Monday, December 10, 2007

Facebook and Privacy

Personally, I enjoy Facebook. I like having a central location where I can keep up on my friend's activities, particularly those friends that have moved away and I love Scrabulous! I'm not at all fond of all the add-ons (what vegetable are you? Zombie bites?), but those are easy enough to avoid.

However, Facebook has been getting some bad press on their privacy policy. Brian Lamb, the "Emerging Technologies discoordinator" outlines the privacy issues and some steps you can take to better protect your privacy on Facebook.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Book Ahead

Lately the LAC has been a hectic place. Our new found popularity can be easily explained when one looks at the calendar as it is crunch time once again here at the U of M. This time is marked by the donning of sweatpants, an increased consumption of coffee and a total lack of sleep on behalf of students. We love the attention, and the fact that people are willing to line around the block just to get a glimpse of one of our hard working tutors. Okay, it isn’t that busy, but if you would like to see a tutor I would like to suggest that you book at least two days in advance. We really hate to see students turned away and, unfortunately, this has been happening a lot lately. It isn’t a big deal, just try to book ahead and you will save yourself some unnecessary stress during a time of year when stress is easy to find.

Have a very merry crunch time!

- Jeff

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Words as weapons

People are always talking about how books can heal – those Chicken Soup for the Soul books are a good example. But the opposite is also true. Books are often used as tools of propaganda (Hitler’s Mein Kampf) or of more subtle manipulation where the writer’s objective may not be so clear. In this sense, books and words are weapons and can result in both perceived and real damage.

There is a way to defend yourself, and your “W” requirement is part of it. One of the aims of the written requirement is to get university students used to thinking about the written word. By examining books and articles to be used in essays, you can learn about bias, voice, logical progression of thought and tangential arguments. No one publishes anything without a reason and having the skills to decipher that reason means you will be less easily manipulated.

The important thing to remember is that the skills you learn plodding through some seemingly incomprehensible article can just as easily be applied to the newspaper, television, advertising or the internet. Those skills are continually relevant just as someone will continually try to convince you of something. Words are weapons, but education is your armour.


Friday, September 14, 2007


First week. Aaahh!
Don’t any of the professors know that I’m taking more than just their class? How the heck am I supposed to get all this reading done? What does this assignment mean? No one is making any sense!

What you have just read is so commonly said and felt in the first few weeks of school, that they may as well just broadcast it over the campus radio.

The first step is to take control of the careening car of anxiety by realizing that everything you’ve been handed is doable. Generations of students have succeeded before you and you’ll do just as well (or better). Coming and talking to one of our friendly writing tutors or chatting with your friends with more university experience can also be extremely helpful. A more experienced student can help you break down your dramatically overwhelming chores into itty-bitty, accomplishable tasks. So can the assignment manager on the Virtual Learning Commons.

The Learning Assistance Centre also has workshops and handouts on time management, essay writing, research, textbook and lots of other areas that students find tricky.

Relax and remember, it’s only the first week. No one’s expecting miracles…yet.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Study spots

You’re reading a textbook. It’s boring. Very boring. You’re getting sleepy…very sleepy. BANG! You wake up when your head hits the desk. Now your forehead is red and you have to re-read that stupid, boring paragraph for the third time. How are you going to get through the entire chapter? Who will save you from the Boredom Fairy?

You will. It is possible. Getting through overly dense and jargon-filled text is a challenge for any student, especially in a less-than-interesting subject area. (Note: The Learning Assistance Centre officially denies that any of University of Manitoba’s subjects are dull, and we in no way imply that any specific subject is.) Success is just a matter of getting creative and knowing your own limits.

I read my plays for my Shakespeare class on the kitchen counter near the sink. That way, I had plenty of natural light, I was able to put my feet up, but I wasn’t so physically comfortable that Dreamland threatened to invade Renaissance England.

My brother made a point of studying for his accounting courses next to an open window in the middle of winter. He was cold, but he was able to focus through it and get his reading done.

My cousin used to read journal articles while sitting on the bus – all night. She liked being able to sense people moving around her, but the bus was quiet enough that she wouldn’t be distracted and, most importantly, she could get off and get a coffee when the bus driver did.

In the end, a unique study spot can help you through a difficult text, but mastering the material is more than just gimmicky fun. Knowing where and when you learn best is often a matter of experimentation, and thinking outside the box. Just like university is.


