super helpful tech tips from IT!

Written by program assistant Kaylie Vezina 14F

Hey! Are you having trouble staying organized? If you are, check out these fabulous videos created by Asha Kinney in Information Technology to learn about some great ways to keep your life in order. Links to each video appear below, along with a brief description of different resources!

Evernote (Watch Here!):
Evernote is a website and downloadable application where one can take personal notes. These notes are stored in notebooks which include individual notes that can contain pictures, sounds, files, links, and text. The notes are saved through your online Evernote account, and can be accessed on multiple devices. Evernote is not ideal for sharing notes.
Google Drive (Watch Here!): 
Google Drive has a multitude of features, such as the ability to create spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings, among other things. Work created in Google Drive is saved through the cloud which makes it a wonderful tool for group projects, as work is so easy to share.
Trello (Watch Here!):
Trello is a fabulous website used for organizing to do lists and managing projects. With Trello, one is given a board where they can create lists of classes/reoccurring events/etc. Within these lists, one can add cards that indicate items that need to be done. Trello is a good resource for organizing group projects, as one can assign specific cards to specific people.
Google Calendar (Watch Here!):
Similarly to Trello, one can use Google Calendar to organize their work and life. Google Cal can remind you of events, and one can even invite friends with google accounts to events they are attending. Google Calendar also has a “tasks” feature, where one can add a task to their calendar and check it off when they are done with said task.

Can’t get enough of these great tips? Join us for Getting It Done, special workshop on Advising Day, Wednesday, November 5, at 2 p.m. in the FPH Faculty Lounge. Asha Kinney from IT and Alana Kumbier from the Library will be on hand to share lots of tips and tricks to help you tackle the rest of the semester. Don’t wait until it’s too late — get organized before finals begin!

Have questions? Need something? Email us at newtohamp@hampshire.edu. We’re happy to help!

taming your reading dragons

Written by program assistant Kaylie Vezina 14F

Taming Your Reading DragonsOn Wednesday October 22 from 3:30-4:30 p.m., presenters Asha Kinney and Alana Kumbier gladly shared their reading expertise with a bunch of eager students. Asha works in IT, specifically with educational technology, and Alana is a research librarian who works mostly with CSI classes. If you’re interested in getting an overview of what happened at this workshop and what resources were introduced, read on!

What Happened?

Participants were given a handout with a list of topics that were to be reviewed during the workshop. Alana and Asha began the workshop by asking participants if they had any specific questions or had any particular things they wanted to focus more closely on during our time together. They went on to provide participants with tons of useful information, beginning with low-tech options (reading and distraction-avoidance strategies) and finishing with more high-tech options like text-to-speech and dealing with PDFs.

What We Learned:

Low-Tech Tips:

  • The SQ3R reading method: SQ3R is here to help you build a framework to understand your reading assignment. It’s really helpful for retaining and digesting the information you are given. SQ3R is broken down into five steps:
    • Survey: Look over your reading, look at headings, general structure and content before you dive in. Ask yourself what you’re dealing with, and then find out.
    • Question: While surveying, ask yourself questions. Write them down. Turn the title, headings, and/or subheadings into questions. Ask yourself what the instructor said about the chapter or subject before it was assigned. Ask yourself what you already know about the subject.
    • Read: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Just go ahead and read—do it as you normally do, but consider structuring your understanding with your prior surveying/questioning. Note any vocabulary that you may not know or understand.
    • Recite: After reading a section, go back over the content and tell it back to yourself or another person.
    • Review: Step away from what you read, and then come back to it.
  • Don’t have time to complete all of these steps? Try looking at something for no more than twenty minutes, after this time is up, ask yourself if reading the article or chapter in full is worth your time.
  • Create an index for yourself. Keep notes of important concepts and save them for later.
  • The Pomodoro Method: This method is here for you if you need help staying on task. The Pomodoro Method allows you to break up your work into incremented amounts of time so that the task at hand seems less daunting. Give it a try:
    • Pick a task to accomplish.
    • Set a timer for 25 minutes, or what ever increment of time works best for you.
    • Work on the task without any diversion for 25 minutes, or until the timer rings. If anything else comes up, write it down and do it later.
    • When the timer rings, take a five minute break.
    • After this break, repeat!

