14 November 2023

Quote of the Day

"Nontraditional students appear to be more at home and successful as learners in classrooms where teachers connect them to subjects in new ways. The students we interviewed recognized and appreciated teachers’ efforts to get to know them and to create classroom settings that encouraged academic engagement and expression of ideas. Yet nontraditional students describe most of their classes as highly structured, teacher-controlled, and regimented."

“Nontraditional students appear to be more at home and successful as learners in classrooms where teachers connect them to subjects in new ways. The students we interviewed recognized and appreciated teachers’ efforts to get to know them and to create classroom settings that encouraged academic engagement and expression of ideas. Yet nontraditional students describe most of their classes as highly structured, teacher-controlled, and regimented.”

Jal Mehta, A Pernicious Myth: Basics Before Deeper Learning

Musical Interlude

Daft Punk is releasing a “drumless” version of their 2013 “Random Access Memories,” and I am absolutely here for it. Here’s the drumless version of “Motherboard”

Long Read of the Day

No one fully understood how smartphones or social media would transform every aspect of our life in the span of fifteen years. AI is a dynamic field, and its impact on education is beyond what any of us could probably comprehend today. The only way we can keep up is by building strong guardrails and regularly assessing and evaluating the extent to which AI tools are enhancing educational outcomes. We must also constantly anticipate and respond to unintended consequences as they emerge. This should include information from academic assessments, surveys, and feedback from teachers and students. The data collected should be used to refine AI implementation strategies and inform policy decisions.

Let’s get this right.

Khaled Ismail

Photo of the Day

library books

At my daughter’s academic team match last night, I thought I’d grab a quick pic of one of the library shelves. Apparently, there are some Brandon Sanderson fans at this school.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me talk about my obsession with Notion as my primary productivity tool. I do my best to put everything in my Notion workspace in some form.

Today, Notion released a beta of the “Q&A” feature that allows you to “talk” with the information in your workspace.

I’m chasing the ultimate content curation strategy with my own Zettelkasten implementation, and this may just be the final piece to the puzzle form. Imagine having quick access to the thousands of articles, highlights, and more you have stored in your Notion workspace. All just by asking a simple question.

Pretty frickin’ cool.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or are curious to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Creating Smart Notes to Organize Your Thinking

"We need a reliable and simple external structure to think in that compensates for the limitations of our brains." (Sönke Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes)

In the world of continuous learning, taking notes is an essential part of the process. However, not all note-taking methods are created equal. In his book “How to Take Smart Notes,” Sönke Ahrens introduces the zettelkasten note-taking system, a method used by German sociologist Nicholas Luhmann to write 58 books and over 500 academic papers.

The zettelkasten system is a remarkable way of connecting index cards to simplify the way in which you write the first draft of your book, academic paper, business plan, or article. It uses a two-stage filter to prevent mediocre ideas from diluting existing notes. Here’s a breakdown of how the system works:

Stage One: Capture Literature Notes and Fleeting Notes When making notes, capture literature notes by highlighting passages in your ebook reader or taking notes in a mobile note-taking application. You can also capture sections of online articles or podcasts that discuss the topic you’re researching. You can also capture fleeting notes by writing down random ideas that come to your mind throughout the day.

Stage Two: Create Permanent Notes Once a day, preferably at the same time every day, go through your literature notes and fleeting notes from the past 24 hours. Determine which notes you should convert to permanent notes. Two criteria for converting a note into a permanent note are:

  • Does this note produce a similar level of excitement as when you first captured it?
  • Does this note add value to other permanent notes?

If an idea from your literature notes or an idea from your fleeting notes meets those two criteria, make it a permanent note by rewriting it on an index card. Add a location code prefix to the title, a list of keywords in the top right corner, and links to permanent notes in the bottom right corner.

One of the advantages of the zettelkasten system is its bottom-up approach to writing. Rather than outlining your book or article from the start, the system encourages you to follow your curiosity, generate a list of keywords as you go, and organically grow an outline over time. By adding keywords to every permanent note, you can group notes together and quickly find relevant notes.

Location Code Prefix When you prefix every permanent note title with a location code, you make it easy to reference your notes later on. The first note you add to your zettelkasten system will have one prefix to its title, and your second note will have a two prefix to its title. If your third note builds off the first note, it should go between notes 1 and 2 and have the code 1a prefixed to its title.

List of Keywords Identifying keywords is as important as taking notes. Aim to add one to three keywords to the top right corner of every permanent note. Identify keywords by asking yourself what one word or phrase relates this note to existing notes. When you develop a new keyword or phrase, put it on your master index, located on an index card at the very front of your index card box.

Note Links A new permanent note may have many potential friends in your zettelkasten system. If a note could fit nicely behind note 12a1 but it also relates to notes 2b1 and 24b, don’t spend too much time debating where the note should go. Simply put it behind 12a1 by giving it the code 12a2 and write down the location codes for related notes in the bottom right corner of the note. These links will be helpful when you write your first draft.

