“Flashcard” is often a dirty word in today’s educational circles. When some teachers hear about web/mobile flashcard tools for the first time, they often wonder whether the technology simply perpetuates the "drill & practice" model that we’re trying to move away from. After all, shouldn’t we be focusing class-time on more "project-based learning" (the flipped classroom model), where students can develop valuable skills rather than just memorizing facts?

Our answer, of course, is that this project-based learning model is precisely what Brainscape's flashcard app does help facilitate.

Students seeking their own knowledge

Boy with map, flipped classroom approach
Brainscape helps facilitate the flipped classroom approach. It allows students to seek out the knowledge they're interested in.

Self-guided learning in the flipped classroom approach

The popular “Flipped Classroom approach" states that students should collaboratively seek their own knowledge rather than simply have it spoon-fed to them by boring textbooks or lectures.

For example, instead of just hearing a lecture about Photosynthesis, the concept might be introduced by first asking students “How do plants convert light into food?” and then allowing them to (1) perform internet research, (2) design lab experiments, (3) and set up a class wiki where they collaboratively write their own explanation of how Photosynthesis works.

Constructivist research correctly tells us that such knowledge-seeking activities will build stronger real-world skills, while helping students remember the learning objective (e.g. the steps of Photosynthesis) better than they would have remembered it by passively reading or hearing the explanation.

Balancing the flipped classroom

The problem with constructivist dogma is that modern educators are sometimes tempted to over-rely on the likelihood that project-based learning will permanently make knowledge “stick.” Unfortunately, no matter how well-designed a collaborative project may be, there is no guarantee that its learning objectives will be remembered forever (or even for a few weeks).

“Drill & practice” (aka “study”) is still necessary to cement that knowledge that was first acquired in the constructivist environment.

That’s where web/mobile adaptive flashcard platforms like Brainscape come in.

By providing a platform for students to collaboratively create study materials that can be later studied outside the classroom, Brainscape bridges this gap between constructivism and behaviorism. The steps are as follows:

  1. Students acquire the initial knowledge through project-based learning in class.
  2. The teacher sets up an environment for students to collaboratively generate flashcard-based study materials for the given topic
  3. Students study these flashcards on their own time, and on their own device (using an efficient, adaptive learning algorithm rooted in cognitive science)
  4. The teacher monitors students’ study habits and learning progress, while identifying students’ overall weaknesses that need to be reviewed in class

With this careful mix of best practices, Brainscape helps teachers and students optimize their valuable use of class time. Please feel free to check out our full guide on how to maximize student knowledge acquisition, and let us know if you have any tips of your own that you'd like to share!