Monday, September 03, 2007

VLC Contest for UM Students

If you're a University of Manitoba student, this is a contest for you:

Google or Facebook - which is more important to you? Tell us why and you could win:

1st prize: 80GB Video iPod $399 courtesy of Student Services
2nd prize: 30GB Video iPod $299 courtesy of Learning Technologies Centre
3rd prize: 1GB iPod shuffle $89 courtesy of Learning Technologies Centre

Contest Instructions:

1. Go to the University's Virtual Learning Commons and under the discussion topic 'Google or Facebook' post your rationale for why either Google or Facebook is more important to you.

2. You will have to log in to the Virtual Learning Commons with your UMnetID to post your rationale.

3. The winner will be selected at random from all posts that meet the following criteria:

  • Posts must be exactly 54 words long
  • Posts must offer a compelling argument as determined by our judges rom UMSU.

4. Postings must be submitted by Sept 21, 2007.

5. One entry per student.

While you're at the VLC, why not explore a bit and find out how the assignment manager works, discover what other students are interested in doing, and find the writing or study supports you might find helpful.

Welcome to university!


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fall rituals and routines

Many people have rituals and routines that they associate with the (not necessarily unique) North American event called returning to school. The following blog offers a perspective from Kris. We invite you to share your rituals and routines. Are there things that fall + school make you think of? Things that you do every year?


Every time that big tree in my front yard starts to turn yellow, I know school is about to start. Involuntarily, I start to assess my wardrobe and note how many faded and pilly clothes I’ve got, wonder the last time I wore that very trendy shirt, and decide I will need more clean underwear in case I get into an accident and have to go to the hospital.

Yes, you read correctly, I am channeling my mother. She’s still very much alive, but I can hear her disembodied voice telling me to try on every stitch of clothing I own to see what I need to buy for the coming year. My cheeks flush at the embarrassing memory of having to parade in front of my mom outside the change room and have her tug at the waistband of my jeans to see how much room I’ve got left. *shiver*

So despite the fact that I haven’t lived with my parents for nigh-on a decade, just before tuition is due, I go shopping. I am not a shopper. I hate malls and I hate trying on clothes. My strategy is therefore comprised of finding an eager store attendant who can stock me up without me having to look for anything myself. It’s a flawed strategy, and invariably leaves me with things I only wear sporadically, but it’s a survival mechanism and, ultimately, tradition. If my mother has taught me nothing else, it is the importance of tradition.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Remember those really awesome high school teachers you had? They would always let you re-write a test or give you extra time to do your homework if you were sick. They would also put together a packet of work for you to do if you missed a few days of school. Those people don’t work at the university level.

  • Your attendance is not foremost in a professor or lecturer’s mind, especially considering some classes may have over 200 students.
  • The marks of most classes will follow a standard bell curve. Your placement on that curve is your responsibility.
  • Most professors and lecturers will not give you extra work to “make up” a bad mid-term grade. Mid-terms can be worth a lot, often 25-40% of your final grade. Don’t underestimate their importance.

The one major difference between high school and university is who is responsible for the learning. In high school, the teachers are responsible to make sure that you learn how to solve equations, play the trombone and spike a volleyball. At university, you are solely responsible for how much you learn.

Fortunately, most professors and lecturers will respond very positively to someone who takes ownership of their own learning. You will recognize these people, partly because they are always lurking around campus at all hours of the day and night. They are students who keep up on the readings without having to be told. They are students who study when there isn’t an exam looming. They are students who ask intelligent questions in class and make a point of visiting the professor’s office hours to ask even more intelligent questions. But most importantly, they are the students who ask for help when they need it and end up succeeding the most. These are not always the smartest people in the class, they are just the ones who know it’s their job to learn and treat school that way.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Top 6-ish things to do in your first week at University

  1. Read up on the UMSU Health and Dental plan. Opting out can put some extra coin in your pocket, but knowing how the coverage works might save you even more. Careful research will help you tell the difference.
  2. Write your professor’s office hours into your agenda as soon as you get them. Having them in your daytimer will simplify your life once you’ve mis-organized the syllabus.
  3. Put money on your photocopy card/student card. You may not need to photocopy something now, but later on when you have 15 minutes to print out 20 copies of a presentation before class you’ll be thankful the money is there.
  4. If necessary, walk through your timetable. Know where each classroom is and the most efficient way to get from one building to another (especially in winter). In this context, efficient can mean: warm, uncrowded and/or going past a coffee shop.
  5. Avoid line-ups by getting there early. The registrar’s office, the University 1 office, the financial aid and awards office and the Bookstore are all hotbeds of activity in September. Showing up before they open can help you avoid wasting too much time standing in line.
  6. Spend time on the University of Manitoba website randomly following links. There are hundreds of people at the university employed to do nothing but help students. Knowing where these people work and what they do is vital to helping you succeed in the long term. You can find a job, find a new course, find academic supports and many other resources. Accessing departmental websites can also give you a sense of different directions your education can go.
  7. Attend Orientation events. They are a great way to have fun and connect with others.


Friday, July 27, 2007

You are not alone!

It’s almost August and in the midst of the balmy warm weather we’re having, university students – both new and returning- can be seen all around campus, signing up to meet advisors and browsing the bookstore as they gradually get ready for the upcoming academic year. Whether you’re a new or a returning student, you might be in the process of choosing your courses and getting ready for classes.

But what happens next? What if you aren’t as excited about that Introductory Logic course as you’d initially anticipated? Is the thought of dealing with written assignments causing you unwarranted stress, or are you worried you may need some extra help in Statistics? Irrespective of whether you’re feeling anxious, ambivalent, excited, or content about your academic goals, there is a host of services on campus ready to provide support and guidance to help you make the most of your academic experience at the U of M.

Perhaps the best place to approach if you’re curious about career options and degrees offered is your faculty’s office. Besides having handouts outlining programs of study and course requirements, academic advisors can help you work your way through VW deadlines, prerequisites and the like. However, if you’re interested in seeing for yourself what a prospective career may have to offer, you can drop by the Student Counselling and Career Centre, and possibly sign up for the Career Mentor Program

Other than offering a place for students to kick back between classes, many student oriented organizations on campus are also valuable resources for subject related concerns. The University of Manitoba Students’ Union, for instance, is in the process of setting up a tutor registry which should be accessible online starting fall 2007. Certain departments, such as the departments of Chemistry, Computer Science, Statistics, Physics and Astronomy have help centres open during the regular session run by senior undergraduate and graduate students.

If you’re looking to hone your learning, writing and research skills in general, why not drop by the Learning Assistance Centre? In addition to offering a variety of workshops year-round, writing tutors and learning skills specialists at the LAC are available to meet with students on an individual basis.

These are but a handful of the many services available on campus. Even a cursory glance through your UMSU daytimer may lead you to come across many other resources suited to your needs. In the end, while your academic career may ultimately be your call, don’t forget that there are many people cheering you on and wishing you success in every step you take.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Welcome to Summer Term!

Welcome to yet another new term! For those of you taking courses, congratulations!! Taking courses in July is a true challenge because the weather is usually quite pleasant, which makes studying even more of an undertaking. But if it is saving you a year or even another term of courses down the road, think of how happy you’ll be then.

Though this is the only time of the year that we at the LAC don’t offer any workshops, we are still open and available to meet you with you in our office at 201 Tier. In fact, July and August are two months where we are often available so students can drop in, but it’s recommended to make an appointment.

We have been busy gathering new resources and writing new material for the Virtual Learning Commons and we’re happy to share them with you. A section on Critical Thinking has been recently added and is beneficial to students taking philosophy courses, to those of you preparing for entrance exams and to those of you interested in improving your thinking skills for a variety of purposes.

To help you stay on track during this high pressure term, we have created a term schedule that is visually useful to remind you of the precious time this term. Check out this downloadable Excel document at


Thursday, June 21, 2007

The final push

It’s past mid-June so we’re half-way through many Summer 1 session courses. For many students, assignments are coming due and exams are just around the corner. If you’re like me, you might feel panicked, anxious and tired all at the same time, wondering, “How will I make it through to the end?” These feelings are pretty normal. Here are some tips that have helped me make it through the final push at the end of a course:

1) I re-focus on my goals. Successfully completing the course is my top priority right now. I have to accept that I may not be able to maintain “balance” in my life for the next two weeks. I can catch up on chores, family obligations, and socializing after final projects and exams are done. I tell my self: “The dirt will wait. I can vacuum the floor next week.”

2) I cut big assignments or tasks into small, manageable chunks. Writing a 20-page paper can seem overwhelming, so I think about a paper in distinct sections (introduction, background, literature review). I check off and celebrate small accomplishments. When I complete the literature review section, I will walk to DQ for a chocolate sundae reward.

