Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Scheduling strategies

Did you know that your class schedule can play a big role in your success in your anatomy and physiology course?  Not a lot of students realize that you need a good scheduling strategy to maximize your learning in A&P.

Here are some strategies that many students have found useful:
  • Avoid short classes.  OK, you may not have a choice in this . . . but if you do, then avoid classes that meet for 50-minute sessions.  More and more schools are scheduling A&P "lecture" classes for longer class periods, meeting twice a week (rather than three times a week).  Why?

    • Because most students feel that they "just get into it" and the class is over. 

    • Partly, 50-minute classes are too short because more faculty are incorporating new techniques in "active learning" and other methods to enhance the classroom experience of students.  Such techniques, when used effectively, simply do not fit well into a short class period. 

    • Another reason is that when professors try to build up to the higher-level concepts, they cannot accomplish it within a short time frame . . . and waiting until the next class period will lose the threads needing to be pulled together.  You'll understand the lecture/discussion better in longer class periods.

  • Avoid "stacking" your classes all on two or three days.  A lot of students believe that they are being efficient when they try to stack their entire full-time course load into 2 or 3 days of the week . . . M/W/F only or T/Th only, for example.  That may sound like a good idea, but it's usually not.  Why? 

    • First, your brain (and your butt) may not be able to handle hour upon hour of classroom activities effectively.  It is not efficient if you cannot take in all that new learning all in one long session.  Not only might your learning suffer, but you'll begin to dread coming to school . . . and eventually you'll "turn off" your motivation to be successful in learning. 

    • Besides giving your brain (and butt) a rest, spreading out your class days allows you to build in breaks in your day that allow other kinds of learning activities.  So many of my students struggle to get things done on campus that they need to do . . . because they forgot to build in some "on campus time" for themselves.  For example:

      • Group study time
      • Post-lecture and post-lab student gatherings to review content
      • Lab practice (going over models, etc, in the open lab or learning center)
      • Tutoring in the learning center
      • Library work
      • Office visits with professors and advisors
      • Campus workshops (for example, student success workshops)
      • Eating right
      • Campus life (just hanging out and having fun . . . an important part of college)

  • Find the right instructor.  If you have a choice, you may want to do some research so you can pick the instructor that is the best fit for your learning style.  However, this can be very tricky.  How do you really know what an instructor is like?

    • Never go on word of just one or two students, because they may be at one or the other extreme in their perspective.  Get a LOT of input if you can. 

    • And I suggest that you stay away from those online rating sites . . . they often preferentially attract the extremes, as well. 

    • The best advice is to interview each instructor.  Ask them what approach they take, how they address your individual learning style, what their strengths and weaknesses are.  You wouldn't choose a contractor or employee without talking to them first and getting references . . .so why treat your education any differently?
Of course, there will be limitations in your choices . . . but when given a choice, it's best to choose wisely.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Exam strategies

Exam time is nearly here!  Do you have some personal exam strategies to implement before, during, and after the exam?

Even if you do have some tried and true strategies of your own, you may benefit from hearing about what I've seen work well in A&P courses. 

First, I have a brief video presentation called . . . wait for it . . . Exam Strategies that runs down the basic strategies.

Then I have some additional tips in previous blog posts
Exams are coming!
[What do in advance of exam day . . . how to get ready for the "big day."]

Test taking strategies and  Exam time!
[What to do on exam day . . . and during the exam.]

Learn from your mistakes!
[A video presentation on how to analyze your previous tests.]

Do you have some of your own tips to share?
Click the comment button and let's hear them!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Build your own body!

I recently came across a website where you can build your own body.  It's called Anatomography and it's really fun.

Using the online editor at Anatomography you start out with a complete skeleton.  You can adjust the opacity (how transparent the bones are) or the color of your skeleton . . . or delete it if you like.  Oh, and you can change the background color if you like.

You then add organs from a library of pre-drawn organs.  Any organs you like. Make each one a different color or perhaps color-code them by system.  If you want to remove organs you've added, that's easy.

At any point, you can rotate or tip your body to the desired perspective. Like the image shown here, where I included the spleen (red) and tilted the body so you can see its position easily.

You can save your image to a file or the program will provide you with a URL where the image is located so that you can share it with your friends . . . or the whole class.  (You could even share it with your professor!)

You can also get a URL that links to your image within the editor, so that others can start with your image then add to it or change it in other ways.  This could be great for a study group to share the building of a system . . . or a whole body.

Besides being a fun toy to play with, this could really help you understand the anatomy of the human body by building and unbuilding it . . . rotating it around to different angles . . . highlighting different areas with different colors . . . making organs translucent so you can see through them to nearby organs . . . and more.

It's also a great tool to produce images for your flash cards, your concept maps, your class notes, PowerPoint slides,  and other study tools.

Because your textbook and lab manual cannot possibly illustrate every organ at every possible angle, the images you produce with Anatomography can help you visualize organs that you otherwise would have a hard time visualizing.

The program isn't perfect.  For example, the only skeletal muscle in the available library is the diaphragm.  But for other systems, the library is fairly complete.

