Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The many uses of Anki!

Quite a while ago, I posted that I was using a free flashcard program for things like Scriptures and other memory work.  However, it has become a lot more useful as time goes on - and I expect I'll find more uses for it as time goes one.

First off, what is ANKI?  Anki is a Spaced Repetition System flashcard program.  When you are first learning or memorizing something, you need to review it often for it to be remembered.  But as time goes on, you don't need to review as often to continue to remember it.  An SRS program uses the feedback you provide it for each 'card" on how easily you remembered it (or if you forgot it) to determine when you should review it again.  Things you remembered easily won't be reviewed for a longer time.  Things you forgot will be reviewed very soon.  This way you can spend the most time with the cards that need the most review.  It is a much more efficient way to learn and memorize basic information.  (There can be some drawbacks to that... but overall it is working well.)

One thing that is nice that was recently added is the ability to have more than one "profile" for Anki on the computer.  This is very important for us, as I'm using it for each of us.

So - what are we using it for?

Well, first off - we are using it for our Scripture Memory.  I have a list of scriptures we are working on.  The ones we aren't working on yet are "suspended" so they don't get presented.  Once the "new" scripture is learned (and Anki does tell you how many cards are "new", so as we generally only work on one) - I then unsuspend the next one.  Meanwhile, each day, we are given a few to review.  Along the same lines, we use it for other similar things to memorize.  Scouting promises, poetry, etc.

The next possibility - which we AREN'T doing yet - is also fairly obvious.  And that is to learn vocabulary for a foreign language.  This is fairly obvious, as that was what Anki was developed for.  The Lifeprint ASL course does have some sentence flashcards which I will probably add to ANKI.

Next thing we use it for is our All About Spelling.  This is a natural use, as AAS uses flashcards.  By using ANKI, I don't have to drag out the cards, and I don't have to try to keep track of the words for multiple kids (or have several sets of cards.)  I don't have to decide myself if a card is mastered or not.  I've entered all the cards in, and suspend them until we have done the learning portion of the lesson.  I've also entered the extra words (into a separate card "deck") so that we can study these too.  Although we are using pretty much the basic settings for review (and this works quite well for my students) - it might be too much review for some....  the settings can be adjusted.

The Dancing Bears program I'm using to work on improving reading also had some flashcards (similar ones to the phongrams for AAS).  So we have a deck for those.

And then Math is another great place to use it.  A simple use would be to setup the basic operations to memorize.  RightStart Math doesn't recommend rote memorization of the operations through flashcards, so I haven't put them in.  What I've done, however, is enter in the Practice Sheets.  I let ANKI tell me which Practice Sheet should be done by the student. We generally only do 1 a day, and when all the ones we are working on are mastered, I unsuspend a few more.  Basically, if they get any wrong on the practice sheet, it is marked as "Again" (that is, not correct.)  If they seemed to struggle with it, I mark it as "Hard".  If they didn't seem to struggle, but took a while to do it, it is marked as "Good".  If they do it fairly quickly, then it is marked as "Easy".

Something I have just added in very recently is the RightStart Math Games.  I'm going to try out letting ANKI figure out our Math Games.  I'm hoping to do a lot of math games this summer, and hopefully this will give us a good suggestion on the best way to use our game time.

Finally, there is one other thing I've used Anki before in the past.  However, it was an earlier version, and required a plug-in and a lot of tweaking.  I haven't really tried it in the new version yet, as I didn't get it quite how I want it.  I feel that Anki could be used very well for this with a LOT of tweaking with the settings.  And that is for our Suzuki music practice.  In theory, if I could find the right settings, I could have it help us decide which songs to practice each day - so that we focus on the songs that NEED more practice, and just do occasional reviews on the other songs.  But with anything close to the default settings, the songs would quickly move to hardly being practiced at all.  Because the goal with the music practice isn't to memorize the song, but to play it well.  And that takes more practice.

So far, I've been very happy with our use of ANKI.  My kids aren't using it on their own - I use it to tell me what to work on with them.  (So for instance, with the AAS cards, it shows me the word for them to spell.  Yes, in theory, I could have put an audio file on the "side 1" with me saying the word, and then them typing the word in - then check against the answer - but I just use it like the AAS program would have me use the physical cards.

One minor problem I have found is when you add things into ANKI to review that is already well known.  It takes ANKI a bit of time of reviewing things with you before it knows that you know it.  Yes, answering "Easy" moves the time to review further in the future... but you will still be reviewing the card more often than you need for a while.  In theory you can adjust the card manually, but I haven't played with that.  It can be a bit of a problem though when you start using ANKI for a subject partway through a course/program.  So, for instance, starting using ANKI for AAS 10 lessons in....  expect to spend some time reviewing for a bit!  It is minor, but can be a bit annoying.

A couple of more pieces of advice.... Don't go crazy and start reviewing large numbers of new cards all at once.  This is common for people to do once they discover this program, and can cause a large number of review cards due all at once.  A similar problem will occur after a long break.  (We see it a bit after a weekend.... and I'm a bit worried about after summer!)  AND - If you do find that you have a large number of reviews due (say after the summer) - the advice is to decide on a length of time to work on it, set a timer, and stop at that point for the day. Don't reset the deck - that would put you in a worse position!


  1. Hope you can help me! I love Anki but am trying to figure out some timesavers. When you add a deck (either creating or importing), what is the fastest way to 'suspend' cards that you are not yet ready for the child to review? For example, if I add a Latin vocabulary deck that I found for our curriculum, but I only want the children to be quizzed on the cards from the first 3 lessons, how do I suspend all others? One at a time? I hope there is an easier way! So happy I found your blog!

    1. You can go into the deck browser. If there are tags, you can select the various lessons by tags, then suspend them. Or you can use the columns to sort the cards if that helps. Single-Click on the first card you want to suspend, then Shift-click on the last one and you will have multiple cards selected. Then click on suspend.

      Hope this helps!