Archive for September, 2011

…this may now be the most appropriate platform to keep in touch, should you wish to ask a question, or merely hang out.

I can no longer access my student area or forum account on the pmemory site.

It could be because of my ongoing skepticism about Magic Pill, or it could be because so many pmemory students have asked me for advice that the site owner is starting to worry about there being someone else around who knows a thing or three about the mind. Plus I have been answering all (reasonable and politely stated) questions free of charge.

Or it could simply be that there has been a technical fault on the site, and someone will get around to answering the ticket I opened sooner or later.

Whatever the reason, I do hope you memory student folks will stay in touch. I find it fascinating and stimulating chatting with others who share my interest in human potential development.

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I am referring to this article by Tom Utley in the Daily Mail.

As a night owl myself, I can relate to a lot of what Mr Utley writes. One thing I must take issue with is his remark, “In my heart of hearts, I’ve always realised that the early birds are the unassailable holders of the high moral ground.”

Moral high ground? What? Why?

Once, it may have been a pro-survival action to get up at first light in order to take advantage of the maximum possible hours of daylight when we lived in a chiefly agrarian society. It is easy to see how the “healthy, wealthy and wise” jingle may have come from a lifestyle rule that was very relevant back in its day. But in the industrial world, where we have the electric light, how does anyone have the right to state what is “moral” about another person’s waking/sleeping hours?

You see, I don’t perceive any “morality” about it, only biology. Some people just have a different body clock, as this article explains.

It is bad enough being persistently looked down upon by the “sleep discriminators“, without one of our own handing them on a plate another reason to be smug.

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I probably haven’t had enough practice at this technique for it to be a really useful tool, although I know some people absolutely swear by them, and the really well-drawn ones I find aesthetically pleasing. This article has been reproduced from the Learning Technologies e-newsletter.

Mind Maps, Myths and Misconceptions

by Phil Chambers

As World Mind Mapping Champion, it saddens me when people have been exposed to poor training or inferior visual thinking tools that purport to be Mind Maps but in fact are not. As a result, they come to believe myths about the limitations of Mind Maps. Of course, Mind Maps are not applicable in every area of life or study but in this article I aim to tackle some of the unfair criticisms that occasionally arise.

1) Mind Maps can’t be used for technical subjects like maths.

Mind Maps are very structured and follow a strict set of rules. So it should be no surprise to learn that they can lend themselves to mathematics. One of the aspects of maths is the categorisation and breaking down of a problem. Mind Maps are ideal for this. Another aspect of maths is following a process. Once again, this can be represented directly on a Mind Map or you can always add a diagram, flow chart or graph on a branch where appropriate. Mind Maps don’t directly help you to perform a specific calculation but arithmetic is a very narrow aspect of the subject. I prefer to describe maths as the study of patterns and the beauty of nature.

2) Images and colours are childish and have no place in business.

The most successful businesses and entrepreneurs are those that continually innovate and think creatively. The use of images and colour on Mind Maps stimulate and promote creativity. They also massively aid memory. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is true. A visually rich Mind Map, once memorised, allows you to have facts at your fingertips whenever required. A truly invaluable business asset.

3) Mind Maps, concept maps, process maps, fish bones, bubble and spider diagrams are the same.

If you type ‘Mind Map’ into Google you get 51 million results. Many of the apps and software packages that claim to be Mind Mapping tools break most of the true Mind Mapping Laws. The laws are there for a reason and are based on psychology so the more you break the less effective your thinking will become.  The iMindMap Software is the exception in that it follows all the Mind Map Laws and creates true Mind Maps.

In ‘The Mind Map Book’ Tony Buzan warns of the danger of Mind Maps that aren’t really Mind Maps, “At first glance, they look like Mind Maps and seem to obey the fundamental Mind Mapping principles. There are, however, a number of differences. As both figures develop, their structure becomes increasingly random and monotonous. Furthermore, all the ideas are reduced to the same level and each one becomes disassociated from the others. Because the laws of clarity, emphasis and association have been neglected, what appeared to be developing into order and structure has in fact resulted in confusion, monotony and chaos.”