What uses can you think of for Anatomography?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Learn from your mistakes!

OK, you know you're supposed to "go over" your test or exam after its over. But HOW do you do that . . . WHY should you do that . . . and WHAT SHOULD YOU BE GETTING OUT OF IT?

The reason you should do it is so that you can learn from your mistakes. Not only will you need those concepts you missed when you take the final exam, you'll need them to understand the rest of the course.

Besides, you're going to have to identify and fix any problems with your test-taking skills.

If you just casually scan your test, then you may not get much out of it. You need to take a more organized, focused approach.

Here's a brief video running down how this works.

Want a FREE sample Test Analysis Chart?  More information on how to analyze your test?  Then go to lionden.com/testreview.htm

A skull a day?

Well with a certain holiday coming up soon, it's probably a good time to share one of my favorite blogs with you . . . a crazy, wonderful blog called SKULL-A-DAY that you should visit.
The project started out when this guy named Noah Scalin made a paper skull and posted it, then kept on making skulls in various media and in different forms every day for a year.

Then folks just kept adding to it and, well, now it's a pretty big project.  The one shown here is one of my favorites . . . a skull carved from a watermelon! There's even a book version now! The book is called SKULLS of course.

As many of you A&P students are skull fans by now, or ought to be, I thought you might like to see all those skulls.

For Facebook users, there's an application called Send-A-Skull that allows you to send skulls to your friends.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Help with learning the skeleton

My students are now struggling with learning all those darn bone markings in lab.  Last week, I shared one of their suggestions . . . the bone dance from the Hannah Montana TV series.

They also have found it useful to learn the naming system for bone markings first, before trying to even find the specific markings on the skeleton.  This method for understanding the conceptual framework before you begin learning a list of structures is more fully explained in my Survival Guide For Anatomy And Physiology: Tips, Techniques And Shortcuts.

In the Survival Guide, I explain how learning bone markings is like learning geography.  Before you can find specific calderas on a map, you have to know what a caldera is.  Should you be looking for a stream?  A mountain?  A valley?  Once you know a caldera is a volcanic mountain that has collapsed for form a big crater, it's easy to find any caldera assigned to you on a map.  You won't waste your time and effort looking at every feature . . . just the big craters.  And knowing what a caldera is, you'll remember what it looks like as you learn the name.

Thus, if you learn that a condyle is a rounded bump where a bone articulates (joins) with another bone, it's easy to find and remember all the condyles in the skeleton.  If you know that a foramen is hole, then finding them (and remembering them) is now that much easier.

When we compare learning anatomy to learning geography, we are using an analogy.  Such analogies are comparisons that help us learn. 

Something my students have found to be really, really helpful in finding good analogies for learning the bone markings is the Visual Analogy Guide series.  This series has been used by my students for a couple of years now and my students love them.

Created by my friend Paul Krieger at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), the Visual Analogy Guides really meet the students where they are at to help them master some of those little tricks for learning the core concepts of an A&P course.

Using his considerable skills as an illustrator and his great talent as a teacher, Paul has put together some great tools that help students focus their study time by using visual and kinesthetic processes to help them learn "the hard parts" of A&P.

Check out his video
, in which he explains how the Visual Analogy Guides work.

100 Best Web Tools for Science Students

I recently became aware of a new website that includes a handy list of the 100 Best Web Tools for Science Students. It includes virtual laboratories and experiments, explorations and web quests, basic foundations and principles, research and collaboration sites, modeling and mapping tools, plus links to search engines and databases.

Although the list includes resources covering a variety of science topics, several could be very useful to A&P students. Just a few examples:
1. Virtual Labs at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute A free tool that enables students to take on the role of scientist, technician, doctor, and immunologist. They participate in labs on topics related to cardiology, immunology, and bacterial identification.

57. Note Mesh A web 2.0 app that allows college students in the same science classes to share notes online using a wiki set-up.

73. Flashcard Exchange Print flashcards, create flashcards and study science topics online with this tool, the world’s largest flashcard library.

86. Virtual Cell A simulation of the look and feel of moving through an actual cell or cellular component. Students are encouraged to play the role of a biologist and examine cellular organelles, conduct experiments and form conclusions.
But be careful! There are a lot fun links, like virtual field trips to the plains of Africa, that might distract you from studying A&P. Well, OK, it's a good thing to have a little fun, too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bone song and dance

You can't dance without your skeleton, right? But can you sing and dance about the skeleton? Well, the TV character Hannah Montana thought so when she needed to learn the bones for her A&P class.

As I've mentioned before silly songs are a great learning tool!
(see Pinky & the Brain and Pump your blood)

You'll want to see the video showing the song and dance.

Then you'll want to see the video that helps you learn the lyrics.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Study Cards

You may be interested in a new study tool that has just become available to anatomy and physiology students . . . Mosby's Anatomy & Physiology Study and Review Cards.

