Organizing information you collect for your learning project

Many years ago, long before my adventure into woodworking, I was fascinated by the idea of information.  I wanted to learn ways to organize it, categorize it and keep it in a manner so that I could access it anytime I wanted.  More importantly I wanted a way to keep a sensible record of the learning projects that I undertook.  I wanted a way to actually organize a notebook into a course of study as I went along learning about a subject.  I soon found out that every subject or discipline or skill lent itself to a particular way of organizing.

Notebooks and organization

Woodworking seemed to become a collection of photocopied articles and notes.  For this I used two things.  The first was a Moleskin gridded notebook.  I love these notebooks because they are almost impossible to tear up regardless of the abuse I give them.  I am in the habit of carrying one or two of them around with me at all times.   I start off by numbering the pages from 1 to the last page.  Then I reserve the first 5 to 8 pages for a Table of Contents.  As I read a book I make notes from the book in the gridded notebook.  I will either block quote or summarize what I have just read.  When I had finished a relevant section or something that I felt stood by itself I made a note of it in the table of contents.  So as I made notes on my reading or lectures I heard I had a complete record and easy way to find them using the Table of Contents.  In addition to notes I would write down thoughts, draw ideas for projects, or draw things I saw.  I also placed photographs into the book.  Each one, of course, was entered into the Table of contents.  In the beginning I tried to glue photocopied articles into the Moleskin notebooks.  But that proved unworkable as I accumulated a large set of photocopied and scanned materials.  So I decided to get a good three-ring binder for the articles. 

Three Ring Binders for photocopies and scans

When I purchased a three-ring binder I did the same thing first.  I placed several sheets of notebook paper in the front to work as a Table of Contents.  Then when I included a photographed article I numbered the pages of the article as I hole punched them to be placed in the binder.  As I placed the articles in I would add them into the Table of Contents with their title and page number.  I didn’t try to organize the articles by any type of theme or subject division in the beginning.  I found that i generally knew which notebook or which three-ring binder contained what.  I always made a title page with general lists of information to be found in the notebook or binder.  In that way I kept all of the information I was using organized. 

Should you use a computer to do this?

I have to confess that I am almost a complete computer geek.  If there is something I can do on a computer then I will do it.  But, when it came to the notebooks and the binders of articles.  I decided to keep the physical materials.  First, the electronics of a notebook computer and the dust in a woodshop make horrible playmates.  Secondly, while I often have a computer with me I often find it inconvenient to actually use.  There is the reality of battery life.  Then I always feel paranoid if I have to walk away from the computer in a library or some other public place.  A notebook can be easily carried as can a three-ring binder.  I’ve found that for every learning project I wind up with a notebook of hand notes – always a large gridded Moleskin.  By the way, I am in no way affiliated with Moleskin products.  They are just wonderful products that seem to meet my needs. 

The Calendar

I always carried an academic year calendar with me to note everything I do from getting up to going to bed.  I also use it to plan days but it becomes almost a journal.  I enter what I do when I do it.  I also make notes of conversations, locations, travel times and everything else in the calendar.  Within a short time you will find it to be indispensible.  My only criteria for my calendars is that they must show the day in hours.  When my mother became ill during the last weeks of her life, I kept notes of everything in the calendar.  When I spoke to the doctor or nurse about my moms condition I made a note of the conversation.  That saved the day on several occasions when someone said to me I didn’t say that.  I would just open the calendar and show them what they had said.  It also becomes a complete listing of everything you do during any given day.  If you are working this can become evidence of what you are doing on the job.  For a child, getting in the habit of keeping a record of your actions is invaluable training.  I now have many years of these notebooks.  They are fascinating to go back and look at what I was doing at a particular date and time.

The Tie between the articles and the notebook…

Most often I would also have notes about the article in each of the notebooks.  So if that were the case I would make a note of where to find the article in the three rings.  I was also careful to make notes about the books so I would have complete bibliography information.

No need for formal training for most things.

By using this system you will soon have your own texts written.  You will have accumulated a personal store of knowledge that will be beyond compare.  You will also be much more knowledgeable and organized than 99 out of 100 people in the US.  In  the next few blogs I am going to talk about how to organize a course of study so that you can design your own personal coursework and keep records so that you have a possibility of getting credit. 

I will also show you how to put this all on computer so that it can be digitalized and backed up.

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Filed under independent learning, nontraditional learning, online learning

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