Sunday, August 1, 2010

AG Bell Session: Working Memory

While I was waiting for an AG Bell session on social media to begin, I overheard some people talking about the session next door.  It had drawn a standing-room-only crowd.  No wonder there were only a handful of people assembled to talk about twittering.

The next day, people were still abuzz with that popular session.  It was about "working memory".  Working memory is the ability to manipulate and access information in short-term memory.  The implication is that children with hearing loss have difficulties with their working memory.

A second working memory session by a different professional was offered the next day.  I attended with a smaller crowd, presumably the overflow that couldn't fit in the first one.  A study was presented where typically hearing children and children with varying levels of hearing loss were put through a program to increase their working memory.  Their language skills were tested before and after.  Improved working memory is thought to spur language development.

The researcher found what she deemed to be statistically significant improvement in the kids with hearing loss.  The kids improved their language skills by spending time on a touch screen computer duplicating patterns of flashing colors.  Remembering patterns enhances working memory.  It is thought that the benefits disappear as soon as the practice ends.

The experts attempt to draw a huge distinction between short-term memory and working memory.  They theorize kids with hearing loss spend a lot of energy to understand speech and have less brain power left for working memory.  The miserably boring task of replicating these flashing color patterns could help.

The concept is interesting, but there isn't any fix for use in the home yet.  The session served to bring me up to speed on the buzz words.  It can be difficult in our house learning new friends' names and learning new words.  I don't know if it's a working memory problem or not, but it's interesting to learn about this research.

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