When Aaron Parks KC8FQD was having trouble learning Morse code, he complained about some of his frustrations to his wife, Dr. Jessica Parks. As an expert in memory and cognition with a PhD in experimental psychology, she immediately recognized a few ways he could dramatically improve his learning speed and retention.
Working together they created Skilman Introduction to Morse Code with a companion program called Morse Code Speed Builder: 5 to 12 Words Per Minute.
Based on the Farnsworth method, they designed it from the ground up to be different than other programs on the market. “The course is structured to walk you through the learning process step by step so you don’t get lost along the way. The individual exercises are designed to encourage engagement and participation,” he says.
Since launching the program this spring, they’ve already managed to create quite a buzz. “We’re pleased to have more than 150 happy customers so far and sales continue to accelerate,” he says. “So far, the feedback has been strongly positive.”
The program comes on 6 compact discs and the files can be loaded into an MP3 player for convenient playback. When you buy the program, you also get the digital files to use immediately if you don’t want to wait for your CDs to arrive.
Whether you decide to use their program or study on your own, they’ve put together a few tips to help you learn Morse code more effectively:
1) Divide your study into chunks that will fit into short-term memory
Eventually you’ll want to commit Morse code to your long-term memory, but before that it’ll have to go through your short-term memory. Work on 3-4 characters at a time. Once you think you have those committed to long-term memory, go on to the next group.
2) Practice meaningful rehearsal
This may sound obvious, but you won’t get far by putting a code tape on in the background and hoping to learn by osmosis. You’ve got to be an active participant in learning. Meaningful rehearsal is what moves those characters from short-term memory to long-term memory. So favor interactive exercises over passive ones.
3) Stay engaged by using a variety of exercises
If you do the same thing over and over, it’ll get boring and your eyes will glaze over. At the very least, mix up sending and receiving practice. They’re both important if you plan to get on the air and they’ll reinforce each other. If you zone out, you’re wasting your time.
4) Commit to a couple of short study sessions every day
A short study session is about 20-30 minutes. It may seem crazy, but it’s well known that human attention only holds up about that long. Once your attention falls off, you’re not getting a good return on the time you’re investing. Cramming works in the short-term, but for long-term retention, it’s better to space out your learning evenly over time. If you make it a part of your routine and work on it a little every day, you’ll get a little better every day — but one or two daily sessions is enough.
5) Don’t get discouraged by the interference effect
When you start out learning Morse code, the first several characters you learn will come pretty easy, but all of a sudden it changes. Everything slows down like it’s a struggle just to learn a single additional character. And what’s worse, it may seem like the ones you already know are getting harder to recall. Lots of people give up at this point.
Surprisingly, this sudden drop-off in apparent learning is actually good news. The reason why the new characters don’t come as easy is because the ones you already know are interfering with learning them. You have to have really learned those characters to have them interfere with learning more so you know that you must have already made significant progress.
Interference effect goes both ways, though. The new characters you’re learning interfere with the old ones. While it seems like all progress has ceased, you really must be learning the new characters to be experiencing this type of interference. This is the point where having a good attitude, a solid routine, and engaging exercises will really help.
Aaron and Jessica have graciously allowed AmateurRadio.com to give away the first hour of their Introduction to Morse Code course to our readers at no charge to help you get started. Good luck!
Skilman Introduction to Morse Code – Lesson 1 (24:02) Download
Skilman Introduction to Morse Code – Lesson 2 (24:32) Download