Dec 29, 2008

How To Find A Tutor

How To Find A Tutor

The process of finding some extra help with schoolwork can seem like a somewhat daunting task. But if you require a little additional help outside of what you normally receive during school hours, a paid professional teacher to go one-on-one with could be the only way to go. Sometimes, all you need is an extra 45 minutes of focused teaching to come away with more confidence, better marks, and a firmer grasp of the concepts and ideas presented in school.

The number one priority you should think about when picking a tutor is what kind of rapport you have with him or her. Unless you are eager and willing to use the tutor as a path towards better grades, the money you pay and the time you spend won’t necessarily be used as effectively as possible. But, if you hold a good relationship with the tutor, there is a better chance that you’ll try harder and achieve more quickly than with a tutor who you are less comfortable with. Make sure to run each candidate through a “trial” session before they are hired in order to see if they are the right choice.

With that said, qualifications and credentials come in an extremely close second place in terms of what to look for in a tutor. Try to find someone who has experience not only teaching, but experience with the specific subject that you have trouble with. Also, you may want to inquire into any experience they might have with particularly troublesome topics (for example: graphing in Algebra for a math tutor). Find out everything, including familiarity with the textbooks, the school, and the curriculum. Also, find out what age group they are used to.

There are many different resources you could use in searching for the right candidate, but the first stop should be at the school. It’s important to see the situation from the perspective of the teacher as well. Talk to the teacher that runs the class you are struggling with. Focus on the problem areas so you have a better idea about what to look for in credentials and qualifications for your tutor. Maybe the teacher herself is a good candidate choice, or she could point you towards other potential tutors.

From there, search all other logical places, such as the classifieds or Internet. You’ll find many different types of services and candidates, and each could be the right choice for you. For example, if it suits your learning style, an online tutor might be more beneficial than a tutor who makes house calls. Don’t be hesitant to consider candidates from professional tutoring companies, but don’t forget to research their background. Typically, you’ll find that the more qualified candidates are freelancers. Also, local universities usually have tutors who are younger and might relate to you more easily.

In the end, a tutor will only help you if you want the help. Try to make the process as easy and pain-free as possible.

Dec 22, 2008

How To Check The Validity Of A Website

There is a popular post on YouTube labeled The Real Duck Face Popeye. Over 3 million people have seen it. Click the link and watch a grainy video of an elderly gentleman performing stunts with his massively stretchable face, including touching his eyeball with his tongue and stretching his bottom lip up and over his nose and all the way to his eyebrows. This feat of facial acrobatics illustrates the following point perfectly--there is a lot of stuff on the Internet. As traditional print research slowly dwindles among students, research on the Internet is constantly growing. Having an instant connection to volumes upon volumes of information certainly has many upsides, but it is not without pitfalls. For every fact you may find on the Internet, there is sure to be at least one complete falsification saying the complete opposite. Let these tips guide your next research-bound venture onto the web.

Credibility is the word when considering whether or not to use a source in your research. The first indication as to whether or not a site is credible is in the domain (a.k.a. the end of the website’s “address”). That line of text at the top of your browser will let you know exactly what kind of site you’re dealing with. One example of a credible domain would be one that ends in “dot gov” (.gov), such as with the White House website, or the CIA Factbook, as .gov denotes that the site is run by the government. Likewise, a “dot edu” site (.edu), such as a website for a university, can also be considered credible. Finally, “dot org” sites (.org) like HippoCampus carry credibility as they denote a profit or non-profit organization. However, the domain is only part of it. While it’s a great indicator as to what kind of website you are dealing with, it is not enough to simply believe information because of a certain domain.

The next thing you should do is research the author. Ask yourself why you should believe what the author is stating. Has the author published anything else, and if so, does it pertain to the subject you are researching? Does the author hold a degree from an accredited University? Is there the possibility for bias? What are the author’s sources? If you don’t come up with good answers to these types of questions, don’t trust the information they give.

With any information on the Internet you should always try and find the date of publication, as well. Often, websites will fall behind due to lack of time, resources, or interest, and the information they present could be months or even years out of date.

Take everything with a grain of salt, and double-check with another website to be sure. If both the website and author seem credible, it should be an okay source. But hey, don’t take my word for it—check for yourself.

Dec 15, 2008

How To Budget Your Time

They say that time is money. Both are certainly very important. We use bank statements, checkbooks, and credit cards to organize our funds so we don’t run out of cash at the wrong moment. But if the aforementioned adage is true, shouldn’t we treat our time with the same respect as our money? This week we’ll show you some tips on conserving that crucial resource.

The simplest and most obvious solution is the day planner. There are many different types of day planners, both digital and analog. In fact, most computers come with pre-loaded software you can use for free. It is important to find one that best suits your needs. Do you prefer to write down tasks by hand or enter them onto your computer? Do you want to plan things down to the day or down to the hour? Would you prefer sticky note reminders or a prompt from your computer? There is an incredible array of time management systems available today—take the time to find one that is best for you.

