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flashfriends_logo.jpgI wish I had Flashcard Friends when I was going to school. The brainchild of serial entrepreneur Mike Hogan, this web site combines flash-card learning with social networking.

hogansmall.jpgChildren can use the site to create their own flash cards on any subject in a digital form. Or, if they prefer, they can use flash cards created by friends or teachers. I saw a demo of it and the software is intuitive, easy to use, fast, and extensible.

You can, for instance, create flash cards for spelling. You can actually run a self-test because the site can read aloud a list of words to you which you then try to spell. It grades you on how well you do and generates additional tests. If you print out flash cards, it has the questions on one side and answers on the other so that you can fold the paper printout in half and test yourself that way.

Hogan, who lives in Belmont, got the idea from his children. He was trying to get the kids, Kendall and Ryan, to create their own flash cards because they scored much better when they used them. The kids, now 15 and 12, asked if there was a way to create flash cards online. They thought that somebody could make flash cards fun like MySpace.

“It was a chocolate and peanut butter moment,” Hogan said. “I viewed this as an outsider and asked what the kids needed. Social networks are often something parents want the kids to avoid and schools will block them. But I think there is value to social networking in education.”

Hogan formed the company in August. His site went beta in November. Traffic is small but it is spreading by word of mouth.

flashfriends2.jpgKids can flip through a digital stack of cards one at a time. They can weed out the ones they already know and concentrate on the ones they don’t. As with the spelling example, any set of flash cards can be used to generate online tests.

They can insert sounds and pictures into the flash cards. You can search for cards that have already been created, rate them, and share with friends. And when you are looking for definitions of words to include in your own flash cards, the software itself can suggest the right definition from an online dictionary.

Right now, Hogan is concentrating on building up the traffic. He hasn’t put any ads on the site because educators are often leery of attempts to sell things to kids. He also isn’t charging for it and at the moment is happy to bankroll the meager costs. That’s because Hogan is a one-man band right now, with contractors doing the programming for him.

“I am the Cheap Executive Officer,” he said.

Hogan says he hasn’t decided how and when to raise money yet. But he’s not worried about it. He was the founder of Zixxo, an online coupon company, for five years.

The graphics need a little work. After all, younger kids probably want more eye candy. But this is the kind of digital learning application that I would expect an education industry portal like to be very excited about.

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