My Book Selections: ‘Moonwalking with Einstein’

The title alone was enough to get my interest, ‘Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art & Science of Remembering Everything’. Remembering EVERYTHING, that sounded cool, but then again, ask Jill Price and I think she would tell me that it isn’t so cool. I think I first became aware of this book while reading a Scientific American Mind magazine, which, by the way, I recommend that all profs should scan once in a while. The book looked like it was just what I needed to help me to effortlessly remember all of my students names and cell phone numbers in an instant. So, I went onto Amazon, ordered the book, and within days it was delivered to my front door (there’s something about getting an item delivered to you by courier that I like). The book, written by Joshua Foer, is about Foer’s journey to ultimately winning the U.S. Memory Championship. What I found most interesting while reading this book, was the history and research on memory and how it was intertwined throughout his story. For anyone interested in memory, and more importantly, anyone who teaches memory skills in a course, this book has great information that can be passed onto students in an interesting way. There are examples of memory research activities that I personally will look at using in my own class. So, why the title, ‘Moonwalking with Einstein’? The book talks about a key memory technique called, ‘The Memory Palace’, a technique where you create visual, and often bizarre images (like moonwalking with Einstein), and then link them to the person, item, or subject that you need to remember. Foer himself says in the book, “When forming images, it helps to have a dirty mind.” He even gives some of his own visual cues, often bizarre, that he used to help him sharpen his own memory skills. The point he emphasizes is that you need to be creative when forming your own visuals if you want to remember things. I found that this book was an ‘easy read’ due to its stories, history, and research ideas that include everything from when the art of memory was born, to ‘chicken sexing’ (buy the book to know what that has to do with memory), and finally to the current day’s Microsoft’s ‘Life logging’ project. The book also questions if memory skills are as important as they once were, now that everything is documented. Is it more important today to know how to access information than it is to remember it? My personal opinion is that learning is based on remembering, so it’s still important to learn about and teach memory skills. Many of my own students have told me how useful the ‘memory skills class’ was to them, and how they applied some of the techniques to their own study methods. Even after all of his memory training in preparation for the U.S. Memory Championship, in the epilogue of the book, Foer admits that he still misplaces his car keys, which is kind of ironic. I forget what I was going to write next, so I’m going to end this post. You can find the link to the book in my sidebar in the Amazon box.

Do you think that memory skills should be taught to students or has technology diminished the need to memorize?

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