3) I ask for help. If there are chores on my to-do list that must be done, can I ask a friend or family member to do it for me? Can I ask my mom to do my laundry this week? Can my boyfriend give me a ride to school, which will save me time and squeeze in a few precious minutes of togetherness? I remind my friends and family that this busy period will be over soon.

As we get to the end of this session, gather your energy for the final push and hang in there!


Friday, June 15, 2007

Answer the Question!

Have you ever received feedback that your essay did not meet the assignment requirements? To avoid this from happening again, follow the assignment description your instructor has provided. Often professors will use the assignment description as a rubric or as an indicator of key criteria that need to be included in a paper. The verbs used in the assignment description offer a hint of the expectation of the assignment. Check out our handout titled, Verbs Used in Essay Questions, to understand the kinds of responses required by different questions.

Another important way to view your assignment description is to look at the concept words used in essay questions to have an idea of the key concepts that you will need to address in your assignment. Another of our handouts titled, Concept Words Used in Essay Questions, discusses how to use concept words in essay questions to create a successful assignment.

Often instructors will include a list of questions that they will expect the paper to address. Below are some examples of assignment questions:

What is your assessment of this article’s contribution to …?
What is your analysis of ….?
How was the history of feminism affected by ….?

It is a good idea to structure your paper in such a way that the answers to these questions are obvious to the marker. This can be achieved by changing the question into a statement and using it as a subtitle in your paper. A clear thesis statement that includes the main aspects of your response will also guide the reader.

The above assignment description questions can be changed into the following subtitles:

An Assessment of the Contribution of ... to ….
An Analysis of ….
The Effects of … on the History of Feminism

Next time you sit down to begin writing your paper, remember to keep your assignment description close by, and refer to it often. This will help you to keep on track with your assignment response and avoid losing focus of your instructor’s expectations. Your paper may be interesting, coherent, logical, and grammatically correct but ask yourself the same question the instructor will ask: “Does it answer question?”


Friday, June 01, 2007

Welcome to the June Term

As we head into a beautiful Manitoba weekend, take a few moments to think about what’s happening next week so that you can enter the new week feeling prepared. For those of you starting courses that demand a lot of writing, take advantage of the free one hour LAC workshop on Tuesday, June 5 on Thesis to First Draft. Follow the link to read more info.

Remember, LAC staff are available to help you with study skill and writing questions from 8:30–4:30 Monday to Friday throughout the summer. If you’d like to meet with a staff member, book your appointment online. Click here for instructions on how to book online.

And remember, you can also submit a paper in progress to the online writing tutor with a 48 hour turn-around time.

Happy studying,


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Google Search now "Universal"

The Google search engine has expanded its range (they're calling it a "universal search") and now images, videos and news will be produced when you type in your search query - just click on "video," "news," or "images" at the top of the search list.

Google's blog linked to above provided some fun searches near the bottom of their entry on their new universal search feature; Soprano fans should check out "Sopranos in 7.5 minutes" in the video section.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Self-Care Week: Food for thought

This week the LAC blogs focus on self-care. During the intense Spring and Summer sessions, it can be particularly challenging to meet our basic needs, such as getting enough sleep, food, and exercise. What do the LAC bloggers do to meet these needs? What do you do to keep on track with your self-care?


I tend to slip into poor eating habits when I am feeling overwhelmed with my coursework, consuming chocolate, soft drinks, or fatty “comfort foods” to console myself. Unfortunately, afterward I usually feel sluggish and less inclined to be productive.

Since I am aware of this tendency of mine, I try to draw to consciousness what I eat during stressful periods. The measuring stick that I use for “healthy” eating is to make food choices that fall within one of the four food groups from the Canada Food Guide. For a printer friendly version of the Canada Food Guide see the Health Canada website:

Easy healthy snacks that I bring from home include low-fat yogurt, fruit (such as apples and oranges), whole grain bagels, and nuts. If I chose to snack on raisins or other sticky dried fruit, I try to remind myself to brush my teeth soon afterward to avoid developing dental cavities.

Another part of healthy eating is ensuring that I have the time to buy these healthy groceries rather than relying on last minute fast-food choices or sugary snacks. This presupposes that I have managed my time effectively. A great resource for looking at how to manage time to include the necessities like shopping is to complete the 168 hour week LAC handout.