To summarize, start by capturing literature notes and fleeting notes in a mobile note-taking application. Then, convert a select few into permanent notes by rewriting them on index cards. Continuously update your master index with keywords and use it to outline your first draft. Go through your zettelkasten system sequentially, one card at a time, and effortlessly write your first draft. The zettelkasten system is an incredibly powerful tool for anyone looking to improve their note-taking and writing skills.

So, what are you waiting for? Give the zettelkasten system a try, and transform how you take notes forever!

Enter the Zettelkasten: Note Taking, Making, and Organizing

This week, while I’m on a bit of a break between doctoral classes, I’m taking some time to better organize my personal knowledge management system. It’s what I and others refer to as a “second brain.”

Why do I need this second brain? There are several answers to that question, but let’s start with this one: the human brain was not designed to be a storage container. It was designed to make connections between concepts and draw conclusions. In other words, our brains were made to think, not to be an all-powerful, Trivial Pursuit winning, treasure trove of information.

To be sure, I play a mean game of Trivial Pursuit, but not because I’m trying to learn random facts. That happens to me with no focus. It’s a sickness I and many others have that, at the end of the day, isn’t useful for much. Although my wife refuses to play against me in any trivia game…

For me to get the most out of what I read, watch, or listen to, I need a way to make notes and organize them. But perhaps most importantly, I need a way to connect those notes and ideas to create something new.

As lifelong learners, we constantly search for ways to optimize our learning experiences and retain valuable information. In the world of personal knowledge management, there are numerous techniques designed to help us do just that. One such method is the Zettelkasten method, a unique and powerful approach that has gained considerable traction in recent years. My first encounter with the Zettelkasten method—albeit a revised version—was learning how Ryan Holiday writes his books using index cards. A commonplace book also works as a sort of Zettelkasten but with a severe lack of organization.

Let’s dive into the core principles and benefits of the Zettelkasten method, and explore how you can use it to unlock your full learning potential.

What is the Zettelkasten Method?

The Zettelkasten method is a personal knowledge management system that German sociologist Niklas Luhmann created with the intention of improving how we process, store, and connect information. Luhmann used this method to produce an astonishing 70 books and over 400 articles throughout his career. The word “Zettelkasten” translates to “slip box” or “note box,” which refers to the physical or digital space where notes are stored and organized.

Core Principles of the Zettelkasten Method

  1. Atomic Notes: Each note should focus on a single idea or concept, making it easier to digest and connect with other notes. This principle encourages clarity and brevity, preventing information overload.
  2. Unique Identifiers: Assign a unique identifier to each note, typically a combination of numbers or letters. This allows you to quickly locate specific notes and create meaningful connections between them.
  3. Linking Notes: Establish connections between related notes by linking them together using their unique identifiers. This forms a web of interconnected ideas, fostering creative thinking and deep understanding.
  4. Continual Expansion: Continuously add new notes and connections to your Zettelkasten, allowing it to grow and evolve over time. This ongoing process promotes active learning and reflection.

Benefits of the Zettelkasten Method

  1. Enhanced Knowledge Retention: By focusing on single ideas and forging connections between them, the Zettelkasten method encourages deeper understanding and long-term retention of information.
  2. Improved Creativity: The process of linking related notes stimulates creative thinking and helps you discover novel connections between seemingly unrelated concepts.
  3. Efficient Organization: The unique identifiers and linking system make it easy to navigate through your notes, reducing the time spent searching for information.
  4. Personalized Learning: The Zettelkasten method adapts to your individual needs and interests, allowing you to develop a customized knowledge base that reflects your unique learning journey.

How to Get Started with the Zettelkasten Method

  1. Choose a platform: Decide whether you prefer a physical or digital Zettelkasten. Physical options include index cards and notebooks, while digital platforms such as Evernote, Notion (my preferred platform, more to come on that topic soon), or specialized Zettelkasten software like Zettlr or Obsidian offers more advanced features.
  2. Create your first note: Write a brief, focused note on a topic of interest. Remember to assign it a unique identifier.
  3. Expand your Zettelkasten: As you continue to learn, add new notes to your collection, ensuring they follow the atomic note principle.
  4. Link all related notes: Use the unique identifiers to create connections between relevant notes, promoting a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Conclusion

Of course, this isn’t a complete look at the Zettelkasten method. The more you learn and implement the system yourself, the more you’ll develop your own “style” that works for you. The beauty of the system is its simplicity and adaptability.

The Zettelkasten method offers a powerful approach to personal knowledge management, fostering creativity, deep understanding, and efficient organization. By implementing this method in your learning journey, you can unlock your full potential and become a more effective, lifelong learner.

Recommended Reading

Time Management Tips: Powerful Strategies to Help Educators and Administrators Maximize Productivity

Miles Davis, the American jazz impresario, once said, “Time isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing.”

For certain, we don’t have enough time to do everything we want to do in our classrooms. But we are given the same amount of time as everyone else in this old world of ours, so we must figure out better ways to use our time.

