Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What if we shared ideas worth sharing with each other? What if we recommended more विडोस...

What if we shared ideas worth sharing with each other? What if we recommended more videos to each other and colleagues?
Some of the youtube videos I've listened to lately have me thinking about the future.

What is social learning?
what gutenberg did for written word, social media did for the spoken word...
fusion-universal for social learning

fusion virtual school in KENYA

attendance ... email to student "you are absent"
i care that you are here

creating nearly free textbooks
Flat World world class content
While the disruptive power of the Internet promises wider access to knowledge and new legal licensing structures open the door for enhanced sharing, old business models often stand in the way. How have we arrived at the era of the $200 textbook, with stakeholders so enmeshed in the status quo that they don't seem to question it - even though none of them are being particularly well served? And how can new business models bring disruptive innovation to educational publishing, building a sustainable, new, 21st-century publishing model, based on free and open textbooks, in the process? This paper will explore these questions, offering new perspectives on the future of academic publishing.

Jeff Shelstad is co-founder and CEO of Flat World Knowledge, a venture-backed higher education content company offering world-class, free, and openly-licensed college textbooks. Flat World Knowledge has raised over $25 million in private investment capital since February of 2009, setting out to disrupt the $9+ billion textbook market with its innovative business model



flatworld knowledge youtube channel

the quote by Dr. Simonson from his 2005 book

When teachers try to make instruction equal for all students, they will fail. Rather, the teacher should provide a wide
collection of activities that make possible equivalent learning experiences for students using approaches that recognize
fundamental differences between learners, distant and local. Equivalence is more time-consuming and difficult, but promises to be more effective.

Michael Simonson, Trends and Issues in Distant Education: International Perspectives, page 285


Maria Andersen's youtube posts about "Learn this" individualization of learning

Maria Andersen's Free range Learning from TedX


general interview with Maria Andersen

levers of change for education

Lift Institute
Vision of education where we could go

Molinari's digital divide solution (not one laptop per child, but rather a myriad of computer centers with supportive training)

he uses a word... soporific...
the formulation of the problem or question is more important than the solution ... 7 global skills (Tony Wagner)

Linda Darling-Hammond
Stanford School Design Network

What are scientists? Curious
Cornerstone 2011 - Dr. Autumn Sutherlin - Week 3
From: ACU | Sep 28, 2011 | 97 views
Our world is dominated by fact-based inquiry. At the heart of scientific discovery is the gathering of evidence from experiments; and it is the ability to repeat those experiments with the same results that helps formulate facts, which in turn allows for future experiments to happen. What science offers is an objective view of the world, unclouded by emotion or perspective or interpretation. But what happens when scientists dispute the "facts"? Is there room for interpretation, and if so, does that lead us down a slope of "my point of view" versus "your point of view"?


ACU and mobile learning university in Abilene

ACU and mobile learning university in Abilene

माय My blog has been taken over by thai or maybe hindi?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Announcing a HALL OF FAME for Instructional Technologists

I'm in a program at Nova Southeastern University and one of our assignments is to identify nomineees for a "hall of fame" of instructional technologists.

<<< Here's my nominee.

You can learn more at

the HALL OF FAME (this is a proposed website... with proposed nominees, with work by my classmates).

A recipe for do-it-yourself learning...

This week's post is about FREE RANGE LEARNING. A delightful "recipe" for learning in a random, "follow your heart" way is described on Youtube.com.

"outside the mainstream"
DIY learning vs. evil caged learning?
highly structured education that takes place with "somewhat captive" participants


What does it take to become a successful learner...
(summary of her talk):
We need a recipe...
a) information (high quality ingredients)
b) we need a set of directions -- we need to reengage
c) we need to reflect (writing) ... blogging is a form of learning -- when we write about something, we eventually stumble on our words in a previous blog.
d) (space for reflection) white noise helps us reflect... we need space for brain to relax and -- procedure, tell your brain to focus on a problem...
e) spices to make food more enjoyable, so we need spice to learning by engaging in social activities... join the right social network or go to a conference -- standing appointment once a week -- learn a language by talking -- how about twitter in another language?
"when someone tweets about a new game design, i get excited about it and reconnected to my area of interest."
f) Get variety -- humans can provide new resources.
g) cook time: 10,000 hours... structure
h) we need a way to deal with decision fatigue... paralyzed by too many
A guy named Eddinghouse is important...
each reengagement helps you store the info in biological information...
i) Set a learning challenge that is hard to postpone
Set a presentation date... pressure to make sure I learn everything I can about a topic.

