We counsel our students to study for two subjects a night over the three weeks before exams. The other night, my son chose to focus on history and math. For history, he announced with uncommon enthusiasm that he was going to use the Study Wiki that he and his classmates made. A wiki is a collaboratively-built online reference site, the most well-known of which is Wikipedia. KCS teachers are embracing the making and use of wikis as a meaningful tool for students to take notes and communicate learning. The fact that these notes are shared online raises the whole exercise of note-taking to a real-world relevance that it never had before and, with that, the quality of what they produce goes up. I, and many other parents, are familiar with student “notes” that are sparsely or imperfectly done, and of little support when studying. Studying with the wiki, my son worked with thorough definitions and concept maps, and played knowledge games that cover most of the content he needs to remember. This wiki is available 24/7, thus having the added benefit of not needing to be “brought home” and “returned to school”, demands that often sabotage many a well-meaning student.
Then we moved on to math. This year KCS introduced a new online math resource that offers many benefits. For the purpose of studying, the students were sent a collection of review questions. Each question page had a link to the online video and practice questions that the student could go back to if they needed a reminder of how to approach the problem. When my son didn’t understand a question, it was no longer my responsibility to figure it out and teach him what to do – I simply reminded him to go back to the video for guidance. When my son was done, he received instant feedback on which questions he answered correctly, and which were incorrect. Seeing the ones that were incorrect, we went back to the videos to find out where he took a wrong turn.
Studying well requires many things to fall in line:
- having what you need, when you need it;
- having quality notes that are easy to read and use, even enticing to use;
- getting frequent feedback on how you are doing; and
- having material available in multiple formats.
These are but a few details that make a significant difference. Any tool that makes more of these fall in line is a tool that is most welcome.
Studying at KCS truly isn’t what it used to be. While the ancient Asian concept of yin and yang has these two as complementary and balanced, studying with technology is firmly on the yang side of this balanced equation. And thank goodness. Exams, and the challenge in facing them, otherwise haven’t changed at all.
Good luck to all in grades 6 to 8, and happy (as-can-be) studying!
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.