It’s been a month since GT went live, and I finally have some time (it’s 2AM on a quiet call night) to start this blog. As with most things, it’s a good idea to start at the beginning. In GT’s case, this was several years ago, when we were still in medical school.
One of the most humbling experiences was picking up First Aid for Step 1 at the end of 2 years of preclinical lectures and suddenly recognizing how much knowledge we had forgotten. Gross anatomy, biochemistry, and even organ systems physiology had to be relearned in a few short weeks, for arguably the most important exam of a physician's career. Like most medical students, we were hard working, nominally intelligent, and capable of learning, so where did we go wrong?
The (obvious) answer was a lack of application. We learned gross anatomy in the first semester of medical school and never saw it again. In hindsight, we could have regularly reviewed old material. But with the volume of information and the pace of new courses, this wasn’t realistic. Simply keeping track of the topics we needed to review more often would be a full-time job.
Flash-forward to residency, where the challenge of retaining infrequently used knowledge over long periods of time only got harder. For example, at the start of my intern year I read Dr. Beasley’s excellent textbook, Surgery of the Hand, cover to cover. Over the next two years, I spent a sum total of 2 months on services where there was even a chance that this knowledge could be applied. In between those services, I took care of transplant patients, vascular patients, neurosurgery patients, trauma patients, ICU patients, and on and on. Needless to say, my hand surgery knowledge atrophied.
In 2008, Wired Magazine published an article entitled, “Want to Remember Everything You'll Ever Learn? Surrender to This Algorithm.” The technique it described – Spaced Learning – promised to solve the problem of efficiently reviewing already-learned knowledge. Even better, a quick PubMed search revealed that the technique had already been proven in randomized, controlled trials at Harvard Medical School.We bought the SuperMemo program, but as the SuperMemo cofounder pointed out, the program wasn’t very user friendly. It also wasn’t web-based, and having been through medical school ourselves, we knew how critical portability could be. There was only one thing to do: create a customized, web-based Spaced Learning system. With our destination in sight, we started on our journey.