6 Fantastic Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Classroom Experience

I've taken a lot of classes over the past 15 years, studying under some of the most talented and creative artists (read their names by clicking here)

I know that I may not be able to practice what I learn right away, so taking good notes is imperative. I'm often asked in class about my tools that help me take expert notes. I'm happy to share them with you and share with you my tips for learning the most you can.

  1. Research the technique prior to the class.
    I spend a bit of time before the class reading the books in my library and watching DVD's on the technique. This enables me to think of questions I might have that I can ask the instructor about while they are doing that process.

  2. Take notice of their hands, tools used, and setup of the technique.
    Often the secret to the technique lies in how they are holding their hands, the angle of the flame, the angle of the tool, the set up of the supporting materials, using the right tool, etc. I remind myself to look at that first and make any mental notes so that I can review that later.

  3. Bring a camera that does both video and still photos
    I have a great Canon PowerShot camera that is small, has a great battery and takes macro shots. You’ll need an 8GB memory card.

    When the samples are passed around, prior to class starting, or at a break, I take a moment to photograph, on my white sketchbook paper, the piece from all angles. This gives me a reference later.

    I will also take quick measurements, if applicable, of the sample.

    Once the demo begins I try to get video of the process. This is great for review later or if you missed a step. You can then review the setup, tool angle, etc again.

    My camera quickly switches over to video which is great, with zoom in and out.  Make sure it is charged and the memory card has been emptied so you have plenty of room.

  4. With lectures try using a recording device.
    If you are anything like me, I often get great ideas during the demo or lecture. I find my mind wandering off and I miss important tips. So I got this Livescribe pen and notebook. The pen has an infrared light that records your writing as you write (see the tiny lines on the notebook). It also records all sounds. At the end of the day, you hook it up to your computer, which charges it and also downloads it into your files.

    When you get ready to review your notes, it actually shows you the written material in coordination with the playback of the recording. So it’s as if you are there again. There is also a way to set up a community to share the notes with other classmates (but get permission from your teacher first that you can share with classmates only -not the general public).

    I like that it records my sketches, every stroke, with the lecture as well as my words. Very handy for review!

  5. Review your notes within 24 hours.
    Jack Canfield, motivational speaker, coach and author of over 115 million books sold, says that if you review what you learned within 24 hours, your retention rate is increased 200%. That’s quite an incentive to spend just a bit of time reviewing what you spent money and time to learn! I’ve been employing this technique and validate that it works!

  6. Focus on the technique and not the end product.
    I tend to focus on learning the technique, the material and the process when I take a class. I have a sample protective sleeve binder where I keep all my samples from class. I will include the number and page of the sketchbook that has the notes from that sample in the pocket of that sample for easy referral to the steps.  Trying to make a beautiful perfect piece is pressure and distraction that is often unwarranted and detrimental to learning.

I hope you found this helpful to making the most of your learning experiences!

Don't forget to leave a comment and get entered to win a F*R*E*E give-away from Whole Lotta Whimsy! Drawing is December 30th, 2011!

20 Responses to 6 Fantastic Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Classroom Experience

  1. All your musings are wonderful and this one I found particularly helpful. I am techno-challenged, but love the concept of the scribe pen — will have to find out more. Thank you for your insights and for sharing what you learn with all of us. Happy holidays!

  2. I love taking workshops & I take pictures of samples and during the process, but I think its also important to have the words to explain what's happening. Usually my notes never get connected to the photos. I had never heard of Live Scribe pens. I usually try NOT to acquire all the latest new gadgets, but this seems like it has some very convenient shortcuts as far as getting the info easily on to my computer.

    I remember having a teacher in college where you had to record his entire lecture, because questions on his test were often about things he said in class, but you wouldn't have time to write it all down. I had to transcribe the whole lecture off a tape recorder into my notebook word for word. I did get a 100 on one of his tough tests by doing this! It sure would have been nice to have one of these pens back then!!!

    • This is not really new technology. I bought mine, March 2010. They have upgraded the models but mine still works perfectly well. You will want to get their notebooks to use with it. I provided a link which gives a discount.

      I wish I could show you what it looks like on your computer. It is really just unbelievable!

      I will end up buying one for my son soon to use in school. I wish I had one when I was in school as well!

      The greatest thing is that you can just pay attention in the class (forget about scribbling notes and watch the teacher) and then use Jack Canfield's idea, to review the material within 24 hours, and you'll have a great connection to the technique, material and ideas!

