A Mixed Bag of 10 Thoughts, Quoted

I collect quotations from various places. Books and online. I make notes on the stuff I read every day.

I thought I’d drop 10 examples your way in this post. Just because. Maybe something will inspire or interest you further.

You never know when a comment here and an example there can come in handy. I also collect random stories that are of no use at the moment, but are quirky. When the right time comes along, I use the stories to inject some fun into a piece of writing.

Always be on the lookout for inspiration. You may find nothing of interest in the examples below. But when you see anything that makes you stop and think, it’s worth making a note of it. The more you can collect, the more you have at your disposal later on.

Note it down. Save it for later.

Collecting little thoughts is one way you can start to make good use out of what you consume.

10 Thoughts, Quoted


“You will find the future wherever people are having the most fun.”

From the Introduction to Wonderland by Steven Johnson

In other words, get playful!



“Ultimately innovation is local. You have a problem to fix, a group who want to solve it, and you come together in a common space to work it out.”

I like how the ‘local’ doesn’t always have to be in terms of physical placement.



“…holding on to the idea that willpower is a limited resource can actually be bad for you, making you more likely to lose control and act against your better judgment.”

Willpower is limited if you think it is. I will you to keep going!



“If takers are selfish and failed givers are selfless, successful givers are otherish: they care about benefiting others, but they also have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests.” – p.182

From Give and Take by Adam Grant

Giving is wonderful, so long as you remember to give to yourself at the same time.



“A sociologist at the University of Chicago surveyed the references cited in a database of 34 million scientific articles. He analyzed the citations with respect to whether the articles cited were available online. The more journals became digitally available, the more recent the references became, and the narrower their scope.” – p.61

From Words Onscreen by Naomi S. Baron

The book was published in 2016. That feels like ages ago…



“Student loan policy wonks have always assumed that if you provide guarantees and limit liability/risk on student loans, then students will be ok with debt.  But if the facts of the policy don’t change people’s attitudes about risk, then the policies will fail, no matter how well they deal with the actual problems at hand.”

This is just as relevant for parents too. The idea of debt, no matter how it’s presented, is too much for some. Especially when there have been past problems with more traditional debts, or they have spent their life avoiding debt. What do you think those parents will say to their children who want to go to university?



“Podcasting is sometimes dismissed as nothing more than radio in your ears, on your own schedule, but I beg to differ. It’s far more intimate than traditional radio. And news organizations that realize the power of this intimacy will likely have an advantage in the long run.”

On-demand audio for the win.



“Humans live peacefully with contradictions precisely because of their capacity to compartmentalise. And when contradictory statements, actions or emotions jump out of their contextual box, we are very good, perhaps too good, at finding justifications to soothe cognitive dissonance.”

But when you recognise this, you can use the abundance of contradiction in wonderful ways too. Embrace the push and pull.



“Crucially, our ‘social orientation’ appears to spill over into more fundamental aspects of reasoning. People in more collectivist societies tend to be more ‘holistic’ in the way they think about problems, focusing more on the relationships and the context of the situation at hand, while people in individualistic societies tend to focus on separate elements, and to consider situations as fixed and unchanging.”

Specific generalisations. The article has some thought-provoking stuff.



A reason why conservatives tend to use nouns more than liberals is because nouns outline greater stability. Describing someone using nouns “implies more certainty and permanence about their state of being”.

Pay attention to how people describe things. Do they “feel positive”, or are they “a positive person”? You may get a better insight when you listen to how the sentences are constructed as well as what’s being said.


Think of the little thoughts and stories you collect as stepping stones. Each step can take you closer to new ideas.

Over to you. It’s time to create out of what you curate.

Why Mindful Lecture Notes Beat Writing Everything Down

A recent study found that a pen and pad is better for taking lecture notes than typing them on a laptop.

This may say more about the way we use tools for making notes. Fast typing can cause you to take notes word for word, even when you’ve been told not to. Change could be minimal, since the ability to take near-verbatim notes is there.

How do you take notes in a lecture?

Fear of missing out is one possible issue. As with social networks and instant message notifications, the fight to keep up can drive us mad. With a laptop and touch-typing skills, you can transcribe all the words. You know, just in case…

This ‘just in case’ method of writing everything down stops you from engaging with the content, even though you’re recording it all. While some students can revisit the content and engage with it effectively afterwards, many others don’t work this way. Either way, you set yourself up to spend more time on the lecture content than you need.