To learn Spanish, buy a non-refundable plane ticket to Spain 9 months from now.

What happens during a dissertation?
classes stop, assignments stop, tests stop. It's up to you to write about a topic of your own choosing.

40-70% of Ph.D. don't complete their dissertation within 7 years... (depending on the degree specialization)
good learners, but unable to progress with a free range project.
Have you learned how to learn on your own?

How do you eat an elephant?... one bite at a time.

We need to apply this recipe with students...
For example, a documentary had the following line: The US produces more trash than two Chinas or 15 Indias.

So I did a search and learned that the USA in 2009 produced 230 million tons of trash. Assume 310 million people ... how much trash per person?

In China, how much trash per person?
In India, how much trash per person?

None of these thoughts were explicitly given in the documentary. But we can then go farther... "the U.S. is xx% of the world's population, but the nation produces xxxx% of the world's trash."

It's all part of "learning the global skills" and integrating the subjects to analyze a situation.

Please send comments to VisualandActive@gmail.com

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What was Alvin Toffler writing about in Revolutionary Wealth? What is the knowledge Economy? What is the knowable future?

In the knowledge economy, capitalism's two stalwart pillars, property rights and the assumption of limited supply, are crumbling.

Property will become increasingly less tangible, the Tofflers argue, while free-flowing knowledge, upon which new wealth increasingly will be based, won't ever run out.

And, they suggest, America, like capitalism, may be facing a comedown. Although the authors insist that the U.S. is still the nation best-equipped to lead the science-based wealth revolution, they see it facing a challenge initiated by its own multinationals: a transformed Asia.

The most contemporary and compelling chapters in the book may well be those dealing with China, India and Japan.

Foreign-exchange-rich China is pouring money and talent into the sciences - graduating 465,000 scientists and engineers a year.

An America that allots less than 2% of its gross domestic product to science research is bound to come up short against countries funding more dynamic ambitions. In the future, the Tofflers conclude, Asian powerhouses will have the upper hand.
-- Susan Witty, Barron's review of Alvin Toffler's book Revolutionary Wealth
Read the full review

When I share $100 with you, I have to give you $50. When I share a meal with you, I lose half of the food.
When I share information with you, it's win-win. I don't lose anything when I share what I have.
This is the fundamental point of Toffler's "prosumer" economy.

The Future Happened Yesterday. (service mark by Jack Latona)
We used to think of the future as something that was created five or ten or fifty years from now. The future of living longer meant waiting twenty or thirty years for new developments in cancer prevention and life extension.

New bits of information arrive in such abundance that we can't keep up. We might have some time tomorrow to read about what happened today... -- so (for us) the future happened yesterday.

www.LetterFromMexico.com by Jack Latona

Notes for students who have a substitute teacher

I'm a substitute teacher and I want to bring in the model of teaching that Dennis Littky advocates.

Here's a draft of the memo that I inten
d to show students (they are ninth graders).

Dear Students

The model for centuries has been "listen to the lecture, take notes, review the notes, prepare for the test."

Some schools want students to take a more active role in the classroom.
Here's what Stanford University offers:

James Zull admits that "sometimes I lapse back to my old style of lecturing and within minutes I see in many students the glassy eyes of the passive learner."

James Zull, (2002) The art of changing the brain: enriching teaching by exploring the biology

Other items to discuss...

Lesson Plan: Biology

Day 1 Weds. Welcome – Thought of the Day - look at the lesson plan…

Explain the rules of conduct to the substitute teacher (let’s see what I don’t know)

Exchange information about “what works in education”

Do any of these methods work?