I find each term I need to reevaluate my use of time with my changing schedule so my daily and weekly activities are still consistent with my priorities. Staying healthy by eating well is a great way to prepare my body for stressful exam periods or intense course periods such as summer session.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Self-Care Week: Sleep

For those of you just stopping by, the week the LAC blogs focus on self-care. During the intense Spring and Summer sessions, it can be particularly challenging to meet our basic needs, such as getting enough sleep, food, and exercise. What do the LAC bloggers do to meet these needs? What do you do to keep on track with your self-care?

Sleep on it!
Like most university students, I have lived through periods of little or no sleep. What university student hasn’t stayed up late to study for a test or exam, woken up early to get a reading done before class, and/or “pulled an all-nighter” to get an assignment finished? For the most part, I managed to struggle through these sleepless times and was able to catch up on my sleep within a few days. Sometimes, however, sleep deprivation has become so serious that it severely interferes with my normal daytime activities.

What causes sleep problems?

Sleep difficulties often arise during periods of increased stress. For me the pressures of school, family and social life, which are particularly heightened during the intense
Spring-Summer session at university, certainly qualify as “periods of increased stress.”

What are the effects of poor/inadequate sleep?
When I sleep poorly, I feel less energetic and less alert, especially mid-afternoon. I also have trouble concentrating, and don’t remember things as well. For example, I lose my keys a couple of times a day when I’m really tired.

For me, the worst effects of sleep deprivation are the emotional ones. I’m moody, irritable, and more anxious. The little things (did I mention losing my keys?) are really upsetting when I’m over-tired. When I’m tired, I eat poorly; for example, I’ll have a Pepsi and a chocolate bar to keep me going in the afternoon if I haven’t slept the night before. If I have several days, or even weeks of poor/inadequate sleep, I’m not surprised if I get sick with a cold, because lack of sleep compromises my immune response.

What do I do to improve my sleep?
The more stressful my life is, the more careful and focused I need to be about sleep hygiene. I get more and better sleep by practicing the 4 R’s of good sleep hygiene:

Regularize my sleep-wake patterns.
I stick to a schedule: go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, regular napping during the day helps me to sleep better at night. My best naps are right after lunch, and last 15-30 minutes (longer naps leave me feeling groggy).

Ritualize going to bed.
I do the same thing every night before going to bed (drink warm milk, brush teeth, warm bath, read, listen to music).
I keep my bedroom comfortable for sleep. For me that means dark, cool, and quiet.

Relax before or in bed.
I practice some relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, with help from a relaxation CD.

Resist behaviours that interfere with sleep.
I’m careful about what I drink before bed. For me, that means no alcohol, coffee, tea, or soft drinks 4-5 hours before bed.
I also avoid heavy meals and strenuous exercise 2-3 hours before bed.

What to do when I can’t sleep
Tossing and turning in bed leaves me frustrated, so if I lie awake more than 15 minutes, I get up and do something (watch TV, read), then go back to bed.

Want to know more about students and sleep? Check out these sources
Buboltz, Walter C., Franklin Brown and Barlow Soper. “Sleep Habits and Patterns of College Students: A Preliminary Study.” Journal of American College Health. 50.3 (2001): 131-135.

Kelly, William E. “Sleep-length and life satisfaction in a college student sample.” College Student Journal, 38.3 (2004): 428-430.

Click on “sleep” in the index to see a list of websites specifically devoted to university students and sleep.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Self-Care Week

This week the LAC blogs focus on self-care. During the intense Spring and Summer sessions, it can be particularly challenging to meet our basic needs, such as getting enough sleep, food, and exercise. What do the LAC bloggers do to meet these needs? What do you do to keep on track with your self-care?

Exercise and Mental Health
Admittedly, I have always liked exercise, but to me it’s not that I do what I do necessarily to get exercise, I just love to play. I go through phases of liking this activity or that. For example, throughout much of my early 20s I hacky sacked. This was great for me because I could do it in the tunnels during winter, or outside when it was nice. I have now come to appreciate the games that more people play, like squash, tennis, badminton and soccer. These are great because no matter your skill level, there are players to suit you.

