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Technology for studying: How to use it to your advantage

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Step away from Instagram for a minute to read about these tech tools that can actually help you in—not distract you from—law school.

Let’s face it, technology is everywhere. In fact, I’m almost certain that by the end of this sentence, you’ll have checked your phone for the latest text message or Facebook notification. But you can use today’s tech to your advantage.

We’ve compiled this small collection of tools—we’re not endorsing any, just providing a list for you to test-drive yourself—that you may find helpful in law school.

Know when to disconnect

Recognizing that you should step away from technology is crucial, but even I’ll admit that it’s hard to do. You think, “I’ll be on (insert social media platform here) for only five minutes.” The next thing you know, you’ve been scrolling for an hour. Or you check your phone’s notifications because it’s been going off like crazy.

Fret not. There are apps, browser extensions, and settings that can help you disconnect and focus on school.

Pocket Points—We’re law students, most of us living on strict budgets and usually unable to work during our first year. Here’s where Pocket Points comes in to help. This app awards you points for using the app on campus and locking your phone. You can redeem points for goodies like food, clothing, and accessories that are either free or at a substantial discount. “Honestly, that was the only reason I kept using it,” recalled Abi McLaughlin, a 2016 graduate of University of Oklahoma College of Law in Norman. “A lot of the local places had deals on it. I mainly used it for food, but I know some local clothing stores and the bowling alley partnered with the app, too.”

Recently, Pocket Points expanded with an update that not only gives students double points for using the app on campus but also allows students to earn almost 12 points for two hours of keeping their phone locked. Some of the deals offered through the app are location specific, so a student in Washington will have different deals than a student in Florida.

Do not disturb mode—This function is available on every mobile phone. It turns off all the notification sounds on your phone when you enable it manually or do it using the time scheduler. You’ll still receive calls, texts, tweets, Facebook notifications, and so on, but you won’t be able to hear them come through. And if you can’t hear them, there’s less of a chance you’ll be tempted to stop studying to check those notifications.

In fact, this fall’s iOS 12 update for users adds a feature to its do not disturb mode that allows you to enable the mode until you leave campus. Android users have the option of “Downtime” through their do not disturb settings; that allows you to preset the times that notifications, except for your high priority alerts, are silenced. This means you can preset times to match your weekly class schedule, and your Android will do the rest.

Take studying with you

Think about this: You’re standing in line at the grocery store—it’s about 10 people deep—and there’s a problem at the register that needs a manager to handle. What do you do? You could move to another lane, but what if each lane is just as long as the one you’re in? You could be studying.

With today’s advances in technology, you can take your studying with you anywhere, and not just to the grocery store. Have a long flight across country but don’t want to lug heavy textbooks through the airport? Here are some ways to use technology to take your studying with you.

Quizlet—There was once a time where if you wanted to make flashcards to study with, you had to go to the store, buy notecards, and then spend time writing each one of them out.

Studying with them outside of your study space meant taking every card along with you. If you needed to make more than 100 flashcards, it could become overbearing. This is where Quizlet comes in.

Available as an app for both iOS and Android, it lets you make digital flashcards and gives you access to them directly from your phone and tablet.

Don’t feel like making your own? Not a problem. Quizlet allows you to search by subject for flash card sets other students have made. The app allows you to go through the flashcards as if you’re actually flipping through them, just as if it were a regular paper flashcard, but it also has games to help you study the flashcards.

Who says studying can’t be fun?

Bryanna Walton, a 2L at Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa, just started using Quizlet over the summer to study for her evidence course. “I think Quizlet is particularly good for rules classes and any other subjects that are memorization heavy,” she said. “It’s definitely useful for any subject, though, since recall is one of the best study strategies for retaining information.”

Law to Fact podcast—Sometimes, legal rules and their applications just don’t click the way you want them to, and that’s OK. You may want to check out the Law to Fact podcast hosted by Professor Leslie Garfield Tenzer from Pace University— Elisabeth Haub School of Law in White Plains, N.Y. The podcast has tackled common 1L subjects like negligence and the Uniform Commercial Code along with more complicated subjects such as the Erie doctrine in civil procedure.

“I wanted a way for my students to study away from their desk space, and I really liked listening to podcasts while at the gym,” said Tenzer. “I made it with my students in mind, and now it has a following all its own.” Katie Davis, a 2L at Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Neb., used the podcast to help her understand the Erie doctrine in time for her civil procedure final exam this past spring. “I listened to it and then replayed it two more times, and it really helped me understand Erie by breaking it down,” she recalled.

