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PDF Studying for non Incremental Reading suitable material.

June 26, 2009

Recently I’ve receive some mail  questioning if its really possible to study with supermemo. Meaning, read any article or book suited to be learned by Incremental Reading or not. I’ll refer in this post specifically to PDF reading.

Old supermemo was in fact based only on reading and then extracting nuggets of information into supermemo as a question/answer pair. Time has passed and perhaps the most current frequent use of repetition software is language learning. This makes an implicit asumption that languages (e.a. vocabulary) knowledge is in some aspect different from other bit of information. But the processes that reign our minds don’t differentiate them in any way. If every data is just data to our brains. How could read and study does articles not suited to incremental reading.

I use a lot of small software to acomplish the specific task at hand, usually I use a lot of open source, small, portable aplicacionts, the reason being mainly portability and economy. Although CintaNotes has mention that it ill turn comercial, current version is enough powerful to make reading ebook or articles not suited for supermemo in supermemo.

I’ll explain, my current procedure, but first a couple of words about why this articles may not be readable by Incremental reading. Material like, research articles, novels, history, find very bad path into SuperMemo. The main disadvantage being not getting the big picture. An understanding between the relationships in a lecture, or any other text material is dependent on its structure. Hence if a piece of information can exist with strong context dependency or as a more independent bit of data. The later are ideally suited to be learned by Supermemo. I reinforce this idea, because it has caused me much trouble before.

For those pieces of information very context dependent, concept maps, mind maps, knowledge tres, outlines, are good to make an schema of the information and related parts. How ever they still don’t convey information in somes sort of magic form into our minds. Concept maps, in fact, should be used to understand concepts as the original information states in its home page.

Once you have this outline (or other relationship tool) how do you review it. The easiest way and fast for small maps would be making an item asking for a particular mind map (or other). An other procedure a bit more complex would be to make questions on the most important data included in the mind map. This could leave you a lot of work to do. From the making of the concept map to stating the questions. An after a couple of dozens of mind maps, you’lll probably start confussing them and this will intefere your memories (was it in this or the other map?). Our memories is enhanced by visual representation, yet, we don’t have photographic memories, every bit of semantic memory (meaning memory like the multiplication table, where you don’t know where or when you learned) is store in our memories by a network of interelated concepts (our own truly three dimentional mind maps).

I loved to do mind maps, and they are great to review relational information fast. But, I found that many, previosly studied mind map memories are in the same place as those 5th, 6th edition of the book I currently studying, probably they are still in my brain warehouse, but unrecoverable.

“SuperMemo: Forget about forgetting”

Although I don’t think the algorithm is perfect at the moment, still I’m convinced it is the best (having read and analyzed all related bibliography on the the intrinsec sm-11 algorithm)

Today I’m using more concept mapping than mind mapping, this affirmation being only related to studying. Mind mapping is a great way to arrange and prepare lectures, drafting ideas about the blog, etc).

If mind mapping is not the solution, what do I use? I’m interested in not wasting a lot of time thinking where to put a certain extract of information. And with this non incremental readable material, there is a lot of material important only for the current pice of text at that time that I would never want to included in my SuperMemo collection. So I’ve change from mind mapping to ussing a clipping utility (any will do of course) for reading non incrementat readable material. Currently mastering the use of CintaNotes.

This is the way I’m studying non incremental readable material in supermemo:

  • PDF read and higlight or underline important information (don’t make any extract yet)
  • Make a topic: Title or article or better yet name of file, change priority to 0.1-10 (less then 11% are not postponed in my settings)
  • Couple of days later (when SM tells): Review the article, search for pieces of information to clip. I use an special tag in CintaNotes.

The following file name : “2008 – The Critical Role of Retrieval in Long-Term Retention – Roediger (leamem.retrieval.testing effect.presentation.).pdf”.

Would be taged: Roediger.2008.Retrieval.LTM (no spaces between).By using this tag I can study this article not at once but when I have time. In a single click you return to the extracts of the article and can revise previous work.

In Cintanotes is very easy to tag a bunch of extracts at once. I don’t tag any thing else in this notes (SuperMemo related extracs) except the title.

  • Make extracts from the article to CintaNotes. (I always include the page where each extract was made, but obviously this is not always necessary). I don’t include any other tag here, the title tag is all I need.
  • Review extracts in CintaNotes to merge, deleted or edit content, as well as to find missing info.
  • Select all related notes and copy this into a child topic where the original topic is in SuperMemo.
  • Dismiss parent topic. Review newly imported.
  • Extract items from this summary. Don’t dismiss the summary, but I some times make an item asking for the general idea of this topic.

The use of clipping is a must for me in order to get the whole picture and understand related concepts, and to trim out non vital information. I’ve tried to use other kind of note taking, like hierchical notepads (theguide), but this procedure is working just great. As allways still in beta mode so any suggestions are welcome.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2009 09:35

    This is a lot complicated. Do you really use this kind of procedure in order to learn? This is to much overhead but if it works to you, fine.

  2. gersapa permalink*
    June 27, 2009 12:30

    Thanks for the comment, I really like to know what other think about the blog. Yes, I do work this way. Many complex solutions makes our easier each day, yet we don’t need to know every bit of the process. Instead of complaining of why the program designer did not solve an issue for me, I find the way to deal with my needs, either by creativity or asking out.

    Maybe the post is long, and I’m complicated, or maybe I just wanted to clear with regard of what I meant in either case the intention is to share what I do in order to find better solutions to problems, hopefully common problems with Spaced Repetition learning.

  3. Marcin Rybacki permalink
    June 30, 2009 07:30

    This program reminds of other popular software, namely Evernote The cool thing about it is that you can put scanned images there and those scanned images are indexed on the server, so you could search through them although they might be in some graphical format.

    Unfortunately Evernet offers only 40MB to store on their servers for free, so if you want to use it extensively you need to buy subscription (which would not break the bank, btw) …. But the free version is more than enough if you want it for textual storage, anyway.

    At the moment I don’t have this problem with PDF files, because most of the articles, books I’m interested in are available in HTML format, but… If I would need it, I would consider professional tool to transform PDFs to HTML. This would save a lot of time and time is money.

    • gersapa permalink*
      July 8, 2009 06:45

      Yes the functions are mostly like what you’ll do with evernote, I started using Cintanotes because its portable to, small, and shortcut driven, I use evernote to short term projects, but maybe I’m missing some uses there.

      PDF to HTML tools sadly haven’t got all the job done, mainly when double columns are used, and my PDF’s have to many annotations to make it even more complicated. Still the main reason for CintaNotes is that xml exporting features and that it make me very laconic with the note taking. As you see, is very easy for me to overload my self.

      XML exporting makes me trust that even after the applications is no longer available, I can get all my notes with easy as is text only.

  4. November 8, 2015 10:51

    Interesting ideas, I may try and adapt them, though at the moment, I feel I have quite a good system.

    I modify my extracts immediately after extraction and add all necessary context, such as changing pronouns, inserting necessary information, and also just adding context tags.

    If I find I can not understand these simple prompts, which usually add anywhere bwteen a mere 1, to 15 words tops, I reread the whole article, which I keep in Supermemo.

    Then I check my extract again, and see if I can understand it now. If I can, I leave it as is. If I have to think about what it means much at all after rereading the article or relevant piece of the article, I reformulate the extract’s context clues to be more explicit, or just more distinct, so that they will act as better prompts for memory of the article.

    I find going through this process builds a strong memory association between the extract’s context cues and the original article, regardless of how I formulate it going ahead, and I rarely ever need to do this more than once, even for those that should be troublesome extracts.

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