Memory Devices

From E-Learning Faculty Modules


Contents

Module Summary

People have common limits to working memory as well as long-term memory. Since online learning has to be designed to human learners—to their strengths and weaknesses—it is important to consider including some memory aids to enhance the work of online learners. This module asserts the importance of long-term memory in online learning and suggests some strategies, online learning designs, and digital resources that may be built to support online learners. This suggests assessments to test for long-term memory. It also proposes some cognitive scaffolding to support early learners in a topic and the fading of such scaffolds as learners advance in a subject matter. Finally, digital downloadables are suggested for post-course long-term memory support.

Takeaways

Learners will...

  • consider some common limits to working memory, to long-term memory… and think about some common aide de memoires to enhance people’s memory in their learning
  • think about the role of long-term memory in online learning…why long-term memory is important in online learning…and how it should be considered in the design of online learning
  • design some (1) learning strategies, (2) online learning designs, and (3) digital / electronic resources to enhance online learners’ senses of long-term memory
  • create assessments designed to test for long-term memory…create cognitive scaffolding / fading / and appropriate supports for challenging online learning
  • conceptualize some digital downloadables to enhance long-term learner memories even after the conclusion of an online course


Module Pretest

1. What are some common limits to working memory? To long-term memory? What are some common aide de memoires to enhance people’s memory in their learning?

2. What is the role of long-term memory in online learning? Why is long-term memory important in online learning? How is long-term memory considered in the design of online learning?

3. What are some learning strategies that may be applied to enhance the learners’ senses of long-term memory? What are some online learning designs that enhance working memory and long-term memory? What are some digital / electronic resources that enhance learners’ long-term memory?

4. What sorts of assessments are designed to test for long-term memory? How much cognitive scaffolding is required for early learners of a topic? How is fading achieved? What are some examples of difficult and complex demands on long-term memory (in an online learning context)?

5. What are some digital downloadables that may enhance long-term learner memories even after the conclusion of an online course?


Main Contents

1. What are some common limits to working memory? To long-term memory? What are some common aide de memoires to enhance people’s memory in their learning?

Human short-term memory is thought to be able to only hold 4 – 7 objects at a time. Long-term memory also has limits, in terms of rapid and reliable / accurate recall (Ericsson & Kintsch, 1995, p. 3). For information to be stored in long-term memory, it has to be noticed, encoded into memory, and practiced for accessibility. Elements in the external world may be used as aide de memoires to extend human memory. Some common aides may be notes, visuals, glossaries of terms, maps, schemas, and so on.


2. What is the role of long-term memory in online learning? Why is long-term memory important in online learning? How is long-term memory considered in the design of online learning?

The understructure of all learning, whether online or not, is memory. In a very simplistic sense, a lot of learning is about encoding the desired information and skills into the human brain and the human body (muscle memory). Complex learning is built on a foundation of more basic learning that has come before. In other words, people go through a developmental sequence in their learning, and these dependencies (later skills are dependent on earlier ones) are unavoidable.

These basic truisms are necessary in online learning as well. In a sense, remembering the important role of long-term memory is even more critical because online learning involves fewer physical cues and physical context…and much of the learning happens in a head-only and disembodied way. Given the lack of environmental cues and the lack of the in-body proprioception and enteroception, it is important to work in the long-term memory and imagination…to enhance the learning.

What does it mean to consider long-term memory in the design of online learning? Essentially, there are some basic concepts:

  • Learners benefit from meta-cognition and knowing how to enhance their encoding of the relevant parts of the learning.
  • Learners need to refresh on the prior knowledge (prior learning) required for the current learning. These means lead-up modules and priming practices would be helpful for the current learning.
  • There have to be learning aids to support the learning and the proper encoding.
  • If incorrect learning occurred, there have to be efforts for learning over the incorrect prior learning. (“Unlearning” does not exist.)
  • Practices have to be designed for appropriate encoding of the learning to the brain and to the body.
  • Practices have to be done in different locations, so the brain’s learning does not encode certain knowledge and skills only to certain locations only. The brain should not be designed to retrieve information only in certain physical contexts but should transfer to anywhere where that information may be used.


3. What are some learning strategies that may be applied to enhance the learners’ senses of long-term memory? What are some online learning designs that enhance working memory and long-term memory? What are some digital / electronic resources that enhance learners’ long-term memory?

