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May 14, 2018

Correct Student Planning: How to Plan Things to Get Results

It’s taken long for me to start conscious planning. I used to think about myself as a person able to keep tons of information in mind, plan a day, a week and a month, choose priorities and find out important things.

In practice, I’d been a procrastinator most part of time, as all the information gathered during long periods of time got mixed into a cocktail. Of course, there were certain tasks completed, but still, I was very far from real results.

Student Planning Things

I wrote out all the tasks that were running in my mind. There was everything I had to or wanted to do. It was a long battle with my tired brain. I didn’t know what to do first and where to run. A list on paper had changed everything in a mysterious way. This is how my story of planning has begun.

Why Planning is Important

If you believe that you don’t need any plan to work effectively (like I did before), try to write what you want to get and what you are going to do in order to reach that. Hold that kind of experiment.

What have you got? It often looks like separate tasks and parts of thoughts. Sometimes it looks like a total confusion and inability to write down even some tasks. But if there is a huge task list before your eyes, think: will you be able to choose which tasks to do first, which ones to postpone and which to cross out at all in a few seconds?

A plan lets you put your thoughts in order and is one of the ways to fight procrastination. One of the reasons for you to delay tasks on purpose is your misunderstanding of what can be done at a certain moment, including difficulties with choosing tasks. When there are thoughts in your mind like “I need to do this, this and that in addition”, you can’t decide what to do first. You finish your day sitting on a sofa and panicking about too many tasks, everything going out of control and your inability to make it all.

How to Write a Plan if Your Mind is Shattered?

In a situation described above, when you find yourself feeling overloaded and not knowing what to do, the recipe is simple: sit down, take a list of paper and write. Write about everything that is in your head and doesn’t let you calm down. Write down all tasks you need to do today, during the week, month and even year. Write about everything that bothers you.

Confused Student

You’ll feel yourself freer when the list is done. Now you need to prioritize tasks according to their importance and urgency.

Look through your list attentively and mark things that should be done “yesterday” with a star (or however you want). Mark tasks that need to be done today but not right now with a circle. And finally, tasks possible to be postponed or thrown out of the list. Mark them with an arrow. Sort all your weekly tasks like that. 

Now, when things are sorted, you can see what to start from. Do not postpone anything, take the first task with a “yesterday” extremely urgent mark and start completing it. After that, move to the tasks that need to be finished today. If there still is time after that, do things from an “arrowed” list. If you don’t have time, then postpone them.

How to Create a Plan When the Goal is Too Big or Unfamiliar?

About a year ago I found myself brave enough to hold a webinar on the topic of New Year wishes. The idea inspired me, I wanted to knock the world flat but still did nothing. Why? Because I didn’t know how to start that task which was new for me. I had experienced many webinars as a listener but never had an experience of organizing them.

To avoid skipping the challenge, I’ve announced the webinar, published it on a TimePad and asked friends about sharing a post in social media. Registrations started. There was no way to fall back. But the business still stood.

The date of a webinar came closer, it couldn’t be postponed any more. So, I sat down and wrote everything I knew about webinars (that the presentation is required, that I need a good Internet connection etc.), everything I can do and everything I don’t know (how to choose a platform, how to provide a stream, etc.). I’ve got two lists: a list of tasks and a list of questions.

Then, I sat and answered all of my questions. Yes, even if it seems that you don’t know a thing, you really have a certain answer. For instance, my answer to the question “How to choose a platform for a webinar?” looked like “Ask Ann, Alex and Dave (they have webinar experience)”. These answers moved to the task list as well.

As a result, I’ve got a big task-list I could star to do AT ONCE. The goal stopped looking unreal. The process was launched.

If there is a new or complicated task that scares you, sit and write these two lists: tasks and questions.

After getting a starting to-do list, you need to set priorities and think over milestones and deadlines.

On this stage, it is important to avoid tasks that are not obligatory to be done. When starting to do something new, people often want to do it all perfectly and that is why they add many tasks better to be left out in their first stages.

Look at your task list and use the Pareto principle for it. Throw away everything you can. You can add some “glance” when more important tasks are done and the goal is so close as never before. But now, you should deal with the necessary things only. Do what is needed for your goal to be achieved. Don’t pursue the perfect solution, start with the prototype.

Now choose the components of your goal. In my example with the webinar, I chose the following milestones:

  • Creating a presentation;
  • Writing a speech;
  • Repetition;
  • Technical preparation for the webinar (choosing the platform, functional test, presentation upload, etc.);

All the tasks were sorted out according to these three categories.

