Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Learning and Memory from multiple perspectives

I just found this totally funky website on memory and learning designed by Bruno Dubuc (affiliated with Canadian Institutes of Health Research). The website is interactive and adjusts focus and level of information based on your knowledge (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced) and interest (Social, Psychological, Neurological, Cellular, and Molecular).

So, for example, the first "Beginner" (the default) sentence is "Memory and learning are so closely connected that people often confuse them with each other. But the specialists who study them consider them two distinct phenomena." However, if you click "Intermediate" the opening sentence is "Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that marks an increase in knowledge, skills, or understanding thanks to recorded memories. A memory is the fruit of this learning process, the concrete trace of it that is left in your neural networks." And finally, the "Advanced" opening sentence is "Learning is a process that lets us retain acquired information, affective states, and impressions that can influence our behaviour. Learning is the main activity of the brain, in which this organ continuously modifies its own structure to better reflect the experiences that we have had."

All of these sentences present memory from the psychological point of view. If you then click on "Social" the first sentence (Intermediate) is "People have always tried to keep some records of what they have learned. The earliest records consisted of oral tradition, rituals, and cave paintings. Later on, the ancient Egyptians used pictographs called hieroglyphs to glorify their pharaohs. The subsequent invention of alphabetical writing marked the first universally accessible form of external collective memory (as opposed to internal individual memory, located in the human brain). This was the birth of history."

I really like the flexibility of this site and how easy it is to see how different disciplines approach a different topic. Students who are taking different subjects (as most of do) may find themselves discussing/learning the same topic from a number of different disciplinary perspectives. However, sometimes we have a hard time seeing topics from multiple perspectives and this site provides one useful example of such an exercise.


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