Technology has transformed education in unprecedented ways, from easy and free access to in-depth video tutorials and complete online educational courses, to group learning and one-on-one virtual coaching. But technology hasn't been quite as successful at transforming the actual way that we learn, despite brave attempts from the likes of Khan Academy and Duolingo. Learning still requires hard work. There are, however, lots of tools that can help, and one of the best of them is Anki. Anki is an application that helps you create flashcard decks and train yourself from their contents. For a piece of software, this premise may not seem too adventurous, but Anki has been hugely successful already by helping students across the globe study for exams using their tablets, smartphones, and web browsers. It's successful precisely because it's simple, concise, and ultimately helpful. This success has also fueled the development of hundreds of decks you can easily use for your own learning.

Anki helps you create your own multimedia flashcards, or pre-built stacks, to make it easier to accelerate your learning.

When you start the application for the first time, you need to first either create a new deck of flashcards or import a previously created set. This second option is perhaps Anki's biggest advantage because, thanks to its educational ubiquity, there are hundreds of often freely available sets you can download and install, as well as commercial sets if you're willing to pay. The application itself links to its own community where sets can be freely downloaded and rated, from 5,000 of the most common French words to the anatomy of lower limb muscles. It's also incredibly easy to create your own sets, and this can be particularly helpful when you're working from your own notes or specific course material.

After creating a deck, cards are added via a variety of forms. The simplest asks you for something to put on the front of the virtual card and something on the back. This is typically a question or word to translate. When you eventually study the pack, you see the question and press the spacebar to see the "answer" on the reverse of the card. You have to personally judge whether your answer was correct, rather than being scored. You also need to select a button to show whether remembering the answer was Hard, Good, Easy, or if you need to see it Again. Each of these options sets how soon the same card will reappear. The delay is shown above the answers, and it could be less than a minute for Again or four days for Easy. This, and setting a practical card limit for each practice session, is what makes Anki so effective.

Alongside the simple front/back example styles that are included by default is the card type called "cloze deletion." This lets you easily paste text into a card and mark sections that need to be guessed at, with the complete text only being revealed when you flip the card over. But you can also easily create new card types, adding images and even sounds that can reveal certain answers or pose specific questions. The popular French word deck, for example, includes audio pronunciation files as part of the answer, and it automatically retrieves the Wiktionary entry for a word. You can create or install as many types as you need, or use those from decks you've already imported, helping you get the most out of whatever time you can spare to enhance your learning.

Project Website

The frequency with which a card is presented is dependent on how hard you find recalling its information.

Cannon Fodder engine

Open Fodder

There can be few old-school Amiga types who didn't play the classic Cannon Fodder. It was a remarkable game with an emotional and strategic complexity that belied its cute graphics and sardonic portrayal of war. Created by Sensible Software in the UK, and using the same tiny pixelated character sprites and top-down view as their insanely addictive Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder saw you control a squad of soldiers as they made their way through various terrains. It was controlled by the mouse, with a left-click setting a target destination and the right-click reserved for shooting. This meant your squad could move in one direction and shoot in another at the same time. The terrain was also cleverly designed to hide your opponents and to offer various kinds of cover. You would run from one bit of cover to the next, or even split the squad into teams so that one could cover the progress of the other, or try a completely different strategy from the flanks.

Open Fodder is an open source reimplementation of the game engine behind Cannon Fodder, allowing you to play the game on modern hardware and with a mouse that actually works. As the game is still under copyright, and even available to purchase on, you do need a legal copy of the original data files to play the original games. But even if you don't, Open Fodder includes its own data directory with various magazine demos of the game from the time. Even better than these, though, are the custom levels other people have created using the new level editor that accompanies the project. And you can obviously dive in and create your own. The 2D top-down graphics may be dated, but there's still nothing like this kind of gameplay, and Open Fodder manages to make a game that's almost three decades old feel like a cool future-retro remake.

Project Website

Every soldier in Cannon Fodder had a unique name, which meant you became irrationally bonded to their eight pixels and did everything to protect them.

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