Learners are responsible for acquiring the learning skills that enable them to learn. Books about study skills talk about notetaking, reading efficaciously, scheduling study and planning for upcoming assessments, good nutrition and proper rest. All of these are important.

It is also important for learners to develop a strong sense of awareness of their own learning. There are assessments that help learners understand what their capabilities—strengths and weaknesses—are…and how to work on the weaknesses and to enhance their strengths. Does the learner prefer learning by lecture or podcast or video or reading? If one way of learning something doesn’t work, he or she should be motivated to find proper learning sources using other methods and modalities.

For adult learners, even traditional-aged young ones, they are motivated by practical applications of their learning. They need to know why they are going through certain learning and how this learning may apply to their lives in the future.

So what are some learning strategies to enhance learners’ senses of long-term memory? It helps to be transparent. Name what the learning objectives are and why they are with a particular module or learning object. Clarify what the sequence of learning is and why it is sequenced a particular way. Enhance learner self-awareness about what is going on cognitively. Help them understand when they are coming up to a particularly different part of the learning and how to get over those hurdles. Encourage them and express confidence in their behaviors and efforts. Provide priming and lead-up and lead-away modules for learners to opt-in for refreshing…and for extra work, depending on their interests. Harness learner interests by supporting some of their extra learning in the field. Offer schemas and outlines and organizational handouts to help learners lower their germane cognitive load. Design the learning properly so that extraneous cognitive load is not introduced in the learning (in other words, poor learning design creates drag on the learner and the learning process). For example, there has been work on limited human cognition and their auditory and visual working memory channels for learning. Learners who are experiencing visuals with explanatory sound…do better than visuals with explanatory text, the idea being that the visual channel is being overloaded with attention split between seeing the images and reading the words (Mayer & Moreno, 1998). Provide learners with “worked problems,” so they can see the process and understand how to do that correctly.

Build learning to how people learn—given their preferences for stories and meaning-making and coherence. Use visual aids to benefit memory (Bower, 1972; Bugelski, 1970; Paivio, 1971, as cited in Bellezza, Summer 1981, p. 248). Those with “super” memory apparently harnessed a visuo-spatial parts of their brains: Those who were powerful in their memorizing tended to use “a spatial learning strategy, engaging brain regions such as the hippocampus that are critical for memory and for spatial memory in particular” (Maguire, Valentine, Wilding, & Kapur, Dec. 16, 2002, p. 90).

Make the learning emotionally compelling. Offer access to definitions, especially for new terminology. If there are abstractions in learning, ground these in examples and real life.

From a review of the research literature, proper practice increases memory performance of both knowledge and skills (Ericsson & Kintsch, 1995, p. 5). Design opt-in and required practice to enhance learner encoding and performance and accurate recall.

Let learners sometimes seek their own solutions. Encourage their explorations.

There are more literal ways to encourage long-term memory as well. These include designed meta-learning tasks to enhance memory. There are a number of different types of memory devices that are various memory tricks to enhance the learning.

Mnemonics (memory devices) may be employed. There are several definitions of “mnemonics.”

“Mnemonics make use of elaborative encoding, retrieval cues, and imagery as specific tools to encode any given information in a way that allows for efficient storage and retrieval.” (“Mnemonic,” Sept. 10, 2017)
“Mnemonic devices are learning strategies which can often enhance the learning and later recall of information.” (Bellezza, Summer 1981, p. 247)

Mnemonics may come in the form of acronyms, songs, rhymes, images, physical movements, drawings, and other incarnations.

”Commonly encountered mnemonics are often used for lists and in auditory form, such as short poems, acronyms, or memorable phrases, but mnemonics can also be used for other types of information and in visual or kinesthetic forms. Their use is based on the observation that the human mind more easily remembers spatial, personal, surprising, physical, sexual, humorous, or otherwise "relatable" information, rather than more abstract or impersonal forms of information.” (“Mnemonic,” Sept. 10, 2017)

One downside to mnemonics is that they are not semantically related to the learning per se. They are “artificial”:

“Even though the use of mnemonic devices often results in remarkable levels of recall performance, mnemonic devices operate by the use of cognitive structures that, somewhat disturbingly, have little or no relation to the conceptual content of the material being learned. The conscious use of artifice on the part of the mnemonic user to create cognitive mediators that are often only tenuously related to the material being learned has resulted in this type of learning being labeled ‘artificial memory.’” (Bellezza, Summer 1981, p. 247)

What are some online learning designs that enhance working memory and long-term memory? In the literature, there are a range of approaches… One common one is to

  • have a proper developmental sequence of learning
  • reinforce the learning in different ways throughout the learning term
  • design assignments that enable applied practice
  • elicit learning and provide regular and substantive feedback, and others.

