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Student stuff

February 19, 2012

I’ve become a bit of an app addict lately and have been trying out anything and everything I can get my hands on to make things easier when it comes to school, so I thought I’d do an entry to review the top 6 things I can’t live without (note: I mentioned a pain management app a few posts ago that I said I would review….it was horrible, and since it didn’t have a reminder function, I quickly forgot about the app completely and stopped using it so I can’t write a fair review for it).

1. Publication Manual of the American Psychology Association – Sixth Edition (anything BUT the 1st printing**)

If you have to write papers using APA format, buy this book. Having the current publication manual at your disposal is so much more useful and efficient than having to search around the web for information. It’s surprisingly easy to use, well organized, and has examples. Stick a few post-its in the sections covering things you use frequently and you’re golden. It’s also extremely helpful if you find your references and such being marked wrong incorrectly. It’s always easier to just show your professor the publication manual than to try and find the site you got your formatting information from and convince them that the website is up to date and correct (not that I would do such a thing…*cough*). I bought my copy online from Chapters, and with express shipping it was under $40.

** Take note, the 1st printing contains errors so make sure you do not buy the first printing. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re buying it new, but if you’re buying a used copy, double check.

2. Anki

I. Love. Anki.

This is the coolest little flashcard program. It allows you to make multiple decks and set schedules for studying them. You can rank the cards as you go through them based on how easily you answered the questions on the cards, and the lower a card ranks, the more often it will come up. You can share decks and sync them with other computers and mobile devices. If you have a Blackberry like I do, you’ll have to use the web-based version on your phone instead of an actual app or bring your laptop with you. This isn’t really a problem though since my school has great wifi coverage, so I can review my cards between classes without eating into my data plan even if I don’t have my laptop with me. The program and web-based version are both free, but of course donations are appreciated.

3. BarCharts

I use so many BarCharts products, the campus bookstore staff just assume that I’ve come in to  buy more of them anytime I go in there. I’m especially fond of the laminated reference guides (the only class I don’t use them for is sociology), but I do have some flashcards as well (bought before I found Anki, but still worth the money). Their wee little books are nice too, particularly if you’re looking for something that will show you a different way of remembering certain pieces of material.

4. SpaceChem

Yes, a videogame, but hear me out on this one. Ever get stuck trying to remember something? Ever get stuck while writing an essay, just not sure how to word something or where to go next? Do you study the smart way and take breaks? That’s what I use this game for. I find I always end up over-thinking when trying to solve the puzzles in this game. So, I start my study break, maybe after getting stuck on a particular piece of content, then start playing this game for a bit. Listening to the music (which can be quite soothing) and watching the molecules float around the screen gives me time to think about the content I was studying without staring at a page trying to hammer the information into my head when it just doesn’t want to go in. Then I get stuck on the puzzle, so I go back to studying, ready to go with a new way of thinking about the content. This goes back and forth until I’m finished studying for the night. And of course, it’s always nice to reward yourself after a long study session. You won’t actually learn anything about chemistry from this game aside from maybe the names of a few elements, but it can help keep those neurons firing and open up new pathways if you’re stuck. You can download it straight to your computer or play through Steam, the demo will keep you busy for quite some time, and if you choose to buy the full game, it’s only $10 (and yes, the take paypal). The only danger is getting hooked on a puzzle and refusing to give up on it once you get stuck, eating up all your study time. That’s why you should use #5 on the list as well.

5. A timer

Do yourself a favour: the next time you study, write down the time you start to study. Once you start to get sluggish and feel like the information just isn’t getting in anymore, stop and check the time. Figure out how long you were studying for, then take a break. Get up, get away from your study area, stretch, have a snack, play a game for a few minutes, or just sit and relax. Then once you go back to study, set a timer for the same amount of time you were studying for before. Once the timer goes off, take a break again. The length of the study period and the length of the break will vary from person to person, but 20 minutes of study to a 5 minute break is a good ratio to start with if you don’t want to time yourself to figure out how long to go for. Try to keep the timer out of the room as well so you don’t end up sitting there staring at the clock waiting for your break (I use one with a magnetic so I can stick it to my fridge since I can’t see my fridge from my dining table where I study).

6. Toodledo

Toodledo.com is an extremely easy to use site for making very nicely organized to-do lists. You can have separate lists and view them all at once, or view one list at a time. You can set dates and times for each event, or have no date and time for it. You can also rank events by priority, and once you’ve finished the task you just click a little checkbox and it will remove the task for you when you refresh the list (or you can go through a list, checking things off without refreshing so you can see how much you’ve gotten done). I love that you can add notes to each task as well, extremely helpful I find when it comes to listing homework and such. You can access it from a mobile web browser, but it doesn’t seem to have a mobile version of the site so the only downside is you’ll have to scroll side to side to view your full list and all your options. But, with everything on one screen, multiple ways of organizing lists, no cost, the ability to share your list with others and add collaborators (great for organizing group projects or just sharing with your significant other), and just how unbelievably easy and user friendly Toodledo is, I highly recommend it not only for students, but for anyone that is very busy or has a tricky time remembering things.

Cheers!

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