Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 47 - May 2009 - by Phil Chambers

 

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

This month’s newsletter features News from the Polish and Cambridge Memory Championships, plus the regular Mind Map tip, quote of the month and what I’m up to. The main article looks at viruses from a different perspective than the current media frenzy over Swine Flu.

 

What's Phil Up To?

Phil's Photo

I’m just back from the Cambridge Memory Championships, see report below.

I continue to be involved with the conducting of Schools Memory Championships competitions and will be running a public Open course in London on 16-17 May covering Mind Mapping, Memory, Speed Reading and Study Skills. Click HERE for details.

 

Mind Mapping Tip of the Month

Use a highlighter pen to indicate tasks that have been completed on a to-do Mind Map. As soon a something has been completed just go over the relevant branch with the highlighter. Alternatively, add a tick to a branch to identify completed tasks. This gives a very clear picture of progress and remaining work and is wonderfully motivating!

For more tips see '101 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps'.

 

May's Quote of the Month

"By all means let's be open-minded,
but not so open-minded that our brains drop out."

Richard Dawkins
(b. 1941) British Zoologist;
Charles Simonyi Professor for the
Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

More Quotes Here

 

News in Brief


CHEWING GUM BOOSTS PERFORMANCE!

Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Sunscreen Song’ (Witten by Chicago Tribune staff writer Mary Schmich) contains the words “Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.”

It would seem preposterous to think that chewing gum could help with maths. However, that is exactly what the results of a study conducted by Craig A. Johnston, Ph.D. at the Children's Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas indicate. Previous research had shown that chewing gum leads to a reduction in anxiety and improved alertness. The study compared the standardized maths test scores of teenagers who chewed gum with those who did not. According to Johnston those that chewed gum during class and homework over a 14 week period showed a statistically significant 3% increase in scores. Read the full story HERE.

THE POLISH MEMORY CHAMPIONSHIPS

The second Polish National Memory Championships took place in Bydgoszcz on 25th April. It was very efficiently organized by ‘The Windmill Foundation’ and overseen by Phil Chambers on behalf of the World Memory Sports Council. Special congratulations go to the Arbiters’ Team, now in their third year of running memory competitions, so very competent and to Agnieszka Ignatowska for masterminding the overall running of the event.

There were a total of 22 competitors, mostly newcomers to memory competition. It is very encouraging to see the sport consistently growing in Poland.

The defending Champion Tomasz Krasinski narrowly retained his title, only 143 points clear of his nearest rival Jan Piwonski. His score of 2407 puts him just outside the top 100 in the World rankings. Hopefully Tomasz will once again come to the UK Open in August to test himself in a wider arena.

The final results were as follows:

 

 

Position

Name

Overall Points

1

Tomasz Krasiński

2407

2

Jan Piwoński

2264

3

Bartłomiej Boral

1888

4

Filip Dąbrowski

1755

5

Tobiasz Boral

1603

6

Roksana Handke

1554

7

Monika Pierzchlewicz

1390

8

Katarzyna Aleksander

1245

9

Magdalena Pierzchlewicz

1238

10

Martyna Soroka

1226

11

Weronika Piątek

1146

12

Jacek Liszewski

887

13

Mikołaj Piotrowski

826

14

Mateusz Rasmus

794

15

Dawid Skibiński

490

16

Patrycja Brzuchalska

485

17

Katarzyna Konczewska

354

18

Daniel Bojanowski

340

19

Damian Przybylski

299

20

Katarzyna Żurawska

291

21

Igor Piórkowski

179

22

Patryk Siuchniński

51

 

THE CAMBRIDGE MEMORY CHAMPIONSHIPS

Hot on the heels of Poland came the fourth Cambridge Open Memory Championships brilliantly organised by World Memory Champion, Ben Pridmore and once again overseen by Phil Chambers.

This year saw a very international flavour to the event with competitors from England, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Wales. In a tightly fought competition Dennis Müller eventually took the title. Dennis only narrowly beat fellow German, Dorothea Seitz who, despite leading for most of the competition, failed to score well in the Spoken Number event. John Burrows took the Bronze Medal position just beating Swedish Champion Idriz Zogaj into fourth place.

The final results were:

 

Position

Name

Overall Points

1

Dennis Müller

4780

2

Dorothea Seitz

4395

3

John Burrows

2856

4

Idriz Zogaj

2769

5

Christopher Beeg

2346

6

Mattias Ribbing

2218

7

Dave Billington

1867

8

Marco Lombardo

1393

9

Florian Dellé

1255

10

Bilal Arshad

828

 

Intrepid correspondent Florian Dellé reported on both the Cambridge and Polish Championships for his website. You can read more HERE.

 

Positive Pandemics!

Every newspaper, radio and TV news bulletin at the moment tells of more and more cases of the Swine Flu virus and the threat of a global pandemic capable of killing millions. Luckily, it appears that all cases outside Mexico have so far been relatively mild and have responded to drug treatment.

Viruses consist of tiny strands of DNA or RNA enclosed in protein coat. Unable to reproduce outside a cell, viruses infect the body in order to multiply. The sole purpose of a virus is to make copies of itself, which is accomplished by spreading from person to person (or other organism).

There are also ‘thought viruses’. These are not physical organisms but ideas and beliefs such as Religion. Described by Richard Dawkins (who supplies this month’s quote), these thought viruses called ‘memes’ are cultural ideas, symbols or practices that are transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.

These may have a positive or negative effect. If you are a fan of the cult nineteen eighties and nineties British TV sitcom Red Dwarf, you may be familiar with the episode ‘Quarantine’. In this episode the crew discover that luck is a virus that can be isolated and injected.

Whist this is just a whimsical idea created as plot device for comic effect, attitudes spread by memes can influence perception of many things including luck. If you believe that you are lucky then the events that you experience will be selectively remembered and interpreted to support that assumption. For example, being struck by lighting my be seen as highly unlucky but surviving it is lucky. A positive outlook on life can have a physical effect. As Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can or think you cannot you are right”. This can be explained as follows:

The reticular activating system in the brain that directs our attention is influenced by our outlook. For example, my Dad wants to buy a new Mini car. Ever since he decided this, he has seen them everywhere! It is not the case that everyone has suddenly gone out and bought one. It is just the fact that it has taken on a greater significance to him and thus is noticed. If you believe you have a bad memory you will notice all the times that you forget and ignore all the times you remember perfectly. Not only does that reinforce the belief but actually leads your memory to physically degenerate. You don’t try so hard to remember things as you believe it to be futile and as the less you use your memory, like a muscle, the worse it gets.

False beliefs can be very damaging but once they have been thrown off the effect is amazing. Before Roger Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes, it was widely believed that this was impossible. 46 days after Bannister’s achievement, the mile record was beaten John Landy from Australia. The current record is 3:43.13, by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, set in 1999.

So let’s make a conscious decision to have a positive attitude without barriers that others can imitate. The power of memes can help this to spread and we could have a positive pandemic on our hands!

That’s it for this month. Look out for the next newsletter at the beginning of June and feel free to be in touch in the meantime.

My contact details are here.

Best Wishes