If you know you need more words, but you gave up because of a lack of time or a “bad” memory, then here are three reasons why you should try using a memory machine.
But first let me answer this question:
What Is A Memory Machine?
A memory machine is this:
With one of these attached:
Basically, it’s any computer program that uses a special algorithm for reviewing information, (also known as a spaced repetition system).
Some of the most popular ones are Anki, Quizlet and Brainscape.
More than any other technology, it has made the biggest difference in my students’ learning speeds.
#1 You Have Visual Powers You Never Knew You Had
Right now, most of your brain is working to help your eyes see these words.
More than hearing or smelling or feeling, humans are really good at seeing.
And we have amazing memories for things we’ve seen.
(Do you forget names easily? What about faces?)
In a famous research study from the 1970s, scientists showed people 10,000 images. Five days later they were amazed to discover that they remembered 80% of the images!
So when putting a new word into your memory machine, take a little extra time to find an image online and you’ll discover that remembering the word is suddenly much easier.
Think of it this way, if you’re not using your eyes to learn new words, it’s like you’re driving on the highway in first gear.
#2 Tastes Good
For years, American parents told their kids, “Take your vitamins!”
And for years, their kids said, “Blech!”
Then, some marketing genius invented this:
They’re called Flintstone Vitamins.
Suddenly, kids actually wanted to take their vitamins.
Because now their vitamins not only looked friendly, but they also tasted good.
It’s called “sugarizing.”
(Actually, I just invented that word. I recommend you use it at work tomorrow and then look at your colleagues like they’re idiots when they ask you what it means.)
Memory machines are an English teacher’s Flintstone Vitamins.
For years I tried to get my private students to review their vocab.
Now it’s a different story.
Most of them do it in just a few minutes on the metro or tram and are finished before they arrive at work.
One of my students even calls it “the game.”
Have you seen The Matrix?
If sci-fi is not your thing, this is the only scene you need to watch to know what I’m talking about:
How cool would it be to just download information into your brain?
Apple will probably make an app for this next year, but until then, memory machines do the job pretty well.
One reason is they’re “smart.”
You tell it if a word is easy or hard and it remembers.
According to research, this improves long-term memory by 20%**.
Image of flashcards by Lia Kurtin taken from Flickr, under Creative Commons licence.
Image of vitamins by Mike Mozart taken from Flickr, under Creative Commons licence.