Once you have a planner, the next step in managing your time is to cut down or eliminate completely any time-killers that might interfere with your work. These include instant messaging, texting, e-mail, networking sites like MySpace or Facebook, and any other activity going on in the background that takes away your attention. Although these things may not create a huge distraction, they will definitely add to the time you spend on the important tasks. Try to give all your focus to a single assignment instead of multiple things at once. Test yourself on completing your work as quickly and effectively as possible. Writing on your friend’s wall will still be there once you’re done.

Next, have specific goals in mind before you get down to work. If you are working on a large project that requires multiple work-sessions, create a timetable of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. The satisfaction of crossing out completed tasks will keep you from getting burned out and frustrated.

Prioritizing your work is also a key factor in spending your time wisely. Complete the most important tasks first. That way, if you find yourself getting stuck and spending more time than originally allocated you won’t be cutting into anything crucial.

Once you get a feel for how long it takes to complete regular assignments, you’ll be able to manage your time in specific blocks. For example:

E-mail, phone calls- 1.5 hours
Lunch- 1 hour
Research for term paper- 2 hours
Reading- 1.5 hours
Go to the beach- 3 hours

The end result should be an agenda that helps you finish all your work and gives you room to play. If you can’t figure in some rest and relaxation, you definitely need to rethink your schedule!

Dec 8, 2008

How To Pick An Essay Topic

A few weeks back, we covered the ins and outs of writing an academic paper. We explained the process of taking a topic from thesis to conclusion without getting hung-up anywhere in between. However, we only briefly touched on one of the most important steps of writing a paper--choosing the right topic. If done correctly, your paper will practically write itself, but with the wrong topic, writer’s block and frustration are sure to rear their ugly heads.

Here are some sure-fire ways to avoid this. Begin by looking over the assignment very carefully. Jot down some brief notes on what your teacher will be expecting. Are there any specific points or areas you will need to cover? What range of topics can you explore? Is the paper open-ended, or more narrowly focused?

Once you understand your assignment, start brainstorming some ideas. Give yourself five minutes of uninterrupted writing. Let the words flow onto the page as quickly as you can write them, and no matter what, do not stop. Many people will try to slow down because they “run out of things to say”, but even if what you are writing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, just keep going. Every sentence could lead to topical gold.

After five minutes, you should have a sizable chunk of stream-of-consciousness writing that you can use to build your topic. Choose ideas that most interest or surprise you and expand on them. Where did your brainstorm lead? Where you end up is often a good indication of what will be most interesting for you to write about. If your brainstorming session yielded no results, take a break and then come back later and try again.

While building your topic, consider what resources you have available. Some topics could be more interesting than others but require much more research or time invested. Consider long-term workload.

It is possible that another student has already come up with your ideal essay topic. Feel free to use a topic you find in your research. As long as you write your own paper, using someone else’s topic is usually okay.

Remember to refer back to the original assignment and the notes you made detailing important paper parameters. Try to juxtapose the assignment with your brainstorming. Find a balance between what you want to write about and what you have to write about.

Always double-check your topic with your teacher before you begin writing. Ultimately, you choose the topic, but the paper is for your teacher. Choose a topic that’ll make both parties happy.

Dec 1, 2008

How To Scan A Text

Most students find themselves drowning in the deluge of assigned readings, handouts, and other text-heavy materials that make up a regular homework load. Although this quantity has become the norm for our schools, students are too often turned off from their studies due to the sheer volume of text that they are expected to absorb.

One solution is to learn how to scan text. This is different from reading in that someone who scans effectively can save time by picking out important information and forgoing the nuances of careful reading. There can be many different levels of reading comprehension, and in order to survive a tsunami-sized workload, it’s important to develop text-scanning skills.

When trying to save time while reading, you should first prioritize information. The more that you must concentrate on and absorb, the longer it will take to you to complete a text. The first question you should ask yourself is: how important is this reading? Let’s say you have a one-page handout that your teacher said, “Should be glanced over.” From that statement, we can gather that your teacher thought the information in the handout is important, but not the most important. This makes it a good candidate for scanning. If instead your teacher said that the information would be on an upcoming test, the handout should be given more attention. You should use your best judgment on what deserves the majority of your attention. If you’re not sure, ask your teacher.

Once you’ve prioritized your reading, it’s time scan. This means different things for the level of reading comprehension that you want to apply. If the text is of low importance, only look for the simple things (who, what, where, when, why, etc.). Organize the information you pick out, either with color-coded sticky notes, highlighters, or note-taking. Try to quickly “investigate” the text. Relate the information to what you are learning in class. Ask yourself how the reading applies to the main lesson that your teacher is presenting in the classroom. From there, quickly follow each sentence to the next and try not to stop unless you find something important or you become confused. If you are confused, slow down and back track a little. Read a bit more in-depth until you understand, then move on.

If you find yourself reading the same words over and over, or you reach a spot where you forget what you have just read, it is time to take a break. Many students will try and tackle all of their assigned reading in one sitting. This is not necessarily a great idea, as it can lead to less effective study time and more headaches later on.

Instead, take this simple analogy: if your mind was a potted plant, and information was the water, sometimes it takes a while for everything to be absorbed. Give your mind a rest when it needs one.

Once you’ve developed your own scanning technique, apply it to other things. Try scanning newspaper or Internet articles, then go back and read more in depth to see how well you did. You might find yourself learning faster than ever before.