don’t read anything, it’s just a waste of time

exam tactics

I learn very little from lectures in college. The reality is most of the time i’m bored, thinking of other things or twisting and bending my ankles and legs to shock myself in to staying awake…

It Depends

Of course it depends on the subject, the lecturer, the time of day, the length of class & how full the class is. It’s extremely difficult to switch off if there’s only a few people in the class because your sense of courtesy kicks in, or at least should do. In a bigger group though it’s easy to blend in and drift through classes.

Most of the time, and i’ve said it before, powerpoint slides are boring. They’re one of the main reasons why i can’t energize myself. I just don’t get it… it’s widely accepted that bullet points and reams of text is not the best way to present information, but it’s as if nobody cares about entertainment value.

I put up the slides, responsibility is on YOU to learn what’s in them. That’s the impression i get. And that would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that most of the time i’m not interested in the material. Why am i not interested in the material? Because it’s not being sold to me in a fun or exciting way. And the loop continues…

Most of my learning is done in classrooms or at home. I may as well not be in lectures because i’m probably not paying attention. I’m hoping i’m taking in something subconsciously.

Edgar Dales’s Learning Cone

And that brings me on nicely to this cone of learning thing i stumbled across a while back which i thought was rather fascinating, even though i’m pretty sure i’ve read about it or seen it somewhere before…

It’s from a guy called Edgar Dale, one of these 20th century learning gurus. It’s only a model and the way in which we learn may well have changed in the 50+ years or so since this was created (thanks, internet) but it fits in nicely with my own opinion and theory on learning. And in my own experience, this cone is pretty accurate.

I liked it so much, i spent and hour in photoshop designing my own version, which is modelled closely on other variations. The original is bit more complex with 10 layers.

edgar dale

Not so smart now, are we readers?

If you’re reading this post, the chances are you’ll have forgotten all about it in two weeks time. However, the chances are i’ll remember pretty much everything about it. And this is one of the reasons why i blog every day and why i create stuff… because i feel like i’m doing something useful… i can ask myself tomorrow “what did i do yesterday?” and the blog post will answer that question.

By creating stuff constantly, i feel i learn more than if i were to read books. I’ve always hated books and broadsheet newspapers for their formal content and appearance. I always think to myself they’re ‘not real’ or are deliberately neutral in tone which is also ‘not real’. So i get bored very easily reading that stuff. Then again, most smart people read books, or so we think.

They’re probably deep thinkers with much better vocabulary than people who don’t read books. So although we may only remember 10% of what we read, maybe that 10% is 90% more valuable to us than presenting information in terms of expanding our vocabulary and broadening our horizons.

Only smarties have the answer

Of course all of this is only theory… all of what i’m talking about could be complete nonsense. In a few years time someone might work out how we learn… maybe we learn by taking photos with our eyes, voice recording with our ears and touch data with our bodies and then maybe we store all that stuff in a database in our brains. Who knows? Nobody knows.

All anyone can do is base things on their own experiences and of those directly around them. In my mind, Edgar Dale’s cone system is bang on the money. That’s pretty much exactly how i learn best and what % of material i retain after a few weeks.

Look through my ‘college’ posts and you’ll have heard me say time and time again how boring it can be and how learning should be more fun or hands on. 100% group projects, a ban on bullet points in slides, ban on sentences in slides… fewer hours in college and tighter timetables to eliminate long breaks…

4 thoughts on “don’t read anything, it’s just a waste of time”

  1. Completely agree with you, I came out of uni with a 2:1 and couldn’t focus in lectures or labs. The technique that has always worked for me is find out what has been on the last 5/6 papers, write down the answers and learn them. Bam – instant pass 🙂

  2. yeah the past exam papers are gold.. i think there comes a time when you question whether to keep reading or start doing and for me that time is this year… i thought about a masters but then i asked myself how would a i benefit from it and came to the conclusion that i’d learn more doing something and attacking projects / work… right now a masters to me would simply be a status symbol and unless i *need* it, there’s no point in doing it.

  3. Totally agree about the class size and the possibility of dozing off! I drift a lot too, in my really big class. I do the same thing you do. I don’t really learn much in class. Teacher does power point, which is supposed to help organizing the lecture structure, but it is pretty disconnected.

    Anyways, good points 🙂

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