The best way to study and learn

Students and teachers have been debating for years about the best way to learn material for a test, and have invented countless strategies. I used to read my notes, aloud, over and over again. A friend made thousands of flash cards over the course her college career. Some folks put their notebooks under their pillows at night.

Recent research from scholars at Purdue University suggests that practicing the recall of information by taking practice tests may be the most effective method of learning and retaining new information over time.

Researchers set up a study that compared how well students recalled information after studying, and how well students could recall that information a week after the original study and testing sessions.

Using foreign language vocabulary word pairs, we examined the contributions of repeated study and repeated testing to learning by comparing a standard learning condition to three dropout conditions.

In repeated study-test-study-test scenarios, when students continued to study material that they previously got right on a test, but were not tested on that material in subsequent tests, they didn’t do as well on the final test. When students were continuously tested on material that they got right, they did better on the final test whether they continued to study the material or not.

The study by Karpicke and Roediger (2008) is in the February 15 issue of Science. You can view additional commentary on the Pure Pedantry Blog at

Karpicke, J.D. and H.L. Roediger. 2008. The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning. Science. 319: 966-968. DOI: 10.1126/science.1152408

National Clean Out Your Computer Day

Tuesday, February 12 is “National Clean Out Your Computer Day”. Have you received a message from CIT saying you’re nearing your email quota? Do you find it impossible to locate documents you’re sure you have? Do you really need to keep that not-so-funny joke your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former room-mate sent you?

Take the opportunity today to clean out your computer, before the semester gets any more stressful. Take some time to:

  • Delete old email messages
  • Organize your bookmarks/favorites. Try an online bookmarking service that allows tagging, like or Google Bookmarks.
  • Clean off your desktop. How many of those items do you really use?
  • Backup your important files. You don’t want to loose your music library, do you?

For more computer organizing tips, see these sites:

Do you have advice for organizing your computer? Share it with us by leaving a comment below or share it with the world by editing the “How to Organize Your Computer” article on wikiHow.

Tag historical photos from the Library of Congress on Flickr.

The Library of Congress recently posted 3,100 photos from their collection to the social photo site Flickr. In this joint project, registered users can comment on photos, add notes to the photos and even create tags to help digitally organize this collection.

This pilot project includes photos from two main collections:

The 1930s-40s in Color:

These vivid color photos from the Great Depression and World War II capture an era generally seen only in black-and-white. Photographers working for the United States Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI) created the images between 1939 and 1944.

and News in the 1910s:

Welcome to the daily news scene from almost a hundred years ago, as photographed by the Bain News Service in about 1910-1912. We invite your tags and comments! Also, lots more identification information. (Most of these old photos came to the Library of Congress with very little description.)

This is a marvelous collection, and most of the photos don’t have any known copyright restrictions.

And while you’re there, have a look at images from around Milne Library on our Flickr profile