There is no doubt that spaced repetition is good for maintaining long-term memory. One tool that comes to mind in this context is flashcards, such as Spanish flashcards, anatomy flashcards, medical terminology flashcards, Japanese flashcards, etc. However, there are different opinions on whether to use digital flashcards or paper flashcards.
In fact, there are no studies that show whether digital flashcards or paper flashcards are more effective. The reason why flashcards have an impact on learning effectiveness is not so much the difference in media, but the fact that making your own flash cards requires active organization of study materials.
Therefore, you can choose any one of them according to your preference. We will list the pros and cons of both below to help you make a better choice.
Paper Flash Cards
Paper Flashcard Advantages
- Muscle memory. Many studies have shown that actually writing will have deeper cognitive processing than just hitting the keyboard. Because when you write all the information down, you have a bit of muscle memory.
- Visual differences. For some visual learners, it’s easier to remember things using handwritten paper flashcards because each card looks different.
- If you are easily distracted or want to spend less time using electronics, then paper flashcards are an ideal choice. In addition, you don’t have to consider whether the Internet is stable or whether your electronic devices need to be charged.
- Relatively cheap. The premise of using digital flashcards is that you have to have an electronic device – this is the hidden expense. However, you can buy a pack of 100 paper flashcards and pens at your local grocery store for at least $1, at no extra cost.
- Difficult to manage. As the number of paper flashcards increases, they become heavier and heavier, causing you may not be able to carry them around with you. And, when you want to update or modify one or more of the cards, you may have a hard time finding them.
- Not environmentally friendly. Because making physical cards can consume a lot of paper and ink, they are not very friendly to the environment.
- Wear and tear. Paper flashcards are difficult to avoid damage such as stains, tears and bending over time.
- Portable. No matter how many cards you create, it won’t add weight and you can turn on your electronic device and study anytime, anywhere.
- Easy to manage. You can easily find any card with the search function to make corrections or updates. Plus, you’ll never lose, dirty, or wear them out as long as you back them up properly.
- Free resources. There are many digital flashcard resources or software on the web that are free to download and use. You can make the most of them, get diverse learning tips, and save time creating your own.
- Environmentally friendly. When using computer flashcards, you won’t waste any paper or ink, perfect for environmentalists.
- Media. You can even add a piece of audio or video to your card in some computer flashcard software to aid in memorization. That’s something you can never do with a paper flash card!
- Lots of screen time. Using digital flash cards means you have to spend a large amount of time in front of the screen, and in the process, you may be disturbed by messages, notifications, videos, games, etc. What’s more, staring at the screen for a long time can easily cause vision loss.
- Lack of input. For some special characters, such as ancient Greek, it is difficult for you to type them on the keyboard.
- Occasion restrictions. For some schools, libraries, or meeting rooms that do not allow the use of electronic devices, etc., you will not be able to use digital flash cards.
The appropriate type of flash card varies from subject to subject and even from module to module of study. For a large number of learning, such as new words, computer flashcards are a better choice in the long run; for a lot of information, such as grammatical anagrams, paper flashcards are easier to keep focused on.
Ultimately, however, flashcards are just a memory aid. No matter how great you just make the cards, if you never look at them or only use them for short periods of time, it will do nothing to help you study. What really makes learning successful has always been hard work and perseverance!
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