Typical, isn’t it? One day you complain about how depressingly unusable the flashcard apps tend to be – and the next day an app comes along and changes your view completely. Well, I can’t complain: looks like a killer app for language learning has finally been found. It’s not without its flaws, but its versatility and ease of use more than make up for the occasional hiccup. Today, I’m going to give you a quick review of the app, along with some ideas for using it effectively.
Everyone: meet Studyblue.
What is it?
Studyblue is actually more than just a flashcard maker. The term “digital backpack,” which the website self-applies, is quite apt. Studyblue allows you to create, edit and review flashcards, but it also gives you the chance to upload notes and documents, create folders, move stuff around etc.
The mainstay of the application, however, is its flashcard utility. Details are outlined below; for now, let me just say that from a language learners’ point of view, this app is really, really useful.
How does it work?
The sign-in procedure is a no-brainer. After two minutes, we’re ready to work. If you’re not in the U.S., you might find it hard to select a school that Studyblue would recognize. That is a bummer for everyone in privately-run language schools, hopefully a workaround can be found to make learning vocabulary more fun for them? Anyway, it’s OK to click “I’m not at school” and still be able to access the goodness.
After setting up folders and names, we’re ready to add our first set of flashcards. This is where the fun begins.
Many flashcards would limit your input to just text – a term on one side, a definition on another. Studyblue lets you add images, and (language learners rejoice!) – sound to your flashcards. This is perfect for both visual and auditory learners – and a really good way to remember pronunciation along with the vocabulary item.
After the set of flashcards is done and saved, you can begin your study. Here, honesty is key. In classic mode, a term will be displayed on screen; try to remember (or say!) the definition – or a translation, whichever way you set it up – and click again. If your translation / definition matches the one on the screen, click “thumbs up” and move on. If the term or phrase is still too difficult, click “thumbs down” to get a chance to learn it again.
There’s also a test mode, in which definitions / translations need to be typed in – and some other ways to explore your flashcards. But the best is yet to come.
Studyblue has an Android and iPhone app (iPad app is in the works). I’ve tested the Android app.
It works, and the interface is really clean and nice to use. Cool! That’s better than what I was hoping for. The account syncs without major problems. The flashcards created on your computer will be visible on your smartphone, and vice versa. One huge bummer for the mobile app: the sound recordings on flashcards are not playable.
What the mobile app lacks in sound, it makes up for in the flashcard creation department: with that tool in your pocket, it’s awfully easy to just snap pictures of things around you and create sets of flashcards with photographs as illustration. Really robust and brilliant!
What I didn’t like
There are several glitches in the overall design of Studyblue: your documents, flashcard sets and resources are public by default, and the pdf support for the mobile app is practically non-existent. Also, some of the more advanced features require you to upgrade to a paid version.
For language learners, the fact that sound playback is not available in the mobile version is a huge disappointment. Just imagine the convenience!
How to use it – some ideas and suggestions
1. Take a look around. This app may seem strange at first, but becomes really usable really quickly.
2. Feed it! It’s no use having a great app if you’re not using it often enough. The more flashcards you create and study, the better the app becomes. A well-designed and managed vocabulary bank that fits in your pocket for easy study – this sounds great, but it takes time (your time) to build!
3. Get social. The app is built around the idea of sharing the knowledge. Sets of flashcards are made public by default, and you can access other people’s sets (there’s quite a lot on language learning out there!). Just be aware of what and how you’re sharing!
Do you think this could be your language learning killer app? Tell me in the comment section!
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