Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 131 - August 2016
- by Phil Chambers

Mind Map Day

TIME TO READ: 3.5 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 805 To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us or read my book ‘Brilliant Speed Reading’.

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In this issue: A report on technology and its effect on human memory plus the 'Quote of the Month' and 'What I’m Up To'.


August’s Quote of the Month

“Like our physical bodies, our memory becomes out of shape.
As children, we are constantly learning new experiences,
but by the time we reach our 20s, we start to lead
a more sedentary life both mentally and physically.
Our lives become routine, and we stop challenging our brains,
and our memory starts to suffer.”

~ Tony Buzan

More quotes here


What's Phil Up To?

Phil Chambers

I have been really busy recently.

I am working with my editor to put the finishing touches to my new book, “How to Train Your Memory” which is use out in the Autumn. Also on the publishing side, I am starting to convert two of my physical books into ebooks. This gives me the opportunity to do some updating too. I would love to involve my newsletter readers in the process with your comments and suggestions. Much more on this next month.

I have been preparing papers for the UK Open Memory Championships taking place in London next week – after which I will be off to Algeria to oversee the 5th Arabian International Memory Championships.


Is Technology Destroying Our Minds?

The Spectator Magazine cover story for August 13th by Lara Prendergast discusses the effect that technology has on our memories. Prendergast states that, at 26, her own memory is failing and goes on to say, “Many young people feel our memories have been shot to pieces. It’s the embarrassing secret of my generation”.

The assertion is that with Smartphones being so ubiquitous, tech savvy ‘twenty-somethings’ are increasingly outsourcing memory to web searches. The article states, “We know that when we reach to remember any detail — a route, a phrase, a historical fact — our minds do not perform at the critical moment. So we reach instead for our phones, which are much more trustworthy.”

The internet holds virtually all human knowledge so surely it make perfect sense to tap into that resource to find a definitive answer to any question. It must be more accurate than any one person’s knowledge. This is a very convincing and seductive argument with three massively damaging consequences.

Firstly, as identified by Prendergast, “The answer is that the brain requires exercise, and we allow it to atrophy at our peril. While we get better at juggling ideas, our memories are taking a battering.”

Secondly, also in the article, “It may well be that memory is more spiritual than we like to admit. By using our minds, we nourish a part of us that goes beyond the physical. Equally, by storing memory outside of ourselves on a piece of technology, we lose something fundamental.”

Thirdly, and I believe even more vital, is the interconnectedness of knowledge. The brain needs connections and associations to function. Creativity and innovation are vital to keep up with the pace of the modern world. If you access facts online and don’t take the time to memorise any of them they are discrete, disconnected and lacking context.

The synergistic nature of the brain means that it can take a collection of elements, synthesise and connect them to come up with new ideas. The whole is greater then the sum of the parts. If you only ever have one part at a time you cannot synergise. It is any wonder that your brain feels like it is malnourished?

The solution is to take some time to rediscover the art of memory. Learn mnemonic techniques. Instead of a knee jerk response to Google something immediately, try to think about the question and see if you can deduce or recall the answer. If you draw a blank, only then search the internet. Take a note (or better still a Mind Map) of the answer plus any relevant related information and commit it to memory. As time progresses you will be less and less reliant on technology. You will be more confident in your own mental abilities and as you’re exercising your brain it will regain its strength. The article cites poet Ted Hughes’ advice to learn poetry as mental exercise. I totally agree that this is very worthwhile. Thinking about the metaphors and meaning in a poem is a stimulating mental workout.

Google is your friend but it is can also be a sly enemy.

That’s it for this month. Look out for the next newsletter in September.

Best Wishes