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LW 2.0 Open Beta Live

Even a site's use of a font I don't recognize I provokes that reaction in me.

Speaking of font difficulty, the new font doesn't render well on my desktop (Windows 10, Chrome, default font/size, 1680x1050). It comes out looking poorly aliased, or maybe just not fully black. I compare to another serif-heavy site like nytimes and the latter just seems so much darker and crisper, even at similar sizes.

On my older MacBook Air the LW font is not as ugly, though it still seems less than fully black.

A Second Year of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

14-16, usually. These are 9th and 10th graders, with a few repeating upperclassmen.

A Second Year of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

I did made hundreds of Anki cards on that basis with 2 to 3 answers and my conclusion is that it's a bad idea. Given "what fires together wires together" cards like that seem to create links between the question and the wrong answers.

There's also a risk that you become dependent on being able to look for the answer visually rather than being able to fish it out of year head; in most real-world cases, it's the latter skill you need.

A Second Year of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

Have you considered sharing some version of this essay with your students?

This question makes me squirm a bit, which makes me think it might be important.

I do discuss the rationale behind my course design choices with students, in some limited domains. I should have mentioned in this report that I've tweaked my intro-to-SRS presentation I gave at the start of last year; I now bill it as a kind of superpower, and we have some cards in our deck about the principles of it -- cards that still get some play even this late in the year. I hope this may create more of those "sleeper agents" I speculated about, who may bloom into power-learners down the road.

I also make sure my students understand how valuable I think pleasure reading is, with a different presentation that spruces up the more interesting findings from that report I linked to. And I put my money where my mouth is by making sure they understand how very unlikely I am to give them a hard time for reading during my class, even if it's not exactly what they're supposed to be doing.

I even try to let them know why each unit is in our curriculum, whether it's "because the boss/district/state says so, but we'll try to make it fun" or "because I want to help you get into college and I know this will help".

But a lot of my thinking I don't share. I understand some of my reticence: there are things I do that wouldn't work as well if they knew I was doing them, and there are other things that would be exploitable if I laid out the strategies behind them. I'm struggling to articulate the rest of my hesitation, though.

Like the stuff about apathy and caring. I had some experimental lessons dealing with this sort of thing about 7 years ago when I taught a course with a broader curriculum mandate. I don't feel like these lessons got a lot of traction, though, in the same way that other "life skills" lessons tend to fall flat with typical teens. This age group is so slippery... so reluctant to accept advice where others would see it, so wary of anything that smells of paternalism.

My instincts now tell me to approach these things obliquely, as though I'm accidentally letting out the secrets I know they're too immature to make use of. I'm not telling them what they should do. I'm talking about how the rash actions of young characters in our stories make sense because said characters don't understand how adolescent brains are wired for overconfidence and short tempers. I'm making a seemingly off-hand comment about the rare superpower of "taking advice". I'm giving an off-script response to a question about my past with an answer about that time I totally kicked butt by putting in extra hours of effort, as though this were a cheat giving me a secret edge.

I remember being a teen and thinking much more deeply about the things adults seemed to let slip than about their prepared remarks. It hadn't occurred to me until now that some of those slips might have been carefully scripted.

A Second Year of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

It should be noted that how the cloze cards play out changes greatly depending on whether you allow different cards of the same note to show up on the same day. One version gives you that early overload effect, while the other gives a kind of extended familiarity effect where for months you'll probably have at least one variation of that cloze come up every day or two. The more variations on a note, the longer this stretches out.

The problem in Anki, at least, is that this is a global deck setting ("Bury related reviews until the next day") and not one you can customize for individual notes. Maybe I should start organizing decks by desired automaticity levels rather than by content.

A Second Year of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

You know, I had a start-up idea along these lines recently: something that would combine SRS with social bookmarking.

Example: I'm slowly-but-steadily working my way through Learn You a Haskell for Great Good. I have it on good authority that few people make it as far as I have. I feel like the only reason I can do it is because I stop to make cards for terms, concepts, and many of the examples. I take days or weeks away from the book between sessions while I let those facts firm up in my head, and then I resume.

While I hold that there is real value to making cards yourself when this involves putting things into your own words, making a high-quality card is also a time-consuming chore that is just as much about formatting. I've often wished, as I read, that I had a browser extension that would let me pluck pre-made cards out of a side-bar that went with the passage I was reading -- cards by one of the thousands of people that have no doubt come before me in that chapter.

You can see how this might work. People could build karma when others copy their cards. Site creators might create their own cards as a way to help readers and boost traffic, or pay bounties of some kind to others who make them.

You could browse other cards by the writers of cards you've cloned, and all cards would have automatic links to the sites they go with -- getting around a big problem with imported cards, which is that they are shorn from their creation context.

Monetization? Maybe ads in the corner of the side-bar or something. Maybe partnerships with popular for-pay learning sites.

There are no doubt some thorny copyright issues at play though, and the overall potential market is probably pretty small.

A Second Year of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

I think all of these strategies give the type of student I'm talking about too much credit, as they are mostly emotional creatures not prone to strategic planning. I guess TDTPT comes closest, but I would change it to a phrase I use with my students: "It's fun to be right." IFTBR.

Easy trivia apps were all the rage among my students a couple years ago. Nobody was trying to get a high score or trying to advance to the next level, but if you put a question in front of someone that they think they know the answer to, the urge to get validation for knowing it is irresistible. You've probably seen ads on the internet that work on this principle.

It's why Who Wants to Be a Millionaire always started off with insultingly easy questions, and why easy cards in the class Anki deck are so important for raising participation and morale.

A Second Year of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

Monitoring features are definitely a part of the vision I'll be laying out in the next post, but more as a way to make classroom time more productive than as a homework enforcement aid. To get them to use something on their own time I'm going to have to be more clever, and make them feel like it was their idea.

A Second Year of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

I've cut back on note-taking quite a bit thanks to Anki. They weren't looking up those notes anyway. If they want them bad enough they can look them up on my web page or go straight to the Anki cards.

Anki hasn't displaced much homework, though, as there wasn't much left to displace. I don't give it mostly because few of my students would do it; they are not strongly motivated by grades. This is especially true of reading homework; I gave up on that a year after I stopped teaching honors after getting about 10% compliance. Reading happens in class or not at all, and yes, it is a big challenge to squeeze this in and still do all of the other things we need to do. It's important, though. For most of my students, the reading we do together is the only reading-at-length they do all year. They admit this readily -- even proudly.

Essays are more mixed. We don't do too many full ones, and the ones we do mostly get done in class. The "homework" is there just as safety valve for those who care enough to make their essay great.

A Second Year of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

Good question, but no, I wouldn't say these students are trying to guess the password. The cards they're remembering aren't complex enough to qualify. The answer is the answer, not a surface representation of some deeper knowledge they're skipping.

This feels more like a case of selective attention, of perking up and caring more about cards they see as "in their wheelhouse". It's an easy way of being better than everyone else at something, even if that something is pretty narrow. If you've ever done any cooperative social gaming, you can probably recall analogous situations where new players spontaneously start seeing themselves as specialists with some power-up, weapon, player class, etc. It's a land grab for the ego, and mostly just harmless fun.

Remembering passwords takes effort; a mystical incantation is harder to memorize than an answer you can logically derive from deeper knowledge. Hence, password guessing is something I mostly see in students who are grade obsessed, and I don't get too many of those.

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