Some musings on construction and flashcards...

Sunday February 6, 2011

It seems pretty clear to me that in at least some sense, people need to construct meaning or knowledge or whatever if they are going to really learn it.

As a mundane, possibly silly example: With the goal of learning Korean, I've started using an iPhone flash-card app that uses some version of graduated recall ideas of memory to maximize effectiveness.

I make my own flash-cards for this app, based on words that I encounter and want to remember and use.  I enjoy reviewing them and feel like it really helps me to remember them.

I've tried using pre-made "decks" of the elements, the US state capitals, etc... and they're just dead boring.  I don't care.

So I was thinking maybe it was because I made the flashcards that I found them more interesting and valuable, but now that I think about it it's probably just that those topics are dull as heck.  But I do lack context for them as well.  I think if I was doing a class with vocab for every lesson, or something like that, I wouldn't mind having pre-made cards that I could just start studying right away.  But I think it would just be for review - it wouldn't do as a first exposure to the material.

Related wondering: How useful are flashcards for other topics, like science or history, where things don't fall into little card-sized pieces as easily as language vocabulary words?

The original question that started this ramble is this: "Do people need to construct their learning method, in addition to just what they learn?"  The answer seems to be no, although I do feel more personal investment in the flashcard thing for having chosen it for myself.  I didn't invent flashcards, and I got the idea from a friend who was already using a related program.  Teachers prescribe material and methods, and when they forget that they need to prescribe methods they invent whole classes on "study skills."  I think if a student understands and faithfully follows a prescribed study methodology, that should be sufficient.  They are free to add more on top of it, as always.

This post was originally hosted elsewhere.