As I write this, I am stuck in a small town in Ohio after an accident on the freeway on my way home from a conference. (I hit a semi wheel that came off a truck and smashed my car’s suspension system. I’m fine but, sadly, my car is not.) Whether it’s a semi wheel, a sick child or spouse, our own illness, family issues, or something else, at some point in our academic career, life gets in the way of our work.
Spring break looms and whether we’re fretting about baring a little skin after the long winter months or preparing to hunker down to get some work done, this time of year often prompts the desire to develop better habits. For some, the longer days and (slightly) warmer weather may motivate us to kickstart our exercise routine.
Would having more time really make a difference in our productivity? Most of us would say yes – more hours would mean we could get more work done. However, productivity blogger, Scott H. Young, argues that focus rather than time dictates our output. Just turning off the phone, laptop, internet or locking yourself away for hours isn’t enough to maintain your focus.
What digital skills, technologies, and tools should we develop while in graduate school? And how do we do that? I’ve put together a few suggestions and hope readers from a variety of disciplines will offer additional ideas in the comments section below.
“A synthesis of cognitive research endorses the idea that deep understanding of subject matter transforms factual information into usable knowledge. Knowledge learned at the level of rote memory rarely transfers; transfer most likely occurs when the learner knows and understands underlying concepts and principles that can be applied to problems in new contexts. Learning with understanding is more likely to promote transfer and application than simply memorizing information from a text or lecture.”
When asked about how you're doing on your academic work, does your heart race, adrenaline spike, or do you just go numb? If you answered, “yes” to any of these questions, you are in “triage” mode, just trying to stem the bleeding of your time and energy enough to complete your tasks and (hopefully) get a few hours of sleep. However, you probably want more out of your life and work than this.
As we prepare for a new school year, many of us will write lectures either by choice or because we feel or are told we must. I confess that I don’t like to lecture; I much prefer to facilitate student discussion, which places the responsibility for learning back on the students themselves. We have all experienced mind-numbing lectures and (most of us!) have vowed not to do that to our own students, but how do we break out of the mold in which we have been shaped?
I love to travel, so I was excited when I began to put ideas together for my dissertation and realized that I needed to conduct research in France and elsewhere. My husband, on the other hand, was not thrilled, and who can blame him? Research takes a long time, and we might have to be apart for weeks or even months. By the time I finish my research, we will have had to find creative solutions to make our long-distance marriage work for more than a year. We’re already more than half-way there and have found that despite the crazy schedule and the physical distance that has separated us, we feel closer now than ever before. While I won’t claim that we have everything figured out, we’ve learned a few things along the way.