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October 28, 2012 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Flash cards are an effective study aid because they are founded on the principles of rote and memorization. With Flashcard Exchange | Study Stack and Flashcard Machine, you can use web-based flashcard makers to create, share, export and print flashcards to assist your studying.
posted by netbros (26 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite

Rote and memorization?
posted by clockzero at 3:09 PM on October 28, 2012

Flashcards ToGo is an android app that allows you to import flashcard stacks from the Flashcard Exchange. I haven't tried it yet, but it has received a good review (that link is a collection of reviews of android flashcard applications). Also, it's free!
posted by el io at 3:13 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks to ImageQuiz (iOS app) I am now able to actually learn my students' names, and not call them "Hey You" until well past midterm break. (Thanks, ImageQuiz!) It's nice because you can take pictures right inside the app.
posted by BrashTech at 3:23 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

BrashTech: That's awesome! Now to figure out how to use that app for social situations (parties, conferences, etc) without being too obvious about it. It also comes in a android version.
posted by el io at 3:34 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, for iPad 2 and later, Evernote Peek makes fun and efficient use of the smart cover to refresh the question and hide the answer.
posted by howfar at 3:36 PM on October 28, 2012

I always thought that making the flashcards helped at least as much as going through the flashcards.
posted by China Grover at 3:43 PM on October 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

That's true, but I don't find making electronic flashcards any less useful. I've used them a lot in the last couple of years, and can recommend it. Makes a useful amount of flashcards effectively portable, for a start.
posted by howfar at 3:47 PM on October 28, 2012

Anki is awesome because it supports unicode, LaTeX and spaced repetition.
posted by curuinor at 4:00 PM on October 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I always found flash cards to be a pain in the ass. I used tons of them while studying Japanese, but the problem is, you need 3 sided flashcards for general vocabulary work, and another set for studying individual kanji. And then you have to study them both ways, for both passive recognition and active production.

Vocabulary words have an English meaning, kanji, and reading (the pronunciation). I used prepunched word cards, they're little strips of punched paper with a metal ring. I wrote the kanji on one side, and on the other, the meaning, and then right near the end, the reading, where I could cover it with my thumb as I flipped through the cards.

Then I worked through the cards in both directions. I flipped through the kanji sides, trying to remember the meaning and reading. Oftentimes I'd write down the readings as I went, to help hammer it in to memory. Then I'd flip to the other side, and run through the set for active production. I'd look at the meaning and try to write down the correct kanji and speak the reading.

Now the computer can do this all a lot more effectively, but I don't think Anki or other systems allow you to write one card with several fields and practice one or the other. I looked at Anki briefly but I think I have a better system.

When I was in Japan, commuting to school every day on the trains, I would see school kids holding up strips of paper with English vocabulary practice, and reading them through red and green plastic bars. It's called the Check Sheet, I wrote about it on my blog. Oh is it clever. It's a system of red and green transparent bars, with matching red and green pens and highlighters. Usually you see a bar with the top side red and the bottom side green, like two horizontal strips. The red bar, when covering a sheet of paper notes, will make red ink disappear and green ink opaque. Then you flip the bar around so the green side is up. Now you can make red highlighter opaque and green notes disappear. It is a pretty versatile system. I found it was a lot easier just to study lists of vocabulary on a single sheet of paper, rather than bothering with flash cards.

Now where computerized systems really are better is when the system tracks your performance and drills you more on the ones you can't remember. I have yet to see a system that has this sort of feature, in a way that would be useful to me.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:54 PM on October 28, 2012 [10 favorites]

charlie don't surf, have you used Anki? It sounds to me like you require exactly the kind of thing it does really well.
posted by bardophile at 5:21 PM on October 28, 2012

I think it all depends on individual learning styles and preferences. I tried flashcards for kanji, but found that after I created them I never used them! Instead, I did the thing where I wrote a bunch of phrases in a column and in the next column I wrote the meaning or reading. I also took a lot of notes in spiral ring notebooks. Good times.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:38 PM on October 28, 2012 is great for foreign-language vocabulary and allows one to make flashcards to share as widely or narrowly as one likes.

I use Flashcards++ (iOS) to use my cards, mainly for learning Korean vocabulary. Flashcards++ uses a pedagogical algorithm so that difficult words are drilled more frequently.
posted by mistersquid at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Now where computerized systems really are better is when the system tracks your performance and drills you more on the ones you can't remember. I have yet to see a system that has this sort of feature, in a way that would be useful to me.

I like Memrise. Not sure if it has an app, or fits your specific purposes.
posted by cmoj at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, bardophile, I said I looked at Anki briefly. I will have to give it a look in detail sometime.

Actually, I have a really awesome commercially printed set of like 4000 Japanese vocabulary cards, with 4 or 5 words on each card. If I sat down and memorized the whole thing, I would basically know everything I'm ever likely to use. But the set is so nice, I don't want to shuffle the whole thing and get them out of order. It's not really fair to try to memorize words when you know this batch all starts with A. Someday I'll buy a little business card scanner and put them into the computer, and randomize them for practice. That's mostly why I haven't shuffled them.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:34 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

charlie don't surf, I did just what you are doing back when I was living in Japan and learning the language -- in the late 1990's. Now when I need to memorize something I use Anki. It does quiz you more on the cards you can't remember, and the ones you keep getting right it quizes you on less and less often. Definitely a time saver.

