Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Memorization and 21st century skills


I was sitting at our faculty in service today and our guest speaker is a prominent psychologist in our area. I was listening to him talk about strategies that we can use to help students with learning disorders be successful in our classrooms and ultimately in the "real world." Many of the strategies that he discussed were great recommendations that any good teacher should and would incorporate into their classroom.

One section of his talk did bother me. He said that memorization is a very important skill that should be taught and incorporated in all parts of the curriculum. Where does this fit into teaching students 21st century skills? He was correct in saying there is too much information for anyone to memorize, but his answer to the problem is wrong. As we are preparing our students to be successful in the 21st century, we need to get past this idea that everything needs to be memorized. As an anatomy teacher I struggle with this issue myself. We need to teach students how to access and filter the enormous amounts of information that is constantly being streamed at them. The faculty at our school was asking "How do I help my students memorize this?" The question we should be asking is "How do I teach my student to access and use the information appropriately?" We need to teach students how access the information and to use their learning network. We need to move beyond rote memorization. With technology tasks that have been traditionally left to memorization and left brain thinking can be done by a computer. We need to encourage and foster the right brain skills in order to prepare our students for the 21st century.

Teachers in the 21st Century must change and adapt to keep up with their students. The time has come for teachers to move away from rote memorization, repetitive practice, silent study without conversation, and brief exposure to topics, and instead, move closer to authentic learning.
-What Really Engages All Students?"
We need to teach students how to learn how to access the information to make informed decisions and solve real world problems.

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/tashamort/2316193178/ username: Natrasha

8 comments:

Kimberly said...

I am struggling with this question myself. Did the speaker mention why he advocates an emphasis on memorization? Are there some critical neural pathways that are activated when one memorizes information?

And from another perspective, if one does not 'own' any information, how does one judge the reliability of information found on the web? I am not thinking about being able to look at a page and decide authoritatively that the information is correct or incorrect. But rather, looking at a body of information and having a general sense that it fits with previous knowledge or does not.

I wonder also if there is some body of knowledge that a majority of educators would agree that all students must memorize - math facts for example.

jorrflv said...

I keep going back to Dan Pink's "A Whole New Mind." This left brain type of thinking was very important in our society. But in the age of Abundance, Automation, and Asia the left brain skills are not enough. We need to encourage the right brain skills as well.

I don't think knowledge construction requires memorization. Memorization and learning are two different things. Constructivism requires context, memorization does not. Learning will always be more powerful when placed in some sort of context.

Are there some things like math facts that will require memorization, sure. But, it should not be the focal point of our educational system.

Coach Burk said...

Jon, I agree with you 100%. As a third grade teacher, teaching math facts, I do not want them to just memorize them for a test or quiz. They will forget it the next day or week. They must LEARN the facts. Since this is my first year teaching at my school and teaching third grade, it has been overbearing at time to teach the kids that just crying and asking for the answer will make them a better student. Too many parents just want the easy A. I will never give a student the answer directly (except during grading time). I help them try to find where they can find the information. It is a process that we need to change at a young age that we are capable to find anything we have a question to. Which might not have been the case 15/20 years ago.

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Tricia said...

I'm a bit puzzled at the intensity of your own response to what you heard in your faculty inservice. Your post states, "He said that memorization is a very important skill that should be taught and incorporated in all parts of the curriculum."

This comment, taken at face value, is true. There ARE some things that require memorization-multiplication facts, for example. Did the psychologist also state that memorization should be used exclusively? That it was the most important skill to teach kids? That everything needs to be memorized? The comment you chose to include in your post does not indicate any of these beliefs are held by the psychologist. Did you jump to conclusions about what he meant?

I agree wholeheartedly with helping students to access, filter, and interpret information from many sources, as you so aptly describe. And it is always good to entice others to think more in depth about an issue affecting our children's education, as your post obviously does. But, as I attempt to thoughtfully read your post, I wonder whether you interpreted the psychologist's intended meaning correctly. I have only your own quote to go by.

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Garrett said...
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