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Thanks for the pointless memory

STUDENTS should be taught to forget more, according to the master of London University's Birkbeck College.

Professor Tim O'Shea said the increasing ability of students to be able to access their work and information on computer networks meant they no longer needed to remember so many facts. He said that helping students to memorise more selectively would "get rid of the clutter" in their heads.

It also meant they could think in more abstract ways, focus on reasoning and "make big leaps".

Professor O'Shea told a seminar at the Learning 2010 conference, organised by the Further Education Development Agency in London, that this was just one example of technology making new things possible.

Others included using software to visualise highly abstract processes and procedures, and using computers to track studnts' work to distinguish "accidental" errors from those that indicate a failure to understand key concepts.

The academic, who holds a University of London chair in information and communication technologies, also expressed fears at the growing "McDonald's attitude" to learning exemplified by initiatives such as Learndirect.

The rhetoric from the University for Industry about its online learning venture made him "nervous", Professor O'Shea said.

"Buying bits of content that have been put together for different purposes is not a particularly rational thing to do," he said.

Increasingly simplistic forms of assessment was another topic Professor O'Shea examined. He said educationists needed to reject ticking boxes and devise ways in which students could show they understood concepts or processes.

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