Many of our students highlight the texts they read, whether it be full-blown-fluo-yellow or a coded-colour system that they got lost into. Hell, I did it too, from kindergarten until I got my diploma. Highlighting makes total sense, right? It keeps the information clear, you don’t need to reread the whole thing, and you can copy everything on another document to study it.
What if I told you we messed up?
Science seems to point out that no, highlighting isn’t efficient. Heck, rereading isn’t helping much either. We clock in way much more time than need be when we use those techniques. Indeed, it is categorized under “the least effective methods” with regards to learning.
I feel like I’ve just been robbed of all the time I’ve spent reading and highlighting …
It seems that one of the most efficient technique is : creating queue cards
Queue cards help us studying chunks of information for a short period of time distributed on a long period of time. Plus, it takes the good part of highlighting, which is focus on the important material, and makes it better.
Queue cards could ressemble something like this:
On one side you have a question (right picture), on the other side you have an answer (middle picture). These are written by hand, and they add up to quite a big amount and space if you work a lot with them (left picture).
These help the brain focus on important chunks of information while testing if you remember them or not. They can easily be used in a group to study before a test by putting the pile in the middle of the table and asking one by one a question to someone else. The oral input as well as visual input help the brain link the information together and remember more effectively.
However, as has been the talk on this blog before, paper ressources get bulky, they are fragile (see the torn corners on the first picture?) and they aren’t ecological, what with the use of so much paper and ink. Plus, it’s quite hard to share them with your friends if you need them at the same time, to the purpose of studying for the same test on the same day. Hence, you can’t really share your ressources with those who matter.
The electronic era has an answer for this as well (doesn’t it always?)
It is called: StudyBlue.
Studyblue is an application where you create online flash cards. It’s interface is a mix of black and blue that is pleasing to the eye. *note: the next pictures will be the iPhone interface, but the video after my presentation will present the iPad interface.
As you can see in this picture, you create an account or you join with Facebook to be able to sign in. It will create a personalized account for you that you will be able to access on any device and which is your own personalized cloud storage for your flash cards (called backpack).
The first step to creating your own personalized flash cards is to press on the blue cross at the bottom. This is the screen that will pop up. You can write in all the relevant information for you and anyone who would like to have access to your cards. This will create a class and queue cards will be categorized by classes.
Classes are also the way for you to search the users’ database for queue cards. You simply type either you course code or your teacher’s last name in the field, after you entered which school is yours, and it pops up available registered queue cards. Therefore, the more your community is involved, the better learning everyone can benefit from. The databank to choose from is already quite big!
This is what your backpack looks like. It is clean looking, organized, and hey, it doesn’t weigh anything at all!
On the right hand side, you can see your average score you got when studying these (we’ll get to this later) and how your progress is going (if you started at 20% and went up to 78%, you’ll get a curve like the one next to “Study Sounds Linguistics”. If you get a good score at the beginning and slowly go up, you will get a curve a bit like “Short Story Basic Ideas”.) The progress graph is quite useful to keep track of where you’ve come from and how you are doing now, whether it be better or worse, which is something you can’t exactly keep track of when you use pen and paper.
When you begin studying, you have a few options as whether you want to use flashcards, a test or a review sheet. Plus, you can choose the number of cards you’d like to study and you can determine what type of cards you study, i.e. the ones you have the most trouble with or the whole thing.
Here are the options:
If you choose flashcards, here’s what’s next for you:
This is how your queue cards look. You have the question (left) and you simply tap the card (or the arrows) to flip it. Then, you can either do thumbs up or thumbs down depending on if you answered correctly. Furthermore, the question appears on top, which you can reread a couple of times along with the answer in case you get in incorrectly.
Next to the thumbs, you can see a 0, a bar and a 56. This means that this question is the first card out of 56, and that we have yet to get good or bad answers, which is why the bar is grey.
If you look on the right hand side, you can see that the bar is no longer fully grey; we see the progress over time. The green marks are correctly answered questions while the red ones are incorrectly answered questions. This bar also allows the user to know that they’re a bit over a quarter done but not half way through yet. Hence, it gives a general idea of how well your studying session is going.
This is the final breakdown when you finish studying. Cool, huh?
The application also has a built-in quiz creator. You can choose to do it multiple choice, where different answers (definition) from everything you’ve entered in your queue cards show up or you can use the true/false option.
Last but not least, you can stay connected with your friends and share with them when you’ve studied, the score you’ve gotten and such. You can even share the cards you studied. Quite a motivator!
This was the iPhone interface. Now, the iPad one:
Last but not least, the website interface:
Some people aren’t quite feeling the StudyBlue vibe. Many feel that the online website interface is too crowded and the animation between flashcards is distracting. Plus, if you aren’t used to ditching the pen and paper to study and write down your notes on your computer, it can be quite hard and time consuming to change to online flashcards. Last but not least, it was pointed out that smartphones and such deal with StudyBlue quite magnificiently but any phone that is a bit older has to go through the hassle of opening the regular StudyBlue website and painfully scroll around to try and read anything.
Others like it quite a lot. Many highlight the cross platform interaction and nice mobile interface. The fact that it is portable and on the go is a plus for a lot of reviewers because students are so often on the go themselves! For the iPhone and Evernote user, StudyBlue has a function to convert the notes in flashcards, which is a much appreciated and useful feature. PC users will also be delighted to know that Powerpoint, PDFs and DOCs can also be converted in flashcards. As mentioned in the cons, this is an application that students who are used to typing on the computer will love. Many technology savvy students will spend much less time to get more done if using an application than pen and paper.
Here is a complete positive review regarding Studyblue which introduces some teaching ideas
Obviously, the main application in the classroom for StudyBlue is to have your students use it to study your material. They build their own flashcards, they share with each other, they study for the test, voila.
Following along that idea, maybe you could be the one creating the flashcards, instead of giving hands-out. You have them study information in a review sheet before coming to class, a bit like in flipped classroom (maybe along with a video?) and they come ready in class to actually consolidate what they learned and practice it. Then, they leave the classroom with you having shared another set of flashcards that will prepare them for the day they have a test. Having them study in such a compartmentalized way over a long period of time will truly help their brain retain the information.
Another way to exploit that idea is to have students document themselves on subjects as they would for an oral presentation then have them create flashcards for their peers. They will then share the information with them and instead of standing in front of the classroom teaching a subject they don’t know a whole lot about, they have the time and ability to create something with more substance that will benefit the class long term.
Let me know if you try it out or if you have other application ideas!