New Ways to Put Stuff in Your Brain

At the risk of shaking the crotchety stick, I’ll point out that back when I was in school studying was a very different process. I won’t say whether it was more difficult or worse, but it was clearly different.

Today, there are a lot of interesting new tools to help you study in a variety of different areas. So whether you are still in school or just looking to pick up a couple of new skills. Here are a couple of sites that can help you increase your knowledge in a useful, systematic way.

The first is a site I heard about on ReadWriteWeb called Cramberry. This site, which is still in beta, serves a very simple purpose. They are an online note card tool. When you study vocabulary words or any number of discrete pieces of information, you might make physical note cards and write the question on one side and the answer on the back. This ‘eco-friendly’ way to study involves simply creating a new set of ‘cards,’ looking at the question, answering it and letting the computer know if you got the answer correct. The system will put the cards you got incorrect into the rotation more often, and you’ll continue to click through the note cards until you feel like you’ve mastered that particular area.

It’s a little disappointing that there isn’t a little more variety in cards. You can’t really color them or do very much creatively with them. Also, they do not seem to give you access to other people’s cards, which could save you some data entry. I’m hopeful that since this is still in Beta more features are forthcoming.

My next tip is to help your note taking. One of the techniques I like to use is called mind mapping. This where you take a main topic, circle it, and like a spider web build a map of relationships that thing has to other piece of information. Mindomo is a site that offers their users the ability to create their own mind maps. This site works on a free-mium basis, where the basic functions of the site are free, but some of the advanced functions require a monthly fee. This is a business model that I hope to see become more common. It’s great to have access to some good tools, and a good feel if this is something that you would use frequently before you hand over some of that hard-earned money. Plus, it lets developers get compensated for something they’ve worked hard on.

The interface of this site takes a little getting used to, but after an inital warm-up, it is a pretty intuitive site and you can really get some impressive mind maps going. I recommend giving it a try.

The last site I’ll recommend is for when you’ve completed that report and it is time to do that dreaded bibliography. The thing about the bibliography is not citing sources it is about getting the correct info in the arcane formats required. Plus, it can be difficult to find the rules for online formats like websites. At EasyBib, all you have to do is insert the information and they will export it in the MLA format for you. (The Chicago and APA formats require the Pro version.) The coolest thing about the site though, is if you insert the ISBN # of the book, it will automatically hunt down the info on it and format it. This is a process that can save you a lot of time.

So now that you know your stuff, can get it organized and can site it properly, no one can stop you from making the grade.

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