It all starts with remembering

Mike Kipkorir Bill, Senior Consultant

22 March 2016

How many millimeters is one inch? How many kilos is a pound? How many kilometers is a mile? Let me try to answer this from the top of my mind: 1 inch is 25.4 millimeters (this am sure), 1 mile is 1.85 kilometers and 1 pound is about 0.4 kilos.

A quick canter around Google reveals that I got two out of three wrong. 1 inch is indeed 25.4 millimeters. 1 mile is 1.60 kilometers and 1 pound is 0.45 kilos which is quite close to what I had in mind but not accurate.I bother with these units of measurements because over the years they have affected how I understand things. When I was a child for example, I looked forward to watching WWF wrestling (now WWE) where the announcers introduced the wrestlers and their weight in pounds. I could not figure out what a pound was until my dad mentioned that a pound is about half a kilo and that immediately gave me a better understanding of things.

More importantly, I left it there and never bothered to find out the exact measurement.

As a child, I looked forward to watching Tv every Tuesday night

Photograph from Wikipedia

It’s much the same story with miles and kilometers: I simply acquired an estimation to help me understand distances mentioned in the movies I watch. So 100 miles in my world is 160km but 185km in the real world. A 25km deviation has never hurt anyone you may agree. You probably are in the same situation as I am and you probably don’t really care because you could always ‘Google it’. The internet, readily available through our mobile phones and computers, is drastically changing the way we learn. We hardly care to remember anything that is a Google search away. I suspect that had it not been for tests, the slightly bothersome process of recall could never be undertaken by most students.

“We hardly care to remember anything that is a Google search away”

There’s a lot of debate surrounding the need for tests and committing learning to memory when all the information we ever need is readily available. Fair enough, but try imagining what a world without the powers of recall would look like. Imagine a doctor on the operating table, scalpel in hand and not sure if the thing before him is a tendon, a vein or an artery? Imagine if a construction engineer cannot remember the correct ratio of cement to sand to gravel while building a bridge? Imagine if your car mechanic cannot quite recall the difference between engine oil and engine coolant?

I can’t seem to remember if this is an artery or a vein

Photograph via Pexels

I agree with Dr. Benjamin Bloom in his 1956 theory that remembering forms the basis for all other learning. It comes before understanding and applying, which come before the higher order skills of analyzing, evaluation and creation of new knowledge. When you recall something, you improve mind’s ability because new connections are formed in your brain every time you form a new memory. The more the brain connections, the better your understanding of things and ability to applying knowledge. Great coders like Mark Zuckerberg remember their code, great actors remember their lines and great singers remember their lyrics. So recall is not outdated at all but the basis of a great mind and doing great things.

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