1. Teacher walks around

2. Teacher presents different bits of information that matter to each student

3. Different lesson plans for each student

4. Drive out fear

5. If there are many ways of learning, why not many ways of showing what we learned? “performances of understanding” can be visual or audio or written

6. Teacher offers extrinsic rewards (outer) and eventually lets the students find the motivation (intrinsic) inside themselves to continue the learning.

7. Teacher avoids lecturing. Classroom is for discussions and for students to explain what they learned the previous day.

Steve McCrea 1958 Princeton University 1978 Nova University 1984-87

Florida Atlantic University 1989-91 US Dept of Energy

Teacher of English to people from other countries 954 646 8246

Editor Electric Car Book Snopes.com steve mccrea GOTS Guide on the side

Goal: How should we use our time? What is your long-term goal? Goal for this week?

What product do you want to create by Friday?

Video poster written paper audio recording webpage blog entry

Content of the product

a) a cool list of reasons why we should study biology

b) a list of cool articles that we want to read over the next year or before we are 20 years old.


Lesson plan for days 2 and 3 (refer to your individual lesson plan)

  1. Welcome
  2. Thought for the day (presented by one of the students)
  3. work on the content and products
  4. write a summary of what we did
  5. plan the work for the next day
  6. prepare the room for the next class

I decided to stop lecturing several years ago and my students have been active and engaged in class ever since. But once in a while I slip back into that lecturing habit, and the minute I do, my students also slip back into that stupor that made me abandon the practice in the first place. (page 127)

If learning is change in neuronal networks, that change might not depend on instruction (learning can take place with or without instruction)....Rather than directing and instructing learning, we teachers should give the learner incentives and support in using what she already has in her brain. She will learn by selecting the right neuronal networks from among those that already exist. If she begins to fire some new networks, that will come by giving her new experience and showing her new things, not by instruction and explaining.

(page 122)

Zull, James (2002) The fine art of changing the brain: enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Stylus Publishing (2002)

What would happen if students were able to read parts of the books about teaching methods that teachers studied?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Make a link to TheStudentIsTheClass.com

I'm in a degree program at Nova Southeastern University and we have an interesting assignment: nominate a pioneer of Educational Technology to the "hall of fame" organized by our department (Instructional Technology and Distance Education, ITDE).

Dr. Abraham Fischler has made contributions in three areas:

Instructional Design

Instructional Technology

Distance Education

His educational philosophy, captured in his trademark signature phrase “Time is a variable,” has driven instructional design innovations. Charter schools use this model in K-12 to personalize and differentiate instruction plans. Dr. Fischler’s testimony in 2009 helped win a chain of charter schools approval to operate in Dade County during a time when there was increasing antipathy toward any program that might take students away from public schools.

His promotion of computer-assisted instruction makes him an advocate of instructional technology. He was president of Nova when the nation’s first online graduate degree for educators was offered in 1982.

The wide variety of choice in Distance Education exists today largely thanks to a legal fight that Nova University (under Dr. Fischler’s leadership) had to wage in the early 1980s.

What is the background of this pioneer?

Dr. Fischler earned his Ed.D. at Columbia University (New York City), taught at Harvard and UC Berkeley and co-wrote an important science education textbook series that did not give answers in the teacher’s edition. Instead of looking at the answers (did the liquid turn red or blue when acid was added?), the teacher had to do the exercise and interpret the results.

He joined Nova University of Advanced Technology in 1966 when the school aimed to become the “MIT of the South.” It was during this time of his career as an administrator that his six principles of guiding a new school emerged. These six key principles stand as check points for any team aiming to start a school today.

Fischler shifted the university’s focus to on an underserved niche – graduate degrees for educators, teachers and principals. Through persistence and by paying effective teachers as adjuncts, Fischler showed that Nova University could afford excellent instructors as needed. Innovative use of technology to meet the needs of the diverse groups of educators internationally led constantly adapting the “classroom.” Nova University became one of the first schools to rent space in hotels to hold classes on weekends, then flying in teachers to cohorts. Later, the school arranged for the professor to transmitting to several cohorts via satellite, with after-class support supplemented with telephone conferencing.

