Back to School: Sage Ideas for Academic Development

Students: Academic Links for this story are at the bottom of the page.

By Richard Campbell

Summer is over. Where did it go, you might ask? Now you are ready for school.  Right. And the Celtics are going to win the championship this year too! All kidding aside, many student’s find research and writing skills to be the most difficult things to learn- especially for students who get bored with dry details.  What follows here is a global view of the skills new high school students need to learn, written out in plain English. Yes, Freshman: this article is aimed squarely at your cerebellums.

Awareness: No One is Average.

It is hardly an overstatement to say that the pressure to perform well academically increases upon entering high school, and while the most ambitious, well tutored students have an arsenal of tools available; it is also true that many students, who might be considered “average” do not have the advantages of glistening type A scholars.  In the complex world of learning, no one is average.  Every person has his or her own unique abilities. The secret is finding yours. No matter where you consider yourself on the educational food chain (slang for hierarchy), you must understand that putting extra pressure on yourself to compete with others may do more harm than good.  Developing learning skill is part work, and part believing in your abilities. It doesn’t hurt to get a little help from your friends, so find a study partner early on.  This should not be gab time, but a few concentrated  hours of work on a schedule. In short, you need to focus your awareness upon the tasks at hand, and silence negative voices that are confidence busters. You don’t have to be a Zen master to practice good learning habits in order to consciously upgrade your study skills. High school is an entirely different ball game, so change is critical to deal with the work load. Life is about to become a lot more complicated, but don’t panic.

Multitasking Makes
You Dumb.

When you focus upon one task (reading, or playing a trumpet, as examples) to the exclusion of everything else, it gives your brain an opportunity to make deep neural imprints that increase your overall ability to concentrate. Extensive research shows that students who learn to focus concentration with good study habits have an easier time at school. Without going into deep medical jargon, multitasking when studying is one of the worst things you can do- so turn it all off, including the TV, cell phones, loud music, games, etc. At your stage in life, focused concentration is perhaps the most important skill to learn.

Gadgets: Gateway to Distinction or Distracting You From Study Time?

You may find the price tag of a new Mac Book Pro to be prohibitive, even if you lobbied the parents to buy you the latest i-phone. Smart phones are fine, highly advanced, toys, and you can keep social with them in between studying- without being constantly distracted by Instagram or Pokemon Go. The cold hard facts are young adults need to learn operating systems of both the Mac and PC, the Microsoft Office Suite, and at least a few programs of the Adobe Design Suite before college.  Knowing how to use advanced software on a laptop effectively does not happen without some serious training.  Judging by students I’ve seen entering college, what they know in applications is kind of the surface elements, and when a complex project hits them, they seek out training in a panic. Check. Increase software knowledge now.

There is a great deal offered to students in the digital world that can assist in learning, but the single greatest invention in the world- that which advanced us into the modern age- was of course, not the i-pad, but books.  Much research shows that reading from the printed page offers advantages to looking at screens- and though there are significant advocates on both sides of the question; it is much more a product of how you use different kinds of content that determines effective learning.   You need to know trusted sources of information.  Library time is critical. Say you aren’t into books, what about advanced multimedia, free computer lessons, lectures, art, and music?  The new Copley Square  library even includes a TV Studio.

Timing is Everything: Stay Active

When you start school the two things you should have both a digital and print copy of are your schedules, and assignments. You need a master file of all of these in multiple formats, in case of technology failure. Remember that your daily study time has to be as scheduled as your classes and other activities. Notice, I said DAILY STUDY TIME. If you never have done that, start with three days a week, and move up to five when you feel confident. Being active physically is not normally associated with great study skills, but in actuality, physical exercise is very connected to mental development. You do not have to run a triathlon, or be the campus varsity jock; but understand that being a coach potato will absolutely kill your ability to learn things. The well researched connection between regular exercise and better critical thinking skills is not held in question by educators, so definitely get out and move as a part of your daily plan. Finally, it is realized this is a lot of information in one place, but if you are a student entering high school, and you use a fraction of the resources and strategies mentioned here, your academic skills will improve. To move from awareness to mastery requires pretty constant effort on your part. That new Mac Book Pro may well pay for itself when you are accepted at a college, but the best things in life are still free.  Check out these helpful academic links: and remember, Ask a Librarian.

LINKS to library and Learning Resources:

Boston Public Library: Get to know this site backwards and forwards.

www.bpl.org

Owl; Purdue Universities Online Writing Lab. A little overwhelming at first.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/8/

Kahn Academy: Today’s students swear by this for STEM subjects.

https://www.khanacademy.org/

Study Guide Site: Old School Knowledge.

http://www.studygs.net/

Memory Hacks: Short overview of mnemonics:

http://lifehacker.com/384954/top-10-memory-hacks

Bibliographic Skills: These are free ones.

https://www.zotero.org/

http://www.bibme.org/

Grammar:

https://www.grammarly.com

Haithia Trust: Millions of Old Books Free

https://www.hathitrust.org/

Worldcat: Search the world for books.

https://www.worldcat.org/

Some Interesting Books on the Subject:

“Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport

“Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice”, by Howard Gardner

 

 

Jeanne Rooney

Jeanne Rooney is the Editor in Chief for South Boston Online.