Flash Cards on the Go: Going Digital with Learning

Do you have an iPhone, iPad, smart phone, or other digital device? You probably answered YES, and now you can take your flash cards with you! As the world around us becomes increasingly “paperless,” it comes as no surprise that this has influenced the classroom and how we view education. iPads are becoming a staple in the classroom. Books have become digital. And while there are many arguments to the pros and cons of these technological advances, as far as flash cards are concerned, going digital, clearly has its advantages. This is especially true when trying to learn a new language.

How digital flash cards more effective when learning a new language

With a digital flash card system, the sound or pronunciation of a character or word can be programmed into the lesson. You can test your enunciation while increasing your knowledge. Research has shown that a students’ ability to learn and retain knowledge increases dramatically if the student sees, repeats and engages.

Spaced Repetition

Most digital flash cards programs are based on the concept of spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is defined as: repeated exposure to information at timed-intervals. Studies have shown that this the most powerful way to fix knowledge in a student’s brain. Based on a user’s ability, every digital flashcard is repeated at intervals. The most difficult items present themselves for review within a few days while easier items get repeated every couple of weeks. This prevents the user from losing this newly acquired knowledge. (Wall Street Journal, “A New Way To Learn Digital Flash Cards,” April 2015).

Did you know? Many basic flashcard programs are free and allow users to create their own sets of quiz items, using video, audio or graphics if they wish.

The Science Behind Spaced Repetition

Using a method called the Leitner system, researchers have been studying memory and spaced repetition with paper flashcards on students as early as 1970.

Memory, by definition, is a pattern of connections between neurons that is formed by a person’s experience. A neuron forms a part of many, memory networks. Absorbing a lot of new information at once can alter or remove new memories. This makes newly absorbed information and memory incredibly fragile. This is especially true in a lecture or classroom setting. Recalling memories at intervals helps the brain process this new information so that it becomes a permanent part of one’s memory. (Wall Street Journal, “A New Way To Learn Digital Flash Cards,” April 2015).

In a traditional classroom, students are presented with new material, tested and then moved forward to the next topic. This pattern is repeated with each new topic. Spaced-repetition programs were initially created by people who found themselves frustrated with traditional teaching methods. Many of us have spent countless hours in the classroom trying to memorize new information. Yet, once the semester has ended, we struggle to recall what we spent months learning.

At Excelsior College, researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of implementing a digital flash card program into their curriculum. According to Jason Bryer, a senior researcher, initial results from a 2014 study of 1,000 students who used the program scored higher when compared with those in the control population.

Other Advantages of Going Paperless

And, if that wasn’t enough to convince you to go digital, here are some more reasons why going digital with your flash cards is beneficial.

  • No more wasting time in line, traffic, or at a doctor’s office. All those valuable wasted minutes that we sit around waiting add up to hours at the end of the day. Being able to access your flash cards on your smart-phone will ensure that every minute of your day is a productive one!

Did you know? On average, a person can study up to as many as 243 words or characters during a fifteen-minute commute her commute.

  • You can customize your flash cards to your ability.

  • Most programs offer related words, and examples of sentences for the new words you are learning. Learning new words in context is crucial for success.

  • Being able to track your own progress is key. It will not only motivate you, but it will point out those areas of struggle that need extra attention. Most programs include a report with statistics of how you performed.

In summary, the old-fashioned paper flashcard is being transformed with the help of modern technology. It brings with it an ability to make you both smarter and productive.

Digital flashcard programs on your smart-phone or computer make it feasible to learn new information during what was once wasted minutes during our everyday lives. Digital flash cards put a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.

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