High-Tech Tips: 

  • Making text in a PDF recognizable to your computer: If you want or need to be able to select blocks of text or use text-to-speech, your computer needs to recognize it as text. robobraille.org allows you to upload a PDF and change it into recognizable text; you can also pick what kind of file you want it to be converted into.
  • Text to speech: Hearing something as well as reading it can be helpful for truly understand what you’re learning about. You can do this through robobraille.org by having the PDF converted into a mp3 file. Mac users can select a block of text in TextEdit and convert it to an iTunes mp3. You can also download NaturalReader if you have an iPad/iPhone/Android.
  • Beeline Reader: Go to beelinereader.org to have the color of your text change in a subtle gradation in a way that keeps your eye flowing. It may sound weird, but it’s super helpful.

A Final Note: 

Asha and Alana noted the importance of having a backup method for documents. Hard drives die, and no matter how terrible that is, it would be even more terrible if they contained all of your work and other important files. There are several ways to backup your work such as dropbox.com or Google Drive.

Get In Touch:

If you’d like to reach Alana or Asha, here’s how to find them!

Can’t get enough of Asha and Alana? Join them next week for Getting It Done, a special Advising Day workshop full of organizational and time management skills to help you tackle the rest of the semester. The workshop will take place on Wednesday, November 5 from 2-3 p.m. in the FPH Faculty Lounge, with free snacks provided. Read on, dragons!

life management 101

Life ManagementOn Thursday, October 2 from 3:30-4:30PM in FPH 101, Joel Dansky, disabilities services coordinator and academic support skills specialist, presented a time management workshop for an audience of new and returning students. Did you miss it? Need more information? You’ve come to the right place! Read on for details on what happened, how to find support, and further time management resources.

What Happened:
While participants enjoyed some delicious snacks, Joel presented a brief Powerpoint which addressed the many challenges that students face with regard to time management, and offered strategies to help students to plan ahead, make the most of the unstructured time between classes, and work more efficiently. Joel then introduced a two part system for organization,The Big Picture,” and “The Weekly Grind,” which led to an interactive portion of the presentation. Through the use of a variety of different handouts related to these models, participants had the opportunity to create a color-coded, visual representation of their weekly and monthly schedules, and identify pockets of valuable time that they didn’t realize they had!

Hints and Handouts:

  • Procrastination, distraction, and perfectionism are the three enemies of effective time management. Think you do best under pressure? The work you produce isn’t likely your best work, just the best you can do with the limited time you’ve allotted. Planning ahead can help to alleviate stress, no matter your reasons for waiting until the last minute. By creating small, manageable goals and structuring your time more effectively, you’ll accomplish more and yield better results!
  • The “Big Picture” is a useful tool for mapping an entire semester, and is available in hard copy in the Center for Academic Support and Advising (CASA) each semester. Participants received an 11″x17″ academic calendar for this activity, but you can do it yourself with a planner or a regular calendar. At the start of the semester, gather your syllabi and mark down all of the important dates and deadlines for each course on your calendar. Once you have a full picture of what you’ll need to complete and when, you can identify key steps and work backwards to create small goals for yourself. This will help you to start things ahead of time, and avoid the confluence of too many deadlines all at once.
  • The Weekly Grind” allows you to create a visual representation of what a typical week looks like for you. Participants mapped out their regular schedule on a weekly calendar in an effort to identify blocks of time between fixed appointments, classes, and other obligations. What did they notice? They have more time than they think they do, and you might too! Take these chunks of time and specify what you’d like to accomplish in each, and give some structure to the larger periods of free time (long weekends, etc.), making sure to vary the types of work you do each day. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish!
  • Find a daily planning system that works for you. One calendar that you look at every day is better than several that you don’t, so find something that is portable, visual, and spacious enough for a to-do list, and keep it with you throughout the day. Don’t overload yourself, but do keep your planner as up to date as possible with class, work, and meeting times, as well as appointments, deadlines, and fun things.
  • Do you write best in the morning? Can’t get any work done in your room? Consider what times of day and where you do your best work, and plan accordingly!
  • The best system is the system that works for you, so feel free to try a few things as you work to get yourself organized. No system works 100% of the time — keep yourself open to new ideas and ways of planning. Don’t hesitate to reward yourself for accomplishing particular tasks. There are lots of different ways to get motivated!

Use These Resources:

  • Want hard copies of the workshop handouts? Interested in some personalized time management support? Get in touch with the workshop facilitator, Joel Dansky, at jdansky@hampshire.edu. He’s happy to help!

Questions? Let us know! E-mail us at newtohamp@hampshire.edu for more information.

speeding up your reading

Speeding Up Your ReadingOn Wednesday, October 1 from 12-1PM in the FPH West Lecture Hall, Lise Sanders, associate professor of English literature and cultural studies, presented a special reading skills workshop to an audience of staff and students. Couldn’t make it? Need a recap? Read on for more information about what you missed, and how to get a hold of the resources that were shared in this session.

What Happened:
While participants enjoyed a delicious lunch, Lise invited students to share what brought them to the workshop, and what obstacles they most frequently face with regard to completing all of their reading. Common themes in the room included retaining information for class discussion, identifying the most important pieces of information to absorb, staying focused while reading, and the need to read more effectively in a shorter amount of time.

Sound familiar?!

With these concerns in mind, Lise went on to to introduce a variety of different techniques to address these issues, keeping participants engaged with one another through reading, paired sharing, and other activities. Lise shared a number of handouts with the group, and offered participants the opportunity to ask questions after discussing a variety of techniques.

What We Learned:

  • Keep in mind that you may need to use different reading tactics for different types of texts, and approach assignments accordingly. Lise shared this handout on reading critical arguments, which provides a step by step overview of how to approach this particular type of text.
  • It’s okay to ask ahead! When you receive an assignment, consider speaking to your professor about what areas of the reading you’ll be focusing on in class discussion. This will help to guide your reading and make you more prepared to participate. If you have concerns, talk to your professor. They may have specific tips to help you maximize the effectiveness of your reading time, particularly with regard to the text at hand.
  • Approaching an entire page of text can be difficult to do. Train your eye to focus on the line you’re reading by using something to mark your place on the page. In the workshop, students used four fingers to guide their eyes across lines on the page, in a technique called long smooth underline. With practice, this can become a mechanical technique for training your eye to move faster.
  • You can diagnose your own comprehension and retention of your reading by pausing from time to time to verbally summarize what you’ve read. Participants engaged in pair sharing of these “tellbacks” to assess their own comprehension in the workshop, but this is also something that you can do on your own, or even record and play back to yourself. By summarizing aloud, you can move the knowledge you’ve gained into deeper memory.
  • When reading nonfiction, you can and should feel free to read the conclusion first. There’s no point in keeping the conclusion a secret from yourself, and reading in reverse can help you to better seek the features that will allow you to identify the main points of the text. Look up terms after your first review so you won’t have to continually stop while you’re trying to read.
  • Remember that as a reader, you have a unique critical perspective. Consider your own arguments and critical engagement with the text while you read — this will help you to gauge your own retention and comprehension.

Really Good Advice: Good Brain Time vs. Bad Brain Time*
Think about the times of day when you’re most “on”. For some of us, it’s first thing in the morning, while for others, it’s very, very late at night. Do you know when your own good brain time is? If so, use it! Prioritize your reading and other tasks based on when you’re most “on” — you’ll likely read and absorb more during your good brain time. Wondering what to do with your bad brain time? Save tasks that require less thinking for these periods. Once you’ve identified your own rhythm, you’ll be able to accomplish more.

*Lise attributes this concept to Lauren Berlant, one of her graduate advisors at the University of Chicago.

Use These Resources:

  • Have questions for Lise? Want to learn more about reading techniques? Get in touch with the workshop facilitator, Lise Sanders, at lsanders@hampshire.edu. She’s happy to help!
  • Can’t get enough of these great academic skills? Join us for another workshop! Our next workshop, Life Management 101, will be held on Thursday, October 2 from 3:30-4:30PM in FPH 101. Learn how to manage your time and improve your organization, all while enjoying some free snacks. See you there!

Questions? Did we miss something? E-mail us at newtohamp@hampshire.edu for more information!

how to approach faculty

Written by former program assistant Cat Guzman 10F

Welcome, new students! Now that the semester is underway, you’ve probably realized that one of the best things about Hampshire is the accessibility to faculty. You may have lots of questions, and there are so many potential sources to give you the answers. But do you ever feel intimidated, hesitant, or just plain shy in approaching faculty? During this time of transition to college life, social adjustment can feel tricky in and out of the classroom. Knowing how to approach faculty members is a necessary skill in advocating for yourself and maintaining a successful academic experience. Here are some tips to building these important relationships:1. Keep in touch with your advisor! During your first meetings, be sure to talk about classes, review your strengths and weaknesses, and share your future goals. Remember, advisors are a tremendous resource at Hampshire—there are here for you.

2. If you’re ever feeling confused, lost, overwhelmed or concerned in the classroom or about certain course material, don’t wait—communicate with your professor! There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Plan your questions, and approach them after class to discuss them. In my experience, this is the best way to get quick questions answered!
  • Sign up for office hours! Some professors are busier than others, and are therefore a bit harder to reach. Signing up for their office hours (usually posted on your course syllabus, their office door, and/or their Hampedia page) ensures one-on-one time with them, and is especially helpful when you’re looking to have a thoughtful conversation.
  • You can also contact them through email and their course website to try and find a time to meet outside the classroom. Just remember: faculty inboxes can sometimes be filled the brim, so if you’re waiting for a reply, it may be best to actually follow up in person with your professor. Note: when writing an email to faculty, make sure to include a greeting, provide a clear overview of what you’re writing about, and don’t forget to sign your name! The more information they have, the easier it will be for them to respond to you.

