Tuesday, May 17

The Wizard Behind the Curtain


Every now and again, I get an email asking me what were some of the seminal articles or books I have read. One of the most important comes from Scientific American about how the brain learns on the molecular level. It's a critically important piece that exposes the process of learning - what happens when the brain encodes a short term piece of information into long term information.

It redefines our jobs. How do we present information, or have people use the information we present, to enable their brains to learn? How do we use the long term natural learning process?

The first thing the article points out is that learning - shunting from short term to longer term - is a relatively protected process. Forgetting is far easier than remembering. So what are the clues to the natural learning process, in which information is moved from short term to long memory. A state in which we claim that something has been "learned". How do we enable this process rather than disable it?

Any experiences you have had along thses lines would be something I'd love to hear about since it gets to the heart of what learning is all about.


Anonymous said...

Could you re-post the link please. it appears to be broken.


David Grebow said...

Thanks! Fixed it as soon as I read your comment. Learned a good lesson. Always check your links before you publish. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

The key point that I read was teach em (set up the synapse) wait ten minutes and teach the key learning again (coat that synapse) and then teach it a third time (tatoo that synapse on the wall of long term memory). How many people have ever tried this model or buit it into a program? If it's using natural learning and works, why bother with anything else as a model when something really needs to be remembered???

jay said...

Whoa. Learning involves more than transfer from short-term memory to long. That's only memorization.

Before we even get to memorization, there are significant mysterious issues about how the brain chops ultra-high-bandwidth reality into pokey 40 bps human consciousness.

And of course, there are more ways of learning than Howard Gardner has intelligences. It takes more than three hits to learn to make a basket from the free-throw line.

The Scientific American piece is interesting. I'm up for trying the implied 1-2-3 spaced ten minutes apart. But this is hardly a panacea.

David Grebow said...

Let us know how the 3 part learning experiment works ... I've done it twice now and it seems to tatoo onto longterm memory whether it was knowledge (the first five alphas of the Army Alphabet) or know-how (origami folding a dollar bill into a crane - 7 steps).

I chose 5 and 7 items or steps since an earlier study points out that there is another correlation between the amount of information that can be stored at one time - 5 plus/minus 2 - which is the research Bell Labs did when figuring out how long our basic US phone number and prefix can be.

KnowledgeStar said...

Jay - As far a feree throws go, body memory or physical memory is a universe of synapses in and of itself. It's like golf where I need to adopt and adapt what I know how to do - throw the ball into the net - every time I do it. What can take three times to memorize are things like not moving your feet over the foul line, breathe out and throw,2 hands on the ball, rules like that.

How you shoot - under or over - is up to you and each shot is new, not a memory of a previous shot. Most players try and visualize a successful SWOOSH each time they confront the foul line. So memory does come into play in a linited way and I wonder if three times @ 10 minute intervals would do the trick for what CAN be memorized since each shot cannot?

Dave Lee said...

David: A clarification on your Bell Labs reference. The research showed that the 5 +/- 2 formula held for random, unrelated pieces of information (like the digits in a seven digit phone number). Why aren't people struggling with going to their 10 digit phone number as some predicted they would based on the Bell Labs research? for most of us, we aren't adding 3 digits to 7. We're adding one new number (ie, 650 not 6-5-0) to previously known knowledge (our seven digit number). In the case of instructions like your origami example, its not learned as 7 discrete, unrelated steps, but as parts of one process.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of revisiting information after a certain amount of time, but I also think that willingness to receive information is important. On seemingly unimportant items, I have had to go over it more than several times but on items where it might be life or death and the student is incredibly tuned in, the piece of information can be recalled at any time in the future after seeing it only one time. Has there been an experiement involving the level of chemicals in the brain while learning (or memorization) is taking place? Maybe called state of awareness?

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