He left the presidency of the university in 1991, got elected to the Broward County School Board for four years and has since then consulted in the reform of K-12 education.

========================================== His blog www.TheStudentIstheClass.com pushes for the use of computers in classrooms to help teachers differentiate instruction and personalize the rate of the delivery of lessons, continuing his tireless work in promoting instructional technology. Unlike the easier track of “building a charter school from scratch,” Fischer’s vision statement, given in the blog’s first entry (29 July 2006), describes a pioneering program that would place a layer of technology over existing schools, leading to transformation of entire school systems (rather than just one school).

1) His phrase “Let’s make time a variable” is a hallmark of his contribution to instructional design.

2) His advocacy of computer-assisted instruction is evidence of his role as a pioneer of instructional technology.

3) The North Carolina lawsuit in 1982 ensured more choice in education to millions of professionals in the field of education (growing to other professions as Nova has expanded). These are three reasons to induct Dr. Abraham S. Fischler into the ITDE Hall of Fame.

Why not also click on the "like" button for the Facebook page for the blog? facebook

Please also look at the power of adding a link to TheStudentIstheClass.com

Monday, October 3, 2011

Preview a learning process

Your school is ready to listen to you and support you in a fully personalized way.

Wow...  how?

Why not click to subscribe?
The first question might be:  "WHEN DOES THE CLASS BEGIN?"    well, the answer is that the WORKSHOP begins when the individual students SAYS it begins.   ... and each student can begin at their own pace.
This is the R in Relations

I can imagine that some students might want to slide back to the passive Lecture model…  
"What are we studying today?"
Posters on the walls will help guide students.

These are aspects of individual learning

Notice the difference between GUIDED (from the outside) and ORIENTED (from the inside)

Teachers have a new role...  GUIDES ON THE SIDE

You can see the progress through the year

here is how the calendar looks

I like the verb "pursue" = independence

Notice the layout... it is hard to find a "front" of this room

Two types of appointments

The four stages of the workday

I like the difference between OUTSIDE guiding and INSIDE Orientating… When I ORIENT myself, I have some force IMPELLING inside me.   Before I get there, I need OUTSIDE guiding.
(I'm beginning to "get" the vocabulary)…
Where do you feel students have been set up for success?  
1. The vocabulary sets up the expectations for the students to take charge of their learning...  it's a WORKSHOP (not a classroom).
2.  The structure of the workshop goes from GUIDED to ORIENTED to the independent work.
3.  There are APPOINTMENTS, so the students can get reinforcement to move in the direction of independence.

What follow-up discussions and individualized sessions do you feel still need to take place between students and Educators and students and SLMs in order to promote well rounded confidence in learning in an FRE way?  
Discussion need to be held about what happens to homework and classwork.  Students will have assumptions about how homework is handled.
I think it helps to have SLMs to clearly take students through some of the steps to arrange an appointment.  Eventually the students will take the initiative.

I like the wording in the slide about DAY TO DAY learning operations where the verb is PURSUE… this indicates WHO has responsibility.  students will PURSUE appointments.   

There is a balance between FOLLOWING guidelines from the educator and PURSUING appointments ….


Learn what the SLM and Educator are responsible for during FRE Workshop implementation phases. Be able to see how the initial steps of implementation will be accomplished, and feel comfortable with introducing FRE principles to students. 

Be able to verbalize some strategies that would make a classroom-to-workshop transition effective.

Classroom: =  lecture and taking notes
The suggestion in the name of "classroom" is that a class (i.e. lecture for most students) will happen.

Workshop …  making the transition… let's help the students learn to make the transition.

Could CORNELL NOTES be helpful?

This procedure might be a helpful way to guide the student to take steps to organize and collect information….

A tour of the WORKSHOP will be helpful…  I could almost see how the students might re-organize their classroom to turn it into a workshop….  just by moving around desks….

