How we Learn Baddeley’s Working Memory

whether we are teaching in person or online we often wish that our students could do a better job focusing and learning our content so today we’re going to talk about attention and memory formation you’d imagine it’s important after all that people who spend their time teaching others should have a sense of how people learn we’ve known for a long time that we have at least two types of memory of course we have long-term memory that’s see remembering a childhood experience for example but we also have a type of memory that helps us to make sense of the world determine what’s important and process sensory information for a long time that type of memory was called short-term memory and we thought of it as a passive process like a waiting room for the long-term memory but as we’ll see that short-term memory is not passive and involves several fluid processes that work on conscious and unconscious levels if I ask 10 people to draw a model of how memory works at least six of them would draw something like this rough paraphrase of the Atkinson and Shiffrin memory model for a long time we thought sensory information was processed through a passive short-term memory system reinforced through rehearsal and then was encoded in long-term memory but the system is not passive it’s a working system we constantly make decisions about where to focus our attention and what to do with the information we are presented with that’s why I badly used the term working memory to describe this process this is alan badly his model of working memory has been extremely influential for understanding of how we think here I’ll show you check out this cow watch closely did you watch the cow of course she did but did you notice that the color of the eye changed if not don’t feel bad the drama with the UFO seemed much more important than the details like eye color and why was that when you think of all of the sensory information we perceive on a daily basis it’s a good thing we have a mechanism to determine what’s most important that mechanism is called the central executive and it’s most interested in two things what we need to survive and what we need to thrive that’s why paying attention to schoolwork can be a challenge what to math algorithms have to do with surviving and thriving well we need to make that case for our students so when students ask you why do we have to learn this take that question seriously you’re speaking directly to the Central Executive back to the model all sensory information is filtered through a very active mechanism called the central executive next we interact with that sensory information through one or more of the three components of our working memory system first we’ll look at the phonological loop the phonological loop is called the inner ear because it’s how we process any sensory information that relates to sound for example we use the articulatory control system to rehearse verbal information imagine your boss called with the door code so while you’re scrambling to find a notepad to write it down you probably repeat the code over and over 14:32 9:15 1430 – whoa where was I repetition is a great way to keep information handy but unless that information is stored in the long-term memory any interruption could just wipe it from your memory we use the phonological store when we read either out loud or soundly to ourselves the inner ear holds information in speech based form for about one to two seconds you could think of working memory like a desktop it’s where we interact with information and that space can be quite limited if we overextend any component of the working memory we can lose it all as you would imagine students can vary widely in in terms of the capacity of their working memories or the size of their desktop students who have poor working memory tend have a hard time with tasks that ask them to keep information in their heads unfortunately it’s not easy to improve the working memory capacity of our students but we can provide externalized supports like anchor charts and graphic organizers to help students vote source that important information when we externalize the information students have more space on their desktop to process the content I’d like to show you what it feels like to have your working memory overwhelmed the big idea is that we cannot process two streams of verbal information in the phonological loop let me show you what I mean I have a short clip from MSNBC’s coverage of conspiracy theories and I noticed that for a few seconds the text on the screen did not match what the reporter was saying you’ll find it very hard to understand what the slide was saying and what the person was saying check it out he’s in June a man armed with the rifle and a handgun drove an armored vehicle to the Hoover Dam on what he said was a mission from cue and on to demand that the government release the Justice Department’s report from its Inspector General the conduct of FBI agents during the investigation of into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server if you’re like me and you couldn’t understand any of the information don’t feel that but I want you to remember the feeling you had of trying to fruitlessly reconcile the text on the screen with the voice-over because knowing that feeling will help you be a more empathetic teacher I purposely overloaded your working memory so you can see what poor working memory feels like for many of your students during regular classroom instruction back to the model will now look at the visuospatial sketchpad known as the inner eye we use the visuospatial sketchpad to process visual and spatial information such as soccer plays locations graphics schedules even a layout of your home is stored there we will talk about the visuospatial sketchpad more in the next video but for now you should know that like the phonological loop the visuospatial sketchpad is like a desktop where we understand synthesize and encode information into our long-term memory and like the phonological loop this component can be overwhelmed so what’s the big idea here our attention is directed with purpose and design through the central executive we have more than one component to our working memory each component can be overwhelmed in part two of this series on working memory we will look at how processing work can be shared among the system’s more on that later I’ll see you next time in part two of working memory systems

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