Also, I found it pointless to try to memorize readings for kanji. Instead, I have some cards that are meaning/kanji cards, and others that are (vocabulary word and pronunciation)/(meaning and pronunciation) cards. Once I had the pronunciation down, I deleted it from the card, and since reverse cards are generated automatically, I could just remove the pronunciation from the "front" of each card. The readings for the individual kanji change depending on the word, and learning a bunch of different readings for each kanji, several of which overlap with other kanji, just creates confusion. And then when you learn vocabulary you still have to remember which reading to use, anyway, so just learn it with the vocabulary from the start. Time saved, problem solved.

And if you use anki for memorization, you can put it on your phone and never be without your flashcards.
posted by antinomia at 8:36 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, KokyRyu, that is mostly my experience. Once you get to a certain level, flashcards become less effective than just using vocabulary lists. Try doing your multicolumn thing with a Check Sheet, like write the word in green and the meaning in red, then use the colored filters. Works wonderfully. I also like to gloss texts with furigana in the red Check Sheet pen, as you can see from my web page. That way you can read along, and only uncover the furigana when you need them.

But I suspect we both are (mostly) beyond this stage of learning.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:38 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, I found it pointless to try to memorize readings for kanji.

Readings become more effective tools at higher levels. Depending on your current abilities, you might enjoy the Bonjinsha Kanji Book series. I have been occasionally studying from the book Intermediate Kanji Book 1000 Plus Vol 1. This is pretty effective at teachiing the semantic vs. phonetic aspects of kanji. I remember bugging my teacher to give us instruction in this topic, but he said it would be futile, we wouldn't understand it until we got to higher levels, then we'd probably figure out for ourselves, or else we wouldn't and then we'd never really attain fluency. I thought he was weaseling out on teaching us properly. But he was right. You can't really put this together without extreme effort, until you get hundreds of kanji already in your working memory. But once you get to this level, you can use new strategies to learn whole groups of kanji. I was pretty amazed.

The Kanji 1000 Plus book is designed to help you get a working knowledge of over 1000 kanji. It's invaluable, even though it's like $68 at Amazon US. I bought it as an import in about 2005, at a much higher cost. Oh holy crap, I have been waiting for Vol 2, they published it when I wasn't looking, in 2008, $71 ouch. But these books are so good, I have occasionally thought I'd go back to the beginner book and learn it all over again, their way. Someone gave me a used copy of the Basic Kanji Book 2, but it was already filled out and scribbled all over. I was astonished at the basic kanji stuff I never learned.

Anyway, the point is, work smarter, not harder. I think flash cards are the brute force approach to learning something by rote memorization. I was an older student (about 38) when I started working on my Japanese degree. My teachers told me that the younger kids had more ability to learn and store new facts, so flash cards were their best approach. But being older, she said I had more general knowledge and would be better able to synthesize broader approaches to learning the subject. So I could work smarter, the younger kids would work harder but less smartly, and we'd all be about the same in the long run.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:55 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge Anki fan and use it for studying Spanish. If anyone wants it I have a self made set of Spanish verbs with about 1700 different verbs complete with sample sentences. Memail me if you want it and I'll send it your way.
posted by bswinburn at 9:31 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been using Flashcards deluxe for about 3 days, and I like it. Combined with the system from this book, I am already able to memorize an entire deck's worth of played cards. I think, but am not sure, that the cards the publisher made for this also work with Anki.
posted by bashos_frog at 10:13 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for quizlet. It's currently helping me pass A&P. Although, kinda bummed that there's no Android app. But I especially like the ability to generate tests with the data you enter.
posted by dave78981 at 12:00 AM on October 29, 2012

Aside from Safari and Mail, Flashcards Deluxe is the most-used app on my iPhone. I've been studying Mandarin in a weekly class for a while, but it's only since I started using a flashcards app that I've found the vocabulary to be really sticking. It's excellent for both learning new cards and keeping old vocabulary fresh. Rather than having to allocate some time to sit down with a book or a deck of cards, having a vocabulary test right there in your pocket means that any idle few minutes can become time spent reminding yourself of a few words -- studying in little intervals throughout the week, rather than cramming just before class!

Unlike some flashcard apps, the cards in this program can be 3-sided (or even up to 5-sided), and you can choose which order the sides appear as you flip the cards. I have side 1 as the Chinese character, side 2 as pinyin, and side 3 as English, so I can test each element separately. The testing interface is very simple: tap to flip the card, and then swipe left or down to mark as correct or incorrect.

It uses Spaced Repetition, so cards become due for study after different intervals, depending upon how often you get them right or wrong. Words that you're familiar with get pushed to the bottom of the stack, while words that you need more work on come up more regularly.