After that, determine the most important and critical milestone, then the one going next and the one parallel if needed. I’ve postponed speech writing and repetition till the very end, so tasks connected to that list were completed last. I didn’t divert my attention to them. A part of technical tasks was chosen as a priority (to choose a platform), then presentation preparing was set.

Divide big tasks into precise actions, write down resources you have… and start! Your first plan is ready!

What Can You Do to Help Yourself?

  1. There are days when you don’t want to do a thing and have no energy. To avoid wasting your time, create a plan for “lazy days”. Write down the tasks that you can complete easy and fast; tasks that don’t require a lot of efforts, mechanical job that does not load your brain too much. Whenever you feel that you can’t do a thing, look at your “lazy plan” and complete 1-2 tasks from there. You’ll be proud of yourself in the evening, I bet :)
  2. Before you start working, spend 5 minutes and write down your goals and priorities. This will help you avoid falling into social media. After writing down all the priorities and goals, enlist the tasks you are going to do;
  3. Decorate your plans to have a desire to look onto them often. Use stickers, colored markers and good-looking paper;
  4. Do not overload your daily plan. It is better to write less but complete the list than to postpone the same tasks day after day because of not having enough time to do them;
  5. Have a planning partner and discuss your tasks and troubles together once a week. The process is easier when you have supporters.

How and Where to Plan?

In planning, it is important for you to find “your” instruments. Try out different ways of planning: paper, electronic one, lists, tables, mind mapping, etc.

Student Planning Instruments

As for me, I plan my tasks through the paper diary + Trello. Some tasks are planned with mind-mapping through www.mindmeister.com in order to visualize them better.

I have a mini-notebook to list my goals and daily tasks into it every morning before starting my job.

When I do not feel highly concentrated, I start planning from freewriting. I write about my priorities and ask myself what I can do today to get closer to the desired goal. Tasks appear, and then it becomes easier to catch my focus.

I make some boards in Trello, they are the strategical ones. There I enlist all my ideas and tasks to think over, tasks for far future.

Mind mapping is a relatively new instrument for me, but it allows me to create the sequence of actions for certain tasks. I do not use it on daily basis, but it helps me to notice the main components of complicated tasks and divide them into categories.

Nobody can give you a perfect recipe for creating your own planning system, but you won’t be able to accomplish it if you don’t try different methods.

Try, experiment, plan, and, of course, act!

April 30, 2018

Pros and Cons of Computer Games: Essay Writing

Computer games have become a part of everyday life. They occupy a leading position among numerous ways to organize leisure time for young people. Virtual reality attracts us with its unlimited possibilities, and a video gaming industry offers new and new games from year to year, and it is just impossible to resist. Still, everyone around cries about the harm computer games might bring along with their contents. Parents whose children spend their free time staring at the monitor are especially worried about gaming addiction problem.

Essay on Games

What are the dangers coming from computer games, and is it possible for them to be useful?  

Cons About Computer Games

According to the opinion of video game haters, the main threat coming from computer games is the gaming addiction. That is a real mental disorder that requires a person to receive professional medical help and support from relatives and friends.

A person falling under the influence of computer gaming addiction literally lives in a virtual reality and “comes out” offline rarely. The most critical stage of gaming addiction is when the gamer feels no appetite (he or she does not want to leave games even in order to eat something) and sleep (gamers don’t rest enough and go on conquering worlds and killing enemies even while dreaming).

The scariest thing about this addiction is the fact that it often remains unnoticed by gamer’s relatives and loved ones. That is why it is that hard to fight gaming addiction: at the moment when it becomes visible, it is very hard to help a person get out of it painlessly.

Many gamers go farther: they are ready to spend money to use paid services in online games. Becoming the strongest and the coolest hero in some minutes without the need to develop a character: who doesn’t dream about that? And online game developers “offer” this possibility to gamers. Of course, this is not for free.

And it is not limited. As a result, family starts losing money, a gamer gets trapped with debts as the time goes and a real life looks like hell, but the games is the king, the god and the superhero online. That is the price of the gaming addiction.   

When thinking about a possible harm of computer games to children and adults, it should be mentioned that different shooters, flying simulators, and racing games are called especially dangerous by computer games’ rivals.

What is the danger of shooter games, according to their opinion? They say that shooters are the most dangerous, as the addiction caused by these games is followed by aggression and raging. Video game rivals say it is nothing to wonder: when you shoot people in a virtual world for hours, it is difficult to become a kind person.   

Flying and racing simulators are called dangerous because they need the player to concentrate attention, they make gamers “dive” into them and it is difficult to get out. Of course, putting the game to a pause is said to be impossible for the gamer involved in the process of a race or flight.  