4) Mind Maps don’t appeal to logical thinkers.

A Mind Map works as either a ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ process. For a holistic thinker you can start with a serious of main branches and dart about the Mind Map adding ideas as they come. In this case you start with a ‘big picture’ approach and refine it as the Mind Map develops. If, on the other hand, you prefer to think is a logical step by step approach you can draw the first main branch and fully develop the ideas from this before moving on to the second,
and so on. The resultant Mind Maps are much the same regardless of how they were created. One of the most powerful features of a Mind Map is that you can see the details, interconnections, relationships and overview on a single page.

Despite the fact that I have a scientific and computer programming background making me very analytical and methodical, I have learned the flexibility to switch between holistic and logical thought depending on the situation.

That’s it for this month. The next newsletter will be dropping into you inbox in early October.

Phil Chambers

You can download the basic iMindMap software for free here.

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Vocabulary Testing

Most vocabulary tests, in my opinion, measure in one dimension only.

They start by asking the examinee to define comparatively easy words, and gradually step up the level of difficulty to include words the test author considers “harder” or “rarer”. That is supposed to give an idea of the examinee’s level of vocabulary comprehension.

I would like to offer a slightly different perspective on vocabulary skills, based on my own teaching experience.

As I have mentioned before, one of the key tools of my trade on the courses I taught was not presentations full of flashy graphics or expensive computer equipment, but the humble dictionary. The use and comprehension of words, particularly ordinary everyday English words, was the difference between a student who could apply the skills of the course and one who could not.

Rather than test them to find how many big or rare words they know (or do not know), it would be more helpful to know how well-formed their concepts are of more everyday language words.

This could be summed up as: Quality vs. Quantity.

I have identified three different aspects.

1. Other definitions of ordinary English words. 

On the vocabulary portion of the test I was administered earlier this year, I was asked to define words from a list. Apparently, giving one definition was all that was wanted in order to score each answer. Many of the words could have been defined in two, three or several different ways. In the absence of a context, I suppose the tendency is for people to just give the most mundane or obvious use of the word. There must be a difference in verbal ability between a person who can define those words from the vocabulary list a number of different ways, and a person who only knows a single definition of any of them.

2. Then there is the question of the quality of the definitions themselves. I believe that in the test I took, answers were scored as answers worthy of full credit, partial credit, or answers receiving no credit. Beyond that, a response showing a deeper level of comprehension of the word in question could receive no extra credit. It just wasn’t part of the test.

On my courses, any of the following were unacceptable ways to define words when testing students’ comprehension of their materials: giving a synonym instead of really explaining the word, giving partial answers, giving close-but-no-cigar answers, giving an example or usage instead of an actual definition, using the same word (or a different grammatical form of it) in their explanation, and any humming and haaing and guessing. If a full and proper definition could not be given, out would come the dictionary. It was a culture shock for a lot of lazy former skim-readers, but boy, did doing training that way make us all sharp.

I know I gave at least a couple of what I would have regarded as “unacceptable” answers as per the above during the testing, but the examiner wrote a tick on his exam sheet before I could go ahead and clarify my answer. Obviously, those bare minimum responses are considered acceptable in a testing situation, where my training would have demanded much higher standards of comprehension.

Again, there has to be a difference in ability between a person who can really explain words, showing a deep understanding, and a person who gives responses that are just barely full-credit answers.

3. Finally, there are the words that hardly anyone thinks about, because they are so common: “to”, “of”, “by”, “as”, etc. Most educators assume that people “just know” what these words mean. I used to be guilty myself of assuming that other people knew what these small common words meant, just because I could look at a sentence containing them and work out what function they were serving. Experience shows that hardly anyone can define them succinctly, even a veteran English teacher I once had in my classroom!

I believe that it is these little functional words that really separate the men and women from the boys and girls in the vocabulary stakes, but I have never heard of a vocabulary test that examines one’s comprehension of them.

Hopefully this post will give the test publishers some ideas.

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