Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recruit a student helper

In my efforts to introduce SRS flashcard systems and smartphones into the classroom, I found the recruiting a student helper is invaluable.

The key is to identify someone who seems technogically savvy and work with the student individually, either in or out of class, to ensure a solid understanding of what you are trying to do.

Often, that student will be the one who finishes earlier than the rest of the students in the early steps of implementing the systems.   You can use that extra time, waiting for the other students to catch up, to train your helper.

Once the student is on board, he or she can serve as your lieutenant, helping other students troubleshoot problems in their native language.  You can also discuss or solve potential problems with this student before they occur on w larger scale in class.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Anki users - "Remember to Sync!"

If you are teaching students to use a spaced-repetition (SRS) flashcard system, such as Anki, that operates across different platforms (i.e., PC to website to app), it is extremely important to train the students to sync (or connect) before and after every study session and every card making session on any device - basically any time they do anything with their SRS system.  If the students do not sync correctly, then the data that exist in the different places will not be the same, and there will be conflicts later, which could cause them to either lose the new cards they made or any study progress.

The other SRS system that I am recommending for iDevice users, Flashcard Elite, does not have this problem with syncing.  Although, there is related problem with adding new cards to a deck that I will write about later.

Always syncing before and after every use of SRS ensures that the data are always the same in every place and removes the risk of conflicts.

I learned this the hard way today when I forgot to remind my students to sync at the beginning of our computer lab today - kind of embarrassing...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Creating flashcards with different SRS systems

Last week at the first meeting in a computer lab with my 25 first-year, Economic faculty students, I introduced the students to the concept of spaced repetition system (SRS) study and had them all sign up for accounts with and

During our second computer-lab meeting this week, students accessed their accounts and begin creating their own cards.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, in order for all students to have access to free SRS studying via a website and/or an smartphone app, Android smartphone students used, iPhone students used, and non-smartphone students used

Overall, it went well.  Some students needed more help than others, but by the end, all but two students were able to create the 13 cards required for the current unit.  Some of the more technological savvy students even started studying their cards.

I might recommend, in this case; that you have all the Quizlet students and Anki students sit together.  That way it is easy to explain things and to assess progress.

The Ankiweb site, to be honest, while functional enough,  is designed to be used in conjunction with the free Anki computer program and not as a stand alone flashcard creation site.  One of the major drawbacks is that when students create decks via the website, they cannot choose name of the deck.  The first one is "My deck," and other new decks are "My deck1, "My deck2," etc.  However, as my students cannot download the program in the university computer lab, it is the best solution I can find for the Android smartphone students at this time.  Ideally, I will be able to find an Android SRS flashcard app that works with Quizlet.

The Quizlet website is very easy to use, and students can even choose to have the entire site with instructions be in their own language.  However, the flashcard studying portion of it is not SRS.  Yet, it seems to be the best choice to use with the best, free iPhone flashcard app that I can find, Flashcard Elite.

Ideally, it would be nice to have all the students doing the same thing at the same time.  However, this does not seem to be possible.  This combination of apps and methods seems to allow all students to study in a similar way and benifit from SRS flashcards.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

One small victory for SRS!

Today, in one of my classes, IT finally happened...

In our first meeting the week before, I introduced SRS studying on smartphones to the tiny class of four students.  The one Android smartphone student dowloaded the AnkiDroid app, and the two iPhone students downloaded the Flashcard Elite app.  The non-smartphone student used my netbook to create an Ankiweb account.  Quickly, they started making their own cards from the class material.

In class today, we spent some time practicing correct usage.  I put a Anki deck of class materials up on the television and quizzed an individual student.  Then I asked the other two students to play the role of teacher and evaluate the answer.  Then I asked the answering student to evaluate his or her own answer.  The students really concentrated and seemed to grasp the idea of the importance of honestly evaluating their own answers.

After that, I set them loose to study.  After awhile, I circled around to check on the students' progress.  One of them was busily pecking away at his smartphone, with a piece of paper on his desk that I did not recognize.

"What's that?" I asked.  He replied, "It's my paper from my other English class."

Without my prompting him to, he had created a brand new deck and was making new cards to study.

I swear, I almost hugged him.

That is what I have been trying to do in my class: create empowered and independent users of SRS.