For educators and administrators to thrive in the classroom or beyond, they need a firm grasp of time management. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution – every educator has different obligations, workloads, and personalities.

The good news is that with a few powerful strategies for maximizing productivity, you can take control of your time to reach new heights of efficiency in both teaching and administrative tasks.

So let’s dive into some powerful strategies which will enable you (and, by extension, your school) to get more done in less time – so that you can focus on what matters most: creating an amazing learning environment where students can thrive.

Time management tips for educators

Educators are always looking for ways to be more efficient with their time. Here are some tips that can help:

Plan ahead. The more you plan, the less rushed you’ll feel and the more accomplished you’ll feel at the end of the day.

Set priorities. Know what is important and focus on those tasks first.

Delegate tasks whenever possible. Get help from others in your department or school to lighten your load.

Take breaks. Breaks help to refresh your mind and make you more productive when you return to work.

Use technology to your advantage. Many helpful tools online can help you manage your time better.

Tips for maximizing productivity in the classroom

To boost productivity in the classroom, several things can be done. Creating a supportive and effective learning environment is one of the most important. This can be accomplished by providing clear guidelines and expectations for the class and by interacting with students in a supportive and upbeat manner.

Being organized and having a plan for each class time are also crucial. This entails having a specific goal for what you want students to learn and a flow of activities that will guide them there.

It is also helpful to give students structure, especially if they struggle with focus or organization. This can be done by giving them specific tasks to complete during class or by providing a model for how work should be completed. Finally, it is important to remember that different students learn differently and to try to incorporate different teaching methods into your classroom to reach all students.

Strategies for conquering paperwork and administrative tasks

When it comes to conquering paperwork and administrative tasks, there are a few key strategies that can help make the process a little bit easier.

Yes, even in the digital world, there is still “paperwork” to deal with daily. It just happens to take up space on a hard drive or cloud storage somewhere. You still need a strategy for processing those files.

First and foremost, you should devise a system for arranging your paperwork/digital data. This could imply organizing documents into topic-specific folders, color-coding them, or using another method that makes sense to you. A system will help you keep track of what you have and will make it easier to find what you need when you need it.

Another effective strategy is to divide large tasks into smaller ones. Trying to tackle a mountain of paperwork all at once can be overwhelming, so take it one step at a time. Begin by identifying the most pressing tasks and focusing on them first. Then move on to less urgent matters. Breaking the process down into smaller chunks will make it feel less intimidating and more manageable.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in admitting that you are struggling with a particular task and seeking assistance from someone who can help. Friends, family members, and even professional assistants can all be useful resources for getting things done.

How to create a personal time management plan

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Making a personal time management plan is an excellent way to ensure that you use your time as efficiently as possible. When developing your strategy, keep the following points in mind.

The first step is to determine your objectives. What do you hope to accomplish in life? After you’ve identified your objectives, you can devise a strategy to achieve them.

Your time management strategy should also include a daily schedule of what you intend to do. This will help you stay on track and make progress toward your objectives. It is also critical to be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day and to avoid over-committing yourself.

Furthermore, creating some ground rules for how you will use your time is beneficial. Will you, for example, allow yourself to check email or use the internet for recreational purposes only after certain tasks have been completed? Will you designate specific times of the day for work and rest?

Making a personal time management plan can help you do more daily and reach your goals. By taking the time to create a plan that works for you, you can ensure that you are making the best use of your time.

The benefits of effective time management for educators

Time management is an important skill for educators. When educators are organized and efficient with their time, they can accomplish more during the school day. This not only benefits the educator but also the students they teach.

There are several benefits to effective time management for educators. First, when educators are organized, they can plan their lessons better and ensure that all necessary materials are prepared ahead of time. This makes for a smoother classroom experience for both the educator and the students.

Second, when educators are efficient with their time, they can get more work done in a shorter amount of time. This allows them more time to spend on important tasks such as grading papers or preparing for future lessons.

Third, when educators manage their time well, it can lead to a more balanced lifestyle. This is important, as it can help prevent burnout.

Lastly, when educators are good at managing their time, it sets a good example for their students. Teaching students how to manage their time effectively is an important life skill that will benefit them long after they have left school.

Keep Going by Austin Kleon

Conclusion

To summarize, effective time management has numerous advantages for educators. When educators organize and use their time efficiently, they can accomplish more during the school day. This results in a more enjoyable classroom experience for both the educator and the students and a more balanced lifestyle. Teaching students how to effectively manage their time is an important life skill that will benefit them long after graduating high school.

If you’re a teacher, you already know that time management is critical to academic success. You can maximize your productivity, conquer paperwork and administrative tasks, and create a personal time management plan that works for you by following some simple tips and strategies. The advantages of effective time management are numerous; not only will you be more productive in the classroom, but you will also have more free time to pursue your interests outside of work. Learn more about how to manage your time as an educator here.


Thanks for reading. Get access to exclusive content and expert insights on technology, teaching, and leadership by subscribing to my newsletter. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends and join our community of professionals and educators worldwide.