Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Change of Focus...

Over the last three years, I have been experimenting with incorporating Anki, a spaced-repetition software (SRS), flashcard website and smartphone application (app) into my teaching.  Personally and professionally, I think Anki on a mobile device is one of the best learning tools/methods available, and I use it daily to study Japanese.

However, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that Anki is not a good choice for many traditional teaching situations.  To work effectively, SRS systems require the users to be very serious and diligent in their use.  Many of my students, especially those taking required English classes, are not motivated enough to use it properly.  As much as they say they want to learn English, few of them put forth the time and effort, for many understandable reasons.

In short, using Anki incorrectly is an inefficient and ineffective way to study and may be a waste of time.

With that in mind, I have decided to change my focus to Quizlet (website and app) which has many similar features but does not require such serious and diligent use to be effective.  Quizlet has a variety of study and game modes to keep it interesting for students.  Another nice option is that teachers can create classes that students join and allow the teacher to keep track (in a limited way) on student use.

So, the plan for this semester is to incorporate Quizlet into two classes.

One is a regular Freshman English class, and we will meet in a computer lab once a week (out of four 45-minute classes) to use Quizlet.  We will aslo use Quizlet on smartphones for short periods on the three other days.

The other class is a once-a-week (90 minute) class.  We will also meet in a computer lab, with half the class time focused on face-to-face communication in my regular teaching style.  The other half of the class will be focused on using the Quizlet website, especially using the Test mode as an assessment device.

Overall, I want to see how to best use Quizlet in class for both students and teachers.  I also want to explore ways to get students to use the smartphone app (or website if they don't have a smartphone) to study Quizlet outside of class and how to monitor that usage in a useful way.


  1. Hi!
    Thank you for sharing your progress on implementing smartphones in your classroom.
    I share the same teaching context as you (Japanese University Students beginner - intermediate and most are taking English as a Course Requirement)
    I'd like to incorporate quizlet this term for vocab but I am concerned about how long it might take students to adapt to the platform.
    I used google groups last term and it was only until 10weeks into the course that everyone were able to smoothly use it.
    Out of curiosity how long did it take for your students to learn the new interface?
    I am looking forward to following your progress!

    1. Dear Satchie,

      Thanks for you comment!

      I have found that my students were able to use Quizlet quite quickly, but then I do a lot of in-class work with the app. When students are sleepy, I make them stand up and walk around the perimeter of the room while studying Quizlet.

      Also, if you haven't used Quizlet Live, I really recommend you try it. I have been using it very successfully in my uni classes. Here is an article I wrote about it:


      If you want to communicate more, please join us at my new Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) Facebook group:


  2. I've been wanting to incorporate SRS into teaching for years. I teach AP Psych at a disadvantaged school, where student motivation can be very low. In my view, to make SRS work we need a program that works seamlessly from web to app, and which allows us to monitor and assess our student's progress. Unbelievably, this doesn't seem to exist. We should be able to see number of reviews, review times, cards they've mastered, which cards were most difficult for them, etc. This way, we can assign time spent reviewing and provide participation grades for doing it, all while getting excellent data on where students are. If you know ANY services that come along that meet these needs please let me know.

  3. Dear David,

    Sorry to take so long in responding.

    As I wrote before, Anki is perhaps the best for studying but often not appropriate for teaching.

    Quizlet now has an SRS paid upgrade, but I don't know that it works well with a student's account in a class or allows teachers to see progress.

    Memrise is also a pretty good SRS app but also perhaps not appropriate for what you describe.

    I agree that it is frustrating that there is appears not to be a good SRS-based, web/app learning system for both students and teachers.

    If you want to communicate more, please join us at my new Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) Facebook group: