Every individual has strengths and weaknesses. Well… I do not like to use the word “weakness.” Rather, areas in which someone can work on improving. Understanding these areas is an important part of achieving the highest level of success you are capable of. Knowing one’s own limitations is no easy task. This is why those college application essays and interview questions are always so difficult. It is easy to judge the actions of others, but looking towards yourself, now that is a challenge. It takes hard work, self-realization, introspection, experimentation, as well as the occasional outside evaluation. All of which go hand in hand with the college experience.
Derived from my own personal experience and those of my peers, I have listed below challenges common to many college students, as well as some creative ways to overcome them. If you have similar difficulties in these areas some of the tools listed may benefit you.
Taking notes during class can pose a difficult challenge to many. Taking good notes is also extremely valuable for success in a class. I personally learn from multiple modalities. The learning style I learn best with, however, is kinesthetic. Meaning, I learn a great deal from carrying out a physical action. Due to this, I find physically writing out my notes with paper and pens works best for me. I am a visual learner as well, so color coding with color pens helps me a great deal. I am also partly an auditory learner and find recording classes very beneficial. The ability to do so is dependent on the professor’s syllabus, unless you have documented accommodations. If you are the type of student such as me, that learns in many different ways, picking a combination of all these methods might help you. This is why understanding what type of learner you are is so important!
For those students that are not quite as kinesthetic as me, and type out their notes on a laptop and benefit from recording class time, the program called Sonocent may be a perfect match. This program records the class on your laptop and allows you to write notes as the lecture is taking place. The program gives you the ability to highlight certain parts of the recording that you find particularly important. This makes it a great deal easier to go back to later. Those that have used the program have told me it gives them interesting ways to implement their note-taking skills. For instance, if a professor repeats a sentence, suddenly starts to speak louder, displays some other form of emphasis in their syntax, or of course prefaces a sentence with “pay attention this is important,” you know to make a special note in the recording. The program also breaks up the recording into easily navigable segments.
For those like myself that don’t want to part ways with their good old-fashioned pen just yet, a smart pen might be worth the investment. This is a technology that requires you to write on a special note pad. Why so special you might ask? Well, the pen works by Bluetooth, and allows your handwritten notes to instantly appear on your paired device. Once on the device, such as a smartphone or tablet, your handwritten words can be turned into text. The smart pen can also catch the audio of the class as well, since it has a built-in microphone. Having easy-to-read typed notes and being able to write those notes out on paper at the same time, brings the best of both possible worlds together. This technology makes those days of creating a second pair of notes for a friend on graphite paper seem like a distant thing of the past.
Reading all those textbook chapters
One necessity of college is a great deal of reading. This can be difficult for many, for a whole host of reasons. A common complaint I hear from many of my peers is reading fatigue. I personally use an inbuilt reader on my laptop. For those that do not have a text-to-speech reader inbuilt in their computer, or need a more comprehensive accessibility program, Jaws and Kurzweil 3000 are two such programs that may be very useful.
When purchasing textbooks, I often look for an online version so that I might use my reader. Any text that can be highlighted can be read out loud by my computer. I can also increase the speed of the reading to one that is faster. I pick a speed with which I am capable of keeping up with, and can still comprehend. I can also personalize the voice used. A very fun feature anyone that has used a GPS in the past can attest to!
If you have limited mobility, difficulty with typing, spelling, or want to be more efficient, Dragon Naturally Speaking is a speech-recognition software that can be revolutionary. Using this software, you can use simple voice commands to control your computer, and write essays by only using your voice. You also have the ability to dictate emails as well. The more you use Dragon the more it adapts to your voice. A comforting thought, your computer getting to know you.
Spelling is something I have always struggled with. Using editing software such as Grammarly is a lifesaver. I find it picks up spelling and grammar errors that commonly used word processing programs like Microsoft Word spell check does not. It also aids in style, vocabulary usage, and has a built-in plagiarism detection component. In fact, I wrote this blog using Grammarly.
If you are a documented student with Farmingdale State College Disability Services Center, all of these technologies are available to you, often free of charge. Education-based technologies are just as dynamically changing as those in any other technological area. Every individual student must explore their options and realize what has and has not worked for them in the past, in order to determine what technologies to use currently and in the future.