Usability not extension determines Flash Card content
This morning I read a post about discovering that flashcards do work and they are a great way to study, the most important aspect of the post was that the author preferred to write down more complex Q&A than the typical Term-Definition flashcard as used by many online flashcards. The issue of writing them on paper deserves a post of its own, if you are interested in Supermemo, you’re probably already convinced paper can’t match digital anyway (might supplement it though).
Many argue that that flashcards should be very simple (e.a. “flash”) they mostly refer to the issue of extension or wordiness. My own experience, although doesn’t oppose completely to this way of thinking, shows that many simple Q&A questions don’t necessarily need to be short in extension.
The type of information included in my flashcards has suffered constant change, you could probably call it evolving, trough the simple clozed sentences that later on I had no clue which word was missing and memorizing them felt parrot like repetition, to complex question with a short answer plus further explanations sometimes used now.
Currently my primary way of choosing the amount of information to include in a single flashcard depend mostly on usability, I try to figure out I’ll require to remember the data and what for.
For example if I need to recall what is some “normal” laboratory value like hemoglobin in adults, it makes no sense to include further explanation in the question or answer field. But if values are related by sex, say testosterone values, I would probably make the question emphasize this by asking: What are the serum testosterone values for (male, female)?. In this specific case I don’t want to ever make a mistake by remembering the female value when a male value is needed, hence remembering this two values together makes more sense than learning them separately.
This seems to contradict the simplicity principle of supermemo, from my point of view though simplicity means as simple as possible. Some knowlegde nuggets need more space for storage in my external hypocampus thats all.
An example of item with short answer plus explanation:
Which is better Interleaving or Blocking for study?[…]
#Title: Will That Be on the Test?
#Source: Spacing Effect-., Memory-., learning-.,-
#Element: 97173: [24/06/2009 04:52 p.m.] Will That Be on the Test?.. Ebbinhaus’s Spacing Effect …
#Article: 96269: Will That Be on the Test?
Interleaving is better then blocking
Best is “interleaving” practice items, as opposed to “blocking” them en masse. Example: redesigning syllabi to include short reviews of previous lessons at the end of each class.