I see notes differently. I don’t bother with notes at all sometimes, although I begin with the expectation that I’ll write something down. Some of my lecture notes are two or three lines of writing and nothing else. I take down what I feel I need and nothing more.

At times, the notes have flowed and I’ve had a lot to get through. Unfamiliar topics can do that. But it’s still not the same as typing up as many words as I can, with the possibility that I’ll need it all. No matter how many notes I end up writing, the process is mindful. I engage with the content and act accordingly. Don’t just hear the words, hear concepts and ideas and questions and arguments.

After a lecture, a lot of information can be missing from the page, but not from my thoughts. Alternatively, I know that the rest of the information is elsewhere and in a format that I will fully engage with anyway.

In a lecture, the idea is to mindfully consider your notes and carefully listen to the speaker. By typing almost everything out, you’re noting down but not engaging with the information. When you come to the notes later, you read them almost as if they’re in book form…a book you’re coming to for the first time.

You need to work more deeply with the content. Repetition doesn’t help. It’s the same reason why advice to keep reading your notes until you know them back to front is not that helpful in boosting your understanding.

When your lecturer talks about something you aren’t clear about, write down key points and any questions you have. Treat the lecture as an information source that you’re selecting from, rather than a wall of noise that you need to grab as much as possible from.

That one difference in attitude should give you the ability to record your notes in whatever way you like. Even if you keep typing instead of handwriting, the secret is to extract what’s useful to you. You can only do that when you are mindful of the content.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore your notes. Write a brief summary outlining what you found out and explored in the lecture. No more than a few sentences. With a summary and your original notes, return to them in a week and then in a month.

  • Find out more about the things you’re still unsure about;
  • shorten notes and simplify where possible into key points as you become more familiar with them;
  • add context and additional findings where necessary;
  • remind yourself that the purpose of your notes is to strengthen your ability ongoing, with the ultimate aim to use them as a springboard to jump from when considering coursework and revising for exams.

When you no longer need the notes or when they have taken on a new identity, congratulations. You don’t need notes forever. You outgrow them. They get replaced by new notes. Eventually, they get replaced by the essays and exams that you’re proud of.

An Update

Over the past two years, my family has faced many ups and downs. The first major shock to us was when our dear friend, Toni, passed away. She regularly made me banana loaf on a whim just because she knew I liked it. She would pass on books she thought we’d enjoy…slipping a tenner inside as a bookmark to thank us for giving her the occasional lift. Her kindness went on and on. I still miss Toni every day.


Not long after, my wife suffered two miscarriages and subsequent complications that were traumatic and affecting.

Fortunately, we stayed strong and we now have a very happy three month old with us. Yay! This single up amongst all the downs makes life feel sparkly. Especially when he gives me a beaming smile. Thanks, Linden!


Despite the various difficulties, we battled on. You may have noticed some gaps now and then on TheUniversityBlog and the other social spaces I use. It was the best thing to do. I could have found the time, but our choices are complicated beasts that require more than a casual thought. It is important to consider perspective, context, and how it impacts upon yourself and others.

I do miss the ride while I’m away, though. Behind the scenes, I’m thankful to those of you who supported me when times were tough. You know who you are. I don’t often make a fuss about these things in public, but many DMs and private conversations were shared. I appreciate hugely everything that you offered in help, even when it was just listening to what was happening.

And it is never *just* listening. The act of truly listening to another person should never be taken for granted. I am deeply thankful, however small you feel your contribution was. Your actions have been a big deal for me.

Three weeks after my son’s birth, I received a surprise through the post. My family was given notice on the rental property we had only just moved to. The rental agreement had a get-out which gave us no choice but to move again, with a newborn baby in the mix.

Sad as we were, we had to nip things in the bud and find somewhere new.

We imagined it would be simple enough…

A very (very) long story cut short, we faced one complication after another and feared that we might be homeless. No matter what we tried, something wanted to go wrong. From agreeing a place only to get brushed off at the last minute, to finding minor problems with insurance that put everyone in a major stalemate position. The number and consistency of problems that arose was exhausting as much as it was terrifying.

In the end, we only secured a property in the late afternoon one Monday, when we were due out of the old property on the Wednesday. It was *that* close. After weeks of hell, we managed to keep a roof over our heads at the last minute. I can’t stress how amazing our new landlord was in making sure everything would work out. Above and beyond.

Now we’ve moved–and now I’ve got an Internet connection again…well, an intermittent one anyway–it’s great to head back online. As for offline, I look forward to meeting up with loads of you again. I’ve missed a lot of your faces in recent months!

