Thank you for the tag. I would love to have time to reply to everything here, point by point, but I can’t.
I only read the study today. I know the Aboriginal educator, Tyson Yunkaporta. I quote him in Memory Craft. The original paper pointed to by Josh quotes me and cites two of my books, The Memory Code and Memory Craft. My most recent, written with Aboriginal co-author, Margo Neale and the National Museum of Australia (Songlines: the power and promise) would not have been available when these researchers wrote the paper.
Your comments, ideas and Chris’ annotations are incredibly valuable for similar research that I am involved in. Does anyone have any objection if I point my colleagues to this discussion? It is a public forum, but I would still like you to be happy about it.
It is really interesting to compare with the research at the University of Melbourne (same city as Monash University where the research for this paper was done). The Honours student I am co-supervising is looking at the very issues you raise - but the project is not fully defined yet - along the lines of asking if songlines are different from the method of loci, and what are the implications in tertiary education. I tend to refer to songlines as memory palaces without thinking it through enough. I am very happy to see my work refined. I think the major difference is the use of song, dance and art, but that can be done in a memory palace. Although academics are also talking about the way knowledge is added, layer upon layer, ever more complex, over a lifetime. Songlines are used virtually and physically.
I am currently grappling with the academic papers I am being sent for the research - psychology research jargon is not my forte! The planning is underway for a very large scale cohort and dealing with long term complex knowledge, but it will take years. The work cited in this topic is just the start of a major push in Australia to get memory systems into education in an appropriate and pragmatic way, because it has the added value of our relationship with our Aboriginal cultures. As I know Tyson Yunkaporta and my books are cited, I am very reluctant to make any critical comment on a public forum, especially when I am so delighted to see these ideas being researched.
We have concrete evidence of these methods being used for tens of thousands of years, so not very ‘new age’. I can see that some might consider the use of art and song as airy-fairy if they haven’t tried them, and that might lead to a ‘new age’ label. I haven’t struck any resistance in any of the workshops I have been running including people aged from 9 to in their 80s.
One question raised was about why this isn’t happening at a much younger age. It is - but not as formally. I have written up the experience I had with one school on my blog. They used memory boards (lukasa) for science topics. They used art for multiplication tables and a songline for history.
The songline went through the bush, and I think might have indicated one of the differences which may come out of the research at the two universities. In that case, as with my History Walks, the songline acts as a continuous narrative. As described in my blog, the students created a timeline, but it was at specific locations they added new civilisations. They then compared them and looked at the implications for our contemporary culture, so took an overview rather than each location remaining independent. They also used song, dance and narrative, but not art in that particular exercise. They ended up with a woodhenge, testing out my ideas of ancient monuments such as Stonehenge acting as memory palaces / songlines …
I am giving teacher in-services on Indigenous memory systems - but adding in medieval and ancient Greek and contemporary to the mix.
I think that you are all raising really valid issues, but we are just starting the research into using these techniques in education and I would not be comfortable rushing off responses to your questions given my public role in this research. The applications need to be evaluated, so this is really early, radical stuff.
I really wish I could answer everything in detail here, given how much I value the opinions of those on this forum. Thank you so much for your insights - they are hugely appreciated and, unless someone objects, will serve to refine future research as I will relay them to the research team I am working with.