Flashcards as Learning Devices!


Flashcards as Learning Devices
When I was growing up my mom liked todrive home important lessons with some big and inevitably creased andcrumpled flashcards. These lessons covered everything from “A isfor Apple” to the right-of-way rules before our driver’s tests.We tended to lose as many as we kept, but little by little, thesesimple tools and this simple process actually helped us learn. Andthere is more and more evidence supporting the idea that flashcardsare still an effective learning device.
Why Flashcards?
When I’m teaching my own kids, Inotice that they can pick up new ideas pretty quickly, but as soon asthey are in hand they get misplaced somewhere in the mass ofdeveloping neurons. Getting them to hold on to these new concepts orideas was the real challenge. My kids were doing okay in school, butI believed they could do better. And I remembered what it was likewith those old, creased and crumpled flashcards. They worked for me.Why not try it with my kids?
Flashcards, it turns out, are still afast and easy way for kids to assimilate new ideas and concepts. Allthe information they need (A’s equaling apples and so forth) isright there in front of them, and, more importantly, these are agreat learning device for both auditory learners and visual learners.The kids can conceptualize an idea with the picture or text on thecards and hear it spoken or say it themselves.
When I started using these flashcards Ialso noticed that they were able to retain the things they learnedmuch easier. The reason, I think, is because flashcards are so simpleand fast to use that it’s easy for the kids to repeat the lessonsat different intervals. If you can get them with that repetition,their developing brains can hold onto the concepts much longer.
Modern Variants
Of course, in an era of educationalgames and a strange belief that true knowledge can only be hadthrough a computer, it may be hard to get your kids interested inthose creased and crumpled flashcards. So I say: go modern. Make yourown.
When my kids started getting bored withthe simple flashcards, I decided to go a different route. I pulledout my laptop and started making my own with MicrosoftPowerPoint. This is a really simple program, and anyone can makea series of PowerPoint slides based on your children’s currentneeds. My first attempt (at the time I hadn’t used the programmuch, either) I just stuck to simple math. I could animate thenumbers coming in from the sides, and then when they clicked themouse after reading the card and giving their answer, the correctanswer would appear. The best thing is that it would work almost asfast as they clicked, and they were motivating themselves to gofaster each time.
When I got a little more skill, Istarted downloading free PowerPointslides that included a lot more pictures and sounds. I thoughtabout including videos, but that kind of defeated the purpose ofspeedy repetition, so I stuck with the simple and the fast. Before Iknew it, even my youngest child was sitting on my lap, clicking themouse, and letting me know that A was still, in fact, for apple.

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