3. Teacher’s Assistants (or TAs) are older Division II or Division III students who help professors throughout the semester. They’re great conduits between you and faculty, so use them well!

4. The Deans of the Center for Academic Support and Advising (CASA) are also available to help make connections. CASA’s expert tips helped to provide the framework for this blog post, and they have lots of great information to share. Don’t hesitate to visit their office, located in the Lemelson Building, or call them at x5498.

5. As with all campus communication, please make sure to check your Hampshire email regularly. Faculty, staff, community members, and other students will use this email address to reach you, and you are expected to follow up on email communication through this account throughout your time at Hampshire.

Faculty are always willing to help, but they can’t read minds, so it’s crucial for you to take the first step in approaching them. Introducing yourself and keeping in regular contact is a great way to start the year and to stay on top of your progress in class.

Best of luck with the semester!

Questions or comments? E-mail us at newtohamp@hampshire.edu. We’d love to hear from you!

creating your division I portfolio

Written by former program assistant Cat Guzman 10F

So, you know what you’ve got to do to pass, but are you still wondering how to do it? I know I was about three years ago, and I remember wishing I had an older student with personal experience help explain the process to me. The Division I portfolio is essentially the culmination of your whole first year at Hampshire—a testament to the things you’ve learned and the best work you’ve done. Reflecting on the year and creating your portfolio now may seem daunting (especially with final deadlines around the corner), but it doesn’t have to be! It’s a time for personal reflection and assessment, and it can actually help you better understand your experience and development thus far as a Hampshire student. If you’ve satisfied all your requirements, the portfolio is really the only thing standing between you and passing Division I. Ready to create it?

Here’s what you want to do:

First, get a 3-ring binder (about 1-2” in size) and some section dividers. Create the following labels for the pieces of the portfolio you need:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Division I retrospective essay (2-3 pp. recommended length)
  3. Copies of all evaluations and grades you’ve received so far.
  4. A list of courses you’ve completed (indicate which ones satisfy four out of five distribution areas: ADM, CHL, MBI, PBS, & PCSJ)
  5. Documentation of your CEL-1
  6. One section for each of the cumulative skills
    1. Independent Work
    2. Multiple Cultural Perspectives
    3. Quantitative Reasoning
    4. Writing and Research

Next, gather the easy pieces: the Table of Contents page, your printed course evaluations and grades (include all that you have up to this point), a list of your courses that will satisfy Division I, and documentation of your CEL-1.

Then, find a free chunk of time to look through all of the evaluated work you’ve saved up until now and pick your best examples that apply to the each of the four cumulative skills — these pieces will ultimately go into your portfolio. This doesn’t require a day’s worth of work; it can be done in a couple of hours in your room. And if you feel at all confused about what should or shouldn’t go into the portfolio, don’t hesitate to ask your advisor for some helpful advice, like I did. (Note: all of your favorite work may not fit into your binder, but don’t let that stop you from including it in your portfolio! For my Div I portfolio, I decided to include a photography project that consisted of 12 large matted prints. It wasn’t a part of my binder, but my advisor appreciated my choice to present it anyway in my final meeting.)

If you want some company while assembling your portfolio, make sure to stop by the Portfolio Making Party on Tuesday, April 29 at 7PM in the FPH Faculty Lounge. New Student Programs and CASA staff will be on hand to offer advice, supplies, and plenty of snacks. Stop by and spend some time with fellow soon-to-be Div II students!

Writing Your Division I Retrospective:

The retrospective is ultimately a reflection essay — a chance to tell the story of your first year at Hampshire. When writing, consider how you began the year and your expected academic interests. Talk about the academic challenges you faced and the steps you took to meet them, along with the “high points” of your year, including what interested you, what new ideas or topics surprised you, and what you enjoyed the most. Write about your participation and experience in the Hampshire community for your CEL-1 activity. And with the cumulative skills in mind, think of what you learned about each of them along the way.  As you prepare, you may also want to consult your advisor to see if there’s anything specific that they want you to include. The main goal is to provide a clear picture of your progress as a student and member of the community during your first year at Hampshire.

