Today we have a guest post from Kipp Mueller. Kipp is Co-Founder and CEO of SketchyLaw, an online education company which teaches legal courses by use of visual learning.
As lawyers, we’re taught to fear change. We like things as they are, and we prevent risk for a living. As a result of this culture, legal education is stuck in time. The 1800s, to be exact. We still use the case method in school and we read cases that are hundreds of years old about hunting foxes and selling pregnant cows.
In everything else in our lives, we constantly seek innovation. We pay lots of money for any semblance of convenience. We download apps to save seconds on the day. But when it comes to innovations in legal studies that can make law school and Bar Exam studies far easier on ourselves, we cling tightly to the status quo. We willingly turn a blind eye because tradition inexplicably trumps efficiency and innovation. And it’s completely unnecessary.
One such recently emphasized educational innovation is the use of visual learning. MIT researchers have found that people who learn using visual techniques can retain and recall thousands of images at a time, including detailed object and scene representations within each visual space. Try to remember a credit card number after reading it once, and you’ll have a difficult time. But after being shown a series of pictures, you’ll remember thousands of them.
MIT cognitive scientists have found that visual long-term memory is capable of storing not only thousands of objects but thousands of detailed object and scene representations. Furthermore, they found that observers of visual images can successfully remember details about thousands of images after only a single viewing. These studies concluded that visual memory is a massive store that is not exhausted by a set of 2,500 detailed representations of objects.
Those scientists concluded that, “The upper bound on the size of visual long-term memory has not been reached.” When reading your textbooks, you often find your upper bound after about twenty minutes of mind-numbing reading. During my bar exam studies, my upper bound on textual learning was around 1 PM. After that, it felt like new information was in one ear and out the other, and old information was spilling out of both.
The explanation is simple. Our brains have evolved over millions of years, through hundreds of ancestral species. And yet we’ve had written language for, at most, approximately 10,000 years. Our brains are not designed to retain mass amounts of information through textual learning. We learn by observing visual spaces.
As a result of this, all memory masters learn by creating visual memory palaces, in which each object in a given setting represents a piece of information. Each object is organized in the scene spatially, so that a groups of objects can easily be associated with a given concept.
Those concepts are then combined to make up a full scene. The scene is about a larger rule or concept.
Importantly, symbols recur throughout scenes so that they can be more easily recognized. Sometimes, even a full scene will be referenced in another sketch. As an example, one may want to reference a full “justification defenses” scene in another scene about a specific crime, if all of those justification defenses are available for that crime. Recurring macro and micro symbols make large amounts of information far more memorable for your exams.
Here’s an example of a full scene. SketchyLaw has a scene about murder. The scene takes place at a haunted house. In the background is the “malice palace.” Any objects associated with the malice palace are symbols which represent things you need to know about malice.
The palace has three large gargoyles. Two of the gargoyles represent two forms of express malice. One of those two gargoyles has a sword and is wearing a crown, representing an intent to kill. The other is missing its arm and is also wearing a crown to remind you that intent to seriously injure also constitutes express malice.
Lastly, to represent implied malice, the palace has a winking gargoyle. His heart is exposed and looks black and evil to represent the term “depraved heart,” often associated and used synonymously with implied malice.
After seeing this scene, it is incredibly difficult not to remember dozens of terms that will earn you points on your exams.
Our brains have massive amounts of potential when it comes to learning bulk amounts of information. It all depends on how that information is packaged. When information is presented to us in visual form, our brains can easily compartmentalize and store without difficulty. When done through textual form, it feels like hours of trying to close an overpacked luggage bag.
As a result, new educational techniques are now focused on the use of visual memory. We suggest that you do the same.
Kipp Mueller is Co-Founder and CEO of SketchyLaw, an online education company which teaches legal courses by use of visual learning. He is an attorney and recent graduate from Columbia Law School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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