Saturday, May 20, 2017

Kahoot! in Learning - a Reflection


I was introduced to "Kahoot" several years ago.
It became and is still a very popular among the colleagues, as well as the students. Teachers use this tool for short quizzes for review purpose (most of the time), student also used this tool when designing activities to engage the student community, and even parents and in outreach programmes!

Without the need to carry out any serious research, based on observations in schools (on-site), feedback from those who have used in or online articles/ postings, it is not difficult to understand why it is so popular. Here are some reasons:
  1. The tool is very easy to use! For those of us who 'hang' around and "play" with web applications, we would agree that the navigation in this platform is intuitive. Kahoot even has a guide to help newcomers to use it - click HERE for the Kahoot guide!
  2. It is hassle free - only the creator needs to sign up for an account to create the quizzes. To administer the quiz, the creator simply needs to click at the start button to generate a code that participants just need to enter it into a 'generic' website, "" to sign up with a name. It's ready to go! The administration of the activity is simple! And you can involve many people at a go!
  3. One of the 'winning' element of this tool is, all participants will do the 'same' thing (i.e. to look at a common screen) at the same time. In other words, the pace to attempt the quiz has been "synchronised". All participants are directed to the same objective - wait for the question to appear and choose the correct answer! All the question at the same time and are given the same amount to process. The only 'differentiation' is the system will time the response time, hence the "higher ability" participant would stand to gain more points! (Assumption here is higher ability participant takes a shorter time to process the question.)
  4. Of course, the unique music that comes with all the Kahoots create the excitement (or perhaps the anxiety for some), and it is the one that stirs the emotion and anxiety throughout the quiz! Imagine you play Kahoot without the music (which I did before) - the level of engagement would reduce by more than half! The music is the soul of the entire activity! 
So, what's the 'educational' value of this platform? What can we achieve through this platform? It is no doubt (and undeniable) that Kahoot engages the participants. Do you notice that I choose to use "participant" instead of "learner"?

The engagement is high. (again it depends on how we define engagement!)

On another note, we need to bear in mind that engagement does not  necessarily equate to learning.
  • What is going on in the participants' minds when they go through the entire activity? 
  • Is the urge to win the game (which could be hyped up by the music) far much greater than taking the time to look at the questions more deeply on what's expected? Are the participants simply regurgitating some facts and non-challenging questions "mindlessly"?  
    • Indeed, what does the designer of the quiz want to achieve? With this operating environment, to what extent will the objective be achieved?
  • This is another assumption - all participants work well in the 'operating environment', with the 'music' hyping up their emotion, and they trying to process the answer with excitement (or anxiety!). It probably works for many, but not necessary all! 
Kahoot is commonly cited in  articles that discuss/ recommend applications suitable/ recommended for formative assessment. It would probably be useful for a quick review, and perhaps questions that do not require too much brain power to process. To assess more complex concepts or ideas, will students be able to make good judgement based on what they know? or they simply take a 25% chance? Something for us to think about when choosing the tool for our activity or when conducting the activity.

This is how it is often used/ implemented in class:
  • All the questions will be administered at one go - the pace and question projection are all automated. 
  • Participants usually would stare at the questions and (try to) process the question in their head before making a choice (since it's multiple choice questions). 
  • Because of the pace, participants who did the questions incorrectly would not get the opportunity to figure out what has gone wrong, or get the chance to clarify at all. 
Well, this approach works well for questions that have a clear right or wrong answer. Here's an example I found in the Kahoot website: Figuring out Figurative Language which students make a choice to confirm their understanding of the definition (whether it is a simile or a metaphor).
To transfer this notion in lower secondary maths learning, we can create quizzes to get students identify terms in quadratic expressions (e.g. coefficient, constant, variable), identify the types of number system that a given number belong to, map linear equations to graphs (with observable characteristics like positive/ negative/ neutral/ undefined gradients, positive/ negative intercepts), reading data from graphical representations, just to name a few. It is, quite obvious, from these examples that the questions in these quizzes cannot be too complex, and certainly there are some limitations.

Similarly, for Science, it could be used in areas like identifying the correct chemical structure of some compound, characteristics of the elements, tests for presence of selected compounds, etc... (just to name a few).

Well, I'm not suggesting giving Kahoot a total miss... but I think the point to emphasize here is, we need to be clear on the objective(s) we have in mind for that learning experience we intend to create, or what we hope to accomplish through this activity.

To stretch the tool a bit more, since we can't change the features in the tool, we can try using the tool differently. (That's where the user makes a difference!)

The pace to release the questions can be managed by the user! If we look at the platform more closely, we can set different duration to different questions within the same quiz!

Here's my takeaway when I modified the way the quiz is to be administered:

(1) Depending on the level of difficulty of question, different duration was set.

(2) Prior to the start of the quiz, students were preempted that they needed to have their writing materials, notebook and calculator ready so that they could work on the answers.

I was glad that a handful of students actually tried working out the answer before making their choice. As anticipated, most of them did not pick up their pen to write or scribble anything even when the questions became more complex. It was quite obvious that many just randomly pick an answer (after eliminating what's really not possible).

(3) I paused after all students submitted their responses. We took a bit of time to discuss how to 'dissect' the question and talk aloud how the solve the problem. Indeed, I think that helps when similar question popped up subsequently. More students picked up a pen to scribble a couple of lines before they make a choice. The emphasis here is accuracy against speed. When given a reasonable amount of time, the participants became more willing to take time to process the question more carefully. This was actually what I hope to see and achieve - the students to process the questions mindfully and learning should not be compromised by the excitement and urge to win!

(4) Learning does not end here! In anticipation that some students would like to revisit the questions (which they might not be able to access easily), I extracted the questions in a set of slides and make it available to them. Suggested working is also available so that they could see how the question could be tackled (from the teacher's perspective).

Last but not least, borrowing a Chinese saying,  规矩是死的,人是活的 - one has to exercise flexibility and assess the nature of the topic and be very clear of the objective before designing the quiz items and deciding how to administer it.


Hui kheng LiM said...

Thanks kwaiyin for sharing and putting this so succinctly in this post. Wonderful!! I have been wanting to discuss this with my teachers. With your permission, can I share this with my teachers please?

Loh Kwai Yin said...

@Linda: My pleasure :)