Educators educating Educators

Sep 23

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.



Welcome back to another school year. I hope your summer was relaxing and invigorating and you are looking forward to the approaching school year and the opportunity to stimulate and challenge your students’ minds.

This summer I was able to study Sir Ken Robinson, a British author, speaker and international advisor on education to governments, non-profits, and education organizations

I, like many people, find his writings and Ted Talks not only witty and inspiring but also thought-provoking and challenging. Much of his work deals with the diversity of intelligence, the power of imagination and creativity, and the importance of commitment to our own capabilities. He posits that the noticeable lack of them in our schools negatively affect students’ learning and teachers’ productivity and the absence of them is triggered by the demands of standardized testing.

I hope you find Sir Ken Robinson’s words inspiriting and challenging as I do and be mindful of them as you plan for the new year. Here is to a great 2017-2018 school year!