Guidance Appointments  SLM   several times per week.
Procedures, study skills, specific tips…  

PROGRESS APPOINTMENTS Educator for specific subjects   several times a year

The language of START AND END point is beginning to get familiar now.   The KWL
K:  What do I KNOW?
W:  WHAT do I WANT to know?   (This will be part of the End Point)
L:  What have I recently LEARNED during this unit?

That's similar to the END POINT

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Robert Maclachlan's 10 ITDE principles for Most Teachers Almost Everywhere

Please click on this link
Learn the ten principles of effective use of media in the classroom (and in online classes).

Key quote: "No slacking -- don't lean on technology and skimp on preparation."

I agree. Have a backup plan, an email link in case the embedded video doesn't work, all the media on a DVD if there's no power in the classroom, on a flash drive (USB flash) to pass around to laptops. Can you give the lesson outside under a tree?

I found Robert MacLachman's youtube channel while completing at course in Nova Southeastern University's Distance Education program. Let's give Robert the exposure he deserves. 32 hits up to 27 July ... Let's get him to 1,000 before his video is one year old.

His channel youtube.com/robertmaclachlan has other videos, some with fewer than 100 hits. Distort the net and join me in "liking" this guy's work.

Michelle Rhee has answers...

Michelle Rhee sent around this email...
Dear Steve,
We are all impacted by the quality of our nation's schools. Public education has economic, social, and moral implications for our country. That is why this movement is so important, and we are so grateful you're involved. I have been so fortunate to speak with many StudentsFirst members in person. Many of you want to know more about the mission of StudentsFirst, while others have had some really interesting questions about education policy and what reform means for our kids.

Unfortunately, I can't visit every hometown and sit down with each of you, so the StudentsFirst Team came up with a fun idea called "Ask Michelle."Submit your questions online now and I will respond by video.

America is having a national conversation about education reform. Discussion about how to improve our schools is pervasive -- on the evening news, in the teacher's lounge or during a neighborhood gathering. Sometimes these conversations leave people with more questions than answers.

I will respond to your questions openly and honestly with my perspective as an education reformer, a former teacher, and first and foremost a parent. The issues our country faces are complicated, difficult, and deserve serious answers.

I welcome your questions on anything -- from teacher tenure and teacher evaluations, to "last in, last out" (LIFO) policy and StudentsFirst's Save Great Teachers campaign. The sky's the limit.

Send me your questions using our online form now:


I look forward to hearing from you!

-- Michelle

Michelle Rhee
CEO and Founder

Here's the question that I posed:

Dennis Littky said the following in an interview on National Public Radio in April 2005: "The commissioner of education (in Rhode Island) Peter McWalter said to me, "I could have closed this school down the first year, but I had the patience to watch and I've never seen people who had the belief in the maturity of the kid" -- so half of our great work is because the [kids] grew up. In most schools, they don't get to [grow up] -- they get stopped before [they can prove themselves]."

In the Littky success story, part of the credit for success goes to Peter McWalters for giving Littky's staff the time to meet goals and to create a school with different procedures.

You can get the full radio interview at npr.org and search "Dennis Littky Small school"
(well, heck, here is a link with transcription. If you want the npr.org link, here it is)
Littky's school is a charter and from what I've seen in Florida, charters are generally inspected by the school district. To pass inspection, many charter schools adopt the same curriculum and general rules and penalties for discipline that traditional schools use. (In Broward County, where I work, this means a 30-page code of behavior that the students have to agree to follow - who reads all that?)...

What do you recommend? Should we teachers and parents go to the legislature and get the charter schools permission to try a different curriculum and discipline structure? Under the current scheme, most charters eventually look a lot like the public schools that the kids couldn't perform well in... so why should we be surprised when many kids fail to get engaged in our charter schools?

Bottom line: would removing school district oversight help charter schools find "a different way" to differentiate lessons and personalize the instruction, allowing more project-based learning?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Move over, PDF.... Interactive CDF is here from Wolfram

Thanks again to John Vornle for forwarding this article to me...

