Educators educating Educators

Nov 24

Learning & Memory

Kenneth Kosik: Learning is a Biological Process & Memory is More About the Future Than About the Past

The following is a summary that I have paraphrased of two segments of a presentation made by Kenneth Kosik at the May 2010 Learning and Brain Conference in Washington, D. C.

Dr. Kosik held various appointments at the Harvard Medical School where he became Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience in 1996. In the fall of 2004, he assumed the co-directorship of the Neuroscience Research Institute and the Harriman Chair in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Learning is a Biological Process

Genes are not on all of the time; they must be turned on to make their proteins. As the result of a gene receiving a signal, the gene starts to make a protein, i.e. the gene is making a product. Genes have to be turned on & off. Different genes make skin cells, kidney cells, and brain cells. Learning involves turning on a gene. Learning is a biological process. Leaning is changing the shape or structure of a cell or the turning on & off a gene and this is going on in every single one of your classrooms everyday.

Memory is More About the Future Than About the Past

Memory is not about the past as much as it is about the future. Memory is used so that we can avoid mistakes in the future. It is stored information so that we can avoid mistakes in the future, so we can survive and past on our genes to a future generation. This is the purpose of memory.

Since memory is closely tied to the future, memory is tied to imagination because imagination is about the future. What happens when you visualize your vacation at the beach with your children? You use your memory to visualize sitting on the beach and watching your children build sand castles, the ocean, sand, and the cool ocean breeze. You recall all types of detailed memory; you have used to memory to imagine the future.



There are two fundamental phenomena regarding memory that all educators should be quite attentive to as they directly affect memory and how well students remember information after initially presented.

By understanding these two essential factors affecting working memory detailed in November 2017 Ed Tip, educators will be able to drastically improve students’ retention of new information.