September 4, 2017

In the past two weeks, I have spend a bit of time using Kahoot! in my classes. The kids love it. The teachers are excited. For the first time in history, the teacher next door had to come and tell us to pipe it down. That just never happens in a maths class. 

But after the first excitement was over, I started to wonder: 
“We had fun, but did we learn anything?”
After all, that’s why we are here, to learn. Having a good time is a good thing, but only if it fits in with the learning process. If not it might be a hindrance. 

What is the pros and cons of integrating a game-show like Kahoot in your lesson? (I am using Kahoot! as an example, since I have been using it, but the same points apply to using any game-show site.)

Pro’s of using a game-show like Kahoot! in class:

  • The kids love it. They are actually begging me to do Kahoots. It puts them in a positive frame of mind, which in turn make them more receptive to learning. 
  • Everybody in the class are actively taking part; there is no place to hide while we are playing.
  • Competition is a mighty motivator. 
  • Kahoot! have designed their program with music and colours that activate all the emotional triggers. 
  • Working against time force learners to focus on the task at hand. 
  • It is a good way to get students more actively involved in the class. 
  • It livens up a boring lesson and provides a bit of variation.
  • If you choose your wrong answers cleverly, you can clear up a few misconceptions.
  • It helps learners to understand how much of the work they know or don’t understand. 
  • They can see improvement in themselves. 

Con’s of a game-show experience.

  • Multiple choice questions allow learners to guess answers. 
  • The focus is on the answers not on the process of getting there. Learners also do not need to explain their thought process. 
  • The time pressure means that learners do not get to assimilate the correct answer in the cases that they were wrong.
  • It can create the illusion of learning, without much being retained. 

The good thing is that the list of pros seems to be longer than the cons. However, the last con is a deal breaker. If it only creates the illusion of learning, then it is actually a waste of time and none of the pros can cancel that out. 

The first principle of eLearning is that technology must fit in with the learning, not the other way. To effectively use Kahoot! you have first to be very clear about what your aim is. 

For example, tomorrow I have the first of three revision lessons with my grade 10’s. 

The aim of the lesson: Refresh their memory of algebra, make them realise how much they still need to study and get them to work efficiently for 45 minutes.

Pre-technology lesson: I would give them a worksheet on algebra to work through, with a memo that they can use to check their answers. The lesson always starts efficiently but after about 30 minutes learners start to fidget and get distracted. 

Redesigning the lesson with Kahoot!
Use Kahoot! as a reward at the end of the lesson. I would start the lesson by giving learners the same worksheet that I used last year and 30 minutes to do as much as they can in order to prepare for the Kahoot! By choosing incorrect answers, that differ only slightly from the correct one, the answer is not evident. Learners are still able to guess the right answer, but it will be significantly more challenging. I have set the time limit very generously, to encourage learners to calculate rather than guess the answer. We will see how successful that is. 
Since they have just revised the work, the work will be fresh, which will enable them to assimilate the correct answers much better. The Kahoot! count as a self-test to indicate to the learners how much time they still need to spend on the topic. I decided that the Kahoot! will only consist of 5 questions, which give me enough time to talk through the misconceptions in between each question. 

Click here for a link to my algebra revision Kahoot.

So am I able to guarantee that learning will take place? 

No, learning during the Kahoot will still be an illusion. But in the 30 minutes before the Kahoot learners will be motivated to work efficiently. Kahooting will also provide a bit of variation and fun on a day where the revision can become monotonous. The fun and competitive nature of Kahoot will have the added advantage of putting learners in a positive frame of mind as they leave my class. This is imperative to motivate them to continue their studies at homes. 

By putting some thought into the planning of the lesson, I can eliminate most of the cons and focus on the advantages of using games as part of my lesson. Technology by itself does not improve learning. Whether it enhance or disrupt learning depend completely on the teacher who design the lesson. 

Have a look at the Kahoot guide, for more practical tips on how to ensure learning take place while you are having fun. 

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