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Memory Cards and Photographic Memory

Posted Aug 03 2010 11:43pm

< p>Allyn Erickson, Director of the Freshman Year Experience at a major northwestern university, reports, “The majority of freshmen wrestle in their general education classes, simply because they can’t read and comprehend their books.  They especially cannot remember textbook info, and they struggle to connect with info they garner from professors’ lectures.”  Therefore, Erickson teaches students to develop not their reading abilities but their memory abilities, empowering them to connect, retain, and recall essential info from their classes.  According to Erickson, students who aggressively cultivate their so-called photographic memory outperform their less aggressive classmates by two full grades—“B-plus averages versus D-plus averages,” Erickson says.

Always taking pictures—“Your brain is not really wired for retaining abstractions,” Erickson clarifies; “it does far better with concrete things—people, objects, texts.”  Consequently, Erickson recommends that college students take mental pictures of professors’ notes about the chalkboard or recreate the info in their notes.  “If the instructor allows it, take cell phone or digital images of the chalkboards at the end of class, using them as organizers for your reviews,” she says.

Erickson also emphasizes students always ought to review and elaborate lecture material instantly following class, pointing out, “Students lose approximately 95% of new learning within an hour following they hear it.”  Erickson insists that college students should review straight away, suggesting that they question and answer, “What did you know these days?  What else did you know today?  And what else did you know?”  In her own classes, Erickson requires college students to fill within the vital details around the primary thoughts she writes on the chalkboard or presents in PowerPoint.  “Always take images of classroom experiences,” Erickson repeats with emphasis.

Active engagement with your learning—“When you read text material, especially if you study articles and books rather than traditional textbooks, you must get actively involved with your reading, because your brain naturally will blur it all together or dismiss it.”  Erickson especially emphasizes, “You must instruct your brain about what matters, and you have to give it props or tools for retaining the most essential information.  Naturally, the best resources and techniques combine both sight and sound—synaesthesia,” she says.

Treating extremely vital texts, Erickson suggests that college students produce primary concept maps, tracking and plotting the primary concept in each paragraph.  She discourages the use of highlighters and underlining, saying, “Students tend to underline too much, and also the colors obscure the text.  If you have to underline,” she stipulates, “underline one sentence per paragraph utilizing a red ball-point pen.”

Utilizing memory resources and techniques—“To support efficient memorization, ‘graphic organizers’ make all the difference, simply because they help you visualize facts, details, data, vocabulary, and concepts,” Erickson stresses.  She says that, “always taking pictures” includes making pictures to organize info for recall on tests.  Working with students on academic probation, Erickson pioneered use of “mnemonics cards”—illustrated index cards that have pictures on 1 side, terminology and concepts on the other.  Using ancient tests, students identify material which professors inevitably will test, conceiving images to capture test items, and then making catchy words and phrases for recalling the information.  Professor Erickson’s data indicates that pupils who work with their mnemonics cards typically score A’s; other students’ grades “drop in direct relationship with the time frame they’ve dedicated to their cards.”

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