There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours on end reading and reviewing study materials, only to come away feeling as if you know less than you did when you started. This isn’t limited just to your college years – it’s a problem for students of all ages, at all levels of education, and with a variety of educational goals. The solution, says Leo Fuchigami, is to know how to study. At his website HackMyStudy.com he provides the keys you need to make your study time efficient and effective.
7S: Tell us a bit about yourself. Were you inspired to set up this website because of your experiences as a student?
LF: My name is Leo Fuchigami, and I would describe myself as an aspiring “Jack of All Trades.” I am particularly fond of this description because of its historical context. In the early renaissance era, this phrase was used synonymously with the term “Renaissance Man,” which was a title bestowed on only the most eclectically well accomplished (e.g. Shakespeare, De Vinci, etc.). However, some time later, this phrase was appended with “Master of None,” giving it a negative connotation. Even today, people like to categorize themselves as generalists and specialists, which, depending on your perspective can have either a positive or negative nuance.
I recall the exact moment that the idea of sharing my study hacks came to me. It was right before the final exams season of the first semester of my last year of university. A friend expressed to me his grief over not having started reading the 500+ page course textbook for one of his business classes. I showed him a few memorization and speed-reading tactics that were already a staple in my study habits. He was extremely grateful and said, “Why didn’t you tell me this 4 years ago!” That evening, I decided to build hackmystudy.com. What was particularly interesting about that decision was that I had never built a website or written self-help articles before. I had to learn how to do it as I was doing it.
7S: Two of your “top ten tips” for studying actually encourage people to not study! Why should already-busy students develop a hobby or spend time socializing?
LF: I wouldn’t say I encourage people to not study, but rather, the focus should be on living a well-balanced life. Sacrificing your physical, spiritual, mental and social health will inevitably have repercussion on your academics. Taking a break from a long-winded study session to exercise for 20 minutes can do wonders for your concentration and memory. Similarly, effective memorization requires an incubation and review period. Cramming everything in in one session, then moving on to the next topic will result in very low retention rates. Sometimes ideas and concepts need to sink in, subconsciously, over some period of time, then reviewed to ensure that it has been cemented into long-term memory. If you’re going to take a break, why not enjoy life and live a well-balanced life?
7S: Obviously, the less time it takes a student to read through a text, the more text they’ll be able to get through. What are some other advantages of learning to speed read?
LF: The foundation of human society is language. All animals have the ability to remember, teach and learn. However, what truly differentiates us from other animals is our ability to immortalize knowledge and expertise through recorded language (traditionally written, though now it can take the form of videos, podcasts, etc.). Thus, we can build on the knowledge of our forefathers instead of spending our entire lives figuring out the same problems that were solved by those that came out before us.
Written language is still, to this day, the primary form of communicating the collective knowledge and expertise of mankind. The ability to digest this information at two or three times the rate of others can only result in a more well-informed and well-balanced person.
But, that is a very abstract argument. On a day-to-day basis, the time saved could be spent towards other endeavors.
7S: While most tests and exams in college are handed out and filled in on paper, students have to use the computer to do research and to write and print out papers and essays. You’ve got information on the techniques of speed writing and speed typing – which do you recommend people focus on first?
LF: Definitely speed reading. It’s simple logic, really. Most activities in academics, be it exams or homework, require substantial more time reading rather than typing. Generally speaking, you have to read the question, research solutions, write the solution then review the solution. 3 out of 4 of those steps require reading or interpreting, which is an input, while the third point (writing the solution) is the only output, which may or may not involve typing.
7S: On your “Resources” page you link to some of the universities that are offering MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), like MIT and UC Berkeley. Is online education changing the way people study?
LF: Yes! I can’t list them all, but I’ll try to list some of the main reasons why I think so.
1. Lessons and programs will be subject to the dynamics of a competitive market. The best classes will rise to the top and the lesser classes will need to adapt. This means that students and teachers alike will be exposed to higher quality lessons, sometimes magnitudes better than what is available locally.
2. The internet is a very malleable place, allowing for all sorts of experiments and alterations in methodology and delivery. Statistics can be obtained in engagement levels throughout the lecture, similar to what YouTube provides content creators, so that the class developer can adapt and modify that parts where viewers tend to tune-out. Quizzes, interactive activities and real-time discussions can be inserted in pivotal moments that completely change the way we learn from the teacher, other classmates and external resources.
3. Choice. No longer are we limited to the classes offered in our schools or the resources we can afford. Online education is breaking down the barrier to entry for even highly specialized topics.
Another point I want to bring up related to online education is the gamification of learning. Sites like Duolingo.com are the way of the future with regard to casual education. Our lives are so incredibly dynamic and chaotic, with a seemingly infinite barrage of choices, messages and stimulus, that the un-stimulating classroom structure is bound to become less and less effective for future generations as their minimum required threshold for interactivity and immediate gratification increases. Gamification is a major component of the overall solution to this problem. We need to use the same tools that the IT industry uses to optimize their offerings to meet the needs of their clients.
Online education is changing the way people study, but what’s more important is that online education should change the way we perceive studying. Hopefully, it will result in more people viewing education as a life-long endeavour that is enjoyable and rewarding.
Cross-posted at the 7 Speed Reading blog.