Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 107 - June 2014 - by Phil Chambers

TIME TO READ: 4 minutes (average reader) - less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 966 To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us or read my book Brilliant Speed Reading.

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

In this edition of the newsletter we have an article on the difference between understanding and memory, plus our regular features of Quote of the month, Mind Map Tip and What I’m up to.


June's Quote of the Month

"You could give Aristotle a tutorial.
And you could thrill him to the core of his being.
Aristotle was an encyclopaedic polymath,
an all time intellect.

Yet not only can you know more than him about the world.
You also can have a deeper understanding
of how everything works. Such is the privilege of living after
Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Planck, Watson, Crick and their colleagues.

I'm not saying you're more intelligent than Aristotle,
or wiser. For all I know, Aristotle's the cleverest person
who ever lived. That's not the point.
The point is only that science is cumulative, and we live later."

~ Richard Dawkins

[Without memory and the ability to pass on knowledge we would never progress and science would not exist.]

More quotes here


Mind Map Top Tip of the Month

Mix convex and concave curves. If all your lines curve the same way (for example if they are all ‘u’ shaped) then they will tend to spiral into the centre of the Mind Map. Use ‘u’ and ‘n’ shaped curves in pairs to ensure that you are always radiating outwards and making the best use of space.

sketch of a Mind Map Branch

101 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps


What's Phil Up To?

Phil Chambers and Loraiine Gill

Phil Chambers with Brain of the Year, Lorraine Gill.

I had the privilege and pleasure to attend the Brain of the Year awards lunch and Tony Buzan’s 72nd birthday celebrations on 1st June. Congratulations to artist Lorraine Gill for being awarded Brain of the Year 2014 and Dr Manahel Thabet for winning the Avicenna Society Gold Medal.

I have been working in Frankfurt for the European Central Bank, teaching Speed Reading, recently. This was good fun with two delegates reaching speeds of over 1,300 words per minute (more than double their starting speed) after less than 4 hours training.


Understanding and Memory

WIt is important when studying to appreciate the distinction between understanding and memorising something. Of course, it is vital to understand the concepts related to the material that you’re studying. However, it is very dangerous to assume that just because you understand something you will be able to recall it in an exam. You will most likely ‘understand’ what the question is asking you, know that you know it, but unable to access enough relevant information to be able to give a full answer.

Memory is vital to studying and indeed life itself. Imagine that someone sucked out all your memories. What would be the consequences? You would not know anything about your life, who you were, where you were and would not even be able to feed yourself. You would be as helpless as a newborn baby. Memory and understanding go hand in hand, synergistically reinforcing each other.

In order to recall information you must memorise or encode it in such a way that it is accessible when needed. This requires giving structure to the information. There are many ways to do this. Two of the most effective are Mental Journeys (sometimes call the method of loci) and Mind Mapping. Both rely on association and interconnection. I will briefly explain:

Mental Journeys

You already have a good memory for your immediate surroundings. If you didn’t you would never find your way home when you left the house. This is natural and largely effortless. Mental journeys rely on associating what you need to memorise with your existing memories of your house, town, places you have visited or lived. You simply choose a journey (for example your route from home to the shops). You will pass a series of landmarks along the way (a tree, a postbox, etc). To remember any sequence you imagine an object or person that represents each data element and then locate at each stage of the journey. To recall the data just retrace your steps in your imagination noticing who or what is at each landmark.

Mind Mapping

Just as mental journeys are based in imagination and associations, so are Mind Maps. The difference is that Mind Maps are physical representations of your thoughts and memories so can be more easily shared with others. A Mind Map allows for more interconnections. Any item can be linked to any other via arrows or images. This infinite flexibility gives rise to a deeper level of understanding as well as strong memories. Mind Maps and mental journeys can be combined. You can memorise a data sequence (such as an equation) with a metal journey and then add an image that triggers the memory to a branch on a Mind Map. Alternatively, as each Mind Map has a unique central image these can be used on journeys to trigger the recall of an entire Mind Map of details.

With the right tools, memorisation can be easily and quickly taken care of leaving you free to pursue deeper understanding and more in-depth studies. The more you remember, the easier it is to learn new and related things. This increases enjoyment, reduces stress and make learning tremendous fun!


That's all for this month. Look out for the next edition in July.

Best Wishes