GoConqr …..getting ready for exam’s prep now

In the spirit of new beginnings and developing new positive habits for success this semester I thought I would have a look for some Apps which focus on getting ready for exams and preparing early. WOW there are so many out there that you might be interested in trying out EverNotePeek, RevisionApp, Examcountdown, StudyBlue to name a few.I had a look at one called GoConqr which advertises the ability to organise notes, create mindmaps, flashcards and quizzes to name a few functions to help prepare for exams.

So what does goconqr potentially offer our students? Firstly it has the ability for you to create your own notes and resources for topics you are studying. Creating a mindmap, a set of flashcards or a series of questions you can quiz yourself on all look easy enough to navigate and use. You develop them on your laptop or PC and you can access them either there or using the mobile app version. When you are in the free version of this product you can create up to 20 resources across 3 different topics. If you refer at least 3 friends who sign up you have unlimited access to resources and topics. The second thing that Goconqr offers are access to others studying the same or similar topics as you can join a group or private message someone. You can share your resources or if you upgrade you can keep them private. There is also the option of accessing other resources from students through the library – although keep in mind other students have prepared them so you can’t copy them and submit as your own work and you should check the validity of the material.

Something tells me in my trial I’ve only scratched the surface of goconqr. There is a planner to plan and track your study habits as well. There are some obvious down falls like the limitation of the initial free subscription and the full version is $15 if you want to pay for it. Despite these goconqr could be a great tool and definitley one to at least try.

What’s good about it: I love the ease of making flash cards and quizzes you can add to each week and then use them to test yourself in study prep time. Also who wouldn’t love the benefit of looking at other students resources they have already prepared on the same or similar materiel.

What’s not so good about it: I found it a little difficulty to get the hang of how to pin your notes to specific subjects and the limits of the free version are disappointing.

A Fresh Start

Is it just me or is 2016 going by a little to fast? I was reminded last week that Christmas is only 22 weeks away. Christmas? I’m still trying to get my act together and do my Tax return for 2015-2016 financial year.  Let’s slow down a little and rather than getting caught up at the end of the year how about we focus on the present moment. In this present moment it’s about new beginnings, new ides and new energy. It’s about a fresh start to semester 2, 2016.

For those of you who are coming back to study this semester it’s a fresh start. A chance to start with a clean slate, free from past results, past mistakes or past failures. There is no need to taint this semester with the last one, or for those just starting out this semester the past study attempts or reasons why you didn’t come sooner. So in the spirit of helping you all make this fresh start I have a few tips.

  1. Let it out – talk about, write about or think about the past and all the failures and complaints you have with yourself. Get them out along with any insecurities you are feeling about your chance of success this semester based on past experiences. If you keep these locked up they will build and get in the way of you reaching your goals.
  2. Set your goals – think about what your goals are in life, what’s important to you. Don’t just think about the end goals, like finishing your degree or gaining employment, think about the smaller goals along the way. Also don’t just think about your study/career goals, think about other areas like your health, relationships, and spirituality.
  3. Stay focused on positive and proactive thoughts – start replacing the negative thoughts you have about yourself like “I can’t” or “what if?” with “I can” and “I will”. Don’t look to the past failures to guide you in the present moment, after all this is a fresh start!
  4. Set up new habits – Now is a great time to get the balance right in your life. Make sure that you make time in your schedule not just for study but for socialising, spending time with family, work, exercise, relaxation and fun. You might need to tweak the ratios a little depending on what you have on and what is a priority at the time but you shouldn’t focus so intently on one of these that the others fall off the radar altogether.
  5. Take care of yourself – of course I’m referring to exercising, healthy eating, sleep and maintaining your personal hygiene, but don’t forget to take care of your mind also. Take the time to make some changes and reduce the negativity in your life, surround yourself with positive people, keep your mind active with new experiences and make sure you take time out to relax.


Pokémon Go: a journey through time and Mayfield

Last week I was struck by an increasing reference to Pokemon in my twitter, instagram and Facebook feeds. I had no idea of what all the fuss was about and instead of trying it out for myself I decided to ask Hugh from NUPSA to write a blog post for me about what he saw the benefits of Pokemon Go were. So here are Hugh’s words of wisdom (a little longer than the average post but worth the read) on the benefits of Pokemon Go!


Written by Hugh Milligan

About a month ago, I met a friend for lunch at a café on Darby Street. Somewhere in the course of our conversation, meandering between topics, I found myself describing to her the mechanics of Pokémon Go with great dorkish enthusiasm.

“It’s an augmented reality game. You’re shown an actual GPS map of your location, with wild Pokémon dotted around you – to find and capture them, you have to actually walk around and search. And there are Pokéstops, based on actual points of interest like statues and fountains, where you can restock Pokéballs and other supplies.”

