Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 22 - April 2007 - by Phil Chambers

TIME TO READ: 4.5 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1,042. To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us.

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Welcome to the April 2007 issue of the Learning Technologies Newsletter, Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

This month, as well as our regular quote of the month we have a special audio interview on Mind Mapping tips and, following on from last month's article on exam taking tips, we focus in more detail on revision techniques.

April's Quote of the Month

"I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma."

Eartha Kitt (1927 - )

For many more quotes click here.

Mind Mapping Tip of the Month

This month I have a number of tips on Mind Mapping recorded for a recent podcast inteview with Dan Keldsen of Biz Tech Talk. Click here to listen.

For more tips on Mind Mapping see "101 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps" available from our online shop, click here.

Top Techniques for Revision

Studying for professional exams need not be time consuming, stressful, hard work. By applying some techniques based on psychology and what we know about how the brain works, you can make the learning process much easier, even enjoyable! In this article I'll give a brief introduction to some of the techniques and how they can help you.

The most useful technique for studying that I know of is Mind Mapping. It allows you to take notes from a lecture or textbook in a succinct, graphical format. You can capture the essence with relatively few key words and images without diluting the meaning. An entire lecture of chapter of a book can be represented on a single page. This simplification makes it easier to memorise information. The other good thing about Mind Maps is that as they have an innate structure using branching and connecting, so it's easy to put new learning into context.

However, even using Mind Maps, you can still find yourself forgetting important details. This is where review comes in. Most students appreciate the importance of review but do it in a haphazard way based on little more than trial and error. A little knowledge of psychology helps make the process much more efficient. Research on forgetting initially conducted by Herman Ebbinghaus and since built upon by other studies give us two main conclusions.

Firstly you tend to remember best form the beginning and end of a learning session but less form the middle. So to make best use of your time you need to take regular breaks. Little and often is much better than marathon studying sessions. Try to work for no more than about 45 minutes at a sing stretch, Even if you still feel fresh make a point of taking a short break.   

The second useful result is that your memory decays very rapidly after a learning session. On average, people forget 80% of the detail within 24 hours. It is important to reinforce the memory before it has declined too much. Just like a circus plate spinner you have to give a little jog to stop fragile new memories smashing to smithereens. The key review points are 10 minutes after learning (ie when you come back form your short break), then after 24 hours, one week, one month and three months. Just five correctly spaced reviews is enough to transfer learning into long term memory. The simplicity of a Mind Map means that you can review an hour's lecture in 90 seconds.

Another really useful memory technique is the 'route'. We naturally remember places that we have visited. Even if you have a poor sense of direction you can always find your way home from work without evening thinking about it. The route technique takes advantage of this fact by attaching new information to your exiting 'geographical' knowledge. For example, say you had to remember a list of 10 key points. Think about your journey to the local shops. You will pass a number of objects along the way. As you come out of your front door, perhaps you have a path with a gate at the end. As you walk along your street you pass a pillar-box, a peculiar shaped tree, a zebra crossing, whatever. You should find it easy to think of 10 familiar objects along the way. To remember your 10 important points for the exam, simply imagine something that represents the first point and mentally place it in the first place (your path). Something representing the second point is placed in the next location (by your gate) and so on. To recall the 10 points, recreate the journey in your memory noting that objects that you placed in each location. There are a number of additional principles that you need to apply to make the items stand out. However, with practise it becomes easy to rapidly remember almost anything.   

One of the biggest challenges with studying a complex subject is seeing the wood for the trees. How does it all fit together into a coherent whole? You can solve this by creating a 'Mega Mind Map'. On a single large sheet of paper (like a page from a flip chart), create a Mind Map that encompasses the main points on each of your smaller detailed Mind Maps from lecture notes and books. Don't go into too much detail. The aim is simply to give an overview of the subject and see connections that you may have otherwise have missed. These links and insights can make all the difference in your studies.

Remember to keep reviewing and allow yourself time to do the things you enjoy. Keep physically fit an healthy as well as mentally. If you follow these principles you will be properly prepared for your exams and can confidently sail though them!

That's all for this month. If you have any comments, suggestions or would like more information about our courses please feel free to contact me.