Never memorise something that you can look up


January 22, 2015 by dragonflytraining

Author: Alessio Bernardelli, @asober

The image and quote alone are genius, just like the man who pronounced those words and this post could be terminated here, but I will add something more to put in context what inspired this blog post from the image and quote.

Albert Einstein was able to come up with this very wise advise in an age where information was relatively easy to get hold of, but nowhere near as easily and readily available as it is today. Yet, one of the greatest minds in history, understood what really matters in an individual’s personal and professional development. “Imagination is more important than knowledge” is another famous quotes of his that captures the essence of Albert’s genius. He is most famous for his thought experiments that opened up a completely new way of doing and thinking about physics. By simple reasoning and imagination Einstein was able to predict laws of physics that could only be tested experimentally many years after their discovery in his mind. Creativity is the essence of new ways of looking at things and of generating novel solutions to old and previously “impossible” problems.

Is this how our education system encourages teachers to teach and learners to learn?

Our examination system

One hundred years on we still haven’t learnt from Einstein’s wisdom. Our examination system is still almost entirely based on the ability to memorise facts. Questions like “Label the organs of the body” (as the iPad held by Einstein in the photo suggests) are literally pointless. I cannot think of a situation where I would need to memorise that (unless I am training as a nurse, or doctor). If I want to find out about the names of body parts, I can pick my iPad up and google it. Seconds later I get a very accurate and useful answer that I can use as a reference (even if I were a doctor or nurse).

The other thing exams do to our students is to put them in an environment and situation they will never experience in the real world of work. For a whole year we immerse them the socially and technology rich environments, where collaboration is encouraged and technology exploited to enhance learning opportunities. I cannot think of a work place where people work in complete isolation and do not share information, or parts of a project that together make a whole in this 21st century. Yet, the exams they have to take (an in Wales as early as Yr2, 6 year old, with the literacy and numeracy tests) have to be carried out in silence, without being able to collaborate with anyone, or ask questions, or discuss. In other words, they are not allowed to use their creativity!

Isn’t it time examinations that reflect our society and the real world of the 21st century workplace were introduced in our education systems across the world? Could the lack of rewards for creativity be one of the problems in our society? Our children are no longer stimulated and motivated to think and learn creatively.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

To view courses by Alessio Bernardelli please click on the following link:

You can view Allessio’s blog posts through CollaboeatEd at the following link:

One thought on “Never memorise something that you can look up

  1. heatherfblog says:

    There are real problems with embracing ignorance. We do need to know ‘stuff’ to understand the world around us.

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