The Right Tool

The Right Tool

 Have you ever struggled to make something work and then all it once it comes together when you try another strategy – or tool?

That’s how learning is. When students find the right tools that fit the way they learn, they can conquer just about any material. Memorization, organizing ideas, notetaking, managing deadlines, putting together a paper or project are all easier with a system, a structure or a simple tool that brings the pieces together. Fortunately, there are some wonderful free, effective resources out there and my “Monday Mission” for the next few weeks is to tell you about my favorites.   

Today let’s take a look at the free learning and productivity app called GoConqr. Perfect name for a Monday, right? GoConqr is packed with versatile features that are useful for teachers, students and project/study groups alike. Create, save and share quizzes, mind maps, flowcharts, flashcards and notes and use them anywhere/anytime with easy from both a desktop or mobile device. You can also easily embed what you create into other tools you’re using. While you’re checking it out, take a look at the  library of materials that have already been created to help you get started. 

Here’s to a great week. And now, fly!



Happy Monday, How is back-to-school going?

Whether your classes are off to a fast start or are unfolding at a more leisurely pace, now is the time to get into a strong study groove.

How about a couple of indispensable tools to set the semester up right?!

The first is Quizlet. Every student I have worked with will tell you that note cards are my #1 go to. Quizlet ups this study technique by taking it virtual. You start by creating flashcard sets for the material you want to study using what we call spaced repetition. (Spaced repetition is just a fancy way of saying repetition over time.) Then, using your cards, Quizlet will help you review across your devices and in different study modes. Bonus – you can share your cards with classmates or, find cards that are already created in Quizlet’s library.  And, no paper cards to keep track of.

For some students, the worst part of writing a paper is formatting the bibliography. With ZoteroBib, that’s no longer a challenge. It’s free, you don’t need to download any software, and you can set up a bib in multiple formats such as APA, MLA, Chicago / Turabian, Harvard etc.

And now, fly!



    Please, just stop.

    Please, just stop.

    Well it’s that time of the year again when acceptance letters and financial aid offers have landed and the plans for attending college are now becoming very real. 

    I have a love-hate relationship with this moment in the college process. It brings such joy to see a student who has worked hard get the breakthrough they deserved. Watching kids accept and overcome a tough rejection and hold their heads high is pretty joyous too, in its own way.

    But somehow before the dollars and cents are sorted out, before the final decision is settled and the deposit is mailed away, THE QUESTION lands: “What are you majoring in?” 

    Now before we get going here, know I’m all in when it comes to encouraging students to have a plan (or a couple of plans) and I know that with the horrifyingly exorbitant expense of higher education, no one wants to write that check and send their child off without a clue.   

    And yet, I believe right down to my toes that this is the wrong way to show your excitement for a young person who has a whole lot to figure out. It becomes over-the-top wrong when the questioner expresses disappointment when the response isn’t something they perceive to be grand, prestigious or guaranteed to pay really well. 

    You know, I’ve never heard anyone ask a high school senior how they plan to use their first year of college to discover the kind of person they want to be, or what their plan is for exploring all of the paths available to them. Those conversations would be fun to listen in on.

    College, like every level of education, is more than just advanced instruction in the 3Rs. It’s a complex process of learning and mastering a whole range of new things and connecting it all to where a student has been, is, and where he or she is going.  

    It’s okay to have a college major or a career in mind, it’s okay to not have one. Knowing happens at different times for different students.  I knew a 7th grader who told me the first time I met him that he wanted to be a doctor. And he’s a doctor. I’ve also known 12th graders, and college seniors who didn’t know quite yet where they were headed exactly. They figured it out and are living happy, productive career and personal lives. 

    Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “but it’s a waste of money!” An investment in learning will forever compound and like its financial counterpart in this analogy, investments mature and grow at different rates – impacted by all sorts of market factors some of which are predictable and some that are not. Ultimately, I believe that the cost of pressuring a young person into claiming a career prize they don’t want to earn poses a much greater risk for a wasted investment.

