Working Memory – Using Technologies to Support Students’ Special Learning Needs

ID-10073330Have you ever been asked to recall a list of groceries, directions to someone’s house, or add numbers in your head without a  pencil, paper or a calculator? If so, you are using your working memory.  According to Alan Baddeley,  “working memory refers the a brain system that provides temporary storage and manipulation of the language comprehension, learning and reasoning.”  (1992) It is the mental work space for everyday cognitive activities that require both processing and storage.  Alloway (2006) The origins of working memory were still unknown in in 2009.  Environmental influences such as parental educational level and financial background does not influence working memory, however there is strong evidence supporting heritability.  Alloway,  Gathercole, Kirkwood, & Elliott (2009) Kremen (2007)

Both studies  indicated that poor working memory does indeed affect classroom learning.  In fact, it is possible that poor working memory skills may be the cause of various learning difficulties according to Alloway,  Gathercole, , Kirkwood, & Elliott (2009) . In addition, to struggling with reading, language and mathematics low-working memory students tend to also have behavioral problems as well.  Teachers report that typically these students are inattentive and are easily distracted.  “This behavioral profile fits with accumulating evidence from both clinical and nonclinical populations linking the inattentive dimension of ADHD in particular to deficits in working memory.” Alloway,  Gathercole, , Kirkwood, & Elliott (2009)

The authors cite a study in their research stating that there is evidence that working memory capacity can be increased by intensive training. Klingberg (2005).  Alloway also concluded that “without early intervention, memory deficits cannot be made up over time and will continue to compromise a child’s likelihood of academic success.” Alloway (2006)

If training and early intervention can indeed improve a learner’s working memory, what is does it look like?  How can we improve working memory, thus improving the ability to do well in school and life? I did not find specifics that provided the golden answer to the question… How do we improve working memory? Schacter and Fagnano shared that Computer Based Instruction (CBI)  when designed according to sound learning theory and pedagogy can substantially improve student learning. (1999).  This aligns with the TPACK  framework for educators which connects content, pedagogy and technology created by Mishra and Koehler.  (2006).

ID-100155104Here are  few web tools that claim to improve working memory :

Here are a few Apps that claim to improve working memory:

There are also websites dedicated to providing information about working memory for parents and schools:

Technology that is designed to help people with special needs is called Assistive Technology(AT).  Margaret Cisco,AT Specialist, Assistive Technology of Alaska (ATLA)  created a Slide Share presentation to help people better understand different types of memory.  Included in her presentation are several low technology and high technology related tools which may help with low working memory.

gnome-app-install-starARTICLE 1 – Baddeley, Alan. “Working Memory.” Science 255.5044 (1992): 556. ProQuest. Web. 17 July 2013.  –  CLICK HERE FOR ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY  

gnome-app-install-starARTICLE 2 – Alloway, T. P. (2006). How does working memory work in the classroom?.  –  CLICK HERE FOR ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

gnome-app-install-starARTICLE 3 – Alloway, T. P., Gathercole, S. E., Kirkwood, H., & Elliott, J. (2009). The cognitive and behavioral characteristics of children with low working memory. Child development, , 80(2), 606-621. CLICK HERE FOR ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY


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  1. #1 by gerehead on July 19, 2013 - 7:23 pm

    Wow Reene, you did a great job on this! Very informative and reader friendly. I liked how you talked about how working memory is a key component in learning, and that it may be linked to various learning struggles. The web sites you provided were very cool too! loved Jungle Memory, the fact that it had a description page that contained various disabilities and how the resources and materials on the site can help students develop better working memory. I wanted to play some of those games myself! I even bookmarked the site 4 Ways to Super Charge Your Brain just so I can talk about that in my classroom to get students pumped.

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