This boxed set of full-color study cards was assembled by my good friend Dan Matusiak, who is an excellent teacher of A&P. Using some the of amazing new art recently commissioned by Mosby (Elsevier Publishing), Dan has created a whole toolbox of helpful study cards to help you learn your A&P . . . then help you to quickly review it later.

There are 329 cards divided into 20 sections with handy color-coded sections to help you locate topics easily. Their 4 inch by 5.5 inch size means that they'll also stack easily with any 4 x 6 index cards that you may already be using to study A&P.

Additional features include:
  • This set introduces the user to the Leitner method, a time-tested strategy to improve retention and streamline study time through flash cards.

  • More than 200 of the cards feature a detailed A&P illustrations on the front, while the back identifies the anatomic structures or physiologic processes with numbered labels.

  • The set features hundreds of study questions with answers to reinforce core content.

  • Compact and convenient size makes it easy to study the cards wherever you choose.
Whether your breezing through A&P, or struggling to survive, this learning tool is worth checking out!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Learning anatomic structures

When you first face human anatomy in the lab course, it can seem overwhelming. All those parts. And parts of parts! Yikes!

Many inexperienced students feel that their objectives consist entirely of memorization. Often, they feel that memorizing the particular models, specimens, and diagrams available to them in the lab course are the beginning and end of the process facing them.

That's wrong on several counts.

First, what good is taking this course, if you are simply going to memorize things that will be useless to you outside of this particular course . . . when you'll face other specimens, perhaps even real human bodies?

Second, there is a far easier way to learn your anatomy—even a long list of required structures—than merely memorizing them. If you first construct a conceptual framework, before learning all those parts, your learning will be faster, easier, and more accurate. AND you'll be more likely to hold on to that information (and recall it when you need it) so you can use it in the future!

A conceptual framework is just a "picture in your head" of how it all fits together—a rough pattern to begin with. When you fit new knowledge into a pre-existing pattern, after you know what to look for and remember, the new learning has meaning for you.

Usually, the lab manual, handouts, pre-lab activities, and other explanations your lab instructor provides give you the framework upon which you can hang all that new stuff you are learning. It's just that most beginning students just don't recognize these helps for what they are.

For example in my textbooks and lab manuals, I provide lists of what the different bone markings are.

A foramen is a simply a hole, for example. But I can't tell you how many students jump into their lists of bone markings without even knowing that every part with "foramen" in the name is hole!

They're poring over diagrams and trying to figure out whether it's the hole or the nearby bump . . . or maybe it's that little depression. Yikes! No wonder it takes them so long to learn . . . and what they learn is so easy to forget.

Starting with a framework, what the names of bone markings mean, makes learning all the markings fun and easy!

For a link to a sample of a framework you can use, go to the related article in the Lion Den.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How we learn new terms

Good news for adult students of A&P!

You were probably thinking that you are too old to be learning so many new terms in such a short period of time. Maybe the brain of a child is good at doing this, you might tell yourself, but I'm past the point where this is easy.

Scientists in Finland have been working on how the brain processes the learning of new terms in the left temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. And their results show that it is actually easier for adults with an established vocabulary to add lists of new terms (and their meanings). And learning the meanings (definitions) of the terms appears to be easier than learning the names themselves!

This news further confirms my suspicion that the hurdle is not so much the list of terms themselves as it is one's confidence in their ability to learn them. In other words, it's all about having a winning attitude. In fact, that's one of my key points in the brief Survival Guide For Anatomy And Physiology: Tips, Techniques And Shortcuts I've recommended to you before.

Want to know more about the recent findings?

Familiar And Newly Learned Words Are Processed By The Same Neural Networks In The Brain.
Academy of Finland (2009, August 30).
ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2009
[News release summarizing the study and it's importance.]
Want some tips on learning the terms needed for your A&P course?

Learning Terminology
tips and links from The A&P Student blog
New Terms and Learning Terminology
tips and links from the Lion Den website

Survival Guide For Anatomy And Physiology: Tips, Techniques And Shortcuts
my handy little manual with all kinds of learning strategies

Mosby's Anatomy & Physiology Study and Review Cards
a new collection of study cards for A&P from my friend Dan Matusiak

Terminology for A&P and International Terminology for Anatomy & Physiology
my YouTube videos helping you get starting with learning terms in A&P

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Getting started in a new A and P course

Many of you are just starting (or are about to start) a new A&P course. You will later look back on this course as one of the most interesting and useful courses you have ever taken! But right now, it probably seems a bit overwhelming, eh?

Well, there is a lot to cover in an A&P course . . . especially if you are in a two-semester course or an upper-division A&P course. But, as I tell my own students, it's not really that difficult if you approach it with the right "can do" attitude . . . and armed with the appropriate study skills.

I'll be reviewing some of those study skills over the next few weeks in this blog. So you'll probably want to subscribe to this blog so that you get the articles as they are posted.

To subscribe by way of a feed reader click here. Then choose your feed method.

To subscribe to the email newsletter update click here. Then fill out the form.

To subscribe through your Facebook account click here. Then become a "fan."