My friend simply raised an eyebrow in embarrassment. The game wasn’t even out yet; a vague, “somewhere in July” release date had been given, and months of selective beta testing (the footage from which I’d obsessively dissected) were just drawing to a close. It could have been weeks away, and there I was, already mapping out a walking tour of Newcastle to serve as my own grand Pokémon adventure.

“But it’s Pokémon,” she said incredulously. “It’s for kids. Why are you so excited about it?”

My friend is neither a gamer nor a Pokémon fan. The only one she’d recognise is Pikachu – the all-purpose franchise mascot – having seen him on a t-shirt or a backpack once. Pokémon is not marked indelibly on her childhood as it is on mine, with a thousand schoolyard recesses spent crowded over our Game Boys – big, chunky plastic bricks with 8-bit displays – showing off our best team compositions, battling each other for bragging rights or trading our Machokes and Kadabras and watching them evolve.

It’s quite telling that Niantic, the developer of Pokémon Go, launched the game with just the original 151 Pokémon available. These days, there are at least 721 of them, but those original 151 are almost twenty years old now; I was catching them and watching them on television when I was ten.

So now, at the age of twenty-eight, to walk down to my local pub and suddenly encounter a Bulbasaur in my camera’s viewfinder – to see it standing there on the footpath, brandishing its vines at me – feels utterly surreal. I’m not at all surprised that the majority of players I see roaming the streets are in their twenties; they’re like me, finally realising secret childhood dreams they’ve carried for two decades.

It is also worth noting that my friend is an exercise and wellness enthusiast. She runs; she swims; she meditates; she does yoga. As I explain to her what a Pokémon gym is, I’m aware of the great irony that – of the two of us – she’s the only one who’s ever set foot in an actual gym. She doesn’t need an augmented reality game to get her outside. She’s already outside.

I, however, ate an entire family pizza in the hour it took me to write this article. Somewhere in the corner of my living room is a jumble of dumbbells, a Wii Fit balance board, a Pilates Power Gym, elasticised resistance bands and an Aeroblade, all of which (I imagine) are choked with dust. There is a second family pizza in the fridge, and it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility that I will eat it this evening.

I do walk, in fairness. The usual journeys – from the parking lot to my office, from my house to the supermarket, and so on. And I know how to run, in the same way that anyone living in Mayfield knows how to run, and is prepared at all times to do so. But although the mental and physical benefits of daily exercise are exceedingly well documented, I struggle to maintain any real motivation to actually do it.

Or at least I did, until Pokémon Go devoured my brain.

It was released in Australia on a long, torturous Wednesday. I’d downloaded the app in the morning, but had been much too busy to actually get out and try it; finally, at the end of my shift, I was able to sign in, create my hilariously sporty-looking avatar and see the familiar paths and buildings of Newcastle University Pokémonised for the first time.

It was five o’clock, and already dark outside. The rain had stopped, but a cold wind had picked up, making the air sharp and brittle. I wore a scarf and a jacket zipped up to my chin, and on any other evening would have ducked my head and made straight for my car, but – looking down at the enticing list of Pokémon apparently within ninety metres of my position – I found myself, quite madly, heading in the opposite direction.

As I left the Hunter Building, I saw a student walking in the opposite direction, texting someone on his phone. I felt a sudden sense of embarrassment: what would people think if they saw me wandering around campus after dark in pursuit of a Jigglypuff? So, my face reddening, I tilted my phone away from him as I passed and tapped randomly at the screen with my fingers, hoping to give the impression that I, too, was just sending a text message. To a friend. Because I had one.

The next twenty minutes, though, alone in my hunt, were glorious. I caught a Nidoran and a Caterpie, Pokémon I hadn’t had in my possession since 1998. The air grew colder and my fingers numb, but I barely registered it. Every time I considered returning to my car, another wild Pokémon would pop up nearby, pulling me along one path and the next.

And then, turning a corner, I almost crashed into a student coming the other way. The very same student I’d seen earlier, in fact, still staring intently at his phone.

We both stopped on the path and stared at each other awkwardly. Finally, he spoke.

“Are you… playing Pokémon Go?”

I narrowed my eyes. “Are… you playing Pokémon Go?”

And then we both burst out laughing, and then went straight to comparing our phones – the Pokémon we’d caught, the tricks we’d already learnt, the features we were still figuring out. It was like I was ten once more, back in the playground with Game Boy in hand. I didn’t know his name and he didn’t know mine, but we stood there in the lamplight for a good fifteen minutes chatting with each other, feeling a strange camaraderie as fellow Pokémon trainers out in the field.

The cravings, this mad wanderlust, only grew as the week progressed. The following Saturday, I woke up early, had a shower, got dressed in a track suit and joggers (my god, I’d completely forgotten I owned joggers!) and was out the door before eight o’clock, walking briskly in no particular direction. My phone told me a Staryu was nearby – my favourite Pokémon as a kid – just a block or two away.

