Posts Tagged ‘Talented Tenth’

Are Our Memories Becoming Too Dependent on Technology?

June 22, 2011

My recent attendance at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) brought this question to the forefront of my mind. Traveling to the meeting on the metro, many, many people were engrossed with their mobile devices. Although people were meeting, greeting, and conversing at the convention, many were interacting with their mobile devices. Even during presentations at the convention, attendees were still working with their mobile devices. Now in the lingo of the Healthymemory Blog, these mobile devices are examples of technical transactive memory. Concerns with technical transactive memory are not new. Socrates was concerned that the introduction of the Greek alphabet would lead to the decline of civilization. As technology has advanced through the printing press up to today’s cyber technology, people have continued to raise these concerns. Although all these advancements in technology have lead to advances in civilization, I still think it prudent to ask if our memories have become too dependent on technology.

The major risk is that the capabilities of our personal biological memories will decline. This loss would be analogous to the loss in physical fitness and increase in obesity that has resulted from technological advances that have reduced our physical activity. We, or at least some of us, engage in physical activity in an attempt to reduce these losses in our physical fitness. Do we need to engage in similar activities to exercise our biological memories? (See the Healthymemory Blog posts, “Moonwalking with Einstein,” “How the Memory Champs Do It,” “Remembering Poems,” “The Talented Tenth,” and “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Bottom Line”).

There is the view that eventually transactive memory will supplant our biological memories (See the Healthymemory Blog post, “Achieving the Max in Technical Transactive Memory.” Ray Kurzweil maintains that in the future there will occur a singularity in which biology and silicon will become one. This is highly speculative and it might never occur, so don’t give up on your personal biological memory. Carefully consider what it means to you and what you might want to do to maintain and enhance it.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Talented Tenth

April 6, 2011

The Talented Tenth is the title of a chapter in Joshua Foer‘s Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything1 . The Talented Tenth refers to a class in Raemon Matthews’ class in the Samuel Gompers Vocational High School. This school in located in the South Bronx in New York City. In this neighborhood nine out of ten students are below average in reading and math. Four out of five are living in poverty, and almost half don’t graduate from high school. Matthews named his class the Talented Tenth after W.E.B. DuBois‘ notion that an elite corps of African Americans would lift the race out of poverty. He teaches his students mnemonic techniques and how they can be used to learn the names, dates, and places in the content he presents. He does not only use mnemonic techniques. He does not even use the word “memory” in his class. Matthews says that education is the ability to retrieve information at will and analyze it. But you can’t have higher-level learning, you cannot analyze, without retrieving information. Mnemonic techniques are useful in enabling the students to quickly assimilate names, dates, and places so they can more readily think about the historical events, their context, how these events developed, and why they developed as they did. He also places demands on his students in his tests. Every in-class essay his students write must contain at least two memorized quotations.

He also uses mind maps. Mind maps are drawings where information written in boxes is linked to other information. Each of his students creates an intricately detailed Mind Map of the entire history book.

His methods are successful. Every single member of the talented tenth has passed the New York State Regents exam in the last four years, and 85% of his students have scored ninety or better. It is not surprising that his students do well on advanced placement tests. And they come across as quite impressive individuals. Matthews has a little over forty students in his class. He brings the best twelve students along with him when he attends the U.S. Memory Championships where they compete.

At this point a reasonable question is why are mnemonic techniques not commonly employed in classrooms. One reason might be that teachers don’t know them (and if they had known them, they probably would have done better in college). You might want to read, or reread the Healthymemory Blog Post “Pseudo-Limitations of Mnemonics.” There are pronounced biases against using mnemonics in instruction that are ill-founded. Mnemonics are not to be used for all materials, but rather to provide a means of making initially meaningless material meaningful. It expedites the efficient coding of material so that it can be used for more meaningful higher level cognitive processing.

1Foer, J. (2011). New York: The Penguin Press

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.