Studying for My HAM Technician Class License

Getting out of my comfort zone. A reminder on what it feels like to learn.

Sometimes we plan on digging deep, other times it catches us by surprise. That was the case recently when I decided to get a HAM radio license. The entry level exam is the Technician Class License. I had an opportunity to attend a free training, but it was two all-day Saturday classes. I just couldn’t give up my Saturdays. I was told I would need to study at least 12 hours.

Ok, easy, and do I really need 12 hours of study? I didn’t keep track of all my study time, but all said and done, I estimate I devoted about 8-10 hours of study.

The first thing I did was check out the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual from the library. I thought I would just use that to study from.

The test covers the basic things you need to know as a licensed of Amateur Radio operator – FCC Rules; station license responsibilities; control operator duties; operating practices; radio and electronic fundamentals; station setup and operation; communications modes and methods; special operations; Emergency and Public Service Communications; radio waves, propagation and antennas; electrical and RF Safety.

What! I don’t know any of that stuff. After skimming through the chapters, I knew it would be in my best interest to purchase the book.

After getting the book, the first thing I did was schedule an exam in two weeks’ time. By setting a deadline that was not too far in the future, I was committed to learning the material. It gave me a target to strive for.

I did not set aside specific times for studying, I just knew that over the next two weeks, my free time would be devoted to studying. There were days I spent 2 hours studying, other days 20-40 minutes. I did have one day that I blocked off a 4-hour time period.

The idea is to spread the study out consistently over multiple days to increase memory retention.

The next thing I did was look at all the resources I had to study. There was the book, but also several sites offered online practice tests, flashcards and of course, YouTube.
I signed up for a site with online test prep and picked a YouTube video I thought would work for me.
The goal here was to use multiple modes of learning.

Engaging your mind in multiple ways helps solidify memory formation.

My official study started with just reading/skimming through the entire book. Then I attempted several of the test questions at the back of the book.
I watched an entire 45-minute YouTube video that basically just covered the questions and answers from the book. Then I moved to the online practice test.
What did I discover after a couple of study sessions? I knew nothing. None of the material could I even begin to associate with anything I already knew. It was completely new information to me.
This was going to be a little harder than I thought. I had a small panic feeling – “how will I do this in two weeks’ time?”

I was out of my comfort zone.

We are good at things inside of the comfort zone. Doing the things that we already do well makes us feel good, confident and competent. But there is no growth in the comfort zone! 

Learning happens once you step out of the comfort zone and into this place where you start to feel uncomfortable. A place where you are doing something different. This is the learning zone.

Alert: Learning doesn’t happen in the comfort zone and it should be difficult.
“desirable difficulty”

Understanding this can make the learning process easier to deal with.

I started again. I read a chapter, but not the entire chapter word for word. The way the book is set up, is that at the beginning of each section, there is a list of test questions. I read the test question, found the answer and highlighted it.

I did this for every chapter.

I did the online practice test over and over. In the beginning, I barely got any questions right.

I reviewed the test questions at the back of the book.

I watched the YouTube video while I was on my exercise bike.

I reviewed the sections I had highlighted in the book and then would try to put it in my own words.

I wrote out what I did not understand and put it in words that made sense to me.

I learned the math.

When doing math, if you’ll be using a calculator on test day, use the same one during your study sessions. Write out the formulas, and steps to achieve the solution.

I came up with little tricks to help me memorize.

For example:

T6A04 – What electrical component stores energy in an electric field?  Answer:  Capacitor

This was how I remembered – Hmm, you would wear a Cap(acitor) in a field.

Or

T5C02 – What is the basic unit of capacitance? Answer: Farad

Again, you might wear a cap in a field. Farad and field start with F.

See where I am going? A little word association. Whatever you can do to help you memorize.

I studied in multiple locations: the kitchen table, the home office, on the front porch, at the coffee shop, on the exercise bike. You multiply the number of perceptions connected to a memory by varying where you study.

Mixing up study locations can boost retention.

I finally started getting more questions right on the online practice tests. In the back of the book, I was getting right answers multiple times in a row.

I still did not feel 100% confident and more than once, I actually thought of postponing the test.

Here’s the thing though, it is a multiple-choice exam of 35 questions. You only have to get 26 questions right.

Yes, that means you can miss nine questions. That’s a lot. No one knows or cares how many you get right. You don’t need a perfect score.

Deep down, we want to learn, to grow, to improve. It’s not always easy. Immerse yourself in learning, have patience, and enjoy the process. Embrace the challenge, relish the difficult task and get out of your comfort zone. It might be difficult, but it will definitely be worth it!

Can’t wait to hear you out there – KE0ZXF

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

            -Arthur Ashe

What to do during self-quarantine?

During this time that it is advised you self-quarantine, what are you suppose to do with yourself?

You can search the internet and find many suggestions.

Here are a few that I like:

  • Learn something new (sign up for my free class – Excel Basics: Learn While Creating a Personal Budget)
    • Something new I just did – I got my HAM radio license. That required much studying for me. But it felt so good to stretch those mental muscles with completely new knowledge.
  • Complete a puzzle
  • Watch all the really long movies you’ve avoided until now.
  • Write actual letters to family and friends
  • Organize your Tupperware
  • Take time to reflect
  • Read an awesome book
  • Work – ugh

Hope to see you in class!