And of course, online games are dangerous because of the expenditures mentioned above.

Additionally, video game rivals say that gaming addiction causes harm for both mental and physical health of the gamers.

Pros About Computer Games

Do you believe that there are those who say that video games are useful after all? Fortunately, things are not as bad as video gaming rivals might say. People from the opposite camp have their own arguments.

Firstly, they say, you should pay attention to the fact that games can be helpful in developing intelligence, logic, attention, memory, reaction and other qualities possible to be used in real life. There are many games requiring players to use their thinking in order to finish a quest or to move through the episode.

There are many games that can teach school pupils and students different facts from this or that field, make them learn their ways to behave in various situations, be attentive and concentrated.

It is possible to learn foreign languages through computer games, to develop certain personal qualities and abilities. For instance, video game supporters have a counterargument for gaming addiction: online games can help gamers to socialize. Multiplayer projects need them to cooperate with each other, to discover and develop leadership qualities and decision-making abilities.

Student Playing PC

Plus, computer games have a great value for adults, if they “consume” this kind of entertainment thoroughly. A game is a perfect way to relax after a tough working day, get distracted form routine tasks and think creatively. Of course, time devoted to gaming matters here. Nothing bad would happen if a person spends 1-3 hours a day in virtual world of games.

Additionally, modern single-player games have nothing in common with those released 20 years ago. A good game can easily be compared with a cool movie, helping people relax and rest.  

Pros and Cons of Computer Games: Conclusion

So, what is the result? In fact, everything depends on one’s personal ability to manage their time and on the kind of this or that game. Virtual reality should not take away all your time and provoke you for raging and cruelty. To my mind, this is one of the ways to rest and spend leisure time, just like walking, going in for sports, reading books, meeting friends and watching movies. Life has many sides, and video games are just a part of it.

April 16, 2018

Book Review Writing: How to Read Difficult Books to Develop Intelligence

This is a step-by-step instruction for book reading which would help you understand difficult materials. This is a skill you might need if you often write book reviews, as this task requires you to read texts you don’t always like. Let’s see how to do that.

Student Bored Reading

You probably read such books: you want to quit reading them after a few pages because it is impossible for you to understand a thing. Here is another viewpoint for you to consider: these are exactly the books you need to read in order to become smarter. Think of your brain as of a muscle you can make stronger. To do that, you need to “pump iron”, which means to read complicated books.

1. Before You Start Reading

Get Rid of School Thinking

At school, you read to answer teacher’s questions. Results of tests confirm you are familiar with the material, and nothing more. Avoid that approach towards reading. Remember, that at the university you read more for yourself, and not for teachers or lecturers.

Let’s suppose that you read a book about Peloponnesian War. It is not that important to remember the fact that there was a conflict between Corinth and Corsica sometime. Pay attention to strategies chosen by the rival camps. Both cities struggled to receive support of Athens. But one side accused Athens of being in debt, while the other one provided a list of pluses coming from cooperation between two cities. Would you guess who won?

In this case, places, names and dates are not that important. Lessons matter the most.

This works for the review tasks, too. You don’t have to retell the content or a plot of the book, no matter if it is fiction or documentary. Your task is to write your own opinion on the author’s thoughts and arguments, on ideas and values, on questions and answers that he or she gives in the book.

Look Through the Last Pages

The reader’s (and the book reviewer’s) goal is to work out why something happened. It is not that important to know what exactly happened. So, it is useful to know the final part of the book or main author’s thoughts and conclusions in advance. Then, you can concentrate on two important questions while reading:

  • What does that mean?
  • Do I agree with that?

Usually, while reading first 50 pages of a non-fiction book, the reader only tries to comprehend what the author intends to say. If you are aware of that beforehand, then you can move to the next stage at once: you try to decide if the author is right and how you can use it to write a review or in practice. Additionally, you will notice main “hooks” when reading a book for the first time at once. Those hooks can often be missed if you don’t have some knowledge about the book beforehand.

Look Through the Feedback

Pay attention to the things that seemed to be important for other readers. Estimate the cultural value of the book according to their comments. Think what it could mean for other people. Think over its main topics basing on testimonials you could find.

2. In the Process of Reading

Read the Intro

That is what you want to skip so much, but still don’t do it. Otherwise you will miss many important things and you will need to read it all from the very beginning once more. Read through introductory articles, interpreter’s comments, references and footnotes obligatory. They can help you understand author’s ideas and prepare yourself to perceive the book you need to review.

Don’t refuse that help. You’ll need it when reading something really complex.

