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/ log / 05th Sep, 2011

Learning or Memorizing?

  1. Mon, 5th Sep 2011
  2. 0 Comment
  3. Learning principles
  4. Memorization

Can you memorize 30 digits? In a given order? And within five minutes? Actually this is a beginners level in memorization. Professionals in this discipline reach more than 200. So it is not a miracle or just talent but the application of certain techniques to remember any kind of information.

Last week, when I was on they way home to a hiking weekend I remembered one of these techniques. In need of memorizing several things that were still missing in my prepared backpack, I had to make sure to forget none of them. But I did not have the time to go back and write it up. When I had read the book about memorization techniques I had successfully applied them. But it had never become an ordinary method of mine. Just because in the beginning every new method causes additional effort. I do not remember the name of this method but I know that you have to create a path through your apartment with a fixed count of ‘stations’ in every room. When you have to memorize a list of things you walk this path mentally and link one item from your list as fanciful as possible to every station. Your imaginations make it much easier for you to remember everything. And because you know how far you have come on your path you can make sure to miss nothing.

The moment I was in need to memorize I did not have the necessary path to attach everything to. I had not used the technique for years. So I neither remembered the one I had once created, nor did I have a new one in my current apartment. Spontaneously I had to cut corners in this technique: I took the first room on the right when entering the apartment (the bathroom) and in front of my mind’s eye assembled an imaginative scene containing the sanitary porcelain, wearing my base cap, the hiking sticks,  etc. saying with a John-Wayne-voice: Could you pass me the water bottle.

Shortly after this scene, on the way back home, I realized that the memorization technique is actually a perfect implementation of two learning principles:

  • Put things in a context to root them into the memory.
  • And create a bridge to the learner’s world of experience.

Memorizing is usually something that is associated to archaic teaching methods (‚filling of a pail‘). But isn’t it astonishing that memorization actually comprises creativity and recent findings in learning psychology.


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