You can subscribe to the podcast through the iTunes Store or listen through Buzzsprout.

Technology in the classroom

I don’t know about you, but I type much faster than I write. I love handwriting my notes, but sometimes there are just important things professors say that I just happen to miss because I’m two sentences behind in writing.

Nearly everyone has a computer, and about half of students bring their computer to class every day.

Professors don’t turn a blind eye to the use of technology in their classrooms; some will even put disclaimers in their syllabi advising of the use of laptops during lecture.

Here are some tools to help you use your laptop to your advantage in class:

OneNote— Every technology platform has a program or programs that sync up with all devices operating across that platform. However, one that syncs across all three is Microsoft OneNote.

Using OneNote allows you to collaborate with other students and access the information in multiple ways. Forget your laptop? That’s OK. OneNote allows access to all your information from your phone and tablet. You can even keep separate “notebooks” for each class, allowing you to keep all your notes for that class together.

Laura Kohner, a 2L at SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas, uses OneNote as her primary go-to for class. “It’s super easy to insert charts and graphics that help jog your memory when you’re reviewing your notes,” she said. “It also makes its super easy to find what you’re looking for when you’re in crunch time for an exam.”

Self Control— For the 67 percent of the population that uses Google Chrome for their web browser, one of the perks is the availability of extensions that enhance the browser’s functionality. One I’ve found to be super handy in handling social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is Self Control.

This free extension, downloadable through the Chrome web store, allows you to input specific sites you want to avoid visiting while using the internet. Then, when you activate the extension, you can set the amount of time to keep it active— from as little as 20 minutes to permanently. Then anytime you visit the sites you’ve blocked, the web page will pop up with a bright orange screen that says, “STAY FOCUSED.”

Good luck trying to get away from this extension. Even if you close Chrome, once you relaunch the browser, Self Control is still active. The only way to disable it is by turning off the extension through the extension manager, which is kind of a hassle.

Whether it’s at home, on the road, or in the classroom, technology is everywhere, and that trend doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. What counts is that you know how to use it to your advantage and not let it be a detriment in the long run. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy, all in the same breath.

Make technology your best friend when it comes to studying in law school and beyond by knowing yourself and making decisions that are best for you. What’s the best for someone else may not work for you. Happy studying!

TECHNOLOGY MUST-HAVES

Quimbee —With Quimbee, students get access to course videos, outlines, practice essay questions, multiple-choice questions, and more. It’s a subscription service; with the most basic plan, Bronze for $15 per month, you get access to more than 13,800 case briefs. The Silver plan is $22 per month, the Gold plan is $24 per month, and the Platinum plan has a one-time cost of $499 for access to everything Quimbee for three years.

Did you know that a 90-day Quimbee Gold subscription is free for ABA Premium members ($25)? Visit their page on our site for more info.

Google Calendar —An admittedly unscientific poll of 178 past and current law students on Twitter found that 36 percent prefer to use Google Calendar as their primary organizer. “Google Calendar lets me import various accounts—work, school, personal, and so on—and I always have it with me since I can access it from my phone,” said Patricia Kwon, a 2L at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. It allows you to color-code events (maybe your weekly class schedule?), which is super handy for those quick glances at your schedule, and even has a function for reminders, where you can put your class reading assignments and check them off when you’ve completed them, just like a to-do list.

Ironically, the majority of those who took the poll (51 percent) preferred the use of a physical planner as compared to an online planner. iCal came in at only 13 percent. Pomodoro apps —In 1980, Francesco Cirillo created the Pomodoro Technique.

The idea is that you plan to do something, anything, for 25 minutes uninterrupted. At the end of that 25 minutes, you take a short, 5-minute break. Once you do 4 cycles of 25 minutes, you take a longer break for say, 30 minutes.

Sure, you can use the clock app on your phone or tablet to keep track of your “pomodoros,” or you can get an app that keeps track of your cycles for you. This way, you never forget to take the longer break.

It’s a great way to make you look at the small things first instead of looking at the whole mountain, which can be overwhelming. Doing a simple search in the App Store (for iOS) or Google Play (for Android) will produce dozens of results. The choice is ultimately yours.

Jessica Gilgor Jessica Gilgor is a 3L at Creighton University School of Law. A native of Las Vegas, she graduated from the University of Nevada Reno, where she studied Professional Chemistry and minored in Physics. Jessica was a part-time sports journalist for the United States Bowling Congress during their Open Championships tournament under the tutelage of Matt Cannizzaro and Aaron Smith.