Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 9, NO. 1 / JANUARY 1983 / PAGE 64

Assimilation aid: E-Z Learner. (evaluation) Brian Murphy.

Assimilation Aid

E-Z Learner came across my desk at the crucial moment--just as I was about to undertake the life-or-death task of learning enough French to keep from starving to death on my first visit to Paris.

Nothing, they say, brings out the good veal like a few compliments on the restaurant's decor when phrased elegantly in French. Unfortunately, though my grasp of grammar is good, my vocabulary as of the time I received E-Z Learner was, shall we say, limited.

Setting aside my worries about starving in the culinary capital of the planet, I looked at the brochure which comes with the program. Silicon Valley Systems makes no elaborate claims about this software. They say that the program is simple to use, that it will help you to assimilate large amounts of information and that it will enable you to learn the information, rather than merely memorize it for the short term.

I brought all my French manuals together, dumped them beside my Apple II, and booted up E-Z Learner. I saw on my monitor a menu and the directive to hit the space bar for instructions, which explained what the nine menu commands did. In about five minutes I was ready to create my first file.

I found out very quickly that what I was about to create was a set of electronic flash cards, which I could tailor to my own needs, including only information I needed. I titled my first file "French Vocabulatory' and plunged ahead.

On screen there were now two blank flash cards. By adding an ! before my entry, I could alter the format to center my question at the top of the card, so I wrote " n verre.' Beneath that I typed " drinking glass.' I repeated the process about a dozen more times, adding words with which I would need to be familiar and their translations, and then hit control-S to stop.

That command brought me to the first menu for the actual flash card "power review,' where I had the options of having the questions put in the original order (the question in French and my translation in English) or in reverse order (with the question in English and me attempting to come up with the answer in French).

Having selected the original order, I landed in a new menu, which offered me the option to start or continue the review, start over (which lands you back in the menu where you decide whether you are asked the question or the answer first), or return to the main program menu. After a brief monior display indicating that the order of questions was being randomized, the first question camp up.

Perfectly centered at the top of the flash card was "un verre.' The on screen prompt said to press the space bar for the answer. Attempting to type the answer didn't even make the cursor blink. So I intoned "a drinking glass,' hit the space bar and the answer came up, "a drinking glass.' A triumph! In order to get the next question I had to type C if I was right or W if I was wrong. I typed C and the next question came up.

I completed all twelve questions, and my monitor informed me that after one review I had eleven right and one wrong. The menu option to start or continue the review brought me back to the question I had wrong. I got it wrong again. The same menu option landed me back on that same question and would continue to do so, I surmised, until I got it right. Once I did, I had the option of starting the review over from the top or going to the main munu.

Did it work? Was I able to expand my vocabulary? The answer is yes. Using the technique of reviewing previously entered questions and then adding new questions to the file daily, I was soon able to translate quickly and accurately ever-increasing amounts of vocabulary. The material stuck with me. I was able to use my new vocabulary in formulating sentences and phrases. I had, as the documentation promised, not merely memorized but learned.

This program is perfectly adapted for home use by students who have a great deal of material to learn. I recall, with horror, some of the rote learning I had to do in high school and college. An Apple II with E-Z Learning would have been a godsend in those days, as I memorized the steps in the process of cellular mitosis and important dates in U.S. history. Not all learning, after all, is of concepts.

The home user from grade 6 up will have no difficulties using E-Z Learner. The instructions are clearly phrased, the prompts are simple to follow and the program offers real flexibility in creating files.

Files are saved on work disks, which means that you can have an unlimited number for future reference and review. Notes transcribed into flash card form on these files can be stored indefinitely and could be a real bonus at final exam time, or when preparing for SAT or GSAT placement tests.

The program enables you to take files and transfer them to disks or to merge them, so that, in a final exam situation, for example, you can take the material you have studied unit by unit and review it as a whole. At any time you can delete a file or, if you have made a mistake, edit individual questions to add, delete, or correct information. Once a file is created, it can be expanded at any time with new questions, the only limit being the storage capacity of you disk.

Teachers interested in using this program in the classroom should note that the program is not really suited for unsupervised review. The program will believe the child if he says he got all the answers right. For students who want to review, for their own benefit, material for examinations or quizzes, the program is ideal, since the file can be tailored to meet the students' exact needs.

The documentation says the program is menu driven, but it is also motivation driven. If you want to learn, then E-Z Learner is a perfect tool for the job.

Products: Silicon Valley Systems E-Z Learner (computer program)