I’d recommend you write it in a quiet and empty space where you can truly focus, whether that’s in your room or in the main gallery of the Liebling photo building. Give yourself the time to re-read it all, re-visit your experiences, and think about why it all mattered. If the assignment seems scary, I promise you it’s easier than it seems! Looking at your best work over the course of your first year at college (all of those written pages, creative projects, research, etc!) is a pretty amazing feeling. You’ll be able to draw conclusions about your work and about yourself. Ultimately, you should feel really proud of all you’ve done and learned so far, and this should definitely help motivate you to finish your portfolio. You’ll want to include a hard copy of your retrospective in your portfolio, but don’t forget to complete the passing process on TheHub as well. You’ll be able to copy and paste your retrospective into the passing form after you’ve finished writing.

…And when you’ve completed all the pieces, get ready to present your work to your advisor in your final Div I meeting!

Remember:

1. These are guidelines to help you better navigate the process of creating your portfolio—don’t feel obligated to work in this exact order, just get it done before the deadline in the best way you know how.

2. Your portfolio and retrospective are what you want them to be. This was the most important lesson I learned last year and the best piece of advice I can pass forward.

Division I is what YOU make it—your overall experience at Hampshire is what you make it. Keep this in mind when you’re creating your portfolio, and enjoy the process!

I hope this helps you—best of luck!

As always, contact newtohamp@hampshire.edu with any questions, comments or concerns. We’re happy to listen and help!

how to pass division I (in a nutshell)

Written by former program assistant Cat Guzman 10F

Around this time three years ago, I remember stressing over my Division I portfolio. I had met all of my requirements, so I was (technically) ready to pass, but I felt overwhelmed and mentally unprepared. The urgent e-mails that flooded my inbox sometimes added to the pressure instead of motivating me, and with finals just around the corner, the process felt so daunting that I ended up waiting until the beginning of my second year to do it.

Looking back, I realize I probably would have saved myself the extra pressure to pass if I had just done it when I was first ready. What I needed was to see the process from a different and simpler perspective.

Let’s break it down into individual steps:

1. First, courses! Take one course in four of these five distribution areas (totaling four courses):

  • Arts, Design, and Media (ADM)
  • Culture, Humanities, and Languages (CHL)
  • Mind, Brain, and Information (MBI)
  • Physical and Biological Sciences (PBS)
  • Power, Community, and Social Justice (PCSJ)

Take three elective courses (these are courses that don’t necessarily hit a distribution area, and are totally determined by YOU).

So, a grand total of SEVEN courses will comprise your Division I portfolio. And along the way, make sure you’ve progressed in these cumulative skills:

  • Progress/proficiency in analytical writing and informed research practice
  • Progress/proficiency in quantitative skills
  • Engagement with multiple cultural perspectives
  • Progress/proficiency in the ability to successfully undertake independent work

2. Complete at least one CEL-1 (Campus Engaged Learning) activity, totaling 40 hours. Your retrospective essay will include reflection on your CEL-1 activities, so be thinking about how they fit into your overall Division I experience.

3. Write a retrospective essay on your academic experience thus far (more on this in a future blog post).

4. Create a portfolio of your best work over the course of the year (more on this soon too!).

5.  Set up a final meeting with your advisor, and submit your Division I portfolio.

By this time, you’ll be wrapping up your courses and CEL-1 activity for the year, so the actual portfolio (including the retrospective) is the only thing that stands in your way of passing and becoming a Div II! Theoretically speaking, you could pass next semester—but who wants to dwell on officially passing their Division I over the summer? Save yourself the pressure, and get it done now if you can!

Feeling like you might be ready to pass Division I? Here’s a suggested timeline:

  • April: Make an appointment with your advisor for Progress Review Week. You’ll be expected to give your advisor your Division I portfolio, including your retrospective essay (more on these items in an upcoming blog post!). By now, you should be completing your CEL-1 activities. Remember that you need to complete the online passing process in addition to meeting with your advisor!
  • May: If you’ve completed all of your Division I requirements, you will be expected to submit your portfolio to pass Division I. Complete the online passing process: you will be asked to select your Division I courses and post your Division I retrospective essay (which includes your CEL-1 reflection, check for guiding questions on TheHub). Make an appointment to review your portfolio and have a passing meeting with your advisor during progress review week (May 5-9). You can’t officially pass Division I until all of your evaluations are in, so your advisor will probably check the box on TheHub to indicate that you’ve passed sometime between the end of June and early September. If you have not completed all of the requirements for Division I, you must still meet with your advisor and agree upon a plan for the completion of Division I.
  • September: Happy School Year! Passed Division I? You can begin to draft your Division II contract on TheHub now.