I have a few tips to get us started this week:

1. Many experts suggest that for every hour spent in a college class (or lab) you spend two hours working on the course on your own. That's the average. Anatomy and physiology courses are above average . . . which means that you should be working on your own more than two hours per week. So if (in lecture and lab) you are spending 5 hours, then you should be spending more than ten hours working on your own for the A&P course.

This may mean that you have to postpone a trip, a wedding or honeymoon, a divorce, a move, a big sporting event, a job change, that big mountain climb, or other major life events. If they can't be postponed until after you complete A&P, now is the time to consider whether you really want to take A&P this semester! Maybe next semester is the best time for you to start A&P.

2. The only way to "shortcut" anatomy and physiology is to hone your study skills. Reading this blog is a good start. You may also want to consider the Survival Guide For Anatomy And Physiology: Tips, Techniques And Shortcuts. This short and light-hearted look at how to improve your approach to A&P is available through any bookstore—whether at your school, down the road, or online. It's brief, easy to read, and heavily illustrated. You'll be on the right track immediately with this handy little manual.

3. Start scanning through previous posts on this blog. There are several ways to do that. They all involve going to any blog page and using the tools provided in the right column. If you scroll far enough down, you'll find these to be helpful:
Topics—Choose a topic and you'll be taken to several articles that address that topic.

Blog Archive—click on the little arrowheads to list the archive for a particular month. Some readers like to go back to the beginning (or perhaps just one year) and scan through the headlines backwards to the most current posting.

Search—the search box is found at the very top edge of any blog page. Use that to search for all the posts on a particular topic.
Easter egg alert: you can sometimes (not always) find additional tips, resources, or odd treasures by clicking the images found in my blog posts!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Learn about the flu AND win $2500

The federal Department of Health and Human Services has just announced a contest that should be of interest to students of human anatomy and physiology who have a creative urge:

Make a brief video PSA (public service announcement) and you'll have a chance to win $2500 . . . enough to cover the cost of your A&P textbook AND your A&P lab manual AND a candy bar!

Even if you don't win the contest, you'll have learned some useful information about human health and disease . . . perhaps something that'll come in handy in your own life or your career. And maybe you can use it for credit in your A&P, micro, or film course, eh?

Check it out:

If you can't see the video in your news feed or emailed newsletter, then just click here to access it at the blog.

By the way, do you know what you should do about your A&P class if you have the flu?

NOTHING! Do not come to school. Do not work on your homework. The rest of us don't want your flu . . . and you need to rest and survive the flu so you can come back and work like the dickens to catch up with what you've missed.

{FYI, the image seen in the blog post is a colorized negative stained transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicted some of the structure of the A/CA/4/09 swine flu virus.}

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reading scientific terms

I've said before that the first step to learning the concepts of A&P is learning the language of A&P. Some new research shows us why learning and recognizing the terms used in an A&P course are important for understanding the story being told in the course.

A recent article in Science News summarizes new research that demonstrates that when you read a passage, such as in your A&P textbook, your brain is recognizing whole words rather then reading each term letter by letter. At least that's what appears to be happening with "good readers" of the material. Folks that have difficulty reading a passage probably have to stop more often at unfamiliar terms and read them letter by letter (or word part by word part).

Reading experts have understood for a long time that familiarity with the words . . . the vocabulary of the material you are reading . . . improves reading speed and retention. Now, we have some insights as to how the brain works in producing this effect . . . and proof to back up what was once conjecture about brain mechanisms.

So how can we apply this concept to improving your learning of A&P?
  • Always familiarize yourself with the new terms of each new chapter of your A&P textbook before you read the chapter
  • Read through the word list out loud to give your brain the familiarity with term it needs to recognize the terms as you encounter then when reading. The word list begins at the start of each chapter. This sounds silly, and it seems like it might be a waste of time, but it really works . . . and in the long run, saves you time by allowing you to read faster.
  • Even if you don't read the textbook (a really bad idea), you'll need these terms to understand your teacher, handouts, and your own notes
  • Use the in-text pronunciation guides and online audio pronunciation guide that comes with your textbook to make sure that you use the correct pronunciation for each term. This allows your brain to really "own" the term so that it doesn't trip you up and slow you down as you read.
  • By putting a little time and effort into getting familiar with new words at the beginning of a new topic, you'll end up saving time later on. And most importantly, you'll be much more likely to understand what you are reading.
Studying A&P can be frustrating because of all the new terms involved. But you've just learned a great way . . . a scientifically supported way . . . of reducing that frustration!

For more tips on learning terminology, including some brief videos, see these previous articles.

[photo by (nz)dave at flickr]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ever seen a Winking Skull?

Looking for a FREE web-based anatomy exploration to help you study? Try the Winking Skull.

Created by the publisher Thieme to accompany their Atlas of Anatomy, this web-based tool is FREE for any user . . . even if you don't have the book.

Of course, if do have the book (with an included access code), then you'll have access to more features than in the free version.

HINT: The Atlas of Anatomy one of several great atlases that would be a good addition to your growing professional library . . . something you'll use the rest of your life.

