Monday, February 28, 2011

QuizCards: Learning While You Wait

As a computer user and programmer, I find myself with many "waiting" moments - seconds at a time where I am waiting for a page to load, waiting for code to compile, waiting for an app to deploy. I usually find myself using those waiting moments to read through the latest tweets in my Twitter app - but I thought to myself the other day that there must be a better use of that time. What can I do in a few seconds that might actually benefit me, instead of filling my head with mostly noise? (Not to hate on Twitter - but I think you know what I mean.) Well, I can learn something - I can learn something that only takes a few seconds - like a word or a fact.

That idea is what led me to create the QuizCards Chrome extensions - interactive flash cards that are only a click away in your browser. When you install the extension, it sticks an icon in your Chrome browser bar (next to the wrench), and when you click that icon, a flash card pops up.

Depending on your settings, you can answer it via multiple-choice (easiest), type-in with autocomplete, or type-in with no autocomplete (hardest).

Once you answer it, it tells you if you were right or wrong, and it keeps track of your statistics for that word. Behind the scenes, it uses the Leitner card learning system for figuring out which cards to show you next, so that it quizzes you more on the cards you know the least.

There are many flash cards websites out there, but what I like about my extensions is their convenience, and their omnipresence. I don't have to remember to type in a URL, I just have to click the icon when I have a few extra moments. I feel a lot better now using my time to increase my linguistic and geographic knowledge than to increase my knowledge of tweets. And now when I do read tweets, I can spend more time to find the gems and respond to the ones that interest me.

As for the flash cards topics: I started with World Capitals, since I'm frequently called out for not knowing world geography (despite having worked on Maps for 3 years), and then made German vocab, Spanish vocab, and U.S. Capitals versions. I now have an easy way of generating flash cards for any topic, provided I can easily get the question/answer data, so let me know if there's a particular topic that you'd like to learn, QuizCards-style. (If you're technical, you can also check out the code and read the README for instructions on making your own).

You can see all of them at, and install whichever interests you. Give it a go! :)

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