Recently we stumbled across an interesting explanation of how memory works. We’ve read about it no doubt, the relevance to early learning and the framework. But really what does it mean? And what is the difference between working and long term memory? Are there other forms of memory?

Our amazing friends over at The Conversation who worked with The Florey Institute’s Dr Jee Hyun Kim, recently published a brilliant comic strip on this very topic! Here at The POD we loved it so much we have to share.

We know that The Early Years Learning Framework refers to memory primarily as a cognitive skill and specifically to memory in relation to Outcome 5: Children are effective communicators, and further explains this in reference to patterns and symbols; drawing on a memory sequence to complete a task. This is perhaps procedural memory, not necessarily working memory or long term memory. And what is the difference I hear you ask? The key is in attention! Working memory is being attentive to the task we are undertaking – whether it be turning off the oven or placing the keys down. This is about attending to the task and critical for working memory which, can last for only seconds to minutes!

How does this become long term? Well, once neurons have had the initial chat, ‘Hi there! – Well hello to you!’, this pathway has the tendency to be reactivated. The longer we attend to a particular task, the greater the connection between these neurons! That is how long term memories are formed.

Here is a sneak peak into how Dr Jee Hyun Kim explains this:

How Long Term Memories Are Formed
Illustrations by Wes Mountain for The Conversation.

So what about that procedural thing? That’s memory what is created in relation to how we do things. Like riding a bike!  Dr Jee Hyun Kim explains that this is about the procedure relating to how the limbs must coordinate to say balanced, to move the pedals, to steer. It’s pretty complicated if we stop to think about it! Oh but wait there’s also semantic memory!

It all requires attention! And nope, the verdict is out on this one, the scientists have spoken! Brain training apps really don’t do anything more than make us better at completing the tasks, these apps really have no application in the real world. As explained by Dr Jee Hyun Kim, the apps really work to switch attention between tasks, not maintain focus which by now, we get is really the most vital aspect to memory formation. Kinda like, playing a shooting game doesn’t make you a real world soldier – different skill sets. So we’ll leave you with this last image to ponder, provided by our friends at The Conversation and the Florey Institute:

Illustrations by Wes Mountain for The Conversation.
Illustrations by Wes Mountain for The Conversation.