In a world of smartphones and iPads, are flashcards relevant enough? As we know, children have got the hang of visual learning more than ever. Thus, flashcards, also known as index cards, help in stimulating and motivating kids by helping them learn and retain easily.
They are small note cards, typically two-sided with a prompt on one side and the respective information about the prompt on the other; this may include vocabulary, names, formulas, or procedures.
Flashcards are primarily used for testing and enhancing memory, enabling children to memorize and understand some imperative concepts critical to early learning. However, does this teaching manipulative have only good sides to it? Or are there some drawbacks too? Let’s find out in this post!
How can these be used for learning?
While using flashcards is a traditional method, it still holds significance in learning and is widely used today. While most of us are accustomed to using the reading and learning methods, yet, once we wrap our mind around those rectangular pieces of cards, processing newly processed information becomes relatively easier.
Here are a few steps you can follow while learning with flashcards:
- Making flashcards: There are numerous apps and programs out there that will help you download pre-made decks and start studying immediately but you can have double the fun by making your own flashcards. Creating your own card can help you better intake and retain information for a longer period; doing so would also be a good way to stimulate your brain and be a bit creative!
- Memorizing Individual Cards: Now, when it comes to memorizing, try to use the tool of mixing pictures with words as cognitive psychology suggests; there’s a concept called Picture Superiority Effect, which can easily express how people tend to remember imagery way better than words.
- Making Meaning: Try to ask yourself questions about individual cards. For instance, questions like “What else can this be related to?” or “Why is this important?” can help remember the information on the back associated with the prompt on the front.
We have been using traditional flashcards for a while now. But in this age, we have digital flashcards, too, making them relevant once more. They have been quite effective in teaching kids basic numbers, facts, sounds, etc.
Teaching about the part of speech with the flashcards, teachers can display a flashcard that has a picture and a related word. The student can now identify the entire sentence by placing the noun or adjective shown on the index card. Moreover, educators can also teach spelling through these cards by asking the kids to recite the spelling loudly once they see the picture.
What are the edges? – Advantages
When used thoughtfully, flashcards would be very effective in teaching and learning. It can increase the confidence level in kids as it helps in developing visual memory and stimulate thinking because of which they start making associations and identifying objects. They do have some benefits which make them popular teaching aids in school. Some of which are:
1. Flashcards work by stimulating visual memory:
Flashcards are visual aids. They make the learning of new facts easy for kids. Students tend to remember what they see when taught about a new thing or topic.
Studies have proven that learning through flashcards makes students grasp faster. Research by Sawa Senzaki states that remembering is enhanced when students see a particular image on a flashcard, and next when they see it again, they correlate with the image and tend to remember the concept taught faster. This is because the brain absorbs the information in a pictorial form faster.
2. Flashcards are portable:
Flashcards can easily be carried anywhere. They do not have weights like textbooks, and even kids can carry them comfortably. They will enjoy carrying these portable learning tools more than carrying notebooks or books.
Parents can use flashcards to teach their kids at home and even during their ride to school.
3. Increases the learning pace:
Flashcards aid the learning process by adding speed to it. Since kids are generally attracted to flashcards, educators and parents can use them to engage them during the study and activity hours. Moreover, when students find it challenging to deal with the vastness of the syllabus, they might get demotivated.
Hence, it becomes important for children to understand that even though the syllabus might appear huge, it can be easily broken down to absorbable sizes; this is where the flashcards would come into use!
At the crucial age when children are learning to study, it is important for them to maintain a good pace when it comes to finishing their work and improving their academic knowledge. Flashcards tend to help with the same.
4. Flashcards are versatile:
Flashcards as teaching aids can help teach multiple subjects. Educators can also use flashcards for teaching any foreign language and even subjects like physics, chemistry, maths, biology, history, and geography.
Irrespective of the subject, flashcards aid in different things, such as:
- Key figures and facts.
- Chemical formulae in Chemistry.
- Important dates in History.
- The vocabulary of a language.
- Maths and physics formulae.
5. Inexpensive teaching aids:
Flashcards are one of the most cost-effective teaching methods. They can be made at home using simple materials. All they would need are some normal paper, a pair of scissors, and the material they need for it to decorate; and that’s it, they would have their own flashcards ready. You can work with the children to create them and make sure that they are doing it right. This will also inculcate the importance of organization and discipline in them from quite a young age.