Clarify Things

Don’t pretend to understand everything. Look for the information about things you don’t get. For instance, when you read about war history, it is important to imagine the battlefield correctly. Look through the maps of the area, get familiar with the additional facts. But don’t concentrate on details too much. Don’t forget that you need to get the main ideas to know them and to write a review first.

Mark Interesting Parts

Underline words, sentences or periods that make you feel interest and think. If you don’t have a bookmark or a marker nearby, then just carefully grease a page corner.

Note thoughts, feelings and associations caused by a certain part of the text. Do that at once till you remember about that and have some inspiration. Don’t be afraid of spoiling the book. It will be much easier to write a good book review on it in that case. And these notes will be of much help when made.

3. After Reading

Write Things Out

Come back to a book in a week or two after you finish reading it. Look it through and write out all the text you have marked on cards. Sort those cards according to the topics. This is a very comfortable system that lets you keep important thoughts under control. You can use them anytime: when writing an essay, solving a studying problem or feeling life difficulties.

Student Making Notes

If you don’t want to deal with paper cards, make digital notes. There are many user-friendly applications for that.

Choose the Following Book from the Bibliography

Look through footprints and bibliography list at the end of the book in order to find a new one for reading. This is how you can improve your knowledge in one field.

Use New Knowledge in Practice

You haven’t marked interesting quotes in vain. Use them in your talks and chats. Use them to improve your studying and everyday life. Read them to find inspiration.

Don’t forget the reason of reading. You do not read the book just to make a review, but to learn moral and practical lessons from there. And reading for the sake of reading is not enough. You need to apply the knowledge practically in order to grow and go on developing.

The more satisfaction you get from using new knowledge, the more you want to continue your own self-development.

March 22, 2016

ACC Student Named NASA Scholar

Alvin Community College student Chelsi Nelson loves aerospace and mechanical engineering and she aspires to earn a doctorate in the field as she continues her education.

She began taking courses at ACC this past fall and plans to transfer to the University of Texas-Arlington to pursue her goals.

In the meantime, Nelson will be joining the astronauts and engineers that make space travel possible at NASA this summer after she was named one of the agency’s Community College Aerospace Scholars, or NCAS, for 2016.

“NASA is my dream,” Nelson said. “I’m hoping that being a part of the program will open the door for other opportunities such as internships.”

Nelson was one of 216 students across the country selected to participate in the four-day workshop at Johnson Space Center on May 22-25.

“NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA,” said Tania B. Davis, NASA Minority University Research and Education Project Manager. “NCAS has a legacy of alumni moving from NASA internships to and ultimately entering the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague.”

To be selected for the NCAS program, students had to complete a five-week online course.

During the workshop, Nelson will have the opportunity to work with NASA engineers and staff members as they learn about careers in science and engineering.

Students will also form teams and establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. The teams will develop and test a prototype rover, form a company infrastructure, manage a budget and develop communications and outreach.

Nelson will also be able to tour facilities and briefings by NASA subject matter experts.

“I hope to meet people who are interested in the same things I am,” Nelson said. “I really hope to meet other scientists as well.”

The Minority University Research and Education Program was created by NASA to recruit underrepresented and underserved students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM fields. For more information about the National Community College Aerospace Scholars, e-mail JSC-NCAS@mail.nasa.gov or call 281-483-0493. For more information, visit ncas.aerospacescholars.org.

March 9, 2016

UHCL Rep. on Campus Today

Nakita Wanza with University of Houston – Clear Lake, will be at the ACC campus Café on Thursday, March 10th from 10:00 am – 1: 00 pm.

-Alpha Treviño, Academic Advisor

March 7, 2016

Congratulations Amanda Smithson

Student Activities Coordinator Amanda Smithson, center, was awarded the crystal dolphin for the Employee Recognition Award today.

March 2, 2016

A Year of Frog and Toad

The Alvin Community College Drama Department will begin musical performances of A Year With Frog and Toad on March 5.

The spring musical A Year With Frog and Toad is a production based on the children’s tales of a toad and frog who experience several adventures in their woodland home. The musical is based on the Tony Award-winning production on Broadway.

“Although based on the popular children’s books, the show is not just for children but will lots of fun for the whole family,” Drama Chair Dr. Jay Burton said.

Performances on March 5 and 10-12 will be at 7:30 p.m. There will be a 2:30 p.m. performance on March 6. All performances will be in the ACC Theatre. To learn more about the auditions for the upcoming productions or to purchase tickets, visit www.alvincollege.edu/drama. You can also learn more by calling 281-756-3606.