The AnkiEM Project

In Knowledge Translation by Brent Thoma16 Comments

Inspired jointly by Reuben Strayer‘s catalog of EMCards on Emergency Medicine Updates and Chris Nickson‘s post at Life in the Fast Lane on spaced repetition, I will be trialing a combination of these two ideas using Anki flashcard software to create the AnkiEM Project.

Dr. Strayer‘s strategy for studying for his board exam was to summarize Rosen’s Emergency Medicine onto flash cards. In the spirit of FOAM, he then scanned all 1412 cards onto his EM Updates site and made them freely available. If you haven’t already checked them out I recommend you do. They’re quite the repository of knowledge.

Dr. Nickson‘s post provides a great summary of the concept of spaced repetition and related learning theory so check it out if you’re intrigued by the idea. Effectively, the theory posits that repeated exposure to concepts using the ‘spacing effect’ helps us to retain knowledge. This chart provides a great visual summary:


Original image credit to I found this picture through Chris Nickson’s post here

Dr. Nickson‘s post also introduced me to AnkiAnki is a flashcard program that has built in spaced repetition. Each version tracks your correct/incorrect responses to the cards and shows you the ones that you got incorrect more frequently until you learn the material. Effectively, it helps you to focus on the concepts you don’t know while at the same time using spaced repetition to reinforce the ones that you do. Text, sound and images can be embedded in the cards. It is available for use free on the webAndroid has a free 3rd party viewer and the real app is $25 on an iPhone. As always, I have no conflict-of-interest with any of these programs – no one pays me for anything.

I imagine you can see where I’m going with this. Over the next few weeks I will be trialing the creation of Anki decks that summarize each chapter of Rosen’s Emergency Medicine. While I’m not sure that they will be useful to anyone other than me, in keeping with FOAM I will make them freely available in as many ways as my technologically-challenged mind can handle (likely for download from BoringEM and importing from Anki). If I found that the creation and review of the cards is valuable this will likely become my preparation for the 2015 Royal College EM exam.

As I am on my toxicology rotation right now, I have started creating decks for each of the toxicology chapters. When they are available they will be posted with instructions on how to use them on a page that will be linked to at the top of my site between the “Disclaimer” and “Write for BoringEM” tabs. Look for them later this week.

In the mean time, I would appreciate some feedback. Do you think this will be an effective way to study? Would you be interested in using the cards? Could Anki work for you as a viewer (despite the high price of the iphone app)? Would you suggest any alternatives? I’d like to get this right before I put in too much effort. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Dr. Brent Thoma is a medical educator, blogging geek, and trauma/emergency physician who works at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine. He founded BoringEM and is the CEO of CanadiEM.