Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tech Column: Quizlet

by Bill Adler

Technology whizzes by at the speed of light. It feels like yesterday that we were all trapped in the bodies of small cellphones that just talked and texted. Now our cellphones are big and as powerful as computers were not too many years ago.

But not everything has changed. We still talk on the phone in pretty much the same way people did 100 years ago: The microphone goes near our mouths and the earphone near our ears. We still use keyboards, too, and a typist from 1912 would be able to type on a keyboard in 2012.

Flashcards, possibly the best learning tool ever invented, have also survived decades of technological winds, making quiet progress. Long gone are index cards used as flashcards. Now there are online flashcard services that integrate with your smartphone so you can study (or create and update) your cards from anywhere.

Flashcards are great for learning languages, chemistry formulas, Supreme Court decisions -- anything that requires memorization. Flashcards let you learn at your own place, and study just the material you need to know. They're handy, fast, easy to use, and totally non-judgmental.

But traditional, paper homemade index card flashcards suffered from a number of technological constraints: They were only as good as your handwriting, couldn't be easily updated, and couldn't be shared.

Enter Quizlet, www.quizlet.com, the best flashcard service on the planet. Quizlet is simple to use. (Flashcards must be simple to use, otherwise what's the point?) You can easily create flashcards online and access your cards on your Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile phone, Nook, or Kindle. You can edit and update your cards from your phone, too, which is especially handy when for when
you want to correct mistakes you may have made when creating your cards.

Quizlet offers other features: You can incorporate photographs into your cards, either from your PC or from Flickr. You can import cards from Microsoft Word. Quizlet, both on the website and on your smartphone, can speak, which is helpful for language learning.

One of Quizlet's best features is that there are already thousands of flashcards on hundreds of topics that others have created and which you can use, including "Muscles of the Shoulder and Arm," "Food Preparation Terms (with photos)," and "Italian Language Adjectives." Chances are that for whatever you're studying, there's already a flashcard set that's been created and perfected.

Using Quizlet, which is free, is a snap: You can choose to display both sides of the card at once, alternate between the "question" and "answer," or let Quizlet display a different side of the card at random.

Here's the secret sauce when it comes to using Quizlet, www.quizlet.com: pick the right smartphone app. I tried a beautiful app called Mental Case. It's fun to use with eye-candy visual effects. After a spin around the block with Mental Case and another smartphone app called gFlashPro (which lets you import cards from Google Docs), I settled on FlashCards Sync, http://bit.ly/NMX19H, for my
iPad and iPhone. It's easy to use, has audio, lets you search Quizlet's database of cards, and sync with your own Quizlet flashcards.

If Quizlet had a slogan it would be "Making learning fun."


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOftHe tweets at @billadler.

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