Music While Studying

As we near the end of the semester and summer approaches we must first get passed our daunting assignments and end of year exams. This marks a rare time in the student calendar when the nightclubs are noticeably less full and the library is packed from 9am onwards, it is a strange time.

Many students will try anything to get ahead and ease their workload from forming student groups to visiting the writing center.

I wrote recently about how beneficial exercising can be for students feeling the pressure of their assignments and looming exams but what about music?

Music plays a major part in our day to day lives. Whether you are a music lover or not you more than likely listen to the radio on your way to work or college. Music is something you cannot avoid. Music has so much power over us, it can change your mood, get you excited or relax you. So why shouldn’t it be able to aid you in your study?

Studies show that listening to music before studying or performing a task can benefit a person as it improves attention, memory, as well as helping lessen depression and anxiety.

The Mozart Effect is a very famous piece of research basically claiming that listening to Mozart or classical music makes you smarter. This is hotly debated and you aren’t going to get into that right now.

Research has shown that study and concentration has better results in a silent room or setting. However few students have access to a silent room and are often studying in place disturbed by chatter, coughing, or rustling. Students tested in settings with background music were found to get better results than those tested with background noise.

There are many factors that influence these findings though, especially the student themselves. It depends heavily on the students personality and their willingness to study. The genre of music can play a part too and also the volume that you listen to it at.

It’s a very interesting argument, especially when you see many students in the library working away on their laptops with headphones in. It could be interesting for students who are feeling the stress of exams to try something new and if it doesn’t work for them at least listening to music might help with the stress for awhile.

Why not try this playlist on Spotify and test it for yourself.

 

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Continuous Assessment- Yes or No?

For many first year university students the idea of continuous assessment might seem a little full on, especially after the universally despised Leaving Cert. I remember thinking after a week or so in first year of university that I would be constantly working with this continuous assessment approach but I soon adapted to it and began to see the benefits of it over examinations.

Continuous assessment in university includes but is not limited to;

  • Essays
  • Presentations
  • Individual & Group Projects
  • Reports
  • Class Work (Daily/Weekly)
  • Class Exams or quizzes

  Advantages of Continuous Assessment

The most obvious positive when it comes to continuous assessment is the fact that students aren’t put through the stress of exams. It is a great relief knowing that your entire module grade doesn’t depend on whether you pass your end of year exam. It is great heading into the exam hall knowing you have already passed the module with continuous assessment and are only required to pass the exam.

Continuous assessment can also provide information on the performance of students, this can be helpful for both students and lecturers. It shows students areas they need to work on and shows the lecturer how the class is finding the material at this stage of the semester.

Continuous assessment also means that while you are constantly working away each week in your classes, you might feel like you are incredibly busy but you are learning a lot of material over a long time instead of learning the same amount of material a few weeks before the exams.

I think with continuous assessment you learn more and have a better understanding of the material than if you just cram before an exam.

Disadvantages of Continuous Assessment

Continuous assessment can bring with it, it’s own form of stress for students. Students can feel that they are under constant pressure to preform and do their best. Many classes use continuous assessment and it can be very stressful for students when all of their essay deadlines fall in the same week, this nearly always happens and results in a kind of end of year pressure for students.

Another disadvantage of continuous assessment in large classes is the fact that a tutor or lecturer must grade a large number assignments and this can take a lot of time. It can be frustrating for students for example if they complete a mid-term essay and the result of this essay is not known before they start their second essay. It is helpful for students to know this result before they start their second essay if there are things they need to work on or keep in mind when writing their second essay.


I think when it comes to continuous assessment it all comes down to the student. Good students will excel regardless and yes, there is going to be stress no matter what.

You can work all semester and will be a little stressed from time to time or you can do no work all semester with no stress and cram for your final exams and stress a lot!! The choice is yours.

Which method do you prefer? Can you think of any other advantages and disadvantages regarding continuous assessment or the traditional exam orientated style of assessment?

Exercise & Study: Brain Gains

As the weeks go by and the deadlines begin to build up, keeping fit and healthy can often times be a pain. Do students really want to go for a jog when they have 3 essays due? By the time you finish a long hard day in college or a full day of study in the stuffy library, you’ll struggle to find a willing student to grace the gym for an hour or head out for a walk.

It’s usually study or exercise, very rarely both. But both are extremely important and usually work best when they are combined. Finding that balance isn’t always easy and it obviously depends on the student and their circumstances, but why should students consider hitting the gym after a full day of study as opposed to stretching out on the couch and watching TV?

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Exercise can boost your brain power. Experiments conducted on mice at the University of Illinois found that mice that ran on a wheel often had more neurons (brain cells) than the mice that did not. Scientists have discovered that exercise appears to build a brain that resists physical shrinking and enhance cognitive function. Frequent exercise has also been linked to an increase in memory.

Exercise can help with your concentration also. Studies with ADHD children that did 20 minutes of cardio, such as running or cycling before their classes found that they improved their concentration, class participation and behavior.

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American Heart Foundation

To start reaping these benefits of exercise you don’t have to be in the gym for 3 hours, seven days a week. Many studies suggest that 30 minutes of exercise 3 days week can be enough. With loads of sporting societies on campus you are spoiled for choice as to how you want to get your exercise in and it doesn’t even have to be a sport, you could go for a run or a walk which is completely free and just as rewarding!

Word Count, Making Your Words Count

For many students one of the most challenging aspects of essay writing is meeting their minimum word count. We often find ourselves waffling or over explaining certain things to add a few more words onto the overall total. It can be difficult to write enough sometimes, especially on a topic which at first glance may not be as interesting or thought provoking as first anticipated.

