Learning Technologies Newsletter


ISSUE 3 - August 2005 - by Phil Chambers

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Welcome to the August issue of the Learning Technologies Newsletter.

This month is a special issue on the subject of Memory to coincide with the World Memory Championships taking place in Oxford, England from 13th to 15th of this month. The 2005 Word Memory Championships will be one of the biggest and the most international ever. There are 45 confirmed entries from Austria, Australia, China, Germany, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Taiwan, UK and USA. Memorisation papers will be available in 7 languages. As well as the regular Quote of the Month and Mind Map Tip we offer an insight into how Memory Champions achieve their great feats.

Quote of the Month

What separates the average memory from
one capable of storing a telephone directory
can be summed up in three words:
desire and technique.

Dominic O'Brien
(8 Times World Memory Champion)

For many more quotes click here.
You can meet Dominic in person at the Festival of the Mind (see below).

Mind Mapping Tip of the Month

Make sure that you review your Mind Map 10 minutes after first creating it. Psychological research has shown that we forget 80% or the detail of anything we pay attention to (reading a book, watching a presentation, even creating a Mind Map) within 24 hours. So if you leave it a day before reviewing, you are having to re-learn most of the information and will struggle to re-create all the associations. By doing the first review while the memory is still fresh, you reinforce the mental connections and the memory takes longer to decay.

For another 100 tips on Mind Mapping see "101 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps" by Phil Chambers, available from our online shop, click here.

Inside the Mind of a Memory Champion

The World Memory Championships always sees amazing feats of memory, often with record breaking performances, for example in 2004 Andi Bell broke his own record by perfectly memorising the order of a shuffled deck of 52 playing cards in 32.9 seconds. This record has recently been broken in the German Open memory tournament by the Reigning World Champion, Ben Pridmore, with a time of 32.1 seconds. With the continued improvements in this event we eagerly anticipate that the 30 second barrier will be broken. This is the mental equivalent to Roger Bannister's 4 minute mile, coincidentally also set in Oxford, on May 6th 1954.

So how do these mental athletes achieve such incredible feats? They are not born with superior memory or have abnormal brains. They just use relatively simple techniques and train long and hard as any successful physical athlete would. All the techniques are based on the principle of substituting something that is hard to remember, like a pack or cards or a very long number with something that is easier like and object or a person. Competitors then use their imagination to create a mental image of the object in a bizarre, often surreal, situation that becomes very memorable.

Because numbers are abstract concepts they are very hard to remember. We need to symbolise them with objects that have solidity and can be imagined as pictures. To do this we use a code called the Major System that first converts the numbers into letters as follows:

0 - z / s / soft c

1 - d / t / th

2 - n

3 - m

4 - r

5 -l

6 - soft g / sh / soft ch / j

7 - k / hard c / hard g / hard ch

8 - f / v

9 - b / p

We then make the letters into words by adding vowels. This is a phonetic system in which the sound of the letters are important rather than the spelling of the words. For a more detailed explanation with animation and audio click here.

For training in the system take a look http://memory.uva.nl/memimprovement/eng/phon_peg.htm

In reality the top memorisers actually employ 'data compression' techniques to reduce the number of images that they need to string together. Dominic O'Brien uses person - action to code 4 digits. Andi Bell takes this a stage further and creates 3 groups of 2 digits each, that he forms into a person, an action and an object. Ben Pridmore varies the system to give vowel sounds a meaning and hence code more than two digits per word.

The same technique for numbers applies to playing cards and Binary Digits (where the numbers are converted to decimal - base 10 - memorised and then converted back to binary in the recall phase)

The next step after coding the information into images is to use a pegging system to keep them in sequence. We will explain this in the next issue of the Newsletter in September together with the full results and stories from the World Memory Championships.

If you can't wait until September, why not come along and watch the action, meet the competitors and listen to presentations by mental development experts at the concurrent 'Festival of the Mind' (see below). Full details at www.buzan.org/festivalofthemind and www.worldmemorychampionships.com

To find out more about the Major System see 'A Mind To Do Business' by Phil Chambers & Elaine Colliar: Chapter 4 including a practical application to learning telephone numbers, 'The Student Survival Guide' also by Phil Chambers & Elaine Colliar: Chapter 5 and 'Use Your Memory' by Tony Buzan: Chapter 12 that extends the system to 1000.









or click here to buy online.

Click here to download the Festival Schedule (Acrobat Reader required)

That's all for this month. Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions. (Contact Details Here.) I look forward to hearing from you.

Phil Chambers