A Letter to the Editor we wrote has been published by IntrepidEd News. It starts this way:
The article What Kids Need to Know About Their Working Memory | Deborah Farmer Kris gives readers some really important information about how working memory functions. However, it misses one key point.
As the article points out, working memory is not the same as attention. This is important. Kids may be paying attention, but be unable to hold information in working memory long enough to act on it. Unfortunately, parents or the teacher may assume that they weren’t paying attention when we ask them to put their books away, wash their hands and set the table. They may have been paying excellent attention, but by the time they get to the second or third step of the instructions, the information has disappeared — their brains just don’t hold onto it.
The other important information the article provides is about chunking information. This is a “hack” that is very helpful. Kris describes this type of technique as a workaround to address the limits of working memory.
We use workarounds when we can’t fix the thing we’re working around. But is that the case with working memory? Do we really need a workaround for working memory?
Working memory has limits, for sure; human beings can’t hold an infinite amount of information in working memory. But that doesn’t mean that workarounds are the only or even the most effective approach.
This missing point in Kris’s article is that working memory can be developed. And it can be developed in a way that enables that greater capacity to be used in academics and everyday life.