Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 71 - May 2011 - by Phil Chambers


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Welcome to the May 2011 issue of the Learning Technologies Newsletter. Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

This issue we focus on some fundamental but often neglected aspects of lasting memories, plus the regular quote of the month, Mind Mapping Tip and what I’m up to..


Mind Mapping Tip of the Month

Use words and images that evoke your senses. Descriptions of smells, tastes and touch add more scope for connections.
Memory is an associative process, so the more connections, the easier something is to recall.


May's Quote of the Month

"Human behavior flows from three main sources:
desire, emotion, and knowledge."

~ Plato

More quotes here


What's Phil Up To?

Phil's Photo

Just before Easter I was working in London, helping a dyslexic student to improve his reading and analysis skills with great success.

This month I will be working on creating a programme of Learning Skills for Primary Schools..


What William, Kate and the Doctor Can Teach Us About Memory

The biggest event of last couple of weeks has undoubtedly been the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton.

For me, as a sci-fi fan, the return of Doctor Who was also an enjoyable element of the start of spring. In the first two episodes of Doctor Who the monsters encountered, called the Silence, had the ultimate stealth technique. As soon as you turn away, they remove any memory of them from your mind. Even if you were terrified at the time, it is as if you never saw them.

You don’t need monsters to edit your memory. We all do it everyday. So much of our lives go unremembered but certain things stick forever. Many of those who lined the route of the Royal Wedding procession in London will have memories of the day that will last a lifetime. The Doctor used the strong memory of the Moon Landing and Neil Armstrong’s iconic, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” message to defeat the Silence.

The truly memorable events of the 20th and 21st century such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the moon landing, the death of Elvis, Princess Diana or Michael Jackson, the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Centre or 7-7 bombing in London, the Marriage of Prince Charles and Diana or indeed William and Kate all have a lasting impact on us:

I can remember where I was when I head that Diana had died – It was the day my Great Aunt went home after staying with use for a couple of weeks. I was sleeping on a camp-bed so her son and daughter who had come to collect her could use my bedroom. I got up to see her off and heard the news. The memory is still very strong.

For the first Space Shuttle launch, I was at primary school and was invited into the building at lunchtime where all the staff were sitting round a television watching the countdown. Unfortunately, due to delays, I didn’t actually see it take off live but I can still remember the excitement and tension that lunchtime.

So why do certain things stick in our memories forever whilst others fade away? The key is significance, meaning and impact, always coupled with strong emotion. Unexpected deaths bring shock and often outpourings of grief. Diana’s death in particular brought a national period of mourning. Great events such as the Royal Wedding bring pride, excitement, community spirit and empathy for the love of the happy couple.

I feel books on memory techniques tend to focus on solely association and imagination. Although these are certainly important, I am increasingly becoming aware of the fundamental need for significance, meaning, impact and emotion.

  • Pay close attention to what you need to remember, thereby imbuing it with significance. Even being genuinely interested in a person and their name will aid your memory of them. Your subject can be real or imagined. In the case of trying to remember data, an imagined event that symbolises the information is very effective.

  • Attach meaning to whatever you are focusing on – why is this happening? What is the story? How did this situation arise?

  • Avoid the mundane. Add strong action with real impact. Grab your attention.

  • Finally, and most importantly, stir your emotions. Is the imagined scenario romantic, sexy, tragic, beautiful, scary, thrilling, shocking or otherwise engaging?

If you fully embrace these elements then you can manufacture memories that last a lifetime whenever you need them, not just when truly historic events like the Royal Wedding occur.

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