Flashcards Go Digital (and Not Just for Kids)

Spaced repetition is an effective learning tool

The old-fashioned flashcard is taking on new, digital life with a promise to make you smarter and more productive.

New flashcard programs on your phone or computer make it possible to memorize facts and concepts in what were wasted minutes waiting in line at the store or commuting to work. Users say they put a world of knowledge tantalizingly within reach, including Mandarin, programming, math, nutrition, bird calls, and the bar exam.

The programs are based on research showing that spaced repetition, or repeated exposure to information at planned intervals, is the most powerful way to fix knowledge in one’s memory. Each digital flashcard is repeated at intervals, based on the degree of difficulty for the user. The hardest quiz items come up for review within a few hours or days, and easier ones are repeated every few weeks or months—when the user may be about to forget the answer.

[Related: The Golden Age for Learning? Early Childhood]

Eden Full uses a program called Anki to create about 200 flashcards that she reviews several times a week on her smartphone while waiting in line or riding the subway. She studies memorable quotes, new ideas, helpful writing techniques or photos of important business contacts, with prompts to recall the person’s name and some personal information. Ms. Full, New York, founder of SunSaluter, New York, a nonprofit provider of solar panel technology, says the program helps her remember concepts and strengthen ties with business partners.

“When you’re having a friendly conversation with someone who is genuinely important to you, maybe you want to remember that the person has a dog named Sparky,” Ms. Full says. Once she has information firmly in mind, she discards the card.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

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