But the free version is pretty good, even without the extra "PLUS" features. Oh, I almost forgot this . . . if you want to use all the features of the free version, you have to sign up for a free user account . . . not much of a hurdle, eh?

You can navigate to different regions of the body, and from there click on any of the thumbnails of detailed anatomical art. Once you arrive at a piece of art, you can view it WITH LABELS or WITHOUT LABELS . . . a useful feature for self-quizzing or exploring things in lab.

A little drop-down menu at the top, right corner of the screen allows you to choose between English labels and Latin labels for anatomical structures.

The images can be zoomed in and out. You can also quickly flip to different views of the region you are exploring.

There are also built-in, timed quizzes where the user can set the parameters of the quiz.

Let us know what you think of it!

Now on Facebook

The A&P Student blog now has a page on Facebook.

Come visit us there, become a fan, and participate in our Facebook community!

And don't forget to share it with your friends taking A&P . . . or will be soon.

Promote Your Page Too

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Do NOT sell your textbook!

After your A&P class is over, you may be tempted to sell your A&P textbook back to your college bookstore, to a bookbuyer visiting your campus, or to a friend who'll be taking A&P next semester.

DO NOT do that!

Yeah, I know, you can use the cash. But unless you absolutely need that cash now in order to keep from starving . . . it's not worth it.

Why not?

Because you are going to need it later.
And you are going to need it often.

Most students who take an A&P course are headed into some health or athletic program or professional course later. Most (if not all) your core and clinical/practicum courses are going to be based on the principles you learned in your A&P class!

If you save your book, your notes, your flashcards, lab manual, and everything else, then you'll have it handy and ready when you need it in later courses. Many later courses assume that you remember all your A&P. Of course, that can't be true because no matter how good your A&P course is, you have to use it a few times before you become thoroughly familiar with it. So no matter how well you did in your A&P course, you are going to have to review your A&P frequently throughout each of your later professional courses.

Besides that, your A&P book can be the start of your own professional library.

Successful professionals build a library of resources during their early training . . . and continue to add to their library throughout their professional careers.

A good professional library will come in handy to review concepts you haven't used in a while, when you're suddenly pulled to work on a different floor or in a different department, when you change jobs, when take a continuing education course, or when you encounter some new case.

Not going to be majoring in any of the human sciences?

Well, OK, you are still a human being, right? Wouldn't it be a good idea to keep the "owner's manual" handy? Just in case there's a health issue that you, your family, or a friend wants to explore a little more thoroughly. Or to help teach your kids about the human body and it's function? Or to figure out what they're talking about on your favorite medical show?

I can't tell you how many of my past students tell me how they regret having sold their A&P books! All I can do is empathize . . . and give them my famous, "I told you so" look.

I'm telling you now . . . DO NOT SELL BACK YOUR BOOK!

You WILL regret it later.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Exam time!

guy studying
Many students have exams coming up this week or next . . . or sometime soon.

Last week, I shared some tips for exam preparation.

Now here are a few tips for what to do on exam day . . . and during the exam:
  • Be healthy. Do NOT stay up nights studying . . . sleep deprivation will reduce your ability to perform well. Eat well in the days leading up to the exam. Try to reduce stress. Exercise (it'll help you think more clearly).

  • Get to the test in time. Duh-uh, of course you should be there in time. But for the exam, try to get there early. I've seen SO many students cut it close, then something comes up (bad traffic, for example) and they come in LATE. Not only does that cut down the time you have to take the exam . . . you'll be flustered and unable to think clearly.

  • Skim over the exam before taking it. This will give you an idea of what's ahead and you can use your time wisely.

  • Don't waste time on something you really don't know. Do all the parts you are confident about. Then use the remaining time to work on the real puzzlers. If you start with the puzzling parts, you won't have time for the parts you know well . . . and you might get flustered and bomb the whole thing.

  • Double check your responses. Make sure you read the question accurately (a common mistake). Makes sure things are spelled correctly. If you use a scan sheet, make sure you answered on the correct line. If there are complex problems, and you have time, do them AGAIN--just to make sure you got the right answer.

  • Don't skip anything. Well, if you absolutely run out of time, you have no choice. But if time gets away from you and realize that you have only a few minutes for the remaining items that you'd prefer to take more time with . . . then just "go with your gut" and fill in some fast answers. You'd be surprised how many may turn out to be right (especially if you've prepared yourself well).
There are more tips at the Study Tips & Tools page on Taking Tests.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Study Stack

In recent posts I mentioned flashcard rescources such as Flashcard Exchange and also recommended that you check the data in the resources before using them to study.

Here's another resource you might find useful:

This site allows you to choose a topic, then study the data in any of several formats:
  • notes
  • flashcards
  • study stack (try this one out . . . it's cool)
  • study table
  • matching
  • Hangman
  • crossword
  • wordsearch
  • unscramble
  • type in
  • bug match (this one is crazy, but fun)
You can also choose to
  • export the data
  • print the data
  • edit the data
  • recommend other options
For example, see the stack on the Endocrine System. Click on each of the formats to see what you get!

