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  • Student Blogger: Tech-ify your College Experience

    By Bentic Sebastian

    I have benefited greatly from using technology as a student. Technology is essential for success in college. But I only learnt how to use technology effectively by trial and error, and I could not find help from anywhere. I hope that after reading this post, you will learn how to use the powers of technology to your advantage at college!

    Problem: In my first semester, I was really excited about my schedule which I chose completely on my own! In order to find my classes, I used the paper map we were provided during Welcome Week. Regardless of how well made the map was, it still took me time to locate the building I wanted to get to, and find out how to get there. Since it was just a single sheet of paper, I frequently lost my map when I really needed it. I tried to fold it up and keep it in my wallet, which I always carried with me. But the paper couldn’t handle the folding and unfolding(and the rain!) and ended up tearing!

    Solution: Google Maps and cumtd.com! I found out that every single building could be easily located in Google Maps, and I could save time searching through bus routes by using cumtd.com( the website of the university bus service).

    Problem:I had a real issue recording information about events and activities that I found out about through leaflets across the campus buildings. Usually I was in a hurry, and I rarely found time to sit down to write in a little diary, or type the venue date and time into a notepad file or an e-mail. As a result, I frequently missed many great events, like free concerts and fun social events. I also found it difficult to recollect my schedule quickly. My friends would sometimes ask me if I was free at a certain time, and at that point I trusted my unreliable memory, which led to false promises or lost opportunities. As I progressed in my degree, I found that I had more deadlines, more responsibilities, and more parties to remember! It was getting more frustrating to keep track of all these things. I needed help!

    Solution: Google Calendar! It took me about two hours to add the venues, dates, and times of my classes, and set them to repeat every week. But after that, it was pure magic! I didn’t have to forget office hours again! I could add interesting events to my calendar, and I could simultaneously check if I had any time conflicts! This digital calendar was different from the paper schedule I pasted on my wall above my bed, because I could constantly update and edit my events.When I checked my calendar, I could see my activities for the day, and plan accordingly. Now I did not have to remember my schedule at all! If I temporarily forgot any events, I could easily check if I was going to miss anything important too!

    Problem: I had a difficult time jotting down and keeping tracks of tasks that I needed to get completed. Although I could see my schedule using Google Calendar, I couldn’t see what I planned to do for the day easily. Most of these tasks did not have a time frame, but many of them had to get done. I tried sticking yellow Post-it notes onto my personal desk, but I could not refer to them when I left my dorm! I then tried a digital program on my laptop, but I could not access them if my laptop ran out of charge! I needed help!

    Solution: Google tasks! I found this neat little feature recently. On the left hand-side of my Gmail account, there was a button which allowed me to add tasks that I needed to get done in a separate window. I could add tasks, and I could easily access it once I logged onto Gmail.Once I completed the task, I could clear the task easily to make way for future tasks!

    Problem: I found that I frequently needed to print documents and essays in college. But the process of creating a new word document, saving the file , and copying it onto the flash drive took me a lot of time. I had to find my flash drive, plug it into the computer, clear up some space if necessary, transfer the files I needed, remember to take the flash drive with me, and repeat the whole cycle at the computer lab. I also ran out of space on my laptop, and that made it difficult to save files on it.

    Solution: Google Drive and Box(uofi.box.com)! Google Drive is great on so many levels! I could create a document, a spreadsheet, or a powerpoint presentation directly in my Google account! My document would automatically be saved onto a cloud server, which meant I didn’t have to waste time saving and transferring my files onto a flash drive! I could upload files into Google Drive, and access them from any computer with internet! Box is a virtual cloud storage service, similiar to DropBox, which I use as an extra “hard disk”. I can use Box to save my files, and avoid filling my computer’s memory space! Every UIUC student gets 50GB of free memory space using Box, and it is worth giving it a try!

    You might have noticed a pattern in the solutions that I found. Or you may think that there are many other solutions, and there are many other websites and softwares that can solve these problems. These are my favorite solutions for two reasons. All the solutions are completely free,and everything I needed was accessible from my Gmail account on any computer! So all I needed to remember was my password!

    Added bonus solution: I finally bought a tablet last year! I personally feel that the tablet has improved my personal efficiency even more by allowing me to view, edit, and remember all my information from Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Drive, and Google Tasks any time I needed! It has really helped me to manage myself, and keep my focus on having the best college experience!