What tools do you need to learn better? Clearly, you need traditional books, notebooks, pens and pencils, but what about all those new applications and gadgets that seem to appear by dozens each day. How do you decide which ones deserve a permanent place in your toolbox? How do you keep up with the ever increasing number of productivity tools and manage to stay productive? I don’t have the answer to that. I like gadgets myself and I like trying out new things, so I want a framework to think about my tools. This is my rudimentary attempt to create such framework.
Start by emptying your toolbox first. I believe it’s better to begin your search from a place of need rather than a place of abundance. We are all different with different learning needs. The latest best thing on the market may not be the best thing for you. Your task is to find your absolute must-haves. No tool gets grandfathered in the process.
So how do you know what you really need? I am going to use the Wh-questions thinking strategy.
What? What is the typical content of your learning? You can learn concepts, you can learn processes, or you can learn how to do specific tasks. For example, if you want to learn how to commence a law suit, on a conceptual level, you may study service of process, complaints, pre-answer motions, answers, claims, defenses, etc. You also need to learn about the process with its sequence of pleadings and relevant deadlines. But even if you know the theory, you still may not know how to do it in real practice: what forms to use, where to get information, who to call, where to go, etc. When you study concepts, you may need a tool that helps you take notes. When you learn about the process, you want something that allows you to create a flowchart. When you actually learn how to do things, your eyes, ears and tongue may be your best tools to observe, listen and ask questions. The point is that different content requires different tools.
Where? Where do you like to study? If you want to study on a train, in a coffee shop, or while walking your dog, your learning tools should be able to accommodate your preferences.
When? When you find your learning rhythm, you may discover that some tools fit certain routines better than others. For example, you may choose to write your notes by hand in class and type them up at home later as a review.
How? How do you like to study? Are you a visual learner who likes to draw pictures, diagrams and tables? If so, you need a tool that strengthens your spatial intelligence. If you have strong musical intelligence, your iPod may be your best friend. If you rely on kinesthetic intelligence, look for something that allows you to incorporate movement into your learning.
Why? Why do you learn? Think about the learning outcomes you want to achieve. What tools are going to get your closer to your goals? If you are learning for your personal development, a pen and paper may be all you need. But if you are learning something to share it with others, you may choose different tools for collaboration.
Once you've identified your personal learning needs and preferences, you can start looking for the tools that get the job done and that you enjoy. Don’t try to get complicated applications with lots of features that you don’t need. They may be more difficult to learn, and you will end up wasting time rather than saving it. Commit to what works for you.
Check out Jane Hart’s Directory of Learning Tools with over 1,600 tools to choose from.
How do you choose your learning tools?