To find topics related to A&P, try these:

  • Medical/Nursing
  • Medical/Anatomy
  • Medical/Physiology

There are many different levels represented here, going all the way up through med-school level. So you'll have to pick the data that suits your needs.

How about this . . . why don't you make some stacks fo your own and put them up and then request a new category for undergrad A&P?

Exams are coming!

guy studying
Many students are preparing for upcoming final exams. Or they SHOULD be!

Now is a good time to go over your study strategy.

What is a study strategy? It's your plan regarding how you are going to prepare yourself for your tests and exams.

Why bother to have a specific plan? Well, you want to PASS the course, don't you? Sure! You want to do more than that . . . you want to EXCEL (otherwise you wouldn't even be reading this, eh?). Having a plan will make your exam preparations more efficient (that is, less time-consuming) and more likely to produce a successful outcome.

Each student's best strategy will be somewhat unique them--tailored to individual strengths and learning styles. (Click here for more on learning styles.)

A good strategy will have been fine-tuned by previous experimentation with different study plans over the course of the semester.

Here are a few things to think about when developing your study strategy:
  • What study plan has worked in the past? What hasn't worked out so well?

  • What do you know about the format of the upcoming exam? What kinds of items will be on the exam?

  • What is the content of the exam? What concepts will be tested?

  • What has your instructor told you about the exam? Professors often drop a lot of hints. Even if they don't, you can always just ASK them. Most professors will have SOME KIND of advice for their students. A good question to ask is, "how do you go about making up the exam?" Such a question will often reveal what the professor finds to be most important.

  • Practice the exam. Use previous tests from the course (if available) to practice the exam. One way to do this is to cut up copies of your tests and draw individual items randomly from an envelope. Sometimes professors will provide a practice exam or copies of some old exams. If not offered, it wouldn't hurt to ask.

  • Study with a group. Pooling your thoughts, and helping each other review and practice, work surprisingly well to solidify what you already know and to fill in any gaps.

  • Manage your time well. Don't cram at the last minute . . . do a little preparation each day for a week or more before the exam.
For more study tips, see Study Tips & Tools in the Lion Den.

Next week, I'll share some strategies for what do during the exam.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pinky and the Brain

Have you ever seen the Pinky and the Brain cartoon? Here's a crazy video clip from the show sent to me by one of my favorite textbook editors, Karen Turner over at Elsevier (Mosby). It features a musical tour through the brain.

[Here's an easter egg in Anatomy & Physiology 7th ed. . . . Karen Turner's photo is on p. 55]

Although this clip is funny and includes a lot of "real" anatomy terms and structures, it's not very useful in understanding brain anatomy in an organized way . . . it's just a jumble of random structures, jumping all around and from microscopic to macroscopic and back again. But it IS entertaining!

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Student blog to access the video viewer. ]

So why share it with you?

First, because . . . well . . . it IS entertaining.

Second, it gives me the opportunity to bring up (once again) the value of silly songs as a learning tool.

Remember my previous article Pump your blood, which featured a silly song about blood flow through the systemic and pulmonary circulation? That one was effective because it put all the essential facts together in a way that makes sense (unlike the Pinky and the Brain clip). Such songs teach not only the facts . . . but also (and this is important) how the facts fit together.

Silly songs can also be useful as mnemonic devices to remember the anatomical order of structures in the body or the members of a group of structures in the body (see Sad Pucker).

Third, I'm sharing this video because even though this clip is "not very useful" in learning A&P, it is still "somewhat useful." It does show structures visually while at the same time stating the names . . . which will probably help remember where they are and what they look like.

But one must alway be careful with this sort of thing (media not really intended to be strictly educational) because there may be unintentional errors or misleading usages embedded in them. Looking for, finding, and correcting such errors can in itself be a learning experience.

For example, the clip contains several eponyms (terms that include someone's name). We learned in last week's article International standards for anatomy terminology that eponyms are "old fashioned." So the clip isn't really wrong in this regard . . . it's just not up to date.

Also, near the end of the clip the term "medulla oblongata" is sung but the entire brainstem and part of the diencephalon is illustrated--not just the medulla oblongata. Ooops. There are probably several more of these that I didn't catch on casual viewing.

Of course, these mistakes only support my previously mentioned hypothesis, summarized here:

Dr. Patton's Theory of Media Science (Dr. P's TMS) . . .which I just made up after years of mulling it over . . . and shouting it to my television screen . . . states that

"biological accuracy of a science-based fictional media production is inverse to the total budget for special effects in the production. "
Do you have other silly songs or video clips to share (accurate or not)?

Then share them with us by "commenting" on this article!

Check your sources

In my recent post Flashcard Exchange I recommended the use of flashcard sites that allow students to share A&P flashcards with one another.

How can you be sure that the information on the cards you use are accurate?

You can't!