I hope this helps put things into perspective, but if you find yourself still feeling lost or overwhelmed, stay tuned for a future blog post where I’ll break down the steps of creating your Division I portfolio, including writing your retrospective! Also, mark your calendars for this year’s Division I Portfolio Making Party, which will be held on Tuesday, April 29 at 7 p.m. in the FPH Faculty Lounge. Laura Melbin from CASA will be in attendance, and we’ll provide lots of snacks and portfolio-making supplies!

Good luck, and don’t hesitate to contact us at newtohamp@hampshire.edu with any questions or concerns!

taming your reading dragons

Written by program assistant Nina Gunther-Segal 13F

Taming Your Reading DragonsOn Tuesday, February 25 (after some scheduling issues due to snow!) Asha Kinney and Alana Kumbier shared their reading expertise with a group of interested students. Asha works in IT, specifically with educational technology, and Alana is a research librarian who works mostly with CSI classes. If you’re interested in getting an overview of what happened at this workshop and what resources were introduced — if you, too, would like to learn to tame those reading dragons — read on!

What Happened:
Participating students received a handout with a list of the topics that would be covered at the meeting, their brains fueled by the multitude of delicious snacks provided (seriously, Trader Joe’s has the best snacks). Alana and Asha started off by giving participants the opportunity to ask to focus on specific things with which they might have needed help. They went on to provide participants with tons of helpful information, starting with low-tech options (all-purpose reading and distraction-avoidance strategies) and then ramping up to higher-tech ones (dealing with PDFs, text-to-speech, etc.).

What We Learned–Low-Tech Tips:

  • The SQ3R reading method: This is a prescribed process for reading that really helps with retaining and digesting the information you encounter. It’s broken down into five steps:
    1. Survey – Go over the chapter, looking at headings and its general structure and content, before you dive in more deeply.
    2. Question – While surveying, ask questions about what you’re seeing (i.e. turn headings into questions).
    3. Read – This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but basically just do what you’d normally do when reading, structuring your understanding with your prior surveying/questioning.
    4. Recite – After reading a section, go back over its content and tell it back to yourself (or another person). Reproducing the content in your own words can be especially helpful if you need to write a paper on the topic and want to assimilate the information to avoid reciting it verbatim.
    5. Review – Step away from the chapter and then come back to it over a period of several days to better assimilate it.
  • Reading three times: Don’t worry–this doesn’t mean three times as much work! Instead, try this:
    1. Skim the reading (look at the headings, intro, and conclusion).
    2. Read more deeply — add annotations, and attempt to contextualize the information in the overall study of your class to figure out what’s most important to retain.
    3. Go back and note whatever is most important after class discussion of the reading.
  • Pomodoro Technique: This entails working in 25-minute increments (or however long works best for you) to accomplish a task. So many of us don’t even start a task because it’s too daunting, so breaking it down and having an end in sight makes it more psychologically manageable. Here’s how this works:
    1. Pick a task to accomplish.
    2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (here’s a helpful one: pomodoro.me).
    3. Work on the task without any diversion for 25 minutes, until the timer rings (if anything else comes up, ignore it and write it down to do later).
    4. Also helpful is keeping track of how many increments you’re doing for a task, to get a sense of your general pacing for various tasks (i.e. to read a certain number of pages); this allows you to plan the timing of your future work.
  • Miscellany:

    1. If you’re reading and you come across words or concepts you don’t know, take note of them and skip them, then return to them later–this helps prevent breaking the flow of your focus.
    2. A speed-reading technique that helps with visual focus is placing your fingers below the line you’re reading and following along so that only that line is visible. You can increase the speed of your hand’s movement to encourage yourself to read more quickly without losing track of your place on the page.

Higher-Tech Reading Tips:

  • Making text in a PDF recognizable to your computer: If you want to be able to select blocks of text or use text-to-speech, your computer needs to recognize it as text — the text in PDFs often appears to your computer as an image (especially if it’s a scanned book), but there’s a way to fix this! Robobraille.org allows you to upload a PDF and change it into recognizable text; you can also pick what kind of file it’s converted into (i.e. document, mp3 audio, Braille, e-book).
  • Adobe Reader annotations: Adobe Reader 11 (if you don’t already have it, it’s available for free download) has various tools for annotation. These include sticky notes, highlighting in different colors, recording audio, and drawing shapes. You can also search the text content of your notes for particular terms, making it a lot easier to find your notes on a particular subject. Preview also has similar features for annotation.
  • Text to speech: Hearing as well as seeing a reading can be helpful for understanding, and help keep focus. You can do this through robobraille.org, by having the PDF converted to mp3 audio. Mac users can select a block of text in TextEdit and convert it to an iTunes mp3 (and even change the voice and its speed in System Preferences > Speech > Text to speech). You can also download NaturalReader for free. And if you have an iPad/iPhone/Android, there’s the VoiceDream app, which has better voices than usual and a perfectly serviceable free version.
  • BeeLine Reader: Go to beelinereader.org to have the color of your text change in a subtle gradation, in such a way as to help keep your eye flowing. It sounds weird, but is actually really helpful.