Be well and take care of one another.

Does Grammar Matter?

With an increase in growth of social media, there is an increased need for good writing skills. Blogs and other “media” require both useful content and good writing to attract and keep readers.

The fundamentals of good writing are simple: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. By mastering the rules and conventions, you will make your writing easier to understand and more enjoyable to your readers.

It doesn’t matter if your promoting your personal brand or your business brand — grammar, spelling and punctuation represents you in the world. It sends the reader a message about your knowledge and attention to detail. It’s a signal that says, I do good work. You are making the right choice in hiring me/buying from me/retaining my services.

On the flip-side, poor grammar makes you look careless. People are going to make judgments on your competence and intelligence based on your grammar, whether they realize it or not.

Back on 12/8/18, I posted a blog “Expect and Except the Challenge – No Excuses.”

A little over a year later, I realized that should have been “Accept” the challenge. I guess, luckily, no one reads my blog. I do hope that changes, so I better start paying attention to my own writing.

Fear of taking an online class

I have been teaching an online class for a couple of years now at a local community college. I have my students introduce themselves on our discussion board and I always have several students who are new to an online class. Of course, they express fears and concern.

There are usually a combination of fears: the class will be too difficult, you don’t believe you will be able to work independently because of limitations on time or poor time management skills, and it is very common to be concerned that online study will be an isolating experience and that you will have no one to turn to when you are having difficulties. There is a perception that online classes mean no teachers or instructors will be available to help when you need it the most.

While these are all valid concerns, there are a few things you can do to be successful. Over the past several semesters, I think it comes down to three key things: take responsibility, time management and communicate.

Responsibility

Online classes take a certain amount of responsibility. You need to make a schedule for yourself. Don’t think you can just do everything the day before it’s due, because it’s impossible. It’s a good idea to sit down and set aside certain times when you’ll do certain assignments.

Also take the responsibility to read what the instructor has posted. I often post hints to assignments, answers to commonly asked questions and other various announcements.

Time Management

The flexibility to create your own schedule is often one of the biggest appeals of taking online classes. But that freedom can also be detrimental if you do not have solid time management skills. It can be easy to let assignments slide and miss due dates because of the flexibility that come with online courses.

It’s important to stay organized and follow a schedule because it’s difficult to catch up once you fall behind.

Communicate

You are not on your own. Your instructor or teacher is there to help. But you have to communicate with that person. Whatever the method is for you to contact your instructor or teacher, use it! Never feel like you are being the needy student and you don’t want to bother the instructor. Every instructor wants you to succeed.

You can search online for how to be successful in an online class. All the information you will find is valid. However, from my experience, it really does come down to those three things.

Take that online class, you will succeed.

I have just posted my first class on Udemy and need your help!

I have just posted my first class on Udemy: Excel Basics: Learn While Creating a Personal Budget.

It is a course for those new to Excel beginners or those that want to fill in some gaps.

This is a project-based course that takes you through creating a personal yearly budget. It is a step-by-step process broken down into multiple videos.

Along the way, you learn:

  • Entering text and numbers
  • Formatting text and numbers
  • Aligning and indenting text
  • Borders
  • Column width
  • Row height
  • Fill color
  • Copy and paste
  • Wrap text
  • AutoSum
  • Sum function
  • Simple formulas
  • Printing features

I am looking for feedback and reviews on the course. My students options matter and help me improve the course material and overall learning experience for future students.

If you are interested in checking out the course and giving feedback/reviews, I have a coupon code for free access.

Click on the link below to go directly to my Udemy course and sign-up for free:

https://www.udemy.com/excelbasics-personalbudgetproject/?couponCode=FOREVERMORE1ST

Expect and Accept the Challenge – No Excuses

Word excuses coming out of computer screen

“You don’t understand, I haven’t used a computer before.”

“I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years.”

“My job didn’t require the use of a computer.”

“I didn’t grow up around computers.”

I teach a class, Intro to PC Applications, at a local community college. This class covers the Microsoft applications – Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint – applications that are in great demand in today’s workforce. This is a required class for several of the degree paths and many of the certificates. There are no prerequisites for this course, so I get some incredibly full classes. My students ages range from 16 – 65+, I have high school students to adults in career transitions.

Every semester, I get at least a couple students who are brand new to using a computer. Some can barely use a mouse, others have only used a computer for email or just web browsing. Maybe they have used MS Word at its most basic level.

We start the semester learning MS Word. But not only are the students learning Word, but they must also learn to navigate the Learning Management System (LMS) and the separate online platform for many of their assignments. Additionally, they need to have some basic navigation skills on the computer.

The students new to computers? They struggle.

These students have to put forth a little more time and effort. I do my best to provide additional instruction before, after and during class. I provide video instructions and website resources. But being a part-time instructor, my time is limited.

It’s not long before I start hearing the excuses. I hear so many variations.

“This class is hard.”

“I don’t have time for the extra stuff.”

I get it. For most of these students with little or no past computer experience, this is also their first college course, or one of the first. There are a lot of new things going on at once. And in 15 weeks, for a total of 3 hours a week (class time), they are going at an unfamiliar pace.

I struggle with how to best meet the needs of these few students, when I have 20 others in the same class. The school does provide free tutoring and I encourage them to take advantage of the service.

I’m writing this post to let those students know that, while it can be a great struggle, there is hope.

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