December 14, 2009

Cool Educational Software

Have you spent way too much time and of course too much money this holiday season. Well, have I got a deal for you! How about some FREE software - not pirated but actual FREE software - and it's educational to boot.

Now that I have committed myself to study the Mongolian language more, I was on the lookout a vocabulary flashcard program that I could not only use on my Mac, but that I could recommend to my students who mostly use Windows. I was surprised at the sheer number of flashcard programs there are there, but I am a big fan of 'open source' software and see absolutely no reason to spend money on commercial software. But when I do find a good open source program, I've been known to send along a few bucks to help the programmer continue his work.


Anki is a spaced repetition system (SRS). It helps you remember things by intelligently scheduling flashcards, so that you can learn a lot of information with a minimum amount of effort.

  • Review anywhere. Anki lets you study on your own computer, online, on your cell phone or other portable devices like an iPod touch or Zaurus.
  • Synchronization features let you keep your information across multiple computers.
  • Shared decks allow you to divide work between friends, and let teachers push material to many students at once.
  • Intelligent scheduler based on the SuperMemo SM2 algorithm.
  • Flexible fact/card model that allows you to generate multiple views of information, and input information in the format you wish. You're not limited to predefined styles.
  • Audio and images are fully supported
  • Fully extensible, with a large number of plugins already available
  • Optimized for speed, and will handle reviewing decks of 100,000+ cards with no problems
  • Clean, user-friendly interface
  • Free and Open Source

After creating your flashcards (text, audio, image, combination of text-audio-image, etc), you start reviewing. It shows you the question and you think of the answer. There are four responses depending on how you feel you did: Again (oops, wrong answer), Hard, Good, Easy. Then Anki statistically knows when it should give you that flashcard again. Most other programs only give you two choices, right or wrong, so this could be even better. Especially for visual data like non-English characters, this is an amazing tool.

The one thing you will notice if you spend much time on the website is how much time must have been put into both programing but also the website, documentation and forum in order to be the most complete it could be. Simply amazing. In some areas, Anki might seem a bit daunting, but the flexibility of the program must allow for so much. And besides being FREE, you can download a version for just about everyone's operating system: Windows, Mac OSX, Linux (Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora) and also iPod Touch & iPhone. For more information, go to the Anki website.


The other thing that I've been looking for is a good typing tutor program where I could learn to use my Mongolian keyboard. There are some good ones for Linux (like KTouch for Ubuntu) and a basic one for Windows XP (TypeFaster Typing Tutor) but aTypeTrainer4Mac is amazing. Why? you ask. I can switch from my USA English keyboard to my Mongolian keyboard layout and the program knows it and changes accordingly. So, in essence, I could use any of the many keyboard layouts for many other languages available on the Mac and learn to touch type. Wow.

Like other programs, you start at level 1 and learn to use two fingers to type two letters. Each level adds more letters until you can do the whole alphabet. So, if you want to learn to type, especially in languages other than English (and you have a Mac of course), you really should check this out. And did I mention it's FREE. For more information, you can go to aTypeTrainer4Mac.