Forget memorization

Regurgitation of information is temporary. Teach students to ingest concepts and love analysis.

Forget memorization. Consider finding “umbrella” concepts and core understanding for your topics. Your goal is to teach them how to be question-seekers. If they learn how to love learning, they will find ways to get the knowledge they need. Focus on critique and iteration.

© Convergence Academies
© Convergence Academies


Example for use:

Instead of having your students focus on memorization, find ways to get them thinking about large concepts and to love discussion.

Technical skills and memorization are often fleeting. Media changes quickly, and students need to learn to enjoy the process of learning new skills. The information you may have had students memorize will be useless to most of them after a summer has gone by, so find long-lasting concepts that will stick with them for a lifetime. 

© Convergence Academies
© Convergence Academies



After the students read The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, Rameck Hunt, and Lisa Frazier, the class will create their own pact on how they are going to improve their community through improving themselves. They will be designing a mural in Photoshop that illustrates their class pact.

This project is aimed at students grades 9+


Using the book to facilitate discussion, discuss various directions their pact can take. Can improving themselves improve their community? What are some of the needs of their community? What can each student do on a daily basis to help?


Ask the students what it means to create a pact of their own. What is a general theme the class as a whole can agree upon? Use the board or sticky notes to generate ideas and discussion. Have the students narrow down ideas and vote on the wording of their pact.

Have your students bring to class objects that help move the pact forward. Photograph the objects. Have your students photograph each other in powerful stances, like superhero poses or “power poses.” Allow them to mess around and have fun. Import these photos into Photoshop.

Using pencil and large paper, have your students create some rough drawings for the composition of the mural. Have them consider focal point and eye movement, balance, contrast, rhythm, color palette.


Show them basic Photoshop collage techniques. Divide them into groups to edit the photos. Then divide up the drawing to give pairs of students a section to complete. Combine the sections and make adjustments with the help of the students suggestions. Print out the mural.


After printing the final mural, ask the students to present the concept to the Principal and Vice Principal of the school. Have the students ask the administration to find ways they can support the students to achieve their pact goals.

–Unit based on Digital Media Mentor LS interview

How can they take information and give it some authenticity, say it with their own voice rather than just regurgitating the information.” –Digital Media Mentor AN

“When seeing the student take on a role themselves without being asked to, like standing in front of people and not having to be fed the words they need to say, that is when I am like, ‘Okay. Something is being accomplished here.'” –Digital Media Mentor AN

“If they have to do a little documentary on a topic, and they have to do research on their own, and they have to write a treatment on their own, or a narration, and then they have to actually prepare questions for interviews and sit there with headphones and interview and then edit and listen to the same reel over and over again and gather images from online, and put all this together and have a screening and talk about it, and Q&A. You go through the same information that you need to learn six, seven, several times in different ways. You don’t get bored, because it is all different formats. And a lot of the time I notice students do not look at it as learning.” –Digital Media Mentor DM

They want to be invested in that subject.” –Digital Media Mentor DM

“I am always trying to show kids as much stuff as they can possibly handle seeing and give them as many outlets and as many choices as I possibly can. Really focusing on them being able to create a concept and follow through on the concept.” –Digital Media Mentor KW

“Willingness to take risks and to learn from failure, also to engage in critique…those are the skills one should start to learn…just discourse, sharing ideas, the difference between trashing something and instead observing it in a more objective and generous way…constructive criticism.” –Digital Media Mentor LB

“The ability to elaborate upon. Not just to finish a project and it is finished and you never look at it again. Revisit things. Make different versions.” –Digital Media Mentor LB

“In the classroom is when you should be asking the questions. Not fully giving the answers, allowing them to investigate on their own a little, and then get in there.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

“I think if you can slightly alter every time you teach it, it is not about spewing it back out but really absorbing it and then being able to talk about it in different ways.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

“My memories of high school were very much regimented, ‘Here are the facts. You memorize them all and then regurgitate them on the test.’ I do remember maybe other students would take an ownership of the knowledge. They would internalize the concepts and then be able to apply them, have a discussion that goes beyond the realm of the facts that you were given. That ties into how I would like students to learn, is that you give them some information, and then they extrapolate from that information hypotheses and test them.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

“Whether or not they got the facts that [the teacher] wanted them to memorize, they got the concept of how it works.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

“Being able to verbalize it in a way that someone else who is in the class having trouble understanding it, would be able to internalize the concept.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

© Participatory Learning Strategies