The old-fashioned flashcard is taking on new, digital life with a promise to make you smarter and more productive.
New flashcard programs on your phone or computer make it possible to memorize facts and concepts in what were wasted minutes waiting in line at the store or commuting to work. Users say they put a world of knowledge tantalizingly within reach, including Mandarin to programming, math, nutrition, bird calls and the bar exam.
The programs are based on research showing that spaced repetition, or repeated exposure to information at planned intervals, is the most powerful way to fix knowledge in one’s memory. Each digital flashcard is repeated at intervals, based on the degree of difficulty for the user. The hardest quiz items come up for review within a few hours or days, and easier ones are repeated every few weeks or months—when the user may be about to forget the answer.