Long Term Memeory
Today I wanted to highlight the instruction design blog written by Connie Malamed, The eLearning Coach! Malamed is an author, a podcaster, and a learning experience and design content consultant. Her blog has been a joy to read through and I hope you too can find some time in your busy day to peruse her content.
Malamed did her undergraduate in art education and it shows in her work. In one particularly amusing post, Malamed laments the lack of quality free-to-use stock photos, describing them as laughable (why are people at work portrayed as “ridiculously happy”?) to downright unrealistic (woman at work wearing stilettos? “Their feet must be killing them right now!”). Malamed gives suggestions to planning out original photo shoots for content or links to stock photo resources that actually work. I appreciate her concern in finding appropriate photos for her blog. All too often I stumble upon Instagrams or blogs of classroom teachers who use photos of their actual students. I find this incredibly unethical as children cannot give legal consent to their likenesses being used and posting student photos is a violation of their privacy.
I wanted to focus on her article Long Term Memory: A User’s Guide. Almost every post is accompanied by visual cues that help illustrate her ideas and her writing, in addition to being incredibly informative and well though-out is humorous and conversational in tone. However, Malamed does dissuade IDers from including too many “seductive details” in their content as Malamed claims such elements may detract learners from the material at hand. This is unfortunate, as I will now attempt to comment on Malamed’s post on long term memory using the most seductive of all details—memes.
But What is a Meme?
The word “meme” was coined by writer and biologist Richard Dawkins in order to describe a unit of culture that survives by hopping “brain-to-brain”; human brain are the “computers in which memes live” (Dawkins, 1976). I am more concerned with the implications memes have as units of information burrowing their way into our long term memory (LTM). In her post, Malamed produced a “user’s guide” to LTM, to which I would like to answer with a meme guide and the use memes have in helping learners better encode and retain information.
Malamed explains LTM is a theoretical construct; there is no analogous structure in the brain to which we can directly link LTM to. Instead, it is a useful to think of LTM as a permanent store of information. We know the brain is adept at storing information, and are even more successful when we can encode information doubly as images, as well (Ormrod, n.d.). Attempting to lock information into LTM is a major goal of educators and IDers. Malamed concludes her post on LTM with strategies designers can use to enhance encoding and retrieving skills of learners.
We also know the brain uses schemas to encode information into LTM. Schemas help learners arrange information in meaningful ways. Learners are more successful when they are aware of how their brains store schemas; essentially, we are more successful when we think about thinking, called metacognition strategies (Orey, 2001). We can metacognition strategies is organise our thinking. The more conventional metacognition strategies including keeping a planner or self-evaluating, but a self-referential meme—especially when said referential meme is then referenced—also reveals this circular nature of memory and thinking.
Memes are verbal, visual, self-replicating, and meta—they are essentially perfectly poised for use as educational tools. Application of memes improved Chinese students’ college English writing (Huang, 2016). Students first assimilated information via English memes, thus strengthening their mastery of English fundamentals. Students were then encouraged to retell and paraphrase using their own memes. This is not so different from the “elaboration strategies” Malamed writes about in her own article.
Overall, I find The eLearning Coach a valuable resource for instructional designers. Her attention to visuals and clear and concise writing are memorable and hallmarks of good design. I do not want this post to come across as a critique, but rather a celebration of her success at conveying important ideas in instructional design—although I hope she can begrudge me this one seductive detail.
Huang, Z. (2016). An empirical study on the application of memetics to the teaching of college
English writing. SHS Web of Conferences, 25, 01015.
Malamed, C. (2021, May 15). Long-Term Memory: A User’s Guide. The ELearning Coach.
Orey, M. (2001). Information processing. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning,
teaching, and technologyRetrieved from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?
Ormrod, J. Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Information processing and the brain [Video file].
Baltimore, MD: Author.