Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 88 - October 2012 - by Phil Chambers


TIME TO READ: 4 minutes - Word Count: 1,014.

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Welcome to the October 2012 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 news from the Swedish and South African Memory Championships, an article on how structure is vital for learning and of course our regular features of Quote of the month and what I’ve been up to.


October's Quote of the Month

"The foundation of every state is the education of its youth"

~ Diogenes (Greek Philosopher)

More quotes here



What's Phil Up To?




My Apologies for the lateness of this Newsletter – I am writing this in the airport en-route home after the first ever South African Schools Memory Championships, see report below. This was hot on the heals of the Swedish Open that took place in Göteborg at the end of September.

Later this month I will be delivering Buzan Licensed Instructor Training in Memory and Speed Reading with Tony Buzan in Henley, England.


News from the Swedish Open Memory Championsips.

Congratulations to newcomer Jonas von Essen for taking the title of Swedish Memory Champion and to Ola Kåre Risa from Norway for winning the Open competition.

I believe this tournament will be seen as watershed where Sweden came of age as a true force in memory. Up until this point Mattias Ribbing, holder of all national records, has dominated the sport in Sweden. With the new talents of Jonas and bronze medallist, Marwin Wallonius there is at least a three-way fight. This will lead to more fierce competition for the top spot and a need to train more and develop better systems to succeed.

Jonas took new Swedish records in 7 disciplines, Marwin took the record for 15 minute numbers and Speed Cards, while Mattias broke his own record in Random Words.

Many thanks go to event organiser Corinna Draschl and all the whole arbiters team for an excellent job.


News from the South African Schools Memory Championsips.

The first ever South African Schools Memory Championships took place at Ashton International College in Ballito near Durban. The event followed a similar format to the UK Schools Memory Championships so that the results are directly comparable. Sixteen students took part in four disciplines: Random Words, Numbers, Dates and Cards. The event also included a parallel event for adults with the same four disciplines but more severe marking in line with the World Championships.

Congratulations go to Siphesihle Shabane (‘spare’ for short) who not only won the student competition but set a new Schools Word Record by correctly memorising 134 random digits in sequence.

The adult competition was won by newcomer, Billy Breytenbach who beat long-time World Memory Championships competitor Kevin Horsley (world ranked 202) and event organiser Daren Denholm (world ranked 184).

It is great for the grass roots of the sport to spread the Schools Championships to the African continent. I am sure that now an international standard has been established many other countries will establish comparable events.

Spare and Joe

Spare with Head Teacher, Joe Erasmus.


The Importance of a Structure.

Whist in South Africa I had the pleasure of working with Dominic O’Brien and Daren Denholm. One of the initiatives that Daren has forged is an alliance with forward-looking school, Ashton International College. He has found an important key to helping students improve their performance is the need for structure. This is my take on the subject:

Students often struggle in school because they cannot see how to apply what they learn and how the different aspects of a subject relate to each other. They are constantly bombarded with disparate, unconnected and seemingly irrelevant pieces of information. In real life we never see usually see objects floating in space. They always have a context. You cannot build a house by starting with a door. You need foundations, walls and finally an opening into which you can fix the door. In the same way you cannot study a subject starting from a random starting point. You must grasp the basics and remember them before progressing to more advanced topics.

Without a strategy, students are stuck with Short Term or working memory. Psychologists have determined that this can hold between 5 and 9 pieces of data concurrently before it gets overloaded. Like a blackboard, the storage space is overwritten with new information and the old is erased. It is impossible to build anything if the foundations are constantly being demolished. This is the trap that a failing student finds themselves in.

Help is at hand. If you learn memory techniques these provide a shortcut. When you combine logic, imagination, visualisation and a physical location to provide context you can bypass working memory and transfer data directly into medium and long term memory. With a planned, spaced review system these memories become permanent, rock solid foundations.

Once you have your foundation it becomes easier to build new information onto it. One way to do this is with the aid of Mind Maps. Your central idea relates to the foundation stones. You can then build this up in a logical set of connections summarising a whole module of work on a single page. Because everything is linked together you never lose track of where you are. You don’t end up with free floating ideas and you can see connections that you wound never otherwise spot. The visual nature of a Mind Map also acts as an aide memoir in itself so you are constantly building knowledge in a sustainable, memorable, connected fashion.

The final step to successful studying is to track progress. To measure results. How much can you remember from the last week? If there are gaps analyse why, reinforce and maintain your mental construction. Keep to your review schedule and studying becomes a joyous breeze.

Structure Mind Map

That’s it for this month. I’ll be back in touch with the next newsletter in November.

Best Wishes