Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Self-Directed Learning of Calculus - Part 2

There are many ways and styles for creating notes while Learning a topic.

I would like to share some approaches that I use while using technology to support my Learning of calculus. Many of these approaches use a table structure, but it is primarily because the tables are created using computer software that they achieve their value. It is the flexibility that arises because the table may be edited (i.e. updated)that gives it the power to be useful over that of a paper-based table.

The first table that I create maps out the overall set of chapters in the five books that I am using to study calculus. In this particular situation I have created a table specifically for the "prerequisites" to the actual topic of calculus.



The table has a few notable features.

1)It is another aid to time management, which takes on more importance when one is engaged in Self-Directed Learning.

2) It provides an overview of what is planned for the coming open-ended time period. In this case it identifies all of the chapters in the five books I am using that describe the pre-cursors to the actual studying of calculus. Since I have been away from any formal use or study of mathematics for about 40 years, this seems like a useful way to start. One concern with this approach is that I may bog down in minutia and never get to the primary goal of learning calculus. One should try to establish a balance between meaningful learning and efficient learning. The goal is not to document how faithful I have been to a strategy, but to keep the strategy itself flexible to modification as one proceeds.

3)I do not make definitive Learning plans for more than a week in advance. That is, my plans are not rigid and are open to the numerous other events that make my life worthwhile.

4)More playfully, I insert color into the table to help highlight the successful completion of an activity.

5) In my opinion most importantly, the actual construction of the table forces me to think and to identify the main topics for study in the near future. Often this is done for one when one is taking a course, but when one is planning their own Learning it helps to draw a roadmap. This might be viewed as a form of "advance organizer" for what is to come.

6) The actual time taken to create such a table is relatively short, less than an hour.

7) Once one has created one such table this may be used as a form of template to create other tables. One need only copy the table, clear out most of the rows and type in the new content.

8) The table can also be viewed as a window into progress, or lack of progress. In my case it is more of the latter at the moment. It has been exactly a week since I last looked at a calculus book. No problem - it is summer after all, but still, it is a jog to not let this slip too far.

9) And given that I should get back on task, it helps bring me back to where I last was and what should be done next.

All in all, that is pretty good service for one small table.

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