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phase-6 Review by Melissa Theberge

Lars Gyoervari
401 N Michigan Ave., Suite 1200
Chicago, IL 60611

Trading in my boxes of homemade flash cards for a simple and effective computer program seemed almost too good to be true! I was pleasantly surprised when I downloaded, installed, and began using the phase-6 software within minutes of getting started. I still haven't tossed the flash card box, but we're getting closer the more we use and enjoy this program.

As a busy homeschooling mom, reading manuals is low on my list of priorities. So for a computer program to be an efficient and effective part of our homeschool classroom, it needs to be intuitive, easy to set up without a manual, and worth the investment of learning to incorporate it into our school program. Phase-6 software meets and exceeds these requirements. After spending just a few minutes with the built-in samples, I had the confidence to set up separate student accounts in the software and add Latin vocabulary words right away to give it a try. Within a few minutes, I was able to begin the first phase of the program and begin practicing my Latin with digital flashcards! I especially enjoyed the fact that I could easily swap from English to Latin and try practicing with Latin to English, a valuable benefit which makes the software wonderfully versatile. My eleven-year-old daughter couldn't wait to spend time "playing" with this new software either, and she has enjoyed inputting and then practicing countless sets of vocabulary words on her own. When technology bridges the gap between memory learning and fun, I can't help but count it a victory.

This gem of a program can be used for any content area where flashcards would be the typical review method, from math formulas to science vocabulary to foreign languages to standardized test preparation. You can type in your own information in any format you choose (question/answer, word/definition, or foreign word/translation), or download flashcard sets from the website depending on the needs of your students and the availability of content online. Most of the supplemental downloads are free; the others have a nominal fee of less than $10, but they include hundreds of vocabulary words. Once the vocabulary of choice is in the program, it can be shared with multiple students, rearranged to reverse the format, organized into customized lists, or tagged with a title. You can even change the way correct answers are verified.

One area in which this program far exceeds the capabilities of traditional flashcards is its ability to incorporate multi-media information, such as audio, pictures, and video. The samples that are included with the initial download give examples of this, and I can already imagine the applications of audio learning with foreign languages and picture learning with geography or history, and that doesn't even scratch the surface!

The website for the phase-6 software explains the unique research-based plan for the virtual flashcard program and how repetition done over time leads to permanent memory of those items. Each time a student logs on to the program, h or she is prompted to review certain terms that are due for practice. Students are shown one "side" of a digital flashcard, and while it is showing, they are prompted to type in the matching information. Self-checking is available, or the software can check for accuracy depending on the settings selected. Correct answers are noted and practice continues. Options are available for how to treat incorrect answers. Phase-6 is recommended for ages 10 and up, though a younger child who can read and type might find the software useful and fun.

The more correct answers a student makes, the less frequently those terms appear in the review cycle, though they never disappear permanently, which is a great benefit for long-term review. By creating passwords for each user and an administrator, a parent or classroom teacher is able to easily monitor student progress.

While this product was in my hands for review, an update was made available, attesting to the company's website claim that they are constantly developing and improving their product. An extensive FAQ area is available on their site, as well as access to individual customer support as needed. With European roots, this software is used in schools across Germany and parts of the United States, and it is easily applied to homeschool families as well, thanks to its complete versatility and customization.

If there was one thing I found unappealing about the program, it would have to be the color scheme. It is essentially a two-tone scheme of shades of green and white, which is clear enough to look at but not particularly appealing to me. When I first installed it, I felt it didn't look particularly sophisticated. Over time, I've found that it is more sophisticated than I thought, though I still don't care for the green.

Phase-6 is an impressive modern variation on a long-standing tradition of flashcard review, and I can envision long-term use for this software in my homeschool across many subjects. For such a comprehensive and versatile program, the price of $29.95 is quite reasonable, and it is Mac compatible as well. Phase-6 offers a free 20-day trial, which I highly recommend. If you decide to purchase it after the trial period, you won't be disappointed.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2009