You can tag cards with various categories of information -- for example, which chapter of your textbook the word first appears -- and then filter by categories if you want to focus on a particular subset (for example, studying just the new vocabulary from the next chapter of your textbook before you start reading it in class). Your card deck is also easily searchable, for those times when you're wondering "Where else have I seen that character before?"

Decks of cards can be downloaded from various sites or you can create and import your own. They're stored as plain text, so it's easy to edit them and add new cards. Finally, since it's easy to add your own cards, you can use it as a store of new words as well -- when you come across a new word in class or when studying, add it to your flashcard deck and you'll eventually learn it, rather than letting it sit forgotten on a page of a notebook.
posted by logopetria at 12:17 AM on October 29, 2012

Yeah, KokyRyu, that is mostly my experience. Once you get to a certain level, flashcards become less effective than just using vocabulary lists. Try doing your multicolumn thing with a Check Sheet, like write the word in green and the meaning in red, then use the colored filters.

Wow, I'm learning some new stuff in this thread. Very useful. On the other hand, personally I could never use an electronic study aid for memorizing kanji - I found that I had to write it out in order to really remember it, usually with my Dr. Grip mechanical pencil. I still have the mechanical pencil I used to learn 1800+ kanji, and my son uses it now to learn Japanese.

Amazingly, Pilot has an online archive detailing the history of its Dr. Grip products. I have the 1999 version, although I have collected about a dozen since then.

Spiral ring notebook + Dr. Grip + Canon Wordtank = great studying.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:54 AM on October 29, 2012

I made a quick and easy flashcard deck with anki for learning Korean. Now my problem is that I normally don't want to even look at my decks.
posted by andendau at 7:01 AM on October 29, 2012

Have fun!
posted by The Ted at 11:03 AM on October 29, 2012

charlie don't surf: Anki actually supports cards with more than two sides. You give it a "fact" (any number of sides) and then define cards as pairs of sides. See here.
posted by 23 at 5:53 PM on October 29, 2012

Spiral ring notebook + Dr. Grip + Canon Wordtank = great studying.

Oh jeez, I had forgotten about the old Wordtank, that was my first electronic dictionary. I bet I still have it in my desk drawer, about 1 foot from my hands right now, let me check.. yep, there it is. Haven't fired it up in years, I better check to see the batteries haven't leaked. I still have the little jeweler's screwdriver that came with it, so you can open the battery compartment, it's right here in my pencil holder. Ah the batteries are long dead but no leakage.

I used my Wordtank so much, I actually beat one to death, which was OK because I wanted to upgrade to the new model with a larger dictionary. I even bought the accessory "Modern Japanese" dictionary chip, which was full of obscure definitions that were really useful in my studies, like "Aum Shinrikyo." Hey check out a pic of my old Wordtank. I loaned it to someone to look up a word, they asked me what's wrong with my Q key. I owned it a year and never noticed it.

I remember the old Wordtank had a way to flag words and then you could drill on them in flashcard mode. But it was a total pain in the ass to find words, especially if you only had the kanji and no reading. That's how I learned to count strokes and find radicals, so I could hunt them down in the Wordtank. Eventually I got a Zaurus so I could just write them with a stylus, that was much quicker. But then I had to become proficient enough to use the kokugo dictionary. And no flashcard mode.

But now this Dr. Grip thing.. that is an inferior choice. The Yasutomo GRIP500 .5 is a superior writing instrument. I bought one in 1996 and I liked it so much I bought a spare. Just last week, one of them died. Do you happen to know how to unjam a mechanical pencil that has a lead stuck in it? This also happened to my beloved Rotring 300 drafting pencil with a 0.3mm fine point, that I bought in Tokyo. I used to write furigana in my textbooks with it. Now both the GRIP500 and the Rotring 300 have been redesigned. The Rotring even removed a feature, the vital retractable tip. If mine had been retracted when it fell point-first off my table, the fragile tip would not be broken. I don't see how they could remove this feature. But I found some vintage new-in-box models on eBay. Maybe I will buy one.

I think I need a run to some stationery stores in Japan. My Check Sheets are becoming cloudy from scratches, from their constant use. I need more mechanical pens. And my Hello Kitty pencil case is getting worn out.

Anyway, of course you are correct, you must write a lot of kanji and vocabulary to memorize them. You have to work flash cards for both passive recognition and active production, to make sure the memory channels work both ways, in and out. I was constantly flipping through flash cards from the English side, then trying to write the kanji from memory. Then I'd write it 10 more times for practice.

I was surprised to discover that practicing both active and passive memory skills was a new concept in Japanese studies when I was a student. Previous systems like Jorden emphasized passive recognition only, and did not focus on writing or speaking. It was expected that Japanese students would never attain spoken and written fluency unless they lived in Japan, and even then, most of them would become translators working from Japanese to English. My teachers pioneered the new "4 skills" method, which paired the skills into reading/writing and listening/speaking. Today they actually split the annual curriculum into two separate classes, one oral and one written.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:27 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

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