Friday, 20 April 2012

If you're going through hell . . . keep going!

There's no mistake, I smell that smell, it's that time of year again . . .  What time of year is that I hear you say? Why it's exam time of course! So here we are, 3 weeks from the day when exams start, throw into the mix the fact that I've made it into the final of the mooting competition, and am going to be working 40 hrs per week between now and then. I'm thinking that smell I can smell is the smell of fear! 

How do I, In 3 short weeks, do the reading for the moot, put together my submissions, construct a coherent framework for my subjects in my head to give me enough ammunition to pass, while working a full time job? The thing is, after 3 years of doing this, while the fear has kicked in, it's became a familiar sensation! 

When I was an energetic first year student, really up for the challenge of learning as much as I could and cramming every possible case into my head, I had a chat with a friend who had also went back to Uni as an adult learner. He looked at me with a smile saying 'I remember feeling like that' and told me about how it had all became a process for him. I vowed never to get that way, to maintain my enthusiasm, it hasn't gone down that way! 

I've now got to a point where I'm almost comfortable, I know that I can squash a fair amount of information into my head in a relatively short period of time. I know that I've got a pretty solid framework in my head of legal concepts and principles on which to hang the different ideas, I also know a few memory techniques that allow me to memorise case names and details relatively quickly. So I must reluctantly admit that it's became a bit of a process, but maybe that's a part of what law schools are designed to teach us. I'm thinking a big part of the law school, or even the general university experience is about learning more than just the 'black and white' aspects of your subject.

I now feel like I've learned some real skills, how to use my mind, commit things to memory with relative ease, to process information quite quickly and manipulate ideas and concepts, maybe that's what the eduction's all about. Learning skills and developing your mind seems to me to be every bit as important as learning the substantive elements of my course. Now I can absolutely see where my friend was coming from when he was talking about studying and learning, it is a process, a series of techniques, a skill-set, and far from being a bad thing I embrace it. Without that process and skill set, I wouldn't stand a chance of passing my upcoming exams or getting through my next moot, which I'm excited to say is the final of the my university's competition, held at the High Court in Glasgow. 

I'd ask you to wish me luck but I think luck's got precious little to do with it . . . .

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The paper free project: How'd it go??

So, here I am, 3 weeks away from my exams, just won the semi-final of the internal mooting competition and as yet I haven't printed a single piece of paper for Uni, (the only exception being the bundles of authorities which I've had to submit to my judges in a moot). The question is, would I consider my paper-free semester as having been a success? will I be doing it again? and was it difficult to maintain the commitment to being paper-free. 

Well, first comes the confession . . . . I broke one of my rules . . . . I deserve a slap on the wrists. A change in personal circumstances has saw me in a position where I now have to spend a lot more of my life commuting, which in turn means I've not been spending all the quality time that I had planned in the library. I'm sad to say, I folded, I bought some books, which made it a lot easier to study from home. Aside from that I've been paper free, I've not printed off any class handbooks, not written anything on paper and not printed anything  out. My wee net-book has followed me to every class, tutorial, moot and study session and has been more than enough, not to mention much less cumbersome than paper.  

I've used a few fantastic programs which have helped me out massively:

1. Evernote - a brilliant cloud based piece of note-taking software

2. Sugarsync -another cloud service which synchronises folders form my netbook with folders on my home pc, my android phone and on-line account. 

Combined with my wee netbook, android phone and home pc, Evernote and Sugarsync have been perfect. One of the big bonuses about using evenrote is that it allows me to make audio recordings of my lectures using my phone and save the audio files into the typed notes I've taken, great for revision. Also if like me you don't mind sharing, you can email a copy of your lecture notes to anyone from within evernote, dynamite for the times when your study buddy misses a class.  

So, has it been a success? yes definitely!
Would I do it again? absolutely! 
Was it difficult to maintain the paper-free commitment? Not at all, after the first few weeks it became second nature. 

I'd highly recommend that anyone interested in grossly simplifying their lives, take the time to learn how to properly use a few cloud based systems like evernote and sugarsync, learn to type and get over the fear of reading from a screen. I've found the whole process quite liberating and am highly unlikely to ever go back!