Whether you prefer to start playing with a friend or you’re brave enough to join one of the many clubs on campus that meet regularly, you’re sure to have a laugh and get some rejuvenation. I think that’s the reason I love to play so much; with our busy schedules, we’ve always got so many different things on our mind, but when you’re playing a sport, you’re only thinking about what you’re doing in that moment. And that’s where both your mind and body are able to recover form the stresses of our hectic lives.

But I don’t always want the excesses of sports. Often going for a walk around King’s Park or the agriculture fields by The University of Manitoba allows me time and fresh air to rekindle my body, mind and spirit.

But if you don’t believe me, check out this article on the mental benefits of physical activity.

Click on The University of Manitoba’s Recreation Services site to help you get active.

Work your body, work your mind!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Summer Studying

Usually, I arrange my schedule so that I do the most difficult work (for me, writing or reading complex theory-based journal articles) when I am at my most energetic early in the day, and leave less demanding tasks (such as gathering sources, reading texts, and making study note cards) and non-academic activities (including grocery shopping, watching TV, and visiting with friends and family) for the end of the day or evening when my energy levels are lower. In the summer, though, it’s really hard for me to stay indoors all day—especially when it’s sunny! So, I’ve made some sunny-weather adjustments to my schedule.

Every afternoon, I plan to spend an hour studying outside. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to focus on the more demanding tasks when I’m outside. I’m too distracted by summer sights and sounds: the birds twittering nearby, the fluffy clouds in the sky, and the people riding their bikes on the street. I can, however, do some of the less demanding academic work even while I’m slightly distracted.

My time spent working outdoors may not be as productive as the time I spend working indoors, but I think the long term benefits of spending time in the fresh air (including a cheerier mood and a better tan) are worth the slight drop in productivity during that hour. In fact, this scheduled outdoor work time has become a kind of reward for me. I am much more motivated to get work done in the morning, because I have a pleasant outdoor study session to look forward to in the afternoon.

Are there ways you’ve found to get your work done while maximizing your enjoyment of summer?


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It’s a new day! Thoughts on starting a new class…

There have been times when I begin a new class that I just want to hide and not be noticed by the professor or anyone else. It’s easy to feel intimidated by these intelligent people. The problem is that when I do this, I also become disinterested in the class. What have I done to get over these feelings of inferiority? For me, just getting to class a few minutes earlier helps me check out the people as they arrive and that makes me feel less awkward. I’ve also avoided sitting front row center because it’s hard to see the other people in the class if I sit there. I prefer to sit off to the side but still in the front half of the room. I’m fairly close to the action, but I can still see most of the people in the room.

Does anyone have any other strategies they use to feel more comfortable in a brand new class? Do share.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More reasons to work on campus

I agree with Jeff. You can't beat a job on campus for the sheer convenience factor, but what I really love about my job on campus is the way it has shaped my perception of the University of Manitoba.

Prior to working on campus my view of university life was pretty narrow. It was limited to the series of classes and activities I took part in. Other degree programs, student organizations and several thousand administrative and campus support workers only existed in the realm of abstraction. Working at the Learning Assistance Centre, I meet and deal with countless students from all over the world, and together we engage directly with their course work.

Ultimately, I love my job on campus because it allows me glimpses into spheres of learning that would otherwise not involve me. By employing my skills on campus, I get to lend my support to the processes of learning here at the UofM.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Strapped for Cash and Studying

If you are a University of Manitoba student, or any university student for that matter, there is a very good chance that you are strapped for cash during the school months. There are a variety of ways to deal with this lack of cash that won’t put you further into debt, such as getting a job, playing the stock market, betting your best friend $10 that you can beat her to that streetlamp, selling your quilt collection, winning an arm wrestling tournament, betting your best friend $20 that you can beat her from that streetlamp to the trash can, finding money in an old jacket pocket and so on and so on.

Obviously, the most feasible option here is getting a part-time job. The problem with this option is the amount of time that you actually have to spare on such a thing, as well as the fact that you may not want to work weekends when you spend all week with your nose cemented to the books.

Don’t worry, all is not lost: a great option for students to make some cash can be found in the form of a job here on campus at the University of Manitoba. A job on campus is great for picking up some cash during the school year because you don’t have to drive anywhere to get to work. Also, the jobs that are found on campus are designed for students and as a result, are much more flexible when it comes to working into your schedule. There are a variety of jobs that a student can get on campus such as the one that I am working right now as a write this at the Learning Assistance Centre.

To learn more about these positions please check out the University of Manitoba Career and Employment Services webpage at

Good luck on your exams!


