Arguments Against Flashcards

Having published so much about Shichida and flashcards, I may have come across as a strong advocate for flashcard use, but till this day I still remain uncertain whether it is truly beneficial. To maintain some balance here are some of my findings against flashcards-

I came across this blog, written by a mum who started as a firm believer in Glenn Doman’s methods but realised later that she was wrong.

The article she has written is long, but it talks about her experience with Glenn Doman’s methods and was a really good, thought provoking read for me – Am I doing more harm than good to Samantha?

I have previously written about the whole word approach and its controversies in a previous post. In her article, she writes about her experiences with flashing words to her child, only to find out much later that he was still not able to read (I don’t believe that it is due to her lack of commitment to the teaching system, her devotion is shown by the numerous ‘bits’ Powerpoints that she has made and put up on her website for all to download).

Her argument is valid and I cannot help but agree with her, At the same time, I notice some similarities with the Shichida method-

  • the use of flashcards
  • the claim that all children are born geniuses
  • no one in Philadelphia seemed to know about the Institutes (I have spoken to a few Japanese mothers and none of them seem to have heard of the Shichida Method. I find it unusual if it is supposed to be so popular.)
It is very easy for us to fall victim to programs that claim ‘brain enrichment’, especially in our highly competitive society, where children have to take a high-stakes PSLE at 12 years of age. What is really good for our children? Unfortunately there is too much contrasting information and ‘noise’ out there that clouds our judgement..

Here’s another article online written by Dr Pat Wolfe, an education consultant who has written books and gives talks on the application of brain research to educational practice. It is a well-written article that lays down the bare facts, and leaves reader to make his own final conclusion. There are also a few other articles on the same site that are good reads too. What I take away from reading all this is that one should not place too much emphasis on flashcards, educational DVDs, etc, as the child learns best by having ‘natural interaction’ with the world.

Last, but definitely not the least (in fact, if there is anything you should read it has to be this), a good book for all parents interested in learning about the research behind the importance of play is ‘Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less‘. You can find a sample of the book (almost the whole book is available for free here) on Google Books.


8 thoughts on “Arguments Against Flashcards

  1. Pingback: Attributes Of Online Flashcards - 1stAngel Arts Magazine

  2. I am glad to come across this article. I sent my child to shichida when she turned 1. She listened most attentively in her class of 4 despite being a very active, perhaps hyperactive, child whom has never been still any time else. I started feeling that she was tuned to the speed of flashing and tv shows/ ipad/ iphone apps which moved forward fast enough before she became bored. I decided to pull her out of her class after 2 terms, and do more interactive reading (joint)… still experimenting

  3. You’ve just echoed my thoughts! I first started reading on Glenn Doman and later came to a conclusion by myself that it’s not really the correct way to learn/teach how to read because the idea behind the GD theory is that a word is presented like a picture and constant flashing makes them memorize the same. But the same cannot be said of Shichida’s flashing of picture cards. However, I have the same arguments against the super-fast speed of flashing….Haven’t started home practice yet but probably I will flash at slightly slower speed than what the teachers do in the class.

  4. Thanks for sharing your view points and notes about right brain education! It has really been very informative. You mentioned a mummy blogger who started as a firm believer in Glenn Doman’s methods but realised later that she was wrong. In her article, she writes about her experiences with flashing words to her child, only to find out much later that he was still not able to read…
    I am not familiar with the Glenn Doman’s approach…Is the usage of flash cards meant to teach knowledge? Based on my understanding of Shichida method, I believed the usage of flash cards is to activate the right brain via rapid speed images and language at the same time. It is not intended to impart knowledge etc. Thus, if Glenn Doman’s belief is the same as Shichida in this aspect, the mummy might have misinterpreted the meaning behind usage of flash cards then?

  5. Hi Genie,

    You can read all about her experiences on the link I placed on the post.

    I do not know much about Glenn Domain, but foprom what I understand there is a component where they flash whole words to the children and from there they learn how to read.

    You may have misinterpreted her blog post. She wrote that after using the flash cards for a long time, her child was still not able to read. I do not think she mentioned anything about knowledge. To me, knowledge is something different from the skill of being able to read. Knowledge is not something you cannot gain from any of these programs at all! You can know that picture is a dog, but simply being able to identify the picture does not make you knowledgable.

    You have also brought up a good point for thought – is the Shichida method merely to ‘activate’ the right brain (I used apostrophes because scientifically the brain cannot be ‘activated’ or even ‘deactivated’)? And nothing else?

    If it is merely to ‘activate’ the brain, then why are the flashcards collections of bits of information? Can’t I just flash random things to activate the brain? And let’s assume that the aim is merely for ‘activating’ the brain, then the only way to test if it had worked is to ask what has been flashed right?

    Would love to hear your comments.

  6. Hi!
    To be honest, after viewing your blog, I chanced upon a recent 2013 Utah research that was carried out over a period of 2 years on >1000 subjects. Indeed, scientists at the University of Utah have debunked the myth with an analysis of more than 1,000 brains. They found no evidence that people preferentially use their left or right brain. All of the study participants — and no doubt the scientists — were using their entire brain equally, throughout the course of the experiment. With this recent finding, does it mean that the right brain education that Glenn doman & Shichida has been advocating is simply illogical? Hmmmmm……..
    Although the usage of flash cards is debatable, I believe the other brain activities such as linking memory, photographic memory etc that are also used in Shichida class are at least good brain exercises? Since you are also concerned about possible adverse effects of flash cards on young children, are you still continuing with the flash cards currently?

    • Hi,

      As with all scientific research, it might not be wise to base your conclusion on just one study, despite the large number of study subjects. I have not personally come across this article and will be interested to read it, if you have the reference for me. The paper has to be studied and critiqued before one can even consider that the study findings are valid.

      Yes, I agree that linking memory is a good exercise – it is one of the memory techniques that is commonly used.

      As for whether I am continuing the flashcards, yes, but not on a daily basis. I still find reading and imaginative play more useful that flashcards.

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