I don’t usually do tools-blogging on this site, but I’m making an exception for Cerego, if only because no one else seems to be blogging it, and it’s the sort of dirt simple tool I love.
Cerego is like a number of memorization tools on the market that make use of the insights of cognitive science to help people memorize things more effectively. The short explanation is that the best way to memorize something is spaced repetition, and in general the spacing should be such that you try to refresh your memory just as it is becoming difficult to remember (but not at the point where the memory is lost completely). There’s much debate on how much the precise spacing of the repetition matters, but there’s a broad consensus that spacing matters in at least broad strokes, and that material you have mastered should be spaced out more than material that is still a bit shaky.
As I mentioned, there’s any number of tools that try to use these principles to jazz up your average flashcard app. Cerego stands out from the crowd not so much in what the attempt, but in the cleanness of the design and implementation and in the addition of community features (you can easily make your Cerego memorization sets public, and people can rate them). The precision of the “Time until next review” suggestions is a bit pseudo-science, but the review schedules are set up in accordance with decent research (again, it’s just the idea that the program knows the exact minute you should review that is over the top. The addition of the ability to add Flickr photos seems superfluous at first, but is a godsend if you are trying to memorize student names, for example, or if you want to come at language memorization from a visual angle as well. The dashboard nicely organizes the different “courses” you are enrolled in (memorization sets, really), and makes it obvious which ones you’d benefit from studying most at any given time.
And of course, unlike most other options, the tools is free (at least at the moment).
Entry into the beta is limited, but if you click the link at the bottom of this NextWeb article in the next day or so, it should jump you ahead in the queue and give you immediate access (scroll all the way to the bottom of the article to see it). If you put together any interesting sets, let me know — I’d love to try them.