LS 2011 Opening Keynote: Dr. John Medina
This tweet from Brent Schlenker of the Elearning Guild is the best summary of the opening keynote for the Learning Solutions 2011 Conference by Dr. Medina. This will be a long blog (blong). After seeing the stream of tweets on the keynote and some live blogs, I felt it would be difficult for anyone who wasn’t at the presentation to connect the dots. The amount of material covered and insights were astounding, as was the presenter himself. I am only certain of two things: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
- All of us who witnessed his presentation won’t forget it (and he’d be first to tell you that this is a tremendous feat)
- This blog will attempt to give some detail and context of his keynote, but will hardly do it justice. Take the opportunity to engage in the content he provides (there is much posted online). If you ever have the opportunity to see him speak; take it. He is as engaging and entertaining as he is intelligent and insightful. You will never have so much fun learning so much (okay, maybe Thiagi…)
A little about Dr. John MedinaDr. Medina is the author of Brain Rules and other books, and contributor to brainrules.blogspot.com. He has forgotten more about how the brain works than most of us could hope to learn in a lifetime. Dr. Medina opened by stating that he was asked to present how brain activity was relevant to elearning, and as far as he could tell only memory and wiring would relate to our field.
First, let’s debunk common brain mythsDr. Medina noted that our brains are truly designed to solve problems related to surviving while moving. He quickly dispelled the many prevalent myths about the brain. We don’t use a small percentage of our brain; we use 60-80% of it. That left/right brain stuff? Toss that too. Memory, as it turns out, is not a “unitary phenomenon”. There are 30-40 gadgets of memory in the brain that work together, and it is the cross talk that makes them work.
Learning is mostly about forgetting[blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”left”]Human Learning is actually controlled forgetting[/blockquote] The key point is that memory not fixed at moment of learning. It is repetition that provides the fixture. Thus, human learning is actually controlled forgetting. (This gave me extreme validation. My presentation immediately followed this keynote, which freaked me out, but this insight strongly supported one of my key points which referenced the work of Hermann Ebbinghaus)
How short term memory really worksDr. Medina illustrated the process. He started with declarative memory, something you can declare. This is a basic fact like “the car is red”, “this is the letter A”, or “the phone is on the table”. Here’s what is known about declarative memory: If your brain decides to, it can hold 7 pieces of declarative information for 30 seconds, or it will go away. This IQ independent. (of course, Dr. Medina repeated the message less than 30 seconds later) If the information is repeated within 30 seconds, it goes to the working memory and the rules change. Now you can hold onto this new information for about 2 hours. There are some profound implications for learning design based on these scientific observations. [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
- Start with something interesting so the brain decides it is of value.
- Load balance for 7 or less pieces of declarative information to be repeated within 30 seconds or it is likely to be forgotten.
- Even if it makes it into working memory at that point, the information needs to be repeated within two hours or it is likely to be forgotten.