Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 82 - April 2012 - by Phil Chambers


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Welcome to the April 2012 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, Mind Mapping tip and what I have been up to lately, we have news of the Welsh Open Memory Championships and an article on simple ways to boost your everyday memory.


Mind Map Tip of the Month

Make your central image as attractive as possible. Include colour, shading and perspective to make it look 3D. This will attract your attention and make sure that you focus on the main aim of your Mind Map. It will also promote creativity and memory as you develop the branches leading off it.


April's Quote of the Month


"Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with
the gift of your attention."

~ Jim Rohn, American author and motivational speaker
(September 17, 1930 - December 5, 2009)

More quotes here



What's Phil Up To?



At the end of March I did some individual memory coaching with a manager in a shipping firm, attended the Welsh Open Memory Championships (see report below) and enjoyed a great evening at the Brain of the Year awards dinner.


The Welsh Memory Championships Report and Results

On the morning of 31st March, a small team of arbiters and five memory athletes from England, Wales, Denmark and Sweden converged on a village hall in the idyllic Welsh countryside. Although on a relatively small scale, the day’s competition was one of the closest fought and eventful championships of recent years.

Ben Pridmore, former World Champion was expected to cruise to victory with James Paterson and John Burrows battling for second place overall and the Welsh title.

However, the competition saw Ben losing concentration in what you would expect to be his best events. James Paterson was ahead of Ben for much of the competition despite a disaster in the 10 minute cards where he messed up two decks and ended up scoring just 4 cards.

Going into the final round only 10 points separated James in first place and Ben in second with John Burrows within striking distance only 188 points behind James.

In the first trial of Speed Cards only James Paterson and Joachim Andersson got full decks but both over 2 minutes. Everything hinged on the second trail. Ben got a full deck in 56.34 seconds - just enough to secure victory. James became top placed Welshman with John in 3rd place overall.

Special mention must be made of Alexander Molinaro a young kid from Denmark, representing England. Although he did not make any large scores, he was impeccably behaved and did achieve some personal bests. He hopes to compete in the Schools Memory Championships when his family moves to England soon.

Full results here.


AIM to improve your memory

I could write at great length about memory principles, techniques and systems but this month, I thought I’d just give you three valuable tips that can combat the everyday failings of memory that convince many of us that we must be going prematurely senile.

So you don’t forget them they spell out the simple acronym AIM!

How often are you fully in the moment giving your full attention to your surroundings?

With our every busier lives we have more and more demands on our time and our attention. Inevitably we disregard and filter what is deemed unimportant at that moment.

For example, on the way to an important meeting, where you parked your car is not going to be at the forefront of your mind so is not paid attention to. When you come in from work, you put your keys down and focus on your kids, spouse, whoever is more important to you. Hours later your have to waste time looking for your keys because you paid no attention to where you left them.

Similarly, imagine you’re a meeting some for the first time. You want to make a good impression so are thinking about what you are going to say to them while they are telling you their name. You are not paying full attention. It is little wonder then that you instantly forget it.

The insidious thing about inattention is you don’t notice it happening. The consequence of not being able to recall whatever, happens hours or sometimes days later so is you don’t make the connection to the cause. As a result you make the incorrect assumption that the there is a defect in your brain, that you have a bad memory. This false belief starts to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you accept forgetting as inevitable you don’t even try to memorize things. You end up writing everything down and either get swamped in notes so you can’t find the information you need quickly or worse, you forget where you put the note. Rather than relying on note making or trying to ‘fix’ the problem with your brain by buying brain training software. Just invest a bit of attention and stop forgetfulness before it occurs.

As you walk away from you car, look back for a second and deliberately observe the landmarks that identify where you left it. Is it near a distinctive tree, a lamppost or a particular building? This will be enough to lock the information into your memory.

When you meet people, focus on them. Listen each person’s name. Repeat it in your head or back to them out loud. If it is an unusual name, check that you heard it correctly. Ask them what it means.

The simple act of paying attention will make a massive difference.

Are you interested in a particular sport or have a hobby that you are passionate about? Isn’t it easy to learn facts about it?

Ask a young football fan about their team. They can name all the players, all the scores of the matches that season and for years gone by, who scored the goals and when. This is a huge amount of data that they can recall effortlessly. Ask the same person about what they learned in their physics lesson and they are stumped.

Interest plays a massive role in memory. The brain is terrific at discarding unimportant data. If you’re not engaged and interested in something then you don’t assign it significance. The brain assumes that the information is unimportant so doesn’t store it.

We all sometimes have to learn stuff that we find tedious and dull. How can you make it more fun? Can you make it relevant to your life?

Say, you have to learn Newton’s laws of motion. If you’re not a physics geek like me then I guess this probably doesn’t strike you as fun. If, on the other hand, you are taught how Ronnie O’Sullivan can make a 147 break in snooker or how a rocket gets to the moon then that is interesting. Basically, this involved the same physics.

If something is meaningless it is hard to remember.

In the World Memory Championships competitors remember hundreds of binary digits. What could be more meaningless than endless stings of ones and zeros? They are able to memorize them because they give them meaning. Each group of digits are converted into a character or an action. Buy using placing these in familiar locations they take on meaning. For example, if Albert Einstein was firing a gun at Marylyn Munroe in you’re your living room, I think you might remember that!

The more unusual you make a mental picture the more memorable it becomes. So even though you will never actually see Albert Einstein fire a gun at Marylyn Munroe in your living room (mainly because they are both dead) – your imagination can make it seem real.

In everyday life, the same rules apply. If you’ve left you mobile phone at home and you don’t have a pen and paper to hand but a gorgeous girl (or hunky guy depending on your proclivity) gives you his/her number, you need to remember it.

If numbers are important to you then you can learn a complex system to make them stick in your memory. If you don’t feel like the work required to do this, you can give them meaning in another way.

Say the number 0207 9921101

Break it down:

0207 99 21 101

Your bedside clock reads seven minutes past two in the morning, you are awoken by someone playing Nena’s Eurovision hit ‘99 Red Balloons’.

It’s you neighbour’s 21st birthday party

As you look out of the window to complain you see 101 Dalmatians bounding down the road.

Doesn’t the story mean more than the number?

With these three simple techniques and no complicated mnemonics you can make your memory work better. If you want to make it super-human then you do need to learn some more sophisticated techniques. For most people though, knowing where you left the car keys, remembering the names of people you meet and the phone number of a hot date would be a pretty good start.

If you do want to train your memory, remember Memory Ladder is the only memory training app endorsed by the World Memory Sports Council which replicates all 10 disciplines of the World Memory Championships. It is currently available for Android devices but we do have plans for an iphone version.

That’s it for this month. I’ll be back in touch with the next newsletter in May.

Best Wishes