That's one - only three more to go...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spaced-repetition (SRS) flashcard options for teaching

While I think that studying with the Anki spaced repetition (SRS) flashcard app on a smartphone is ideal, it is often not possible to have all students doing the same thing.  Some students do not have smartphones.  And the Anki app for iPhones is approximately $25 (expensive but completely worth the money in my opinion), while the AnkiDroid app is free.  I feel that I cannot require some students to buy an expensive app while some get the equivalent for free.

One option is to have the students use the Anki website, allowing them to study from any web browsing device.  This is a functional solution to the above problems, but it is not ideal.  The Anki website is not as fast  and easy to use as the Anki app, and, if the students do not have access to the Internet (no cell phone signal or wifi), they cannot study.

As I wrote earlier about an alternative to Anki on the iDevices, I believe that another SRS flashcard app, Flashcard Elite, has potential to be a replacement for Anki.  Users can create and download flashcard decks from and study on their smartphones.  I would not recommend that students study on the Quizlet website itself because, as far as I can tell, it does not use SRS.

So, with my goal being to find a way where as many students as possible can benefit from an SRS flashcard app on a smartphone, here is my current plan for this semester:

Students without smartphones

These students will create Anki website accounts and create a deck of flashcards via the website in class once a week.  On other days, these students will work with a partner who has a smartphone.  Using their partners' smartphones, they will access their accounts via the web and then hand the smartphone back to the owners.  Those students will then quiz the non-smartphone students on their decks.

Students with Android smartphones

These students will download the AnkiDroid app to their smartphones.  Then, they will create Anki website accounts and sync (connect) accounts to the smartphone app.  After they create decks of cards via the website in class, their decks of cards will be downloaded to the smartphone app.  On other days, these students will work with a partner in the same manner above, except that the studying will be through the Anki app, not the Anki website.

Students with iPhones

These students will download the Flashcard Elite app to their smartphones.  Then, they will create Quizlet accounts and create decks of cards via the Quizlet website in class.  After that, they will access Quizlet from the Flashcard Elite app and download their decks.  On other days, these students will work with partners in the same manner above, except that the studying will be through the Flashcard Elite app.

Please understand that this is a work in progress and subject to change.  It will create more work for the teacher in terms of the logistics of teaching with SRS, but I feel it is worth the effort.

I would really appreciate any feedback about what I have proposed.  Please feel free to leave a comment or question!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Introducing digital SRS flashcards to the classroom

At  Teaching with Anki, I write about Day 1 of introducing Anki, a spaced repetition, flashcard program, to my first year English students.

On a side note, I plan to start transitioning all my writing about Teaching with Anki to this website.

A good (maybe), free SRS smartphone app

In trying to find ways to incorporate smartphones into the classroom, I have been experimenting a great deal with spaced-repetition system (SRS) flashcard apps.  Since I am a heavy user of the Anki program/app and know it well, it has been the main focus of my classroom efforts for the last two years.

However, due to the cost, I cannot require my students to buy the Anki app.  Instead, the students have been using the Anki website to create and study cards.  It is not an ideal solution but a functional one.

Recently, I have been looking for alternatives to Anki.  Unfortunately, many of the free apps leave something to be desired.

However, just the other day, on an excellent website called Flashcard apps for for iPhone & iPad, I discovered a distinct possibility called Flashcard Elite.

I have only downloaded it today and am trying a JLPT N2 (Japanese level 2) deck.  So far it looks pretty good!  I'll report more later after I've used it some more...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Smartphone Apps for Educators

Here is an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "6 Top Smartphone Apps to Improve Teaching, Research, and Your Life."

Welcome to Teaching with Smartphones!

My name is Rich Bailey, and I teach English for the Center for English Language Education at Asia University in Tokyo, Japan.

For the last few years, I have been exploring how to use Anki, a spaced-repetition flashcard program, in and out of the classroom at my Teaching with Anki website.  It has been very interesting and rewarding work, and now I would like to broaden my perspective and look at other uses of smartphones in teaching.

Smartphones and related devices are rapidly becoming the dominate form of technology in society, and as educators, we need to jump on that train or get left behind!

While there are a thousand and one ways that smartphones can be used in the classroom (attendance apps, feedback devices, etc.), my main focus will be on figuring out ways that teachers and students can use their smartphones to improve and enhance the process of learning a language - in this case, English.

Hopefully this site will become a place for exploring and sharing ideas and information for teaching with smartphones!