It’s much like geocaching. There’s no direct arrow to guide you; the game will tell you broadly whether you’re getting warmer or cooler as you wander about, trying to hone in on your quarry. I caught that Staryu, and then immediately went in search of a Scyther that appeared to be skulking in the McDonald’s car park. (This was Mayfield, remember.)

It was only when my legs began to ache and my phone’s battery ran dangerously low that I realised I’d been walking for over three hours. I’d done a complete circuit of East Mayfield and clocked up about eight kilometres of travel.

“That’s nothing!” I hear you say. “Yesterday I ran twenty kilometres in half an hour and deadlifted a family sedan.”

And that’s impressive, it really is. Well done. But for me, to get up early on a winter’s morning, feeling invigorated and desperate to get moving, is a huge deal.

Equally momentous is the fact that, for those three to four hours, I thought of nothing but Pokémon-catching. I didn’t mentally deconstruct the past week, or fret about the coming one, or berate myself about some tiny mistake or slip of the tongue I’d made days earlier, or any number of other thoughts I’d ordinarily torture myself with over the weekend.

I just walked, and explored, and celebrated each new addition to my collection, giddy as a child. For those few hours, I just was.

That afternoon, my friend Jess came to see me, and we went walking again – she’d spent the morning with her sisters down by the foreshore, catching aquatic Pokémon, and was itching for a little suburban expedition.

Jess and I are the best of friends, but busy people. Depending on the time of year and our respective workloads, we might manage a dinner here or there, perhaps a movie, maybe a couple of hours gaming online. I honestly can’t the remember the last time we walked together, or went exploring.

And yet, there we were, wandering the labyrinthine streets of Mayfield, nodding respectfully at every player we passed and even stopping to chat with a few.

And that, more or less, sums up my experience with Pokémon Go so far. Getting out into the world, connecting with other people in wondrous, ludicrous fashion, and letting go of adult concerns to embrace childhood whimsy, if just for a few hours.

You can find far more outrageous tales of the game online: players finding dead bodies, wandering into police stations or heavy traffic, or being lured to secluded locations by thieves. And then there are the positives: Facebook communities where locals share tips and advice, strangers banding together spontaneously to defend their team’s Pokémon gyms, communal events that have attracted hundreds of players, and sufferers of severe depression and anxiety who’ve reported unbelievable boosts in their mood and energy levels while playing.

How about the fact that Pokémon Go is already installed on more smartphones than Tinder? Or has more daily active users than Twitter? Not just for kids, then.

The app is still brand new and quite buggy, of course; the servers still go down at random, and the whole thing will often crash or freeze at inopportune moments. There are obvious faults, but I’ve every confidence these will be corrected in time. And Niantic has already alluded to several new features they wish to introduce, such as the ability to trade and battle Pokémon directly with friends – not to mention the other six hundred or so Pokémon they’ve yet to introduce.

So, as it turns out, being a gamer and a wellness enthusiast need not be mutually exclusive. Pokémon Go trades on the nostalgia of a well-established franchise to lure its players out into the real world, rewarding a sense of curiosity and a desire to explore.

Now, if only they’d develop a Legend of Zelda game that could persuade me to eat less pizza…

Results, Results, Results……

I really wanted to build on last week’s post about bouncing back and resilience this week, especially as the exam results release date is this Friday. It wasn’t too long ago that I was waiting for the exam results to rock around. I’d spend the time before the exams calculating what marks I’d need to pass, get a credit, distinction or high distinction. Then during the exam I’d estimate what percentage I knew I had right, thought I had right and what I hoped might get me a few more marks here and there. Then after the exam period before results were released I’d forget about it all and just get on with life. Inevitably despite telling myself that I couldn’t change it now and that it’s just one subject, I would still feel the anxiety creep up and logging on to check the results I would still have a tremble in my hands and I’d hold my breath until I had seen the results screen.

Regardless of what I saw on the screen there would be mixed emotions (Obviously I wasn’t a straight HD student), some results I’d be surprised and think wow I did better than I thought and for others there would be disappointment, especially if I had missed a credit or distinction by 1-2 marks. If it was a FF then there was the mad scramble of what will I do now? What I didn’t realise at the time that hindsight has given me now is that:

  1. There is always a way to recover – re take the subject or find an alternative subject over summer school.
  2. There is always someone here at UON to help you figure out what you can do about it, and also help you with how you are feeling about it.
  3. One failure or failing to meet your own expectations doesn’t mean you are a failure. Imagine if Einstein, Edison or Curie had given up after one failure.
  4. That a perfect academic transcript won’t get you the job you want! Employers are looking for your ability to bounce back from the challenges life throws our way.

So if this Friday you don’t get what you expect or want remember that there is always an alternative route available to the goal you want, and next semester offers you a chance to bounce back!

The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to RPS@newcastle.edu.au.
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