Friday, March 23, 2007

I didn’t get into Grad School!

So, you drafted up your statement of purpose. You filled out countless forms. You had your profs write glowing letters of recommendation. And now you’re waiting for those programs to call back. But… what if you don’t get in? It’s not a situation most students have a plan for. Websites dedicated to program applications have pages and pages devoted to how to apply, but not much on what to do if you don’t get in.

REMEMBER-- It’s not the end of the world! I myself am a survivor of the failed application year, and just got into a great program after applying again one year later. The situation IS workable! I have some of the steps that I know helped me, and might help you too.

1. Take a look at your graduation plan. Consult with your faculty and a prof or two. In some cases, your best plan might be to delay your graduation for one year. Or, you can remain a student in your program. Spend that year taking extra high-level coursework. If you already have an advisor in your faculty, you might be able to spend the year doing some research work—a HUGE plus on applications.

2. If you are going to graduate this year, why not consider enrolling as a Special Student? See if your faculty allows this—it’ll enable you to take some extra courses to demonstrate your dedication to the area. For info on becoming a Special Student at the U of M, go to

3. A year off to work, provided you work in the field in which you want to continue to study, is not at all a detriment. In fact, it can be a huge bonus! For example, a year spent in a lab can be a big asset in a biochem application. Going into social work? Work at a crisis centre over the year!
What about applying for other, similar programs? Some are easier to get into than others. For example, if you want to go into psych but are really interested in volunteerism or health, why not consider some Rec. Studies programs?

4. Consider a one-year certificate course in a related field. You might be able to get an applied counseling certificate before our psych grad school program, or a medical technician certificate before med school, or a personal trainer certificate before a physiotherapy program.
Try to identify weak points in your application an fix them. You could take the time this year to re-write the GRE or MCAT, without having 27 credit hours on top of studying for the big test! Look at where you might have been lacking (work/research experience, volunteerism, etc.) and do it this year!

5. Devote more time to researching programs. Remember that you’re deciding how to spend the next several years of your life. Costs and funding differ by institution and program. Look at restrictions or bonuses offered to non-local applicants. If you’re prepared to move, look at out-of-province or U.S. programs.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t make it in the first time you apply. Advanced degree programs are very competitive. Use this year to build up you profile and make those applications for next year even more stunning than they were this year!


Friday, March 16, 2007

Online Dictionaries

I have discovered that one of the most helpful resources for my writing has been an online dictionary. When I am in the midst of writing, it is helpful to have access to a dictionary to look up the meaning of a word, find a new word, or use a new word in a different way. There are several good online dictionaries from which to choose.

Choice Dictionaries
The dictionary of choice amongst editors is the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, which can be found at the website: This website is helpful because it provides the meaning of the word in question in its verb, adjective, or noun form. It also has a list of the contexts in which the word is found along with its meaning. Finally an etymology or history of the word is provided to the researcher. This dictionary also has a Spanish-English dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary can be accessed from the e-library link from the website. By searching the databases by name under the “O,” you can access the OED. The OED offers many unique features like new words just recently added from colloquial usage, quarterly updates of new words added to the dictionary, and featured additions of words now a part of the English language as slang. Another feature of the OED is a learning resource for university level students to use with a tutorial to follow highlighting how to use the OED online. also offers a display of all the contexts in which a word is used such as slang, business, general, art, computing, medicine, miscellaneous, religion, science, sports, technology, and phrases. The word is listed in its category along with the name of the dictionary where the meaning is found. also displays the results of several different dictionaries’ definitions. This website also has some other unique features such as a translator, where text can be entered and instantly translated either to another language from English or from another language to English. It also has a crossword puzzle dictionary and a “word of the day” in both English and Spanish. This site includes and

Many Meanings
A great example of the importance of a dictionary to determine the many meanings associated with a word is the word mean” As a noun, mean may signify intentions or purposes, or a mathematical calculation of the average. As an adjective describing a noun however, mean means offensive. If you add an “s” to the word mean, its meaning changes to several possibilities, depending on the context in which it is used. Means may be understood as a method to attain an end, an indication, or it can represent wealth.

Have you become annoyed by my use of the word mean so often? Well, as previously mentioned, also has a great feature: the Reading the same word repeatedly may cause you to lose interest in a paper (sometimes your own paper). If you type in the overused (repeated) word, a comprehensive list of alternative choices with a similar meaning will be displayed. Just be careful when choosing a replacement word: words have nuances that will affect how a reader understands them.

