Learning Technologies Newsletter
ISSUE 133 - October 2016
- by Phil Chambers


It’s nearly Halloween, the time when ‘ghosties’ and ‘ghoulies’ roam the Earth. I don’t mind being caught by the ghosties!!

Welcome to the October issue of The Learning Technologies Newsletter. Time to read: 3.5 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 815

Quote of the Month

Don't Keep Calm

(Sorry for missing apostrophes)


What's Phil Up To?

Phil Chambers

As a new project I am producing a short free video each week on an aspect of thinking, learning, memory, creativity and related subjects. I would value your feedback. Please visit my youtube channel, comment and subscribe.


Mind Map Tip of the Month

Make your central image unique and colourful – This aids creativity and clarity of memory. Don’t just write a word in a box!


Spooky Speedy Reading

As a scientist I don’t believe in ghosts but to get in the Halloween ‘spirit’ (pun intended) I have the acronym G.H.O.S.T. to help you to read faster…

Guide your eyes

The eyes have evolved to track moving objects. If you think back to prehistoric times you had to follow a buffalo with your eyes so as to throw your spear accurately, allowing your tribe to eat. As animals, humans have not significantly evolved since we were hunter-gatherers. In evolutionary time scales the advent of the printed word is a very recent occurrence and digital devices have been around for an infinitesimally short time. Because our eyes naturally follow moving objects and text is static you need to move a guide along lines of text. You can point to words with your finger, or better, use a slender pointer such as a pencil or chopstick. Move your guide in a fluid motion along each line of text. You will find that your eyes will glide along much more smoothly with less eyestrain.

Hear the words softly

Many Speed Reading advocates encourage the cessation of sub-vocalisation (hearing the words in your head). It is suggested that this slows you down. On the contrary, sub-vocalisation is a key component of reading comprehension. It is possible to speak at over 650 words per minute. The limiting factor being the movement of the mouth, tongue and vocal chords. It is possible to record speech and play back at 1000 words per minute and the brain can keep up. Rather than trying to eliminate sub-vocalisation, work with it. Imagine a mental volume control. Turn down the volume so that the words are heard softly at the back of your mind. When you read something important TURN UP THE VOLUME AND MENTALLY SHOUT OUT. This makes salient things stand out in your memory.

Only go forwards

One of the biggest causes of slow reading is back-skipping. This can be a conscious decision to re-read as you think you missed something or simply a reflex habit. Comprehension is affected by context. The more context the easier it is to make sense of an unfamiliar word. By re-reading you get no more context. If you continue forward you get more information that the brain is able to work with and connect together and thus comprehend. Every time you back-skip you break your rhythm and slow yourself down. Tell yourself you are only going to read things once. Use of a guide (above) will help you with this. Your eyes follow the guide and the guide is only moved forwards along a line.

Stay on the page

If your eyes or your thoughts wander off the page you will obviously not be assimilating anything. Keep you focus on the page. You can maintain concentration by taking regular breaks but whilst reading try to minimise distractions. Turn off you phone. If you computer beeps to alert you to emails mute the sound. Put a ‘do-not-disturb’ sign on your office door or find somewhere quiet and secluded to do your reading.

Take in groups of words

If you read words in isolation, one at time, the brain has to work hard to connect them together to give meaning. With practise the eyes are perfectly capable to taking in up to six words per visual gulp. If you take in meaningful chunks of words, these are easier to fit together to make sense of a document. It takes the same length of time to take in one word as it does to take in six. Even if you go from one word at a time to three you will triple your reading speed! Thank you for sharing this email with your friends and colleagues. As well as forwarding it, you may reprint any extract in your own newsletters and blogs provided that you include full authorship, copyright, and subscription information

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That’s it for this month. Look out for the next newsletter in November.

Best Wishes