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Something that students may not think of when wishing they had a lower word count for an essay is that it is quite difficult to get all of your points across with such limiting count.

I had this problem when writing an essay with a strict maximum word count limit of 1’000 words. I found myself struggling somewhat to make the work count, not because I had to few words but because I was writing too much!

It was difficult to explain what I was saying in my essay while not wasting too many precious words on one point. Usually I can speak about a certain character or scene for as long as I like and the only time I think of the word count is at the end if I need any extra points to make sure I meet it.

Although I may not like to admit it, there are positives to having a lower maximum word count limit to your essays.

  1. You need to be able to get your point across as clearly as possible with as little words as possible.
  2. Creating a lower maximum word count makes students sift out what they feel is relevant to answering the question.
  3. However, with a minimum word-count encourages students to think more broadly about how to go about the question.
  4. With a low maximum word count students are forced to think more critically about the topic or question.
  5. In most cases with a high maximum word count students tend find more evidence to back up their claim but this often leads to them creating “fluff” in their paper in order to meet the requirement.

The debate is ongoing whether having a lower maximum word limit is better to see if students understand the topic in detail. While having a higher word count limit is the norm, students would benefit from cutting down their work to only the important parts instead of waffling.

Here are some useful links I found while writing this post that may interest you;

 

 

Different Learning Styles

Having been back in UL for well over a month I’ve had plenty of time to contrast the learning style here and the learning style in my Erasmus university. I was on Erasmus from September 2016 to January 2017 in Hanze University, Groningen, The Netherlands.

My experience as a student at Hanze University in Groningen, The Netherlands was very enjoyable. I study New Media and English at my home university but on Erasmus I decided to study journalism.

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UL Campus, UL.ie

The change in courses took some getting used to but they are similar enough that it did not take too long to settle into the course. It was a pleasant change and it meant the classes were more interesting because I was studying something new every day. 

One of the biggest changes from UL was the fact that my timetable changed every week. This did take some getting used to and was somewhat annoying because we would be given homework in a class but not always given a week to do it depending on when the next class was. It seemed unnecessary, especially because many times were had the same class in the same room just on different days.

Hanze also have their end of term exams after the Christmas holidays which was very awkward for me. At UL the first semester finishes before Christmas but in many universities the semester ends in January.

 It meant that I had to go home for Christmas and then return to Hanze for two weeks to complete my projects and exam.

I find it interesting how the different ways in which the timetable, classes and terms are organised can impact the learning experience of the students. It can often times depend on the student and what works best for them. For me personally it was just a matter of getting used to the different universities.

It took some time to readjust to the UL structure but ultimately I think this is the one that suited me best, because it is the one I am most used to. It is difficult to decided which is more effective as it depends on the individual. There are many interesting opinions on which style is better and it is an interesting debate.

 

 

Review: The Crying Game

As part of my Irish Literature 1930-1990 module we had to watch the 1992 Academy Award winning film The Crying Game. The film was written and directed by Neil Jordan and stars Stephen Rea, Jaye Davidson and Forest Whitaker. The film tackles the themes of identity, war and race, using the troubles in Northern Ireland as a backdrop.

The Crying Game is very much split into two parts. The first addresses the conflict that was unfolding in Northern Ireland. The IRA takes a British soldier named Jody (Forest Whitaker) prisoner. Fergus (Stephen Rea), and passionate  Jude (Miranda Richardson), guard Jody in an isolated country house.

As Fergus watches Jody, the two become to like one another. Jody shares a photograph of his love interest to Fergus.She lives back in London and Jody asks Fergus to look her up sometime if he is ever in London.

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Forest Whitaker and Stephen Rea, The Crying Game

There is an unexpected twist, and the next time we see Fergus, he is living as a construction worker in London under a new name. He finds the Jody’s girlfriend working as a hairdresser. Her name is Dil (Jaye Davidson). Fergus gets a haircut, and follows her to a nearby bar, the two begin to fall for each other, but Dil has a secret-and so does Fergus.

 

The Cry Game is very original and deals with the troubles in a very unique way, it addresses complex themes throughout the film.It is a hard hitting, incredibly honest film that provokes a lot of emotion.

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Jaye Davidson, The Crying Game.

My criticism of The Cry Game is that although it has many intriguing characters and story arcs, the film does not go into any of them in enough detail. It skims over many interesting plot points, especially at the beginning. We never really get a chance to know any of the characters on a deeper level apart from Fergus perhaps.

For a film that has so much happening it would have been nice if they had cut away some unnecessary plot points and dealt with others in more detail. With such strong performances it would have be interesting to see a more focused approach from the film. Still a must see film with many twists and turn that will hold you attention throughout.

Learning Something New

Studying New Media & English I can chose many different and varied subjects to study. It can be difficult sometimes when you have so many differing modules, to know what you want to do after University but it also doesn’t limit you to one specific field.

I think one of the best examples of a New Media & English module I can give is one I am studying this semester, called “Writing for New Media.” I think this is a great example because we are learning about laws, such as copyright and writing in a blog but in our labs we are studying things like HTML(which before this class I had no idea what it was).

HTML or Hyper Text Markup Langue is a computer language created for website creation. HTML consists of short codes typed into a text-file such as notepad, the text is then saved as a html file, and viewed through a web browser. The tags separate normal text from HTML code. These are the words between the . They cause all the cool things like images and tables, just by telling your browser what to render on the page. Different tags perform different functions.

Although I’ve only had one class in using HTML codes and didn’t even know that they existed before the class, it was fairly easy to pick up once you got the hand of it.  There was real learning by doing atmosphere in the class and it was cool to see how you could change the page using different codes. It was a nice change of pace and I found it really interesting!