Wolfram on Thursday rolled out its Computable Document Format (CDF), which aims to turn documents into interactive applications.

The goal is to turn “lifeless documents” into ones that bring data to life, show the data behind assumptions and illustrate concepts. Conrad Wolfram, strategic director of Wolfram, said the CDF effort has now reached the point where the company can open it up to developers, publishers and other interested parties.

Wolfram is still working out the business model behind CDF, but publishers have shown “great interest.” For now, CDF is delivered via a free player that can bring infographics, journals and math lessons to life. It’s not a stretch to see how a magazine like Popular Science could publish in the CDF format.

The rub is that Wolfram needs adoption and there’s already a dominant document format in Adobe’s PDF. One big challenge would be figuring out the interplay between CDF and PDF. Would someone want to embed a CDF document into a PDF. Conrad Wolfram said that “the CDF format will be open” with the goal of becoming a public standard.

In a demonstration, Wolfram highlighted a bevy of use cases. Financial documents such as 401K information could highlight the assumptions behind savings models. If global warming papers could have detailed the underlying data in the models perhaps there wouldn’t have been climate gate, noted Wolfram.

For now, Wolfram needs developers on board. CDF has reached the point where a developer with the knowhow to author an XML document can bring publications to life. Indeed, the use cases for CDF revolve around:

  • Journal articles;
  • Knowledge apps;
  • Textbooks;
  • Infographics;
  • And presentations and reports.

Take a moment to view these inspiring words and music

This video is just sweet. it is in the vein of the Grasshopper "Entrepreneur" video and these are delightful for teachers to use in classes.

For more, go to www.BuildTheFuture.net and see the list on the lower right.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A reminder from Dr. Fischler...

How do you become a visible change agent in this environment?

If you want to see change in education, you have to do it.

Not through talking about it. You have to do it.

You have to bring a group of people together.

It's going to take years of commitment, argument and debate.

You have to demonstrate that you are producing a product that we need.

-- Dr. Abraham S. Fischler

Get these free books from SCRIBD.com -- easy to download as PDF files

GuideOnTheSide.com is my website. Please suggest interesting quotations to inspire teachers and students.

useful! These downloads come from

http://www.scribd.com/doc/36692182/9781416603627 classroom management that works Marzano

I also invite you to download my scribd.com documents. Here's one of my favorites:

Suppose a person creates a book with plenty of versions:
a) lots of photos, color for scrolling online or in a PDF
b) lots of photos, grey for black and white printout
c) very few photos, mostly to reduce printing costs, with plenty of references
d) ready to photocopy with large formats for posting around the classroom.

Basically the same material but the formatting is different for the different uses. That's what Lulu.com allows since there is NOT a heavy cost for the first copy of the book. In some print-on-demand books, you get ONE chance to get the format correct, so it is very difficult to innovate as you create. But with Lulu.com, I can create a version that is pocket sized, then another with LARGE format pages ready to be photocopied. Same quotes, different size of type. One content, two or four different formats. Let me know your thoughts. HappyMathTeacher@gmail.com

Would you want to look at a dead cat after you gave a correct answer?

Thanks to John Vornle for passing this post to me.

To make it easier for readers to look at this article, I've reproduced it here. Please click on the link to take you through to the article (and whatever hits might then be produced). I'm posting the material here in case the link is corrupted. The data in this article is perplexing and I invite you to comment on it.

See also John Vornle's comment at the end.



Comment by Steve:
I have tried to imagine implementing this study's findings in my class. What is the downside of getting a stronger memory? REVULSION. Why would I want to bring negative images of dead animals into my class? Less mature students are surely going to disucss the ugly photos and some might react by running away from the photo. how could that enhance the new connection to

This is a study that I will use cautiously. I prefer to surround my students with positive influences. WE TEND TO MOVE toward the things we think about.


Improving people's memory by punishing their correct answers

A well-established finding in psychology is that successfully retrieving information from memory serves to consolidate the storage of that information. Each time your brain's filing clerk tracks down the right information, the more likely he is to find it another time. Psychologists call this the testing effect - practising retrieval of information is far more effective than simply re-studying that same material.

