Remembering to remember

I often struggle to remember the names of my students, especially in large classes. Like most people, using my visual and spacial memory helps. Classes with fixed seating arrangements are out because you want students to mix partners. Attendance lists are frowned upon at the institution I am currently working for.  This had me in a bind.

So Khushi suggested something that I have in fact done: Students formed study groups, made name tags, and I took a photograph of each group holding up their tags. Looking through the pictures I now see myself walking around the room that day to where they were sitting that lesson. Finally, names are starting to stick.

Josua Foer summarizes the technique of the Memory Palace, arguably the best way to memorize individual, unconnected items in sequence by connecting and associating them with 3-D navigation through an imagined scene. He mentions that ancient orators used this topographical technique to learn their speeches by heart, and points to the connection between “topic” (and topic sentence) and “topos”, or place.

The entire art of memorizing is to make items meaningfully connected. But more still, as Foer says about the techniques of the Memory Palace, “They work because they make you work. They force a kind of depth of processing, a kind of mindfulness, that most of us don’t normally walk around exercising. There are no shortcuts.”

Finally, he points out the essential importance of memory,  namely that our lives are the sum of our memories. So we need to process deeply. We must remember to remember.

EULEAP: EUropean Lecturers of English for Academic Purposes

There’s a new kid on the block: EULEAP, a network of EUropean Lecturers of English for Academic Purposes. It’s not incorporated officially, simply coordinated technically as a Ning social networking site, and is open to anyone who is involved in teaching English (or in teaching in English!) in tertiary education: http://euleap.ning.com/

Martin Bradbeer (TH Wildau) and Nicola Fox (Oxford University Press) recently organized the first Berlin area conference for EAP, and this network is aimed at building good connections among those who met there and growing new ones, as well as preparing the follow-up event in Berlin for next year.

This network will probably need to become more formally established to allow for sponsorship and more organized administration. But that requires quite a bit of work. If it were to become an association, there’s the politics of having an independent or an IATEFL affiliated group. For the time being, I’m (just) the Ning moderator. Since I’m also the events coordinator at ELTABB and a member of the BESIG Online Team, I’m a bit worried about becoming active in yet a third association.

But I’m really happy that there are now open lines of communication in an area I want to become more at home in. So here’s wishing EULEAP a leaping start!