Archive for the 'life' Category

Bookmarks and Favourites

There are easier ways to organise where you’ve been online than trawling through the last year on the ‘History’ tab. It doesn’t need to be a big job, and in fact is a pretty good way of reviewing what you know about a subject or topic. The aim isn’t to read every page or site, but to figure out where the gaps are. If you take a moment to think about what you want your ideal list of sites to do, it’ll probably look a bit like this:

Essential

  • make it easy to find specific sites
  • be divided into social and school lists
  • have lists for subjects to make review/revision easier

Useful

  • available through phone
  • able to share with friends

Most browsers will give you the choice of creating folders (or in some cases dividers) in your list. Simply make a social and a school folder. The social folder can include your sports club pages, forums and blogs for your hobbies or whatever. Take five minutes to drag and drop everything fun into it. Create subfolders once it gets past a dozen or so sites.

The school folder needs a section for each subject, or possibly teacher. Don’t try to move all your bookmarks at once; it can be a long job. If you do one subject at a time, it’s a useful way to review what you’ve learned and what is missing. There are three that are definitely worth adding to save time when you’re in a hurry:

  • the exam board subject page (where you can get past papers)
  • relevant BBC Bitesize page
  • other preferred revision sites, if any (e.g. S-Cool)

If you find the list for each subject starts to get confusing, break it up into each exam paper or module. If your browser allows you to use tags instead, this is even better – just tag each bookmark with as many relevant keywords as you want, then search for them the easy way.

Sharing

Making your lists (or part of them, you may want to be careful) with friends or teachers can be worthwhile – especially if you swap, rather than share. If you’re serious about being able to get at your bookmarks anywhere, you might like to check out this list of services at LifeHacker. Before you get started with one, check you can access it through school, as some are blocked or hard to use through a firewall. It might also be worth making some bookmarks available on your phone, if the sites have a mobile version for quick revision while waiting at the bus stop. (More mobile phone tips coming soon.)

It’s amazing how many so-called adults don’t organise their online life. The point of this isn’t to be virtuous, or to look smart. It means that when you need something, you can find it quickly and easily. This means work gets done to a higher standard (as long as you don’t just bookmark Wikipedia articles) and you get more time to do something useful.

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Subject Knowledge Online

You might hate to admit it. You might refuse to say so in front of your mates. But sometimes, even the most reluctant student, the most sullen teenager finds something a teacher says interesting.

The truth is, your teachers work hard to try to inspire your interest. And they’re probably honestly interested themselves, or at least remember a time when they were. All subjects, no matter how obscure, have some relevance to the ‘real world’. And although it wasn’t always true, the internet now means that if you have an interest, you can ‘meet’ other people who are interested too. The problem is that there’s an awful lot of crap out there. Finding an answer to any question is often trickier than plugging a homework title into Google. The truth is that you already use the web for your own, non-academic interests – videos, music, books, sports or hobbies. There’s plenty that relates to your subjects, and checking it out can really boost your understanding. It impresses your parents and your teachers. Done properly, it will be interesting too – but you still don’t have to tell your friends.

If you find useful or interesting material, there are two things you could do:

  1. Save the address to your bookmarks or favourites list, perhaps organised by subject so that you can find it again.
  2. Share it, with friends or the relevant teacher (you could always ask them not to say who found it).

Websites

Some sites are big, expensive and ‘official’. Some are free, informal and specialist. Loads of sites are around which provide reference material on particular subjects. Try looking through the ‘references’ lists on Wikipedia, or a museum for an interest that you’d like to know more about. Many galleries have permanent online ‘exhibits’, with links to all kinds of material. It’s like having the world’s biggest library at your fingertips, for free. Brush up on your language skills by reading sites in French or Spanish. Compare notes on training regimes with athletes all over the world. Read about human rights issues or the environmental consequences of mining or heavy industry.

Blogs

One way in which enthusiasts now share their ideas is by blogs. These are often the ‘live’ thoughts of current experts, researchers and professors. They’ll discuss new discoveries or suggest interpretations of what we already know. Because they can be regularly updated they can cover – and link to – events and innovations as they happen. You can often sign up to receive email updates or an RSS feed.

Media

Sites like YouTube aren’t just for music videos and kittens on pianos. You can find all kinds of material online, covering a wide range of topics. Starting with on-demand TV and radio (such as iPlayer), and moving on to archives of historical footage, old newspapers, recordings of speeches, readings of books and poetry, the web has a large and growing choice of all kinds of media. And you could always just type a search term into GoogleNews, the BBC or any other preferred news source.

Participate

In most of these examples, you have the chance to contribute. You don’t have to start up your own blog explaining what studying Geography is all about. But you’d gain a lot by commenting on somebody’s ideas, joining in with the conversation. This is just like in lessons – if you have to think about the ideas more, you’ll understand them better. Follow the same rules you’d follow in a classroom discussion – listen first, offer suggestions, back up your ideas with data, separate facts and opinions – and be prepared to have your thoughts criticised. Most students complain about being treated as a child. Be smart about being safe online and your ideas will get the respect they deserve. And in the process, you’ll learn stuff you didn’t know before, set yourself up to achieve more in exams and hopefully find it interesting as well.


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