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 Flashcards

Smart Playlists
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One of my current projects is to learn bird songs, so that I can spend my summer vacation knowing which bird I am listening to. I use my iPod to listen to the bird, and then I try to identify it without looking at the name of the track, which incidentally also is the name of the bird, just like I would have used flashcards for words.

So far, so good. However, in order to optimize learning by flashcards, one can use a technique created by a guy called Leitner. This basically means that for every time you answer correctly, you extend the time between rehearsals. So if you practice once a day, for all the correct ones, you then test them once every other day, and then once every four days, and so forth. If you miss an answer, say in the four day interval, you just move that question into the every other day pile, and so forth.

Well, I really didn't feel like sitting and doing this on my iMac every time, but rather, I wanted to do this on my iPod. What's more, I wanted to be able to indicate whether I answered correctly or incorrectly on the iPod, and let it handle remembering when I should be tested on that particular bird again. Is this even possible, you ask? Absolutely!

First off, I decided that using the rating system for the birds wasn't really useful, so I decided to use that as the indicator on where in my leitner box I would place the track instead, like this:

0 - Don't test on this bird
1 - Test on this every time I listen
2 - Test on this every other day
3 - Test on this every three days
4 - Test on this every five days
5 - Test on this every nine days

The number of days are of course adjustable depending on the playlist. Now, my basic playlist holds all the birds, which are about 200. I don't really want to do all at once, because every session would be too long. So, in order to select which ones I want to listen to, I simply use a playlist that looks as follows:

Match ALL of the following rules:
Album -> Is -> All birds
My Rating -> Is -> *


Easy enough. This is my list, that I listen to for practicing, as well as rehearsing, and includes all the birds that I haven't learned just yet. I can listen to it as often as I want, with just these birds.

Next, I create a few metalists, which will later be consolidated into a rehearsal list.

Birds: **
---------
Match ALL of the following rules:
Album -> Is -> All birds
My Rating -> Is -> **
Last Played -> Is not in the last -> 1 days

Birds: ***
----------
Match ALL of the following rules:
Album -> Is -> All birds
My rating -> Is -> ***
Last Played -> Is not in the last -> 2 days

Birds: ****
-----------
Match ALL of the following rules:
Album -> Is -> All birds
My rating -> Is -> ****
Last Played -> Is not in the last -> 4 days

Birds: *****
------------
Match ALL of the following rules:
Album -> Is -> All birds
My rating -> Is -> *****
Last Played -> Is not in the last -> 8 days


There, still with me? I know, it's a bunch of lists, but nowadays, since one can create subfolders, I simply stick all my folders in a folder called "Birds".

Okay, next step, create the consolidated rehearsal list:

Birds: Rehearsal
----------------
Match ANY of the following rules:
Playlist -> Is -> Birds: **
Playlist -> Is -> Birds: ***
Playlist -> Is -> Birds: ****
Playlist -> Is -> Birds: *****


Now, I don't add the one star birds to this list, but I guess you could if you wanted to. Now, when adding all these playlists to the iPod, including the "All birds" list, you have a complete leitner flashcard system!

All you have to do, is after you try to identify the bird, move the rating of the bird up one step if you answer correctly, and down one step (down to a minimum of 1) if you answer incorrectly, and your iPod will keep track of when you listened last time, and adjust the playlists accordingly!

I am using it for birds, but I can imagine a number of different things you could add... Foreign words, engine sounds, other kinds of animals, or anything else you can record! Just remember to keep the sound files long enough that you have time to change the rating after answering! Good luck!


by MW on Aug 24 | 8:00 am
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