This week, you are in for a treat, courtesy of Andrew Pharis, an ESOL educator and fellow ed-tech enthusiast based in Japan. Andrew was a classmate of mine at USC and introduced me to a number of amazing sites, such as Quizlet. Rather than sharing what little I know about the site, I thought I would let you learn about it from a master, and Andrew has kindly agreed to share his knowledge with you. Thanks, Andrew!
When it comes to using flash cards to drill, vocabulary teachers’ opinions seem to vary from “useful tool” to “necessary evil” to “waste of time.” Surprisingly, however, many students prefer it, and some schools expect it. Whatever your feelings may be on the subject, Quizlet is an online resource that streamlines the process for students and teachers.
The website allows users to create and share sets of flashcards that can then be studied and reviewed. There is a voice feature that will play back what is written on each flashcard. This can be particularly useful for studying foreign languages. The system supports a variety of languages, and users can toggle the speed of the playback. There are a couple of games that the site will generate using the content of the flashcards to break up the repetition of simple rote memorization. When students are ready, they can even test themselves. The site lets students know how long they take to complete activities or tests and challenges them to try to beat their own scores.
The website provides access for first time visitors, registered users, or paid subscribers, so anyone can benefit from this resource. There are mobile app versions for Mac OS and Android users to study on the go. There are subscription options that provide additional features (e.g. image uploading, voice recording, ad removal, class progress monitoring); however, most of the basic features are free for all.
Teachers can create classes, sets of flashcards, and register student accounts. They can also monitor students’ progress to see who’s logging in and who isn’t. All sets of flashcards are made public on the site so that anyone can access flash card decks that have already been created. Lists can be uploaded from Microsoft Excel or created on the website.
What can really make the site useful for students is that sets of flashcards can be copied and edited by individual users. Language learners, for example, can add pictures, sample sentences, or any other notes to their own sets of cards to further contextualize the content in support of memorization.
In my classes, I provide sets of flashcards for students to access from the beginning of the school term. I encourage them to copy and edit their own sets of flashcards and include their own sample sentences. This allows them to use their own voices to learn the new vocabulary. Further, as sets of vocabulary words tend to be grouped together along larger units (e.g., household items, school subjects, places around town), this makes for themes to which sample sentences can be tied. Studying in this way goes much further to building students’ schemas around those themes. In this way, flashcards can go a lot further than simple rote memorization can.
Andrew Pharis completed his Master’s degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California in 2012. He currently teaches as part of the adjunct faculties at Aichi Gakuin University and Gifu University in Japan. He has taught ESOL in Japan for more than 5 years. His primary interests are learner autonomy and using technology in education.