A Final Note:
Asha and Alana noted the importance of having a backup method for documents. Hard drives die, and as terrible as that is, it’s even more terrible if they contain all your work and you lose that, too. There are several ways to do this, and an added benefit is that they make your work accessible from multiple computers (as well as iPhones and other devices):

  • Dropbox: It’s a free service that gives you plenty of remote storage in a folder on your desktop. Sign up and download it here: https://www.dropbox.com.
  • Google Drive: Allows you to create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. and keep them all in one place on your Google Drive account, organized by folder. (drive.google.com)

Get In Touch:
If you’d like to reach Alana or Asha, or want more information on the workshop handouts, here’s their contact info:

Questions? Comments? You can reach us at newtohamp@hampshire.edu.

organizing your papers (and your life)

Organizing Your PapersOn Tuesday, February 18 from 3:30-4:30PM in the FPH Faculty Lounge, Will Ryan and Deb Gorlin, two of the three co-directors of the writing program, presented a special writing skills workshop to a group of first and second semester students. Couldn’t make it? Wondering what you missed? Read on for more information about what happened, how to get a hold of the resources that were shared in this session, and how to connect with the Writing Center!

What Happened:
While participants enjoyed some delicious snacks, Will and Deb asked them to introduce themselves and share the details of a current writing project and why it had them vexed. Participants spoke about perfectionism, desiring to impress faculty members whose work they respect, finding space for themselves in their own writing, improving their note taking in research, and struggling to find the words to accurately capture their thoughts. Sound familiar? Will and Deb used this information as a starting point in framing the workshop to cater to the needs of attendees.

Will and Deb began by sharing some useful advice about understanding writing assignments and prompts and the writing process, and then spent some time answering individual questions. They later went on to introduce a model for organizing analytical writing, which they further explained with a handout that has been dubbed as the most requested in the history of the writing program (you can view it here!). The facilitators followed the handout throughout the session, explaining each step and providing helpful hints for each stage. We’ve included a number of these hints below!

What We Learned (and other helpful notes from Will and Deb):

  • Getting ready to start a writing assignment? The first thing you should do is read the course description all the way through. Assignments are drawn from this document, and reminding yourself of the fullness of a course’s content can often help you if you’re struggling to start an assignment. Next, read the assignment to make sure you have a full understanding of the instructions and expectations. If the assignment is based on a text, make sure to read the assignment first. You’ll read the text more effectively and will be able to start calling out pertinent information sooner. Sound obvious? You’d be surprised at how many people miss this step!
  • Finished reading the text, but not sure that you understand the reading? Feel free to look up book reviews and secondary sources to help clarify things for you. Once you have this supplemental information, you can go back to the original text for a more informed read.
  • Ready to start writing? You might benefit from freewriting about the text first to help you spark some ideas for how you want to proceed. Once you’ve taken some time to think about things, try making an outline to organize the main points that you want to make. Just as you’d work out a math problem on paper, determining how to organize your work on paper can be a tremendous help. You don’t have to figure it all out in your head.
  • Once you begin your draft, pay attention to what part of the paper you’re in at any given moment (introduction, literature review, method, body, conclusion). Use the guidelines provided in the handout to help you determine how long each section should be, and where the different pieces of information you wish to share should be included.
  • Are your main points changing as you continue writing? That’s okay! Periodically going back and adjusting the introduction to accommodate these changes is an important part of the writing process. Plan to revise, and give yourself enough time to do so.

Additional Tips from the Facilitators:

  • Faculty often write assignments in the form of a paper outline. Try to break apart the prompt in this way to better organize your thoughts.
  • Your process is your process — don’t compare yourself to others. Some writers are heavy planners (pre-planning each step), while others are heavy revisers (free-writing first and organizing things during revision). The brainstorming <–> organizing <–> drafting <–> revising <–> editing <–> brainstorming loop goes in both directions, and doesn’t always have to be linear!
  • Thinking of taking a break? Don’t stop writing until you know what you’re going to say next. It’s much easier to come back to a writing piece when you’ve given yourself something to go on.

