Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2018

StudyStack

Gamified flash cards help students learn and label terms on the go

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • College & Career Prep
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
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Pros: The ease of creating stacks, along with the variety of game types, can keep students stimulated and assist in memorization.

Cons: Sets may contain inaccurate information, and ads and the student email requirement (for full functionality) might restrict use.

Bottom Line: For tasks that require memorization, these flash cards and games provide enough variety to keep kids interested, but lack collaborative features.

Teachers can use StudyStack to help students build background knowledge, practice math facts, preview vocabulary before reading a text, or reinforce terminology necessary to meet curricular goals. Create a study set of terms needed before beginning a unit, and have students spend some time playing games to learn them. Build awareness of text features by having students create sets of boldfaced vocabulary words, or reinforce vocabulary by breaking into groups to create and share mini sets. Use the slides feature to challenge students to label maps, diagrams, or parts of a whole, or give early finishers the opportunity to learn something new (maybe even a foreign language!) with the user-created sets.

Warm-ups, exit tickets, and downtime can all be opportunities to let students practice content-area vocabulary, and with the variety of games available, students are sure to find something to interest them. While students can allow others to edit their sets, a way for students to play against others would add to the excitement. Also, since there's no built-in audio feature, teachers might have to make arrangements for students who need additional support.

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StudyStack is an online flash card creator and activity-based study tool that relies on user-created content. While students can access study sets and games on the site or the app, they'll need their own accounts to create sets and save their activity stats. Sign-up requires a username, password, email, and verification, and beginning tutorials and a FAQ section address what users need to know to get started. A paid upgrade allows teachers to share ad-free sets with their students.

Students can study sets as flash cards or choose from activities such as crosswords, fill-ins, quizzes, hangman, and other games. Creating study sets from scratch can take some time, but the import text feature can greatly cut down on effort up front if users have a starting document. Activities vary in terms of feedback, with some using timers, others giving scores, and others giving positive feedback for completion. Although only about half of the website's activities are available on the app, students can see which activities they've successfully completed via green dots (website) or pie pieces (app) that appear next to each activity. Users can choose to make sets public or private and can also allow others to edit them, which, although open to the public, allows for limited student collaboration.

Some students will appreciate the chance to engage in the games and activities on StudyStack, while others will welcome simply studying via the flash card feature. While memorization is not known for its promotion of critical-thinking or problem-solving skills, this tool provides some opportunities to sharpen those skills through its puzzles, games, and matching features. Plus, if students have to study terms or practice facts, it never hurts to try to make a game of it, and StudyStack builds the games right in. This can be effective for struggling or reluctant learners, especially if teachers use their learning management system (LMS) to assign different stacks based on students' needs. 

StudyStack boasts a collection of millions of flash cards, but it can be tough to find useful, grade level-appropriate sets to use. Teachers might be better off having students create their own sets or embedding teacher-created sets into their webpages or LMS. While the tool could use more effective collaborative features and audio support, the ease with which users can create sets and complete activities makes this tool a fine complement to thoughtfully designed lessons.

 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students are sure to be enticed by the variety of games available and the completion stats for each study set.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

While memorization isn't an ideal learning strategy, teachers in many subject areas still expect it. The variety of activities makes learning vocabulary and labeling diagrams seem more like fun and less like work.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The starting tutorial and answers on the FAQ page will help users learn the fundamentals of use, and most activities come with basic directions. However, gameplay support is inconsistent and in some cases, missing.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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