This is the function of these three element types:
- items are simple elements that are used to test your knowledge. They often have a form of a question and an answer. They can also assume other stimulus-response forms. For example, multiple choice test, spelling exercise, picture recognition, etc.
- topics are pages of new information to learn. Topics may assume one of
these exemplary forms:
- articles (e.g. imported from the Internet) or their fragments (chapters, sections, paragraphs or single sentences). Topics in the form of articles play a central role in incremental reading, i.e. massive parallel reading of articles imported from the Internet
- reference material such as URLs of articles to read, rough notes, pictures to process, etc.
- presentation pages created by authors of commercially distributed collections. Presentation pages provide an introduction to a given body of knowledge. For example, a general overview of the history of the Ottoman Empire before individual questions are asked in reference to the same subject
- tasks describe jobs to be done. A task may be an article to read, e-mail to respond to, website address to explore, etc. It can also describe jobs that are irrelevant to learning, e.g. a product on your shopping list or a description of a household chore on your to-do list. Tasks are useful in cases where there are more tasks than your can handle. Tasks are therefore used to prioritize your work. They help you start working with the most important tasks and proceed with less important tasks later
The division into items and topics is central to incremental reading. Let us then first focus on the difference between topics and items. Topics are used to introduce the student to a given subject, while items are used to rehearse the same subject in order to retain it in memory. Typically, you can import an article from the Internet (this will be a topic), extract its most important fragments (which will also be topics) and then convert it to question-and-answer material. Those questions and answers will be items. Items will ensure you do not forget what you have learnt.
Topics: A topic may contain the following text:
Items: To rehearse the knowledge of the facts presented in the above text, the following question-answer items might have been used:
Topics and items are presented for review in the learning process in a different way:
- topics are presented in always increasing intervals. Each new interval equals the old interval multiplied by a constant called A-Factor
- items are presented in intervals that depend on grades you score in the process of learning. Those intervals are determined by the SuperMemo Algorithm
If you generate items from topics in the process of incremental reading, items will usually be children of topics in the knowledge tree. Even if you move items away from their parent topics, you can always jump back to the source topic by using the reference hyperlink button on the element toolbar.
Tasks differ from topics only by the fact that they are kept on one of your tasklists. Tasklists are prioritized lists of tasks. Tasklists which are composed of articles to read are called reading lists. Tasks can also enter the learning process and still remain on the tasklist. For more see: Break free from work overload.
The following table summarizes the differences between items, topics and tasks:
Must be as short and simple as possible
|May contain lengthy texts and rich graphics, but can also be made of short extracts or single sentences||May be either short (e.g. task description, URL, etc.) or long (e.g. reading list articles)|
Repeated as many times as it takes to keep them in memory
|Presented in always increasing intervals (unless you explicitly choose your own interval)||May never enter the review process. If they are subject to review, they behave in the same way as topics|
Make sure you do not forget what you have learnt. This is done by regular rehearsal (repetition)
|Introduction to new knowledge. They provide the source of reading material for generating new items||Use to define to-do-tasks, e.g. articles to read, jobs to do, e-mail to respond to, etc.|
Setting the typeelement menu or Element type : Topic in the element parameters dialog box (Ctrl+Shift+P) Check Type : Task on the element menu or Element type : Task in the element parameters dialog box (Ctrl+Shift+P)
First question components are presented. Answer components are presented only after choosing Show answerTopics are just presented as they are (even if some components are checked as Answer) Rarely do task take part in repetitions. If they do, they are just presented "as is" (like topics)
They are intended for active recall of information from memoryThey are intended for passive review, reading or generating smaller topics taking part in incremental reading They await processing in a tasklist
Stimulus-response (most often: question and answer)Article (or its fragment) Depends on the purpose (e.g. URL, e-mail, article, name, job description, etc.)
Location in the knowledge treecloze deletion. By default added to the currently selected category Within the category on which the tasklist is built
How they enter the learning processUsually enter the learning process at the moment of being formulated (e.g. with Remember cloze) or via Remember or via the pending queue Usually enter the learning process at the moment of being imported (e.g. with Ctrl+Alt+N) or extracted (Remember extract). Less often: picked from the pending queue May not take part in the review process at all. Introduced into review by tasklist priority sequence with Remember (and usually converted to a topic at the same time)
The structure of the knowledge tree will usually be determined by the operations you perform in the process of incremental reading. However, if you create a collection for use by others and would like to build a clear structure of presentation pages (topics) and the testing material (items), see: Building the knowledge tree