One of the best uses of technology in a classroom setting is to facilitate engagement in the audience. Students retain more when they are authentically interested in and invested in the lessons we are presenting. Technology can make presentations more interesting and thus easier to retain.
One tool that I have found to fill this role is an online review and quiz creation tool called Kahoot. The URL is http://getkahoot.com and accounts are available for no cost. This site allows an instructor to create interesting and interactive short quizzes that students may participate in from any Internet enabled device. I have tested it with iPhones, Android, Chromebooks, Surfaces, and traditional computers, and all will work perfectly. The presentation is energetic and fast-paced. The content environment is very similar to a video game. Every student to whom I have presented these activities has pronounced them a success.
The process is simple and intuitive. The instructor creates a short quiz using questions of their own design as well as images that support the content. If you can’t find an image for a particular question, Kahoot will supply one. Once the quiz is built, Kahoot generates a random access code and provides a URL for the students to log in. When they access the site they are required to enter a name. Part of the fun is allowing the student to select their own username rather than limiting them to the name they were given at birth. As the students log on, their usernames appear on the web site, which should be visible to all in the class via a screen or white board. Either will work. When all participants have logged in, the quiz may be started by means of a button on the main screen. Review questions are presented on the main screen at short intervals, maybe 30 seconds. The time limit may be changed according to the instructor’s wishes. The students read the questions from the main screen but THEIR device shows a simple interface of four buttons. When a question appears, the students have a limited amount of time to select one of the buttons. When all students have answered, or the time has expired, the correct answer is automatically displayed and the page moves on to the next question. This continues, along with a sound track of lively music, until all questions have been answered. The overall experience is very much like a fast-paced video game. By the third or fourth question, most, if not all, students are authentically engaged in the learning process. I have seen a marked improvement in test scores when using this tool as a review compared to the traditional pen and paper assignment method.
When selecting a piece of technology to use in the classroom it is important to realize that different tools are for different purposes. The questions in Kahoot must, of necessity, be short, as the engine that makes this site work is Twitter. This is a tool designed for review and reinforcement. It is not a place to present new material or assign questions that require extended answers. For an application like that, a site like Quia.com, which allows for extended questions and detailed answers as well as embedded content, would be more appropriate. If, however, you need to review your students for a chapter or unit vocabulary test for example, then this site is perfect.
I am seeing a good bit of criticism today concerning the ever expanding role of technology in the classroom. I am also seeing students who are learning to read at 4 or 5 instead of 6 years old. Many people, particularly older folks, sneer at more modern educational methods as though somehow they are inferior to the “good old days”. Life in the now makes more and different demands on those who live it, and education must necessarily change to meet those demands. Don’t let anyone intimidate you away from trying new and different methods of teaching. Tailor the method to the audience, make sure the content is there, and you are guaranteed success.