Your thoughts?

Spaced Repitition

Also known as the Leitner System, spaced repetition is a learning technique that takes memory function into account and places it front and center. We can see it here in Japan used by almost every secondary student with their vocabulary study cards. (photo source)



Digital systems have made these cards outmoded, except in technology challenged situations. With open source software like Anki, digital version of vocabulary cards and any other flashcard content can be input or shared with other users. There is quite an extensive library of flash card sets on all kinds of topics. Anki is usually downloaded, either to your desktop and/or your smart phone (Android/iOS), and it does allow for syncing, even though it is not seamless.

I am curious as to the efficacy of these systems for language teaching and learning. I am considering using Quizlet as a small element in some of my classes, but that does not seem to contain any spaced repetition capabilities.  Please comment if you have any suggestions as to alternatives to Anki that are entirely online, and can by used with a web browser.

2 thoughts on “Spaced Repitition”

  1. I’ve been using Quizlet ( for my classes for quite a while – it’s very convenient for making, organizing and providing access to flashcard lists, with some class setup and tracking functions. It also has a range of activities that can be used with the wordlists, and free mobile apps along with the website.
    I’ve also developed a game app called Phrase Maze ( with which you can study vocab, phrases and even sentences. It uses the Quizlet API, which allows import of Quizlet flashcards into the app to be used with a game with a variety of modes that complement those available on Quizlet. It also has a better system for tracking word progress and recycling vocab than Quizlet (although they do seem to be in the process of improving theirs now).
    I give my students weekly 25-item vocabulary tests, (having provided the lists at the beginning of semester via Quizlet), which they can study for however they choose (the majority tend to go for the traditional paper wordlist). I think it is best to allow students the choice of method of study rather than locking them into one mode.
    Regarding spaced repetition – although the general idea appears sound (for more efficient study and effective retention, review material at increasingly larger intervals), I do have some questions about the ‘scientific’ claims by some regarding the spacing algorithms, which ostensibly find the ‘ideal’ time at which to reshow vocab studied. These algorithms are based on the Ebbinghauser ‘forgetting curve’, which was derived from studies in which participants had to memorize short abstract syllables. Real vocabulary will be much more unpredictable, with the learnability of individual words being affected by form, imageability, semantic salience and other factors. Also there will be a great variance on the part of learners as well.

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