How I Study: Reflections of a "Digital Native"
Recent high school graduate shares how he uses technology
Editor's Note: The term "digital native" has become a common label for the current generation of tech-savvy teenagers and children. But the term has many built-in assumptions about this generation's comfort with technology and its role in their lives. In all the buzz around education technology, students' voices and opinions often get drowned out. In this series called "Student Voices," we are offering students a chance to share how they actually use technologies in their lives--at home and at school.
Name: Quinn Winters
Year: Case Western Reserve University Class of 2017, Lynbrook High School Class of 2013
Favorite subject: Government
Current mobile device: iPhone 5
Current computer: Macbook Air mid-2013 (1.7 GhZ, 8 GB Ram, 256 GB SSD)
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
Email is by far my most useful tool. I use it as both a communication tool and as a task manager, of sorts. I am a huge archive nut: I archive every email that I get, read or unread, at some point. I'm using Mailbox.app and try to get to inbox zero every day. Whenever I get an email, I either do the task as fast as possible, or harness the power of procrastination and use Mailbox to prioritize it for another day.
New Inbox Zero Pictures everyday? How could anyone not be productive?
I also love using Pocket and Evernote. Pocket saves all the interesting articles and blog posts that I want to read later. I could not survive without it. Evernote helps me remember notes and acts as my on-the-go text editor (plus it saves all the good restaurants I have tried, too). I also use Evernote+my Moleskine as my day organizer. Every day I create a grid and categorize my to-do's as either quick or long, and either high or low priority. Then I take a picture with my Evernote, have the picture always up on my screen, and use reminders to nudge me at the end of the day to reflect on my productivity. My GMail Calendar also works fantastically to help plan out project schedules for long-term projects. I switch between Fantastical and Tempo on my phone but haven’t found one to work any better than the other.
Besides your email and social networks, what tabs do you always have open when you study?
I don’t like to have tabs open when I study. To be honest, I’m someone who gets distracted really easily so using the internet while studying doesn’t work out so well for me. What does work out well is having my Spotify window open on my desktop and blasting music while reading through books. When it comes to using the internet for studying, the only real website I use is Google Scholar.
What do you use to make presentations, documents, and spreadsheets?
- Presentations: Keynote (for Mac) then export as .pdf (either share on Slideshare, Google Drive or Dropbox). If it needs to be collaborative, I’ll use Google Slide, then, if I have time, make it pretty in Keynote;
- Documents: Google Docs. Simple, quick, nice interface plus collab and backup. Occasionally reformat in pages to make it look nice;
- Spreadsheets: Google Sheets + Google Scripts & Conditional Formatting. I like organization.
What's your ideal study-space setup like?
I don’t have an ideal study space; I have criteria. I need it to be:
- Reasonably quiet;
- Have reasonable amounts of desk space (I like to spread out all my materials for a large overview of everything);
- Have an outlet for my computer, though not as important now with the new Macbook Air.
Other than that, pretty much anything goes.
I tend to study and work a lot on the go because that’s just the type of person I am. Caltrain is one of my favorite places actually to just do thinking and brainstorming. Especially the second story seats. Here I just use my moleskine and write until my hand falls off.
What technologies do you wish your school used?
I wish my school used a number of technologies. But of all the ones that I really wished we would use, these are, in my opinion, the three most important ones:
- Google Apps For Education (For Students): We already use Google Apps for Education but I’d love to see the entire school become a Google Apps school and get rid of Microsoft Word across the board. Plus it makes using the Chromebooks much easier.
- A better LMS: We currently use SchoolLoop as our Learning Management System and while SchoolLoop does have enough features, I would like it much better if we used a custom LMS that integrates with Google Apps (email docs calendar specifically) and Turnitin.com–– I hate having to download my essay as a .doc and then uploading it.
- Padlet: Padlet is a collaborative work pad that allows you to easily create and share a space to put things like images and documents. It works perfectly for notes, presentations etc.
What's your favorite to-do list manager?
Paper & pen for daily tasks, Evernote lists + reminders for bigger tasks and subtasks, and Google Calendar for collaboration. My workflow generally goes like this: I start my day off making a grid of tasks that I categorize on two criteria: time (quick and easy v. long and hard) and priority (high or low). I start off with my high priority, quick and easy tasks, and then build momentum throughout the day. At the end of the day I physically re-write (and then add to my Day One Journal) all the tasks I accomplished and all the tasks I want to get done tomorrow.
For bigger tasks and lists (e.g. places I want to go this summer or people I want to have coffee with), I like to use Evernote and reminders. I have a notebook in my Evernote called “Lists” and another called “Long Term Projects.” I tend to keep at least one note from each open on my desktop at all times even if it’s behind other windows. I always break down the big tasks and lists into checkboxes so I can feel accomplished when I check something off. It also gives me motivation to work harder on the project.
For collaboration, I just use Google Calendar and invite people to the event. Virtually everyone I know uses GMail (if you don’t, it raises some serious questions in my opinion) and Google Calendar syncs very well with my GMail as well as everyone else’s Google accounts.
Who do you talk to about school?
I only talk to my friends about school. And not all my friends--just the ones who are good at listening about school. What this means is that I consider them to have some level of philosophical, moral, or personal perspective that has helped them see school and education more clearly that I have.
I also tend to talk about classes depending on the current unit. For example, I would talk about AP Lit a lot during the time when we're writing our research essays but less so during other units. Not matter what though, I always talk about AP Gov, even if it’s with people who couldn’t care about politics at all.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Keep a journal! I use Day One on my phone/computer. It prompts me every day to write a new journal entry @ 10:00 PM. It really helps me keep track of what I did, but even more importantly, what I did not do that day.
It helps me stay on task and keep track of everything I’ve done. Plus, it is very useful when any application season comes around (college apps, scholarship apps etc), because it makes it easy to reflect back on exactly what I have been doing recently and see exactly what needs to be improved upon and what I’ve gained bragging rights to.
What’s your favorite after school activity?
My favorite school activity is easily Mock Trial. From my school experience, many teachers did not help me become a better writer nor did they help me learning logical and deductive reasoning. In addition to being probably the best teacher I’ve ever had, Mock Trial introduced me to trial procedure which is very interesting and easily my choice of career. Plus, I’ve had an amazing coach who was always honest with me and helped me grow as a person more than anyone else could.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see ________ answer these same questions.
I’d like to see what Peter Thiel’s answers to these questions would be–– both while he was in undergrad and in law school. Peter Thiel seems to have a very good grasp of the way the world works but also rejects some of the traditional educational principles (see 20 Under 20 Fellowship). I think his views on how to actually study something intensively would be very unique and useful.
Is there anything else you want to add for readers?
Don’t let studying take over your life. Too many people only study and have no deeper understanding of the knowledge they want to acquire. Being intelligent requires more than just studying- it requires sanity. Also, take advanced humanities classes--engineering helps you discover money but the humanities help you discover yourself.