As with anything borrowed from other students . . . class notes, diagrams, concept maps, concept lists, outlines, PowerPoint slide, images, videos, podcasts . . . you can't be certain that each element is correct. Nor can you be certain that they contain the same usages that your course uses (for example, the exact term of several possible correct alternatives).

What to do? Give up using these study aids?

Don't give them up . . . just check them out before using them!

That should always be your first step . . . compare the content to what you know to be true from your own learning. Then double-check that against your textbook and other course references.

This part of the process may seem overly time consuming--but it's worth it.

Not only will it keep you from studying the wrong thing--which could have tragic results--it in itself is a good study technique. By the time you are ready to use your borrowed resource, you'll already have learned a bit more just by checking it out thoroughly.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

International standards for anatomy terminology

anatomy terms
Not long ago in my article Introducing Terminology I mentioned that I'd be sharing more information with you.

This new video discusses the new worldwide standard for anatomical terminology and why it's important for A&P students to know about it.

Take a look . . .

[If you don't see the video viewer in your newsletter or feed version of this article, please go to The A&P Student blog site to view it. ]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Myths about textbooks debunked

As an occasional student myself and the father of some college (and college-bound) students, I feel the pain of textbook prices.
We hear a lot about why college textbooks are so expensive and what might be done to slow or even reverse the expense of college textbooks. In a recent post, I suggested that professors start comparing the prices of the textbooks available for their courses when making adoption decisions. See The Cost of Textbooks, in which I pointed out that some A&P textbooks cost as much as $45 less than comparable A&P textbooks.
Even state legislators have taken this up as a cause and have enacted regulations aimed and making textbooks more affordable. Unfortunately, none of these efforts seem to work . . . or at least not very well. Some of these efforts actually make the situation worse!

Most of the news stories I've seen or heard—and comments from students and politicians—makes it clear that we are not getting all perspectives on the issues involved. How do I know that? Because as a life-long student, as a professor, and as a textbook author, I know some important facts that are not commonly reported or debated. Facts that could and should expand the debate to help us find solutions that actually work.
So that you can find out "the rest of the story" I suggest checking out this brief article from the Text and Academic Authors Association (TAA), of which I'm a member:
(Feel free to pass the article around to others who might be interested.
Click here for the PDF version.)
You may also want to explore this website


New A&P Student Library

I've just added a new set of tools to help you succeed in your A&P course!

There's now a new link to The A&P Student Library at the blog site. This "library" is an affiliate of amazon.com that shows my personal recommendations for books and other resources that may help you.

Many of the listings include my own comments on the resource.

Over time, I'll be adding more resources. If you have any that you want to share with me, please comment on this blog post, or email me directly.

Want to know how The A&P Student Library works? Check out this quick video:

After starting video, click the icon in the lower right corner of the frame to EXPAND.

[If you can't see the video player in your newsfeed then click this link http://screencast.com/t/BBDG3fxOX or go to The A&P Student blog to view the clip.]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New look for the newsletter!

News flash
Those of you who subscribe to The A&P Student email newsletter, you have already noticed the sleek new look of your newsletter.

For those of you who don't subscribe, why not?

The newsletter is a FREE weekly summary of the latest blog entries from The A&PStudent blog. It's an easy and convenient way to keep up with what's going on in your favorite forum for study tips related to the easy, efficient learning of human anatomy and physiology.

To subscribe, use the form here:

Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

If you want to preview the new look of newsletter, click this link: The A&P Student Preview

The new look sports a new banner similar to that seen in the blog site.

It also features summarized blog entries so that you can quickly scan through the entries to see what's there at a glance. That way, you don't have scroll through (sometimes) long articles just to see what the main stories are for the week. And there's no worry of clogging up your mailbox with huge files.

In the weeks ahead look for expanded content in the blog and newsletter, too!

[Some forms and other features may not appear in the feed or newsletter form of this article. Go to The A&P Professor blog to see these features.]

Introducing terminology in A&P

Here's an introduction to learning the new terminology of your A&P course.

As I've mentioned several times before, learning terminology is an important first step in understanding the essential concepts of A&P.

This is the first of several videos that I'll be sharing with you to help you understand the terminology of A&P. This introductory piece explains the basic principle of word parts and how they are combined to produce a term.

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Student blog to access the video viewer. ]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What to do on Spring Break!

Most of you do not need any advice on what to do to fill your time during spring break.

But for folks in A&P courses, spring break could be a vital time that affects your overall success. That's something that should not be taken lightly.

Here are some things to think about:
  • You do need time to rest up a bit from your hectic semester, right? Right! You'll come back to school refreshed and ready for more if you take some some time during your break to relax. Take time for yourself as well as for friends and family who are now wondering what planet you've gone to since you started taking that darn A&P course.

  • You'll come back relaxed if you take some time to catch up with studying goals and assignments. If you've let things pile up, your break is a good time to get those stressful items off your plate so you can "start fresh" upon your return. (But don't use up all your time catching up . . . you should still relax a little, eh?)

