooks? Where do you sign up for classes? How do you get books? How do you meet peers? How do you find a tutor? Et cetera?
A lot of these resource is will be free, but a lot of them you would have to pay for. So this isn’t an exercise in teaching you how to learn for free. But it is an exercise in discovering resources for learning. We’re gonna touch on how to learn languages. I do another podcast where I talk about language learning with a fellow language learner called the Lollygagging podcast.
I run a forum for language learners, which is called forum.language-learners.org where there are almost 12,000 people who are learning various languages all around the world. And there’s loads of resource is tips, tricks and things you can do to learn languages. And we’ll cover most of the important points in those episodes, and they’re probably going to be more than one episode simply because there’s so much to cover when talking about learning languages.
In another episode, I want to talk about technology skills and how to learn them. Now, for example, I’ve learned a number of programming languages at least a dozen C, C++, PERL, Python, TCL/TK You know, just loads of various programming languages, and I’ve taught myself, all of them and you know, it doesn’t surprise me that 69.1% of all software developers. Or the majority of software developers, in any case are self taught because learning a new programming language is literally just learning the syntax of the language. Once you know how to program in either object orientated programming or linear programming, learning another language isn’t that difficult as far as programming goes.
I want to cover on episode where we talk about my time management techniques. So you know, when am I going to get time to learn all this stuff? How am I gonna chop up my time if I want to learn more than one subject? How do I cover different aspects of learning in the time I’ve got allotted? How do I steal the minutes from my day to add to my knowledge and capabilities?
And then I want to cover things like, how do I find tests to see how much I’ve learned? How do I get an evaluation? How can I do a self evaluation to discover? Well am I any good at this or not?
So those are just a few of the many topics that we’re going to cover in this season. Certainly, and I would really appreciate it if you could spend a bit of time and send me your feedback topics you would like to cover areas that you would like to explore, and I’ll try and help you as best I can to understand what it is you need to do to help progress yourself learning.
And I want to become your peer so that we share ideas with each other and with the audience as a whole. So to do that, you can feel free to email me, and then we will go on this journey forward together, getting more more information and getting better at what it is we do.
Now you’re probably asking yourself. Okay, well, what is it you’re learning at the moment? You’re that you’re the podcast host. What is it you’re learning? Well, I’ve actually got a shelf of over 17 books on mathematics ranging from fundamental mathematics to differential calculus. And I’m slowly making my way through all of those books a little bit at a time.
I’ve taught myself French and Italian, and I’m continuing to do more vocabulary work and more work with those languages, and I’m teaching myself Mandarin at the moment as well. I’m pursuing to programming languages one Rust, which is a new language and the other called Flutter, which is language used for developing applications on smartphones, tablets and televisions.
So that’s basically what I’m doing at the moment. And I’d like to review what I’m doing with you. Discuss things that I found that are working and things that I found that don’t work. Quite frequently it’s the things that don’t work that teach you how you as a person as an individual learn rather than some instruction. So as a person you need to be constantly evaluating what it is you’re doing and how you’re doing it, how you’re planning your study time, what you’re doing with that study time. What’s giving you benefit and what isn’t.
Some of the things that will look at is methods for tracking what you’re learning. So find a spreadsheet and track the number of hours that you spend on learning or track the number of modules that you’ve completed in a book. Various things that basically keep you on track and keep you on schedule, because without a plan, you’re not really going to get anywhere, and it’s okay to say; Oh, I’m going to study Mandarin for half an hour every day, but what exactly is it that you’re going to study? What materials are you going to use? And how will you know when you’re completed with that material, what the next material is going to be.
Or are you going to mix materials together? Are you going to be using a textbook, some native audio and some other form of study? So these are the sorts of things that we want to explore some of the things that we’re going to need to look into and actually get going.
So in this podcast, I really want to be as helpful and as interactive as we possibly can be. So please feel free to email me put comments on the website, and any suggestion is more than welcome.
So to sum up this obviously quite short introduction, I just like to say that I hope you join me for the entire first season. And I hope we cover the things that you want to learn that will help you become a self directed learner an autodidactic. So thank you very much for listening, and I’ll see you at the next episode.
Thank you for listening to the auto didactic podcast with your host Rick Dearman, if you enjoy this podcast, please consider giving a donation by PayPal. Thank you very much.