    So, as the young people in our lives approach this momentous crossroads I’d like to propose that we please, just stop with the college major question. Let’s affirm and empower! These are a few of the questions I plan to ask the class of 2021:

    • When do you register for your first ever college classes?
    • What do you love about the school you’ve chosen?
    • (and if the student is still in the throes of deciding) What 3 things are important factors in your choice?
    • What is one goal you have for your first year? 
    • What out-of-class aspects of college life are you looking forward to? 
    • When is your very first day of class? 
    • Who was the first person you told about getting in?
    • How do you feel about your accomplishment? 

    And now, fly.



    Mind the Gap

    Mind the Gap

    Lately, I’ve had a lot of questions about taking a gap year. Maybe it’s because students are just burned out after extended on-line learning, or is it a result of financial and other stressors of the pandemic? One questioner wondered if she would be  getting the whole college experience she was paying for if things are not closer to normal by the fall. 

    If you’re one of the students thinking of delaying college, here’s a few things to keep in mind: 

    1. A gap year can have a lot of benefits – but only if you use the year wisely.  A year with no plan, no job and no growth will kill your motivation and later entry into college. You really need a gap year plan. We’ll talk about that more in a minute.  
    2. Every college has its own deferral policy so approach your college with your plans as soon as you’ve made the decision you’re deferring. That way you have time to work through any issues that will affect your later enrollment. 
    3. Gap year opportunities (like availability of internships and restrictions on travel) will be different this year so you’ll need to plan ahead and be creative.

    What to do? Explore volunteer opportunities, check out virtual internships, take an open-source course in something that interests you, create a gap year reading list..or maybe go all-in on an experience like AmeriCorps. 

    The most important thing? Get out of your comfort zone, surround yourself with new challenges and work on finding a deeper understanding about what your interests are. Those are key ingredients to being a great college student. 



    A nice and easy prescription for ending stress.

    A nice and easy prescription for ending stress.

    This has been a tough school year. COVID continues to mess up traditions and experiences we are used to. Add in the stresses of navigating the college process, keeping your gpa up and all of the other things you’re juggling and you are probably feeling a little stressed right now.

    Stress is a super-destructive force that can do a lot of damage so it makes sense to find healthy ways to deal with it. There is a lot of great advice out there but I want to point out one easy, inexpensive, you can start today, strategy that is often overlooked.

    Be Kind!

    Did you know that when you do something kind for someone else, your brain releases a hormone that reduces your stress levels?  And get this, that same hormone lowers your blood pressure. Plus, let’s face it, being nice feels good.

    Smile at someone in the hallway or share a compliment. Instead of stampeding by, help pick things up when someone drops them in a rush to class. Say thank you when someone does the same for you. 

    Even the smallest act of kindness can make a great difference to the person who receives it. And for you, too.

    You’re off to great things.



    If I Had a Dollar

    If I Had a Dollar

    for every time I got this question, “what book should I buy to help me get into college?” For the record, I don’t know exactly what I’d do with that kind of money but it would be a lot!

    There are literally hundreds of titles that cover high school success and college planning and many of them are traditional step-by-step walks through the admissions process. Which is fine but there are some real standouts, too that will not only help you get into college but will change the way you think and learn. 

    I’ve got a number of favorites (books are life!) but a title I’ve recommended many times is: How to Be A High School Superstar by Cal Newport. 

    It’s a favorite because it turns some of the conventional thinking about how to be competitive on its head. Newport’s main message is how to be successful without stressing yourself out, making yourself sick, and spending your high school years in misery. Gotta  love that approach. 

    Newport’s method is to teach you what he calls the “3 laws of relaxed superstars.” Along the way, you’ll do some really good thinking about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what to do to make it matter in the overall application process.  There are lots of examples from students who have succeeded with this approach and I really like that the book is infused with the science of learning. 

    A book is very often the answer.