Not long after writing was invented, someone must have thought, 'Hey, this might be a good way to learn some useful things.' And the idea of a flashcard was born - distill down the useful, essential facts in a subject area and drill with those facts until you know them cold.
The basic method hasn't changed. Information is put on one side and related terms on the other. Practice comes by linking the two. At first, you repeat by looking at both sides. After some confidence arises, you start testing by looking at only one side and regurgitating the information on the other.
The power of flashcards comes from having to know the material well enough to write your own and then being able to use them in a variety of ways:
Notecards, the modern, online version of electronic flashcards
Like with everything else, technology has touched the basic paper flashcard and improved it. The online version, called 'notecards' starts the same as the old school method, but advances from there.
Essentially, a notecard is a formatted collection of virtual flashcards. They are created online and appear on the screen the same way a 3 x 5 card would, except the data can be managed in different ways. To prevent confusion, flashcard here will mean the same as notecard.
For example, a set of online flashcards can be shared electronically. Unlike physical cards, a hundred copies are as easy to generate as two. Sending a link uses the cloud - no need to worry about saving a file or trying to remember where the data is stored.
Other benefits include:
More benefits of notecards
For many students, the critical boost they get from notecards is confidence. Imagine how sweet it is to sit for a test knowing you know the material cold. How? Because you've drilled with notecards and tested yourself already.
Confidence makes a lot of difference in a test situation. This is especially helpful for those who get test anxiety.
The sharing feature is also a wonderful boost. The problem with study groups (both virtual and in person) is they can quickly turn into chat-fests. Nothing gets done. With flashcards, there's at least a grounding in what you are supposed to be studying. One of the best ways to use it is to challenge someone else to take a test based on your notecards. In this 'challenge mode,' you take their test and they try yours. It's great for engaging the material.
Behind the scenes, that's where the power comes from. By creating and sharing your own online flashcards, you'll have to deal with the subject matter. If you have to mine the material for key facts, you can't help but dig into it.
Nothing convinces like trying it out. You'll quickly find the process to be natural, easy and fun. The technology will be familiar to anyone who can send an email. The graphical interface is a breeze.
Even if you don't want to commit to making a full set of flashcards, you can still get a feel for how it works by playing around with a set posted by someone else.
The best result comes from building your own custom set. The set can be modified as you go, either by adding information (and cards) or by removing those you've already mastered and drilling on the rest.
Like all learning tools though, you have to use them to get the gains. It's not hard and it pays big benefits - give them a shot.