Platform and Category
CardMaster is an educational application, that fits in the Tablet category of the Intel AppInnovation Contest 2013.
Many students learn new vocabulary, geographic facts, historical data and so on using the flashcard method. This method is very convenient and practical and helps memory to retain the information.
The main part of this method is a card, with two sides – the question side and the answer side. The question side is the one that the student sees first – it contains for example the vocabulary word in his mother language, the name of historical event and so on. The second side of the card is the answer side, that contains the information student wants to learn – new vocabulary, era and so on.
The second key element of the flashcard method is the deck organization. All cards are separated in different decks, which are numbered by non-negative numbers. New cards are always in deck 0. After the student answers any card from this deck correctly, it is moved to the deck 1. This continues on as long as needed. The rule is that the cards in higher-number decks are revised after longer periods of time. This period can be chosen by the student, but we usually see a linear method (deck 0 – daily, deck 1 – every other day, deck 2 – every third day), or the quadratic method (deck 0 – daily, deck 1 – every other day, deck 2 – every fourth day).
The Problems To Solve
The flashcard method has many positives, but also some issues, that in its original form arise.
With growing number of card, it is almost impossible to use them on-the-go – for example while traveling.
Revision planning problems
For the flashcard method to be effective, it is vital to keep the correct time-schedule and the cards have to be revised after the right time periods. This poses a significant problem, because the student has to keep track of revised cards and the last date of their revision. Moreover, if the studying is unexpectedly interrupted, it can cause the student to lose track of what cards have been already moved to another decks and which were still not yet revised. Once again – the greater the number of cards, the worse the situation gets.
The cards are made of paper, so they are prone to mechanical damage and can also easily get lost.
Card creation difficulties
The studying cards should have the exact same size to be easy to manipulate and stay correctly in the carrying box. That means, that it is harder to print the cards (because even slight inaccuracy will mean that the front side and the back side of the card will be misplaced and the card will cease to have the right dimensions). The alternative – hand-written cards present yet another problem – readability of hand-written is worse than printed, even more so when we need to use language-specific characters (for example Japanese or Chinese language).
The Solution - CardMaster app
CardMaster is a natural extension of the flashcard method to the world of tablet devices. It’s goal is to solve all the problems that follow from the mechanical form of the method, but also goes much further and brings great features, that make the method more effective, fun and motivating.
The app is connected to the cloud so the data are always synced and after user logs in, he will always start where he left off. All data including revision data, cards, decks and even multiple subjects are synced and accessible.
The student can use the app to learn multiple subjects. Every each one of them is then independent and its data are separate from the others.
CardMaster brings a whole new way to organize user’s cards – folders. Because we are no longer tied to the real-world decks, we can now let the student divide each subjects into folders in any way he wants. The tree hierarchy he creates enables him to revise a concrete topic (a lesson, vocabulary, grammar and so on) and navigate easily around the growing database of data.
Cards with more features
The classic form of paper-made cards is very static and not extensible. CardMaster overcomes this issue and makes cards interactive. Cards can contain not only just text, but also images, pen-based drawings and animated gifs, sound, notes, mathematical expressions or video. The student can also play back the correct pronunciation of vocabulary using the Bing translation servers.
The app keeps track of all data about revisions for each card and their position in virtual decks. This way it can easily serve the student only those cards, that are currently due to revise and make sure the time periods between revisions are correct and effective.
Revision with more options
Revision of cards is also much more fun and easy to perform. The student first chooses any folder to revise and starts revision. This brings him to the main revision screen that displays the current card, revision statistics and answer buttons.
For an advanced revision the student can use written input (so that his answers are directly checked), hand-written input and speech-recognition (discussed later), training mode (in which case the card revisions are not tracked), reversed revision (the app displays the answer side first and the question side afterwards) and so on.
The cloud connected nature of CardMaster brings another important element to the learning – social experience. With many people using the app on-line, we can compare their studying statistics, create on-line learning groups and add competitions.
Sharing and public folders
With social experience comes without doubt one another goal – sharing cards and folders. For example students in one class or language course can create a study group and share their cards with one another. This way they will all have access to all new cards.
Public folders take this goal a step further and allow users to share their creations publicly with the whole community of users.
The Tablet Improvements
Natural touch interaction
With touch input, we can make the learning experience very natural and closely simulate real world cards – full with card flipping / swiping away.
Hand-written input and speech recognition
The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 comes with a perfect accessory for CardMaster – the Digitizer Pen. Not only it can be easily used to control the whole app, but it can also make a great experience for creating new cards, revisions and learning new characters in Japanese or Chinese.
Speech recognition has also great support in Windows 8 and on tablet, we can use it to check for the correctness of student’s answers during revision and to control the app’s user interface itself with commands like “pause revision” and so on.
The front facing webcam on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 can be used to motion control revision – by waving gestures, cards can be flipped or even “thrown away”, just like paper cards.
Bluetooth / Wi-fi Direct sharing
Windows 8 supports Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth, so we can use these technologies to share folders between users locally, without any connection to the world wide web.
CardMaster will enable competition between two students locally to see who will first be able to answer all cards from a folder correctly. This makes learning more fun and engaging.
This feature is perfect for school environment. The teacher can locally share a special test folder with other students for revision. The revision results are then shared back to the teacher, so that she can see how well students performed.
I will use C# and WPF to build the desktop part of CardMaster. The cloud backend will be a ASP.NET WebAPI website, hosted on Windows Azure.