Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 116 - April 2015 - by Phil Chambers

TIME TO READ: 5 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1,125 To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us or read my book ‘Brilliant Speed Reading’.

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Happy Easter and welcome to the April issue of The Learning Technologies Newsletter. Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

This month we have some tips on Speed Reading with an Easter theme and, as always, our regular features of Quote of the month, Mind Map Tip and What I’m up to.


April's Quote of the Month

"The things I want to know are in books;
my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read."

~ Abraham Lincoln

More quotes here


Mind Map Top Tip of the Month

You can use iMindMap Ultimate to create animated presentation Mind Maps. For extended training courses create short presentations in Apple Keynote or Microsoft Powerpoint. These can be linked to a branch and launched from within iMindMap. Avoid falling into the trap of producing a lot of bullet points that you just read off the screen. Remember the purpose is to illustrate your presentation and help convey particular points. Include pictures, diagrams, videos and animation.

101 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps

What's Phil Up To?

Italy 2015 German Team

From left: Boris Konrad, Matteo Salvo, Phil Chambers, Simon Reinhard. Front: Johannes Mallow.

I had a great time in Rome at the Italian Open Memory Championships. Well done to Matteo Slavo for hosting a great event.

Congratulations to Mara Brescianini for retaining her title or Italian Champion and to the German team for dominating the Open competition: Johannes Mallow (1st), Simon Reinhard (2nd) and Boris Konrad (3rd). Full results here.

Italy 2015 competitors


How Can An Easter Egg Help You To Read Faster?

Easter Egg

Spring is in the air, the lambs are bleating in the fields and even the sun’s shining in between rain showers. If you spend some of the Easter break reading as you eat your chocolate eggs, think about the following tips to help you read faster.

Eradicate back-skipping

Going back are re-reading part of a sentence, because you think you missed something, dramatically slows you down and is counter productive. If you continue forwards you will gain more context. This will allow you to comprehend better and fill in anything that you thought you missed.

Attitude – positive and attentive

Always approach reading with a positive attitude. You may not be reading technical material for pleasure but speed reading allows you to breeze through lengthy articles, journals, manuals or books. If you start with a negative attitude, seeing reading as drudgery, you will read slower, comprehend less and find the material excruciatingly boring. It will be like wading through treacle.

Stay on the page

It is all too easy to get distracted, especially when reading slowly. You brain craves information and if your eyes are not feeding it enough it will wonder off in search or something more interesting. Have you even got to the bottom of a page and had no idea of what you read? Your eyes followed the text but your mind was elsewhere. Give yourself a manageable goal that you can stick to. Say, you’ll read for 30 minutes and aim to cover one chapter of your book. Then you can have a well-earned break. Short active sessions are better then extended reading marathons that are unfocussed. Keep you eyes on the page and your brain engaged.

Time taken for each fixation – reduce

The eye has to be still to take in a snapshot. Just like a camera, if you move it whilst taking a picture you get a blurred image. These pauses are called fixations. We constantly make fixations without being conscious of this. When reading fixations can last between 0.25 and 1.5 seconds. If you halve the duration of your fixations you double your speed! (see Guiding below to see how to do this)

Expand field of vision

About 80 percent of the light sensitive cells on your eyes’ retinas are devoted to peripheral vision. It makes sense to use them. You can’t see fine detail in your peripheral vision but you nevertheless get information on structure and layout. Think of your peripheral vision as a scout giving you a preview of what you are about to read and a review of what you’ve just read. Simply holding your book further away (at nearly arms length or 50cm from the eyes) gives your peripheral vision a chance to survey a whole double page spread. There is an added bonus for your focused field of vision too. As things get further away they appear smaller so the amount of the page reaching your central focus increases as you hold up your book at a slightly greater distance. If you arm gets tired get a book stand.

Reason for reading - questions

Think why are you reading? What do you need to get out of the text? What questions do you need answering? By stating with questions in mind you are hunting with better direction. Laurence J. Peter (originator of the Peter Principle) said, “If you don't know where you're going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” Once primed, a circuit in the brain called the ‘reticular activating system’ directs your attention to important information. What you need appears to leap out at you. As soon as you’ve answered your questions you can stop, so a quick skim could be enough for some sources. Other times you may need to read in detail but remember your don’t always need 100% comprehension.


Enjoy reading and ravenously consume books! All knowledge is worthwhile.


Use of a guide is probably the most import reading principle. As children we pointed to words as we read them until one day the teacher probably told you to take your finger off the page as it slowed you down. You had naturally developed a strategy to help you read. The teacher should have said, “move your finger faster”. The eyes naturally work better when they have something to follow. Use of a pointing device, be that a finger, a chopstick or a pencil improves eye tracking, keeps you focus on the page and continually moving forwards. Gliding the guide in fast flowing motion across the page helps you to reduce fixation times. If you point with your finger, your hand tends to cover up some of the page hindering peripheral vision so a long slender pointer is preferable.

Groups of words

You can take in more than one word per fixation. If you take in meaningful chunks of 3-6 words at a time you dramatically improve your speed. A really important side benefit, is that these chucks are units of information that link together more easily than single words, thus improving comprehension. You can facilitate taking in groups of words by starting you guide a few words in from the left of the page and stopping a few words from the right. With practise you can end up just moving the guide down the middle of the page with only sight lateral motion.

Enjoy your Easter eggs and your reading. That’s all for this month. Watch out for the next issue dropping into your inbox in May.

Best Wishes