Friday, October 27, 2017

Study Methodology

While going through school one of the things that my teachers constantly harped upon was proper study habits. Which are something that while going through school you may have developed, but now that you have been outside of school you may have forgotten. Or, your life has changed dramatically from what it was while sitting at your desk in a study hall or dorm room, you need to redevelop in a way that fits your current lifestyle and living conditions.

One of the things they taught us was that there are three different styles of learners. Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic. Each of these three learning styles have certain strengths, and certain ways in which they best learn.

Visual: These are the types of learners who need to see something to understand it and learn it. As such, these types of learners need to utilize study methods that allow them to see the content. If you are one of these types of learners you may do well with reading the book, or watching a presentation or video on the subject. Flash cards can also be an effective study method as well.

Auditory: These types of learners best retain the subject when they can hear it. In High School I had a friend who was a stereotypical auditory learner. We would sit in Economics, and he would play games on his calculator (TI-83!!) non-stop, seemingly never looking up at the teacher or at the slides. However he always outscored us in tests and quizzes. Just because his eyes and hands were engaged in another activity he could still learn the content by hearing it. If you fall into this category learning from a book may be more difficult, but you can try reading aloud to yourself. You may find that if you try and teach the subject to someone you will learn it better yourself because you need to vocalize it. Although teaching a subject helps almost anyone learn the subject because you need to truly know the subject to be able to teach it.

Kinesthetic: These types of learners need to “do” in order to learn. For these learners, recreating the subject in someway can help them best retain it. I somewhat fall into this category so I’ll go into this a bit more below.

It’s important to note that most people learn best with more than just one of these methods. So experimenting with different study methods to find the one that works best for you is important. Remembering that you may need to pull methods from each category.

I find myself being more of a Visual and Kinesthetic learner. I can read the book and retain much of what was said. However to reinforce what I see, I also need to “do,” which when studying for a subject like Wireless Networking can be hard to do. How do you “do” Inter Frame Spacing? For me, I take notes. Sometimes more detailed than others. But I find the act of putting down the content in my own words really helps me retain the knowledge. I find this is especially beneficial when it comes to definitions. For example, if I copy a definition verbatim from the book, I don’t retain it at all. Because I’m not really interacting with the definition. Merely mindlessly copying from one place to another. However when I take that definition (or subject) and put it in my own words. I have to stop and think about what the actual thing means, and how it really works. I need to truly know it to be able to put it in my own words. I touched upon earlier how teaching a subject to someone can be an incredibly useful learning method. I think this is a great example of that. In putting something in my own words, I’m essentially teaching myself the subject to the level that I can reframe it in a way that I can communicate it differently than it was presented in the book.

When it comes to reading the book, as much as I love wireless, I need to set a goal for myself to get through the book. To accomplish this, and to ensure I stay on task, I made myself a tracking spreadsheet. Below is a link to the template of the spreadsheet I use. I use the Kindle versions of the books so you will see “Loc’s” rather than Pages. It’s just how the Kindle tracks it. But essentially what I do is find the last “Loc” of the book that has content on it. So the last Loc before the appendix and such. Then I update the formulas with the dates I am going to start on, and the date that I plan on ending. From there all I need to do is update it with whatever Loc I’m on at the time and it will tell me how far ahead or behind I am. As well as how many Loc’s I need to read to finish for my target date. This method works really well for me because it keeps me on task. If I am busy, or get lazy one week, it will show me how much that week cost me to get back on track. Or, if I know I’m not going to be able to get any reading done for a few days, I can use the “per day” amount to figure out how far ahead I need to get to make up for it.

One of the best tools for me have been flash cards. Much like what I spoke about previously with putting things in my own words. They force me to take subjects and frame them in a way that will work on a flash card. For example, if I was to put 3dB on one side, on the other I would put “Doubles, or halves the signal strength.” The mere act of having to take that and figuring out a way of putting it on a flash card helps me retain it. Then actually seeing it when using the flash cards reinforces it even further. Another thing that I really like about flash cards is it helps you identify the ones that you need to work on further. I will run through my flash cards and the ones that I faltered on, or didn’t get right, I flag or put them in a separate pile to go through again. There are a number of online flash card utilities out there. The ones that I have used are Anki and Quizlet. Both are solid, and offer a couple of various options of going through your cards.

As you develop your study methods, you will develop a bit of a flow to your studying. However if you are anything like me, that flow needs to be fairly dynamic so you can utilize it wherever you are. This is one of the reasons that I use the Kindle versions of the book. That way I always have it with me. Whether its on my laptop, phone, iPad, wherever I am, I have the book. For notes, I use Evernote. Again, that way wherever I am, I can not only take notes, but refer to ones that I have made previously. However I may move to OneNote since Evernote has put their two-device max on the free version.

In Evernote I will create a Notebook for the overall exam that I’m working on. In the past I used to then create “notes” for the various chapters. However I found that many of the subjects are built upon across multiple chapters, so I have started to create notes on subject matter rather than chapter. For example, in CWDP, QoS was obviously a large subject. I wanted to have a repository of notes on QoS so I created a separate “note” just for it. That way I didn’t have to try and remember what chapter covered QoS, and if there were things from various chapters that touched upon it, I could correlate them all there.

If you are having trouble retaining a subject, try reevaluating the way you actually learn. Maybe there are other methods that you can employ to learn the content. Find the methods that best suit you, then form those methods into a flow. Then get out there and get learning! In our field if you’re not constantly learning and evolving, you’re going to fall behind.

(If you have any questions or concerns about the spreadsheet just let me know. Quick note, you need to update the dates in the formulas, not just in the Begin Date and Target End Date cells. In fact, those are just so I have it staring me in the face.)

More information on the three learning styles: 

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