Can this benefit of testing be enhanced? Yes it can. A new study has provided the first ever demonstration of how to enhance the memory consolidation that occurs after correctly answering a test question. Bridgid Finn and Henry Roediger's important and somewhat surprising new finding is that following a correct answer with an aversive stimulus serves to enhance the consolidation of that memory. It's like punishing the filing clerk after each correct retrieval makes him even more accurate in the future.

Forty undergrads studied multiple lists of ten word-pairs, each featuring a Swahili word and its English translation. After each list of ten, they were tested. Presented with the Swahili, they had to answer with the English. Here's the important bit. If they answered correctly, one of three things happened immediately: a blank screen appeared, a neutral picture appeared (e.g. a fork) or a negative, aversive picture appeared (e.g. a dead cat).

After this pattern of study period and test had been followed for ten lists of ten word-pairs, the participants were then given a jumbo test of all 100 Swahili words. Here's the key result: for those items answered correctly in the earlier mini-tests, it was those that were followed by a nasty picture that were most likely to be accurately recalled in the final jumbo test. Earlier correct answers that had been followed by a neutral pic or blank screen were not so well remembered (and performance was equivalent across the blank/neutral conditions).

"These data are the first to show that arousal following successful retrieval of information enhances later recall of that information," the researchers said.

A follow-up study was similar to the first but this time correct answers in the initial mini-tests were followed by neutral or aversive pictures that appeared two seconds later, as opposed to appearing immediately as they did in the first study. This was to see if there was a narrow window beyond which a negative stimulus wouldn't any longer enhance the consolidating effect of correct retrieval. The results were just the same as for the first study, so even two seconds later, a nasty picture is still able to enhance the memory consolidating effect of a correct retrieval. Future studies are needed to test just how long after a correct retrieval this process is still effective, and to see if positive images exert a similar benefit.

Finally, the researchers looked to see if the presentation of a negative pic has its memory enhancing effect after items are merely re-studied, as opposed to recalled. A similar protocol with Swahili-English word pairs was followed as before, but this time, instead of mini-tests after each set of ten word pairs, the participants were simply given the pairs to study again, with each pair proceeded either by a blank screen, neutral picture or nasty picture. This time, there was no benefit of the negative pics. In fact, there was a trend for pairs to be recalled less often if they'd been followed by a nasty pic in the earlier study phase.

Why should negative images boost the consolidating effects of answering a test item correctly? Finn and Roediger aren't sure but think it has to do with links between the amygdala, which is involved in fear learning, and the hippocampus - a brain area involved in long-term memory storage. This is a rather vague account and doesn't explain why aversive stimuli only enhance memory after correct retrieval, not further study. By way of further context, a 2006 study showed the presentation of aversive images after to-be-learned stimuli was beneficial during the initial study of that material.


I couldn't help wondering what Milgram would have made of this study. Recall that participants in his classic obedience research thought they were taking part in an investigation of the effects of punishment on learning. In Milgram's mock set-up, the "learner" was subjected to an electric shock each time they answered incorrectly. Of course, Milgram wasn't really studying memory, but this new article suggests that he could have been onto something. Somewhat paradoxically, though, it seems it's correctly answered items that ought to be followed by an aversive stimulus, not incorrect answers.

Finn, B., and Roediger, H. (2011). Enhancing Retention Through Reconsolidation: Negative Emotional Arousal Following Retrieval Enhances Later Recall. Psychological Science, 22 (6), 781-786 DOI: 10.1177/0956797611407932

This post was written by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.

JOHN's COMMENT: .... he retrieved this article using an iPad.
I'm not convinced by the manner in which this apple technology forces me to communicate with others. I can sense how it completely dominates the communication of inexperienced youth. In my opinion, it does not allow for the reflection necessary for a worthwhile communication. In my world, the individuals with whom I work, they don't have time for the luxury of wasting other people's time. It reduces the value of each communication.