  3. LiveScribe pens are a really excellent tool – wish I'd had one in college! They are really coming down in price too. I like the idea of doing video during class too :)

  4. What great tips! I am not a techno person, and I have not heard of these gadgets. I get distracted very easily when I am at a seminar or lecture, my mind wondering to expand on a thought or idea. It is difficult for me to stay focused. These items sound like must-haves for me. As always, thanks!

  5. Great tips! I will start bringing a camera with me. I take notes but having photos will definitely help make sense of them when I go back to try to practice what I have learned.

  6. I loved this entire article. I am a "training Junky" and can't seem to stop learning enough new techniques so I know I will put these tips to good use soon! My daughter and I are also starting up PMC and glass fusing classes in January so will share these tips with our students. I know they will find them helpfu as well.

    • Feel free to copy and handout to students. Also I appreciate it when people share the articles on FB and their blogs. Just make sure to include the blurb at the bottom so I can connect with them. My goal is to connect, create and collaborate with as many artists as possible!

  7. Excellent information! Wish I would have had some of that info in the past, when I had taken some excellent classes! One thing I did do was review my notes sooner rather than later – it did help, but I didn't know that it helped 200%!!. Also liked the LiveScribe pen idea. Definitely will be looking into that one! Thanks for all of the info and inspiration you provide.

  8. Tonya, I'm so glad that you mentioned the livescribe. I started using one about a year ago to take minutes for a workrelated committee – I'd found it frustrating to try to participate and get all the notes down. The audit committee jokingly refers to it as my secret squirrel pen, after using it in the committee, I took it to a metal clay class and found that I was getting more out of the class. I could actually pay attention to the instructor and had time to grab some pics too. I wish I'd had it for all the classes I've taken over the years.

  9. Thank you for these terrific suggestions. In keeping with #5, try to DO the new technique on your own soon after the workshop. Sometimes just cutting out and making up models of the steps, even out of paper, can help reinforce new learning. Love your articles.

  10. I am sooo glad to see the tip about reviewing within 24 hours. I try to review what I did, but it often gets pushed off to later, and then I don't remember everything. I also like the Lightscribe pen idea – I too get ideas in the middle of class and have to choose between writing it down and missing part of the lesson or getting the lesson and hoping I have the idea again when I review the class, which I usually don't.

  11. Thank-you for the tips. You are so correct about learning techniques rather than focusing on the end result. Nothing worse than working on a project at home and not remembering HOW it was done. Use camera, record and note techniques. Knowing how to study helps us get the most for our money. Thanks again.

  12. Great musings, Tonya. I am amazed at your long list of teachers. I wish I had learned of the livescribe pen before Christmas. I will wow my husband with one. Your points about getting the most from a workshop are really great. I will share with my students. You have inspired me to post my compass words everywhere. I even know which one is 'North.'
    Thank you!

  13. Don't forget I've secured everyone who is interested a 15% discount on the recording pen. All you need to do is use this link: http://refer.livescribe.com/a/clk/3QQxT and then enter your information (register). Great discount and a great product. I use mine for every class, every demo, every conference, meeting, etc.

    I can't wait til my son thinks he'll use it for class. I wish I had one in college!

  14. wow that pen sounds amazing. What was the cost of it? Do you ask the instructor before using it or just start and let it go?
    Thanks again for this blog, I always come away with new knowledge.

    • There are several versions of the pen available. By using my link you'll save 15%. Choose which pen you want by memory storage. I have an old one 2GB and it is perfect for a one day class. If you can't download to your computer each night then you may want a 4GB or 8GB.


      I don't usually ask because it's for my personal use. I feel like I've paid for the knowledge being shared in the class, I have a hard time taking good notes, I often cannot put the knowledge learned to immediate use, so I need something to refer to later.

      I do tell them it's for my personal use and that I don't share it with anyone (except other classmates if asked).

      This is no different than a book or video. You really shouldn't share those either. They don't sell their knowledge on video so that you can buy it once and share it 10x.

      The point to consider is not to harm a teacher in anyway to limit the amount of income they can make from their intellectual property.

      I think when you point this out to the teacher they are at ease.

      I've seen the most worry from teachers who don't want to show up on the internet on YouTube, FB, etc with students sharing their class techniques or even posting unauthorized photos of their work.

      It's always best to tell them what you are doing so they are at ease.

      Also remember to be polite and not stick your camera in front of everyone else. Use one that can zoom in so you don't have to stick your camera out in front. This has been a problem in classes I have been to with phone camera users.

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