What are some digital / electronic resources that enhance learners’ long-term memory? The online space provides many opportunities for branched learning based on learner needs. If learning gaps are identified, based on learner performance, it is possible to design extra learning and extra feedback. It is possible to pre-place relevant learning resources in various learning sequences. It is possible to customize learning to learner needs.


4. What sorts of assessments are designed to test for long-term memory? How much cognitive scaffolding is required for early learners of a topic? How is fading achieved? What are some examples of difficult and complex demands on long-term memory (in an online learning context)?

So pretty much every type of assessment has an aspect that deals with long-term memory. Multiple-choice questions may assess the accuracy of knowledge, albeit with a given number of possible choices (in a closed type of question). Multiple-choice questions are scaffolded because of the given options. Open-ended short answer questions and essay questions may test the depth of analytical knowledge along with the logic and thinking, with less support for learners. In these cases, learners have to call up the necessary information and apply that with accuracy.

For new learners to a topic, cognitive scaffolds are considered quite important to keep learners in the zone of proximal development (ZPD), the area in which they can improve based on the formal teaching and learning. If learners are exposed to knowledge they already have, they experience boredom; if learners are required to stretch too far beyond their capabilities, they experience frustration. If they are challenged just enough to gain new learning and to be supported in that, learners tend to do a lot better.

“Fading” refers to the slow withdrawal of cognitive supports for learners as they acquire more skills and are able to progress with more self-efficacy and capability.

Some examples of difficult and complex demands on long-term memory occur in online learning in the following contexts: case-based analysis, problem-based learning, project-based learning, portfolio design, and so on.


5. What are some digital downloadables that may enhance long-term learner memories even after the conclusion of an online course?

Critical points should be summarized in summary sheets (tip sheets, notes) for learners post-formal learning. These should include image triggers, stories, and other elements from the prior learning.

Examples

There are a variety of examples available online.

How To

The different methods for designing for limits to working and long-term memory are many. The learning context, the target learners, and other factors will inform the potential proper designs.

Possible Pitfalls

What are some pitfalls to building for enhancing long-term memory? The largest one is that people may not use them. After all, with people’s mobile devices and easy access to information, many may just rely on the external resources to enhance their cognition.

Module Post-Test

1. What are some common limits to working memory? To long-term memory? What are some common aide de memoires to enhance people’s memory in their learning?

2. What is the role of long-term memory in online learning? Why is long-term memory important in online learning? How is long-term memory considered in the design of online learning?

3. What are some learning strategies that may be applied to enhance the learners’ senses of long-term memory? What are some online learning designs that enhance working memory and long-term memory? What are some digital / electronic resources that enhance learners’ long-term memory?

4. What sorts of assessments are designed to test for long-term memory? How much cognitive scaffolding is required for early learners of a topic? How is fading achieved? What are some examples of difficult and complex demands on long-term memory (in an online learning context)?

5. What are some digital downloadables that may enhance long-term learner memories even after the conclusion of an online course?

References

Bellezza, F.S. (1981, Summer). Mnemonic devices: Classification, characteristics, and criteria. Review of Educational Research: 51(2), 247 – 275. Ericsson, K.A. & Kintsch, W. (1995). Long-term working memory. Psychological Review: 102(2), 211 – 245. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7740089.

Maguire, E.A., Valentine, E.R., Wilding, J.M., & Kapur, N. (2002, Dec. 16). Routes to remembering: the brains behind superior memory. Nature Neuroscience: 6(1), 90 – 95.

Mayer, R.E. & Moreno, R. (1998). A split-attention effect in multimedia learning: Evidence for dual processing systems in working memory. Journal of Educational Psychology: 90(2), 312 – 320.

“Mnemonic.” (2017, Sept. 10). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mnemonic.

Extra Resources

“Mnemonic.” (2017, Sept. 10). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mnemonic.