It is vital for young kids to stay updated and not limit their learning process. Since they are just beginning to understand and appreciate different methods of learning new things, it is a good time to introduce them to the concept of flashcards.
What are the snags? – Disadvantages
Are flashcards really effective in teaching kids? Helping a child’s brain develop, flashcards help in recalling and memorizing facts. But there is a big debate on how much it is effective in actual learning.
Here are a few disadvantages of flashcards:
1. There is a possibility that the learning context will get lost:
A lot of people argue that flashcards might not be the best strategy for in-depth learning. When toddlers are taught using flashcards with information on them, there is a big probability that they will not be able to apply that information in practical life. They are not clear about the concept or have not internalized the word. For example, A child will be able to recite that ‘2 plus 2 equal to 4’ by looking at a flashcard. But give them a pair of socks and ask the toddler how many he would need to make four pairs of socks, and they might draw a blank. Flashcards are not very helpful in teaching the understanding of the physical and the representative understanding.
2. Flashcards encourage rote learning:
This is a point raised by many that flashcards are only about memorizing. It comes nowhere near to learning from real-life experiences. Educators are only drilling information when they are using flashcards with letters, words, and pictures on them. They do not really prepare a child to read or develop literacy, communication, or language skills.
3. Flashcards might overburden the brain:
Some flashcards are pictorial, while the others use some keywords to pave the way to learning for kids. However, when too much information is provided to a child, they compete for synaptic connections inside the brain, which results in neurological crowding. Research by Denis G. Pelli states that when an individual is flooded with information, especially pictures, all at once, they tend to get cluttered in the brain and the learning would not happen the way the parent or the educator might have thought.
You can also think of it by taking the example of your computer. If you overload your computer, or if tons of emails, video calls, notifications, and popups start coming, all of this will hang the computer and freeze it for a few minutes. Such can also be the case with the brain. When the brain is similarly overloaded with information, it can go blank, resulting in learning becoming a slower process.
4. Small and unclear flashcards may arouse complexity:
Making a child learn what a tiger looks like can be easy through a flashcard, but what if the image of the tiger is not clear? Will it bring about learning, or will it bewilder the child? Small and unclear flashcards can arouse more problems than benefits. Therefore, while using flashcards to inculcate children, teachers and parents must make sure that what they are teaching is clear and crisp so that the purpose is fulfilled. If not, the student would hardly learn; in fact, they will land up in perplexity as the previously taught concept will brawl in their brains with the unclear information provided by the flashcard.
5. Flashcards can be age-restrictive:
While there is no denying that flashcards can be a great tool to teach toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners. They can also be used for middle schoolers to an extent. But can this tool be an effective one for high schoolers?
A kid can get to know what a hat is by looking at the picture of the hat in the flashcard. But, how would flashcards teach complex scientific concepts? This would certainly not be possible. Therefore, it is easy to inculcate a younger student through flashcards, but these can be used in a limited way for older students who are in college or high school.
Is using flashcards a repetition strategy?
Flashcards help kids learn because they make kids memorize by drilling information into them. These indeed use the repetition strategy because it repeatedly displays the same information to a learner. Using repetition means learners will only read and say what they see on the card. Flashcards are based on spaced repetition concept.
Repetition for making one perfect in a skill is an old practice. These study techniques have been known to help kids in recalling information. Undiversified displays of flashcards can help better memory retention in students of all ages.
For years, flashcards have been designed so that it helps learners in both retentions of information and active recalling. Using them creates stronger neural connections in the child’s brain. We may conclude that, despite their drawbacks, they are a convenient and valuable resource for teaching various concepts, and they also make the learning process easier. Improving language skills, boosting the ability to produce stories, memorizing, evaluating an issue, and expanding vocabulary are the advantages. Aside from the cognitive benefits and boosting an individual’s memory span, flashcards can also boost self-esteem, improve communication, and boost creativity. All-encompassing, they can be great tools to learn and retain study-related concepts! Moreover, there are numerous platforms where you can build your cards. Some apps called Quizlet or StudyBlue can be very suitable for accessing flashcards anywhere in the world.
- Reinventing Flashcards to Increase Student Learning. (2017, July). Sawa Senzaki. https://doi.org/10.1177/1475725717719771
- A clinical test for visual crowding [version 1; peer review: 2 approved with reservations]. (2016). Denis G. Pelli.