Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 106 - May 2014 - by Phil Chambers

TIME TO READ: 4.5 minutes (average reader) - less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1,055 To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us or read my book Brilliant Speed Reading.

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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.

In this edition of the newsletter we have an article on remembering website passwords, plus our regular features of quote of the month, Mind Map Tip and What I’m up to.


May's Quote of the Month

"When one teaches, two learn."

~ Robert Half (American Businessman 1918 – 2001)

More quotes here


Mind Map Top of the Month

Size your lettering appropriately for its level in the hierarchy of a Mind Map. Main branches have larger lettering than second level branches and so on, decreasing as you move out from the centre. If you want to make something stand out you can break this rule and include an oversize word on an outer branch.

101 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps


What's Phil Up To?

Phil on BBC Breakfast

With the major news of the Heartbleed Bug and the urge for people to update their web passwords, I was invited onto BBC Breakfast to explain how to remember multiple passwords. Unfortunately, due to other breaking news, I was only given about a minute to explain so wasn’t able to do justice to the method. I have written about this below to give a fuller explanation.

I am pleased to have published my latest book, “How to Remember Equations and Formulae” on Kindle in addition to the original ePub version making it more widely available.

Later this month I will be co-presenting Memory and Speed Reading Instructor courses with Tony Buzan at Henley-on-Thames.


How to Remember Passwords

With everyone making greater use of the internet we accumulate a growing number of web passwords. Everything from Amazon to Zoopla asks us to login. It is very tempting to create the same password for multiple sites but this is very dangerous. If one site is compromised by hackers they can access all your accounts and gather information for identity theft or other forms of fraud. So to be safe we need multiple passwords that are hard to guess with a mix of numbers, upper and lower case letters at least 8 characters long. These can be stored on your computer but what if you need to access services from elsewhere like an internet café? If your laptop is stolen what is to stop all your data being available to criminals? You could write passwords down but this also runs the risk of the list getting into the wrong hands. The solution is to memorise all your passwords. This may sound impossible but with a simple method and some imagination it becomes easy.

The problem with strong passwords is that they are meaningless. You need to translate a random jumble or letters and numbers into something you can work with. The brain has a natural affinity to pictures so the key is to represent each element of the password with an image.

Numbers can be tackled by using objects that have similar shapes to digits 0-9. You can make up you own list or use the set below:

0 – a football, hula-hoop or doughnut
1 – a candle or artist’s paintbrush
2 – a swan
3 – open handcuffs or a heart on its side
4 – a sailing dinghy
5 – a hook
6 – the curved trunk of an elephant
7 – an axe or a boomerang
8 – a snowman or an hourglass
9 – a tennis racket (if you use a nine with a straight vertical) or a balloon on a string

Number Shapes

You also need a set of images for the letters of the alphabet. You don’t need to come up with all 26 at once. Just make them up as you need them. There are various ways to devise these. You can use the letter’s shape so an ‘s’ becomes a snake and an ‘x’ becomes a pair of scissors. Alternatively use the sound of the letter – an ‘r’ becomes an arm and an ‘I’ becomes an eye. Even simpler is to use a word that starts with the same letter so a ‘b’ could be a banana and an ‘m’ a mouse. However you do it, make sure that your images are bold, easily imagined concrete objects, animals or people. To distinguish between upper and lower case you can make your images for capitals huge and those for lower case very tiny. It is obvious that a giant python is an ‘S’ whereas a snake smaller than a worm is an ‘s’.

Having converted the letters and numbers into images you need to string them together in the right order. There are two ways to do this. The simplest is to imagine them in a story taking care that each item appears in turn. Don’t return to a previous image once you have moved to the next. Try to ‘see’ this vividly in your mind. The second option is to imagine a series of landmarks along a familiar journey and associate each object in turn with each location. So if the password starts ‘IS8’ you could imagine a giant disembodied eye on the front door of your house, a huge snake slithering across the garden path and a snowman in the gateway. The more bizarre your imagined scenes the better. Be playful with your creativity.

One final step is to associate each story or journey with its corresponding website. Make a link with the name of the site. So if the password is for ‘Amazon’ you could have your story taking place in a rainforest. If it is for ‘Ebay’ on a sandy beach by a secluded bay. If using the location method place an object in the first location that relates to the site. An ‘AppleID’ could be a big juicy apple.

Make sure your passwords are secure and distinct for each site. Now you know how to remember them there is no excuse for poor security!


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

Best Wishes