Flash Card Basics: Paper or Digital?

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Making an effective flash card can be a challenge for people who have never made a flash card before or have just started school for the very first time. Flash cards can be a good strategy for learning terms, definitions, and short lists if used right. Used wrong, they can sabotage your grade. I have seen them used right and wrong. You could study a bad set of flash cards for 10 hours and not reap the the benefit that you could get from studying a good flash card set for 1 hour. The idea is that studying in smaller increments will yield higher retention of information. It is also a very good categorization tool. In this article we going to look at both paper and digital flash cards. In the next article we will discuss how to write a proper flash card.

First thing you want to do is decide on if you want to use digital or physical flash cards. There is pros and there are cons to digital and physical flash cards that you really need to consider before deciding on which option will work for you. It comes down to if you want to hand write them or not, money, accessibility, and computer literacy.

Digital Flash Cards

The good thing about digital flash cards is that you will not have to continually purchase flash cards from the store. You will no longer have to carry around big stacks of flash cards from place to place. Depending on your studies, you could rack up hundreds of flash cards in a variety of subjects. With digital flash cards, all you have to do is purchase a yearly subscription through one of the providers. The cost for an online flash card subscription averages around $15 to $20 per year of service. A subscription with any flash cards service usually allows you to create, categorize, and stylize as many flash cards as you desire. You can even add sound and pictures in many instances.

Flash cards can be accessed on almost any electronic device including tablets, phones, and computers. The best thing I have found about digital flash cards is that you can edit them multiple times if you find that the information you had initially was inaccurate if information has changed. The top brands for flash card creation include Quizlet, Cram, Study Blue, and GoConqr. Brands covered in a later article.

Paper Flash Cards

Paper flash cards are nice because they have a few benefits that digital flash cards do not. You actually get to feel the paper that your information is on. This might not seem like much at first, but with any electronic game or image, we all know it is possible to get too zoned into the device that we are not retaining like we want to. For instance, it has been found that you retain 50% more writing than typing. This does not happen to everyone, but be weary if you are one of those people. This could be you if you feel like you are learning the question and answer, but not the concept. Or if you feel like you have studied flash cards to death but still got a less than wanted grade on a standardized test.

Paper flash cards are expensive when you need to buy many of them, but there is sometimes nothing that can replace the hard work of writing everything down by hand over and over again. It has often been stated that writing something by hand multiple times can build retention and memory of the subject better than electronic typing ever will.

A Few Basics

  • Keep Flash cards simple
  • Color code important facts
  • No more than one question per card
  • Pictures help build memory
  • Adding sound can be very beneficial
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