Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Easy Study = Weak Memory?

There are two ideas in this article. Today I am interested in the second:
1) Easy come, easy go; information quickly found is quickly forgotten.
2) Divided attention makes weak learning.

Mr. Enns says that of course this is true. What's more, it gets to the heart of the difference between interesting education and boring education.

Human brains can do 7 thoughts at once (with very little variation). To read a book is to do several thoughts at once: eg. hold the book, look at the page, interpret the letters, recognize a word, understand the sentence, remember two or three things from the last sentences, paragraphs or pages. Skilled readers can "chunk" some things together and ignore other things so that tasks take less brain power.

(Recognizing a word might take a beginning reader five thoughts, two thoughts for an average reader and maybe only one thought for a skilled reader. That is why the hard concentrating toddler reads so intently he doesn't notice that the bell has rung and the rest of the class is going for lunch. Meanwhile, the practiced housewife, can read her iPad while folding laundry and watching the baby.  It looks like some people can do more things at once, but that is not exactly it. With practice, complex tasks become so easy they become one thought. No-one can do more than seven thoughts.)

If you have any brain power left over, you can make connections. What does this book have to do with my favorite sports or hobbies? Have I read something similar? ...contradictory? Does it fit with the math, science or history that I know? The number (and strength) of connections that you make determines how well you will remember. Connections also provide the triggers that will allow you to recall facts. More connections means that you can recall the information in more different situations. Making extra connections is where learning becomes relevant, interesting, fun and memorable.

Listening to music, texting, watching a video, playing a simple game: every electronic distraction takes up at least one thought, probably more. That is one less thought available to make connections. Those missing connections mean you will think of it less often, understand it less well, notice less usefulness to your life, find it less interesting and remember it less.

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