Memorization is an Outdated Learning Strategy

Posted: May 15, 2008 in digital culture, edushifts, Mobilelearner, tools

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” – Unknown Authour

Personally, I equate encouraging memorization in learning as giving students a fish and encouraging skill development and teaching students to use ALL available tools to find information as teaching students how to fish.

Memorization – a teaching style that was a necessity at at time when information was scarce and access to that information was very difficult. Throughout history, in order for someone to access the information they needed, they either had to remember what others told them (and who they could actually speak to was limited to individuals who lived in close proximity) or remember what they read about the topic (assuming that they could read). The development of apprenticeships was likely the result of this scarcity of access to information. Hence the need of education systems to fill students with as much information as possible just in case is was needed at a future time.

Times have changed. The digital web has made access to information so ubiquitous that, dare I say, we don’t need to memorize information in the same way that we needed to before. I’m not saying that having a good memory is not important. Actually, a good memory is very important. However, when it comes to developing skills in school, I feel that teaching the skills required to find and manage information when it is need is more important than trying to get students to memorize information. There is just too much information out there, and the amount is growing exponentially. It is impossible for the human brain to remember even a fraction of all this information. However, if we combine modern digital tools and the skills needed to find and manage information, we will serve our student much better as we prepare them for the 21st century workplace. The modern workplace values those who can find and use the information they need when they need it and not those who can only remember some pieces of information but don’t have the skills needed to find pieces of information that they don’t know. The reality is that new information is constantly coming online that often updated or discredits older information/knowledge. An informed citizen in today’s society is one that can access the most up-to-date information when they need it.

Having used a number of online tools for the last few years that has convinced me that memorization is really an outdated learning style. The tools vary – it could be computer tools, web tools or mobile tools. However, when we can tap into both professional publications and the collective intelligence quickly and easily, then we can have what we need when we need it. I guess it’s a question of what 21st century Western society values – “just in time” knowledge or “just in case” knowledge.

  1. Laurie says:

    While I agree that students should be taught how to find information rather it just given to them, do you really think students should not have to memorize anything…at all? In some learning memorization is necessary. There are however different techniques of memorizing, not just rote (as I think you’re imagining). More and more strategies are invented to help students of different learning styles to memorize their math facts, the 50 states, the presidents, historical events, etc. Memorization is a skill that is used everyday, even in the job force, so I have to disagree. It is not outdated.

  2. cmarty says:

    I do agree that it is not a necessity in this age to memorize so many facts and data as in the past. Technology has taken us further and I still find teachers requiring students to memorize historic facts and data. The teacher seems to be making his/her own job easier by doing so. No more class test just random question and answer sessions which count as a quizz/test grade requiring students to memorize. Somehow this random method lacks all creativity. I would expect more from a honors history class..

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