  • Reassess how your study plan in working for you. Try to be realistic about which things you're doing that seem to be working to help you understand what you need to understand in the course . . . and realistic about which things have turned out to be a waste of time. Need help finding good study tips? More things to try? Advice on reducing study time by increasing efficiency? Try my Study Tips & Tools section of the Lion Den.

  • Do NOT use this time to get help from your professor. Hey, we need a break, too! OK, if your professor invited you to ask for help, then go ahead. If your college library or learning center is open during spring break, this might be a good time to visit without the usual flurry of activity.
You may be immersed in a big adventure in some exotic locale and are reading this after your return. Great! Hopefully, you'll be reinvigorated and ready to pick up where you left off.

For those that go out adventuring . . . or have some other interesting Spring Break experience . . . share it here by using the "Comment" link at the end of this article.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Finding others for study groups

One of the best ways to succeed in learning A&P is by participating in a study group.

Study after study shows that if you study with others, you increase the efficiency of learning . . . that means that you learn more in less time!

There are a variety of ways to connect with others in your course to get a group together for studying . . . such as getting lab partners to study with you, approaching people in your lecture course, finding folks in your college study center or library, rounding up folks in your dorm or neighborhood.

But there are many other ways that you may not have thought about. These are especially useful for those who are at a distance from their school, who have a heavy extracurricular schedule (family, work, etc.), or who are simply a bit shy.

One method you may not have thought of is finding folks through "virtual networking" techniques.

You might want to think about finding or forming a study group by posting a message to your course's course management system (CMS) . . . that is, through WebCT, Blackboard, ANGEL, Moodle, or whatever system your course uses. This can be done through posting on a discussion forum or emailing others in your course.

Your school may also have some sort of "online community" function at their website that would allow you to find others for one study session together . . . or to form a regular study group.

You can take that idea a bit farther and find or form a group on a social networking site such as Facebook, MySpace, NING, and so on.

Once you've identified some folks to join you in a study session, the next trick is to find a time when all of you can meet. Here are a few FREE online tools that can help do this easily and efficiently . . . and therefore painlessly!

Check out each one. It'll only take a few minutes . . . they're simple and straightforward. Then decide which one will work best for you.

Your teacher may also have additional ideas for how you can find some study partners.

The cost of A&P textbooks

In these hard economic times when so many are returning to school to retrain themselves for a new career, the cost of textbooks becomes especially important.

Did you know that there is a difference of $45 between the list prices of some A&P textbooks compared to others? For the same size, scope, and quality in the A&P coverage!

Most professors aren't even aware of these prices differences. You may want to ask your A&P professors whether they look at the "bookstore prices" when they are considering the adoption of textbooks for their A&P course.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Using the Clear View of the Human Body

If you are using any of my textbooks in your A&P course, you have probably already seen the nifty Clear View of the Human Body . . . a set of opaque and transparent overlays that allow you to peel away layers of the body in a sort of virtual dissection.

My tip for today is . . .

DO NOT FORGET that the CLEAR VIEW is there!

A lot of students look at it when they first get the book and are thumbing through the pages marveling at all the interesting artwork and photos (and trying to size up how interesting or difficult the course may be). But as they get involved in the learning process, many students forget that the Clear View is there . . . and miss out on using this valuable tool.

Why use the Clear View? It's a great way to develop your concept of the spatial relationships of the body . . . that is, how all the organs "fit together."

The typical anatomical illustration gives a rather flat view of body structures. The Clear View lets you peel away layer after layer, showing the anterior structures, then deeper structures, moving finally to the posterior structures. Then it reverses the direction, and takes you from posterior, to deep, to anterior! Because each layer is partly transparent and partly opaque (not transparent), you are able to see both organs on the layer you are looking at, and some of the organs in deeper layers.

The best way to use the Clear View is to play with it regularly. It's fun . . . go ahead and play! By doing so after or during your study of every chapter, you'll soon become very familiar with the 3-dimensional nature of the body.

Of course, dissecting fresh cadavers again and again throughout your studies would be a better way to achieve an understanding of how all the body parts fit together. But the Clear View isn't a bad alternative!

Check out this short (6-minute) movie clip showing the Clear View.

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Student blog to access the video viewer. ]

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reading the textbook

The key to reading an A&P textbook effectively is to use a reading strategy!

The Academic Skills Center at Dartmouth has a nice web page that summarizes some of the best strategies to make textbook reading less time-consuming and more effective:

What should strike you about the information there is that you must abandon what you think you already know about how to read a textbook! Reading a textbook is WAY different than how one reads a novel or magazine article. For example:
  • Once is not enough. You have to read the material several times, using different methods each time, to really "get" what you are reading.
  • You must have the courage to skip parts that don't apply to your goals
  • You can read faster, with better comprehension, by simply forcing yourself to read faster
  • You do not have to read every word
  • It really does matter where you do your reading
If you find that the assigned textbook for your 2-semester A&P course is too difficult to read, try this one that is specifically designed for reading efficiency:

. . . and encourage your instructor to consider efficiency of reading when selecting assigned textbooks and other readings in the future!

Stay tuned to this blog for more tips on how to get more out of reading your textbook with less effort.