Supervised in-class use of Anki
As much as we think that Anki is a great studying tool, and as much as our students say they agree with us when we explain it to them, many students will not do it out of class on their own. There are many reasons: no computers, no Internet, lack of interest, who knows... And if they are not actually using Anki, experiencing Anki and how it works, they will not understand and appreciate it. And therefore, they will not use it out of class. It's a vicious cycle.
Yes, there are some motivated classes and students who will grab Anki and use it like crazy. Unfortunately, they are quite rare. This issue of motivation is extremely important and needs to be addressed later.
So, even though it will eat up valuable class time, if you want your students to embrace Anki, you have to create opportunities for them to actually use it successfully. And by successfully, I mean both by your standards and theirs. The teacher must know that the students are studying correctly and efficiently. The students must feel that they are learning.
I used the word 'supervised' because during in-class use, many students will not use Anki properly. Even though you can explain how to use Anki properly and stress the importance of giving honest feedback until you are blue in the face, many students will either overestimate their knowledge of the card or apparently randomly click on buttons. This, of course, undermines the whole concept behind spaced repetition.
So, I have been trying some different things. One is just circling around the room while they are studying, checking on students and asking them to answer the card out loud. We compare their answer to the card and discuss what kind of rating they should give the card. This provides some modeling, feedback, and supervision. However, with many students, a teacher can only realistically provide a little supervision for each student. Also, unless you are in a computer lab or every student has their own smart device, logistically it is not easy to do this.
Another idea has been to have the students work in pairs, sharing a smart phone or laptop. One student logs into his or her Anki website account, opens the deck, and passes it to the other student. That student quizzes the first student, assesses the answer, and chooses the feedback button. After a certain amount of time, the students switch and continue studying.
There are some advantages to this method:
1. If a student doesn't have a smart phone, they can be paired with one who does. Almost all of my first-year students have smart phones now. It is also possible to have three students share one smart phone, but that is a little more difficult.
2. By having them work in pairs with required back and forth communication, this stops students from pretending to study Anki on the smart phone when they are actually texting or surfing the Internet.
3. The student who is quizzing the other student can assess the answer and provide a more objective evaluation of the answer and subsequent feedback to Anki. This also puts the quizzing student in the role of teaching, which can be a powerful way of learning.
However, there can be some difficulty with the quizzing students not wanting to criticize their partners, especially to their face. This may be a trait of Japanese students, but it needs to be addressed. Proper modeling and encouragement can help with this. Also, when students who are friends work together, they may be more willing to tell each other when they are wrong and why.
So, on this gray, rainy Wednesday morning in Tokyo, that's my thoughts about the most important thing I've learned about teaching with Anki. I'd welcome any thoughts and feedback.