Love them or hate them, flashcards are useful for learning key vocabulary, concepts, or content. Whether you need to learn basic French or advanced political concepts, they’re helpful for cementing information in your mind. Writing them on bits of card or paper is all well and good, but like most things, there’s a computer equivalent which has the benefit of being easily accessible and editable, and far less likely to be lost or damaged. Both Anki and Quizlet provide online alternatives to risking damage to your dainty hands by using a pen and pair of scissors.
Anki is the downloadable software option, as opposed to Quizlet, which is housed online. Anki has a pretty large number of features, but this is also its downfall in some ways because it makes it confusing at times. It’s got a pretty advanced editing interface, but it’s not simple enough to create flashcards. Although the ability to add such things as sound or video clips, equations, and images to flashcards may prove very useful for learning or teaching concepts which go beyond text.
After creating a set of cards you can begin looking through them. Options appear after viewing each card which ask you how hard you found the card. Your answer to that will change how often the card comes back up. If you said you found it hard it will come back more often, whereas if you choose easy it will appear less often.
The software will also create graphs to show your progress and the amount of time you’ve spent on sets of cards. These seem awkward and clunky and of little use due to seeming like they’re going a bit over-the-top in trying to provide an in-depth analysis of your learning habits. Therefore the graphs looked out of place and confusing when I tried to get my feeble mind around them. There’s also an online section to Anki which allows you to view and edit your flashcards online, but this feature also seemed to be poorly implemented and awkward to use.
Quizlet, on the other hand, struck me as being a bit more smashing. Flashcards are simple and easy to use – text is displayed, followed by the answer when the button is clicked to reveal it. I think Quizlet should consider implement a similar system the one which Anki uses – being able to choose how often the card shows up would be useful addition to prioritise your learning more efficiently. In addition to the basic flashcard feature that you’d expect, it’s also invents other ways for you to learn the items – including a test, and more interestingly, games. These are simple games which place the focus firmly upon the vocabulary rather than getting too caught up with creating masterpieces of Flash.
By far the most impressive feature of Quizlet is the ability to search through a plethora of sets of flashcards which other users have created. A search for just about anything will probably yield some cards which are related to the topic you want to study. When you create your own these are shared with other Quizlet users to help them with their learning. Whilst most public card sets can’t be edited by other people, you can use the ‘Reuse these terms’ feature to add the cards into your own deck which you can edit and add to. Another smashing little feature is the ability to export the cards as text. This could prove useful for printing out notes which you can read over when you’re doing revision or studying without the benefit of access to a computer.
Overall Quizlet seems like a much stronger contender, and I’d suggest it was a better option to Anki if you’re planning or learning using flashcards. You can access Quizlet from www.quizlet.com, and download Anki from www.ichi2.net/anki.
I will unashamedly tell you that I don’t like Biology: I don’t want to know how things inside me work. I’ve been sick and nearly passed out at one point during the torture which others like to call a ‘biology lesson’. But I shan’t let this unreasonable inability to learn about the human body prevent me from doing it online! ‘Visible Body‘ allows me to do just that: it provides a snazzy interactive platform for touring a virtual body.
It’s simple to use: you’ll need to create an account in order to experience its full wonder, then you’re ready to launch the body. The first time you load it up you’ll probably see a blank white screen until you click the little button at the top which asks you to install something called ‘Ubiquity Web Player’ – you’ll need this to run the virtual body. It’s a quick, easy and safe install. After that mild kerfuffe you can get cracking.
The body will then take quite some time to load – it’s a bloody complex thing; give it time! Whilst you watch and wait patiently for the little bars at the top right to reach the end, rest assured that you’re in for a treat. The program is loading the various layers of the body for you to explore. Chances are, you’ll see the skeleton pop up first, but there’s much more to come. Patience is a virtue.
Once you’ve come close to beating yourself senseless against the desk in a fit of… patience, you’ll be ready to get exploring. On the left hand pane there’s a list of the different systems which you can explore. If you click the little green ‘Add’ button, unsurprisingly, that system will appear on the body. You can add and remove the systems as you see fit. There’s also some navigational controls to the left of the body – something that looks like a compass which this lets you navigate around the body; a zoom slider which allows you to move in closer on certain parts; and a few buttons underneath which are fairly self-explanatory, such as ‘Hide’ and ‘Reset View’.
This navigation can be made easier by using the mouse to drag around instead of using the provided buttons: click and hold on an area of the body and drag the mouse to spin the poor chap around; zoom in and out with the scroll-wheel; or hold down the scroll-wheel and drag the mouse around to move the body around.
You can click individual parts of a system to see its name appear on the left hand pane, providing a dandy opportunity to find out the names of just about every little bit of the body; even the smallest of bones! Similarly, you can also hide certain parts of the body by clicking on an area, and then clicking the ‘hide’ button. For instance, you could hide parts of the skull to peer into the lovely looking grey matter inside. I get endless pleasure from giggling at googly-looking eyes and brain hovering in mid-air of their own accord after I’ve hidden the other layers. Small things for small minds, I know.
I hoping for even more future improvements, such as a slightly more friendly user-interface, and perhaps little bubbles which could be toggled on or off by the user which tell you what part of the body you’re looking at. In addition, little optional messages that give concise and simple information about different systems, organs, and other parts of the body would be a great educational addition for everyone.
Even for someone like me who is afraid of even the implication of blood or something in any way related to human bodies, this website is an incredibly fun and educational experience. It looks to be a fantastic resource for everyone: casual dapplers, students, teachers, hypochondriacs. Give it a go at www.visiblebody.com. You won’t be disappointed!