Are Flashcards an Effective Learning Tool? (Voxy Blog)

25 Sep

The Voxy Blog has an interesting infographic for teaching and teacher development, examining the question: Are Flashcards an Effective Learning Tool?” .  I suspect most YL teachers (especially those at Primary level) are thinking “well duh” at this point.

The infographic was developed at least partially in promotion of one of Voxy’s i-phone apps, which should probably be borne in mind.  While I think there are great arguments in favour of flashcard use in teaching (most of which are neatly summarised in the infographic), I’m not so sure about digital flashcards on i-phones.  I can see how it might benefit an individual learner working with concrete nouns, but possibly not a busy teacher dealing with a class of 30 or so six-year-olds!  I suspect it depends on how you can use the i-phone app and what it lets you do, but this isn’t clear from the information.  Can you link it to your interactive whiteboard?  Printing?

I also take issue with the uncited assertion that “high frequency words” are mostly “content words” – in fact this pdf of the top 300 high frequency words gives the top 25 words as articles, prepositions, pronouns and auxiliary verbs.  As does this list of the top 1200.  In both lists the first “content” word appears at number 43 – “said”.

The counter arguments given in the graphic are also worth thinking about – simply showing learners an image once may not lead to learning.  Little and often seems to be the general consensus:  Remember to Recycle and Revise!

Right at the bottom of their post, they include links to an additional eleven related posts from around the EFL blogosphere.

Overall?  Interesting points, but not so sure about the tactics and doubts about the product!


4 Responses to “Are Flashcards an Effective Learning Tool? (Voxy Blog)”

  1. ساره الدرابيع Monday 26 September 2011 at 12:25 #


    • David Petrie Monday 26 September 2011 at 21:26 #

      Absolutely! I’m not arguing that they don’t – just that I think Voxy’s definition of “high frequency” isn’t quite right!

  2. todd beuckens Monday 26 September 2011 at 13:32 #

    Good article. I will surely take a look at the stuff done by Voxy. From first glance thought it does not look that useful. Those words are common basic words students learn but do not come up often in real spoken language. You should check out the audio notes on They are MP3 files that have two model pronunciations, an example of actual use (taken from an elllo interview), a simple spoken definition, and to more samples, as well as a contextual image. Each audio files says the target word or phrase at least five times, all in natural context.

    And they are free. You can see some samples here:

    • David Petrie Monday 26 September 2011 at 21:35 #

      Hi Todd,
      Thanks for the comment and thanks for the link!
      I think the point behind the voxy i-phone app is that it allows you to make highly personalised flashcards so that you can learn the vocab that is most relevant to you. Which is fine as far as it goes. But my point was more that this is a learning tool, not a teaching tool. And as mentioned previously – I quibble with some of their definitions!

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