Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 59 - May 2010 - by Phil Chambers


TIME TO READ: 5 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1,063. To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us.

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Welcome to the May 2010 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 an article on a major new study of brain training games, our regular features of Mind Map Tip and quote of the month plus what I’m up to.


Mind Map Tip of the Month

If you are delivering a seminar away from your workplace, for example in a hotel, make a Mind Map of all the equipment and materials that you need. Highlight each item on the Mind Map as you pack your bags or load your car. This is much more effective than writing a linear list. The Mind Mapping process will generate more thoughts and hence a more complete and detailed list, thereby ensuring that you don’t forget any vital piece of kit. The same is due for holidays or business trips.


May's Quote of the Month

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities have crept in;
forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day;
you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

More quotes here


What's Phil Up To?

Phil's Photo

I am just back from overseeing the Cambridge Memory Championship in my capacity as Chief Arbiter of the World Memory Sports Council. See report below.

Next Saturday, 8th May, I will be doing much the same at the Welsh Open Championships in Newport.

I will be giving a short presentation on ‘How to Use Memory Techniques in Everyday Life’ to the Lively Business Club in Market Drayton, Shropshire on Tuesday 4th at 7pm. Admission is free and you would be most welcome to attend. Details here.


Fifth Cambridge Memory Championships

This year the Cambridge Memory Championships saw the widest range of international competitors yet, representing Denmark, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Sweden, USA and Wales!

As usual it was very well organised by Ben Pridmore ably assisted by WMSC Level 2 arbiter, Nathalie Lecordier and Organiser of the Welsh National Championships (next weekend) Dai Griffiths. I was there as time-keeper, WMSC observer and also marked some of the papers.

Ben is currently being followed by Japanese TV so we had a film crew for several of the events making in it quite cramped in the relatively small seminar room in Trinity College.

Congratulations go to all the competitors but special mention must go to Christian Schäfer from Germany who stormed to victory by the massive margin of 2632 points. His tremendous score of 6060 halves his World Ranking position form 28th to 14th, only one place below 8 times World Champion Dominic O’Brien. The final results are:

Cambridge Memory Championships 2010 Final Results
Position Name 5-min words 5-min binary 5-min names 15-min number 10-min cards Speed Number Images Historic Dates Spoken Number Speed Cards Overall Points
1 Christian Schäfer 460 693 420 816 330 587 1040 891 443 380 6060
2 Nelson Dellis 460 300 400 450 234 149 412 319 210 493 3427
3 James Ponder 290 390 390 400 312 219 600 286 437 0 3324
4 John Burrows 350 198 350 350 312 213 320 187 343 293 2916
5 Mattias Ribbing 480 225 430 400 186 320 316 110 357 88 2912
6 David Billington 300 211 350 230 0 299 376 209 350 12 2336
7 Idriz Zogaj 300 210 170 250 120 69 304 209 280 83 1995
8 Oliver Strand 80 45 130 35 159 80 140 66 171 38 945
9 Mark Nissen 0 210 0 393 0 0 0 0 289 0 891
10 Roy Lam 0 38 220 25 0 107 156 88 171 6 811
11 Nicolai Lassen 0 22 0 50 165 0 0 0 0 0 237


Neuroscience News - Brain Training Doesn't Work.

Results of major clinical trail into Brain Training conducted by BBC TV’s popular science show, ‘Bang Goes The Theory’ were announced last week.The results clearly indicate that there were no statistically significant gains in four benchmark tests of brainpower after a 6 week period of Brain Training. One of the experiment’s designers, Dr Adrian Owen said: "The result is crystal clear. Brain training is only as good as spending six weeks using the internet. There is no meaningful difference."

Participants in the trial were tested in their verbal working memory, spatial working memory, episodic memory and grammatical reasoning before and after playing online Brain Training games. These were similar to those found in popular products such as Nintendo’s Doctor Kawashima’s Brain Training. This is one of the best selling games of all time having sold over 20 million copies and the sequel “More Brain Training From Dr Kawashima: How Old Is Your Brain?” selling 5 million.

Although the participants showed a marked improvement in their scores in the games, as the researchers state, “this really only proves the old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’. There is no evidence that this transfers to the brain skills measured by our benchmarking tests.”

The experiment was designed by Dr Adrian Owen of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Cambridge and Professor Clive Ballard of Kings College, London, who is director of research for the Alzheimer’s Society. Results are published in the journal Nature. Click here for a full breakdown of the results.

Does this mean that all mental improvement strategies are futile and I should disband my company?

I have long suspected that playing these games makes you better at the games but this does not transfer to real life, measurable skills. I have often stated this belief when asked about the games but it is nice to now have scientific data to back up my hunch.

However, the techniques that I teach are totally different to the Brain Training games. With brain training you practice the tasks in the game and this is supposed to make you more mentally fit after you finish, like going to gym. My techniques on the other hand, are designed to be used in real life to make you better at tasks such as remembering people’s names. It is much more like learning to drive a car. You don’t learn to drive and expect to be able to get to your destination faster when you’re not in your car. You continue to use the car to get from place to place. So whenever you meet someone you use the technique to remember his or her name. If you stop using the technique you still forget!

The same is true of everything I teach. Mind Mapping is a process that you use when you want to organise your thoughts or be creative. Speed Reading is a process that you use when you want to read faster. They are tools and really do work.


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