Online dictionaries may not be the cure for writers’ block, but they are a great resource.
Happy writing.

Cindy Isaak-Ploegman

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Procrastinus - A Procrastination Site

I know I've been yammering on lately about time management and lists - it's just that time of the year for me, February and procrastination seem to go hand-in-hand - but, I'm still going to link to one more time-related site. Procrastination Central includes online assessments (I'm apparently a moderate procrastinator), research on procrastination and links to a number of interesting sites (both serious and fun). I know that any success I've had with conquering procrastination is because I've found out as much as I could about it and learned techniques that I can use to avoid it (no pun intended).


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Google Super Searching Workshop

Have you ever used an internet search engine and walked away thinking, “I am sure there is more on this topic out there, but I just can’t seem to find it!” or, “I am not sure if this is from a website that is considered authoritative;” or even, “Why oh why did I end up with this recipe for fantastic chicken corn chowder when I am researching the Cuban missile crisis?” Don’t worry you are definitely not alone at this university. Using internet search engines effectively is a great skill to learn so that next time you sit down in front of your computer you can get the results you need. The Dafoe library is offering a number of workshops called “Google Super Searching,” which are aimed at teaching you about search concepts and tricks, as well as how to find what you want on the internet. The details are as follows:

Location: Room 11, Elizabeth Dafoe Library

Dates: Monday, February 19, 4:00 - 5:00
Wednesday, February 28, 1:15 – 2:15
Friday, March 9, 3:00 – 4:00
Monday, March 12, 4:00 – 5:00
Wednesday, March 21, 1:15 – 2:15
Friday, March 30, 3:00 – 4:00

Email to register.

Have fun searching the net,


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


In most cases, understanding and becoming familiar with a subject area is the best way to learn; however, sometimes we just need to memorize (i.e., what are the 6 types of veins?). Mnemonics are strategies that you can use to memorize difficult to remember lists, systems, and facts. Some examples of mnemonics are acronyms (HOME = Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie; MADD = Mother's Against Drunk Driving), first letter mnemonics (PIRATES = Pulmonary disease, Ischemia, Rheumatic heart disease, Anemia, Thyrotoxicosis, Ethanol, and Sepsis), or verses (Thirty days hath September,April, June, and November: All the rest have thirty-one, Except for February). You can make up your own mnemonics (you just have to make sure you remember what they mean!) or use mnemonics others have already created (like the examples above).

The wikipedia entry linked above (just click on "mnemonic") lists a number of different mnemonic techniques. I've also listed a number of other sites below that you might find useful.

Amanda's Mnemonic Page
University of Victoria's Mnemonics Page
Mnemonic Techniques provided by Inteligen


Friday, January 26, 2007

Two useful sites

I love to-do lists; they keep easily distracted me on task. They also allow me to get rid of "brain clutter" and put all those little items that tend to cause me anxiety down on paper where I can see them - tasks just seem so much more manageable when they are put down in on a piece of paper. However, those little pieces of paper often get lost in the larger clutter of my desk. If you are a student, even the luxury of a desk space to lose to-do lists on is rare; most of the time you're going from cafeteria, to hallway, to library, to class (and so on) and those lists are easier to lose (or forget). Ta-da an on-line list program is a possible solution to this problem. You need to subscribe (so it will remember your lists), but it's free and really, really easy to use. I've set ta-da as my home page, so that I can see my lists as soon I pull up Firefox. And, best of all, you can't lose the lists!

Another on-line service that upper level students, particularly graduate students, might find useful is the newly launched on-line Chicago Manual of Style. There is a cost associated with this subscription ($30 per year), but if you use this style manual regularly and are tired of hauling it around (for those of you who aren't familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style - it's big!) the cost of an annual subscription might be worth it.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Podcast

I've been wandering the net looking for interesting sites that I can add to our page o' links on the LAC webpage and came across a series of "Quick and Dirty" podcasts. Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing is, not surprisingly, the one I was most interested in (although better manners and more money wouldn't hurt!). Her podcasts cover everything from style guides, to commas to the use of hung vs. hang. The information is accurate, clear and fun. Check it out! Those of you with iPods can be a true geeks, download the podcasts, and listen to them while you're walking from class to class, on the bus, or waiting to pick up you next double double.