Get In Touch:
Want to schedule an appointment for yourself? Call or email the Writing Center staff to set up a meeting time:

  • Will Ryan – wjrWP@hampshire.edu – 413.559.5646
  • Deb Gorlin – dfgWP@hampshire.edu – 413.559.5531
  • Ellie Siegel – etsWP@hampshire.edu – 413.559.5577

Kyla and Andrew, the Writing Center interns, also hold drop-in sessions from 6-10 p.m., Monday-Thursday in the Library Training Room on the 2nd floor of the Johnson Library. Kyla and Andrew are also available on Sundays from 1-9 p.m. Check out their flyer for details on how to set up an appointment, send drafts, etc.

Learn More:
Can’t get enough of these great academic skills? Join us for another workshop! Our next workshop, Taming Your Reading Dragons, will be held on Tuesday, February 25 from 3:30-4:30PM in FPH 102. Learn how to get through your reading with the help of technology, all while enjoying some free snacks!

Questions? Did we miss something? E-mail us at newtohamp@hampshire.edu for more information.

final projects and self-evals and course portfolios, oh my!

Written by program assistant Xavier A. Torres de JanonOh My

Your first college semester is almost over (can you believe it?), and for Hampshire students, this means three things: final projects, self-evaluations, and course portfolios. Wondering how to get it all done? We’ve compiled some advice and helpful suggestions for you to consider as the semester-crunch kicks in.

Final projects: the tougher sibling of final exams

Think final exams are harder than final projects? Well, any Hampshire student can immediately tell you that that’s mostly false. Final projects are tough, but they are not impossible. As long as you are working on them continuously, not allowing yourself to leave everything until hours before the deadline, you will be fine. Before you know it, you’ll have everything handed in, ready to rest and relax during Winter Break. Of course, writing a college-level 8+ page paper can be intimidating and stressful, so here are some tips that might be helpful:

  • Dedicate the timeThe quality of an academic project is directly related the amount of time dedicated for it. Trust me, professors can tell the difference between an all-nighter and a thoroughly edited essay. Try to put some work into your finals right now. Your future self will be pretty thankful!
  • Faculty are there for youYour professor will be the one evaluating your final, and so their expectations and requirements matter a lot. If you need guidance or just plain encouragement, reach out to them. Our faculty tend to also be very willing to give you feedback on drafts of your finals. If you feel uncertain of how your project is looking, send an e-mail to your professor. Comments from them can make the difference between a great and an outstanding final.
  • Breathe in, breathe out, and relax – Don’t overwork yourself. During finals season, there are a lot things going on at Hampshire to help you with research and writing — including a library workshop called Ask the Experts THIS WEDNESDAY from 7-9 p.m. on the first floor of the library. There’s also plenty of programming put up to help you de-stress, like Library Study Breaks and Wellness Center relaxation events.

Looking back and reflecting: self-evaluations

A big part of a Hampshire education involves reflecting on your own academic work, progress and growth. You’ll probably hear a lot about self-evaluations in the upcoming days. The good news is that you already wrote a short self-eval during your mid-semester evaluation, so you should have an idea of what a self-eval looks like. These are not critiques of the class or its professor, but a personal analysis of your performance in the class. Some faculty have specifics that they want to see in your self-eval, while others allow you to engage with them independently. Self-evals will be read by your professors when they’re writing your final evaluations, so make sure to include things that you’d like to remind or point out to your professor about your engagement with the class.

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy writing self-evals during my first semester. I struggled with them and felt that I was re-writing repetitive information for all of them. However, now I see their usefulness and importance. These are great opportunities for you to write down your evolution of academic interests and passions. What interested you in the class? What do you want to explore more? Would you take a similar class again? For more self-eval advice, specifics and recommendations, check out this previous post on our blog, written by former program assistant Cat Guzman 10F.

 “Where did I put that paper?!”: course portfolios

Another unique aspect of Hampshire classes is the demand of course portfolios. These packets (generally submitted in a large manila envelope) contain your classwork throughout the semester and help your professors in providing a fair assessment of your academic performance. There is no formula for a course portfolio, as each professor will want to see different things in them. Overall, though, you should be prepared to provide a compilation of your semester’s work, a self-eval and the class’s final project.

Ideally, the assignments in your portfolio should be the original versions, with faculty comments included. In other words, this is a good time to organize your room, folders, and files to dig up your papers of the semester. That being said, some professors will be flexible in accepting re-printed versions in your portfolio, but try your best to find the originals. If you got the paper back, it’s bound to be somewhere in your life. Spontaneous black holes in your room are, sadly, not a thing yet.

I hope this post will be useful to you. Spread it around to your friends! And as always, please contact us at newtohamp@hampshire.edu with any comments, questions, or concerns. We’re always happy to help. Best of luck in the next couple of weeks!