This post isn’t so much a ‘sorry I’ve been away’ piece. It’s more a way to get things off my chest. Thanks for listening. Again. 🙂

And in true #loveHE style, I’m so excited to get back in the swing of things that the first task on my to-do list after writing this post is to devour not one, but two new important higher education policy books:

If that doesn’t propel me back into thinking about all things HE-related, then all hope is lost.

I’m confident it’ll work though…I mean, there probably aren’t many of us who think stuff like, “I CAN’T WAIT to read that book on HE policy”.

But I’m not completely alone in thinking that type of thing, am I?



Mind mapping to help study

A mind map is a great aid to exploring subjects and concepts.  From the initial word or outline, you take a creative journey to uncover many links and associations.

Mind Map Guidelines (from Wikipedia)

Example of a Mind Map (from Wikipedia)

Mind maps help you produce a more visual representation of linked ideas, allowing you to dig deeper without losing sight of your original purpose.  You can take the research journey full circle by using your sub-links to find more information, then by re-associating your new findings through the key concept you started with.

If you’ve not seen them before, or want a recap of the basics, check the video at the bottom of this post for an example of a mind map in development.  For remembering key facts and forming a basic, overall awareness of something, they’re great.  You can easily add more to them and shape them in a way that benefits you.

There are a huge number of services for creating mind maps on computer and online.  Chuck Frey has put together a huge resource list of all the mindmapping tools currently available.  There are so many tools out there, you’re spoilt for choice.

But be warned.  Mind maps aren’t a perfect study tool: “A disadvantage of mind mapping is that the types of links being made are limited to simple associations.  Absence of clear links between ideas is a constraint.” (Davies)

In other words, mind maps don’t hold all the information in themselves.  They can be used for stepping beyond the basics, but they require your effort to do so.  It is only through your own work before and/or after compiling a mind map that you can gain greater insight in your area of study.

I’ve used mind maps in the past to help me gain an overview or to prize basic ideas from my mind.  But, as I mentioned above, I cannot rely on them to give me a complex understanding or a range of differing views.

I used mind maps in two different ways:

  1. To explore where I needed to go next in order to make learning leaps;
  2. To highlight key elements of prior learning to serve as a simple reminder or as a way to visually link what I was studying.

Mind maps took me beyond linear thinking.  They were a way of getting linear thoughts and creative processes working together.  I still had a structure in the mind maps, but it was less restrictive, allowing me to play with ideas more freely.

The use of this technique serves to benefit your study.  Davies explains:

“Learning simply by reading textbooks, or listening to a presentation (incorporating linear-structured Powerpoint slides) is far more likely to result in non-learning or rote learning (Hay et al. 2008).  However, if students are asked to study, draw or manipulate a map of what they have learned, this may yield improved learning because it is more usable.  This is because maps aid in linking new information with what they already know.”

When faced with a visual representation of key concepts and thoughts:

  1. You are no longer limited to a linear way of thinking.  You gain an extra dimension to what you’re learning;
  2. The text is placed in a more visual representation (possibly with actual pictures), which aids learning further;
  3. Links are more obvious and it’s easy to drill down to sub-topics.

Mind maps are also great for making rough plans for an essay or dissertation.  You can take all the ideas/concepts you wish to write about, branch off to different areas of your essay (introduction, methods, references, conclusions, etc.), and add to your mind map as you see fit.

Jumping between unrelated elements of the same overall topic is much easier in this visual form.  You don’t risk losing your place or making so much mess on the page.

And if you use Wikipedia to get a grasp of topics, WikiMindMap brings the data to you in a mind map style.  It helps most when you’re exploring a subject and want to find related items to research further.

I’ve already quoted twice from a new journal article by Martin Davies.  His paper looks at differences between different types of mapping, including ‘concept maps‘ and ‘argument maps‘.  These other types of mapping are less likely to be used in an everyday study scenario.  Davies says that “students will have to do a considerable amount of initial reading and thinking and struggle with key concepts before coming to an understanding of the exact task they need to complete.  It is only after this process that the student can map an argument.”

Nevertheless, Davies moves on to discuss the future of ‘mapping’ in education and suggests that different types of maps can benefit at different stages of research and writing.  New, “as yet unrealised and potentially complementary functions” may help students greatly once software can provide the relevant links.

The possibilities have potential to be pretty impressive.  If you want the academic lowdown, the paper is in the journal ‘Higher Education’, which is free to view until December 31st 2010.  The paper can be viewed here.

More Mind Map Help: