July 29, 2005

jMemorize -- learning made easy

Author: Dmitri Popov

The flash card is one of the simplest learning aids ever invented. In fact, it's so simple that it's hard to imagine how it can be improved upon, given that it is just a piece of paper with a question on one side and the answer on the other. In the 1970s, German psychologist Sebastian Leitner proposed a selective learning system, the purpose of which was to make learning using flash cards more efficient and less time-consuming than the traditional method. Leitner's system divides flash cards into groups, and how often you review the cards in a group depends on the group's level of difficulty. This method works not only with conventional paper flash cards, but also with computerized flash cards such as jMemorize.

Although the most obvious use for jMemorize is learning foreign words and expressions, you can use it for a variety of other tasks which require memorization. An example would be learning Linux commands.

Card decks are the key component of jMemorize. At the start, all cards are placed in what is called the Start Deck. During a learning session, you answer the question on each card. If your answer is correct, the card is moved to the next higher deck. A wrong answer keeps the card in the Start Deck.

Based on your success rate during multiple learning sessions, jMemorize places the cards in different decks according to your success rate in answering the question. The cards in every deck have an expiration date, at which time jMemorize reactivates the already learned cards so that you can refresh your knowledge.

Although it may sound a bit complicated, jMemorize hides all the theory behind a user-friendly interface, making sure that you learn the cards in the most effective way possible.

jMemorize is a Java-based application, which means you need to have the Java Runtime Environment installed before you can use the it. jMemorize is distributed as a single .jar file, so no installation is required. You can launch it simply by double-clicking on it.

Before you add a flash card to a new lesson, you might want to create some categories (the Add Category button) which can be used to classify the cards. For example, you can use categories such as printing, files, and networking to sort flash cards with Linux commands. Once you've done this, you can create flash cards by clicking the Add Card button.

After the flash cards are added, click on the Learn button to configure your learning settings. Under the General tab, you can select a specific category of cards, set the time or card limit, or simply learn only expired cards. The Advanced tab allows you to set the card order and choose the learning mode. For example, you can choose to learn cards in a flipped mode, whereby you can see the answers but not the questions.

The Scheduling tab allows you to define the expiration settings for the different decks. For example, you can use the delay parameter to define the period of time for which a card is marked as learned. Don't forget that if you answer the question on the card incorrectly, the card will be sent back to the Start Deck.

Clicking the Start Session button displays a flash card question. Answer the question and then click the Show Answer button. Click Yes if your answer is correct, or No if it is not. You proceed in the same manner for each displayed card. If you want to skip cards, click on the Skip Card button.

As you do this over and over, you will see that jMemorize places cards in different decks. You can use this information to monitor your overall progress, but don't focus on it. The most important thing is that jMemorize ensures that you learn more efficiently.

jMemorize is a no-nonsense tool that deserves a closer look if you are dealing with information that you must memorize. Because it is written in Java it can run on many platforms. However, if you are looking for a Linux-based open source flash card application utilizing the Leitner system, you might want to try granule.

Dmitri Popov is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Russian, British, and Danish computer magazines.

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