Getting students engaged in the classroom is no easy task. We live on an overly stimulated society with probably the shortest attention span in decades. I have found that creating a dynamic experience for the classroom is the best way to keep students on their toes.
Most of us are familiar with the learning pyramid below. If you aren’t, here is an excellent source to get started.
One could argue how empirically testable it is to measure retention rate of learning on a unidimensional plan, but I will argue this is a minor detail. The pyramid above is but a motivation, to get us to think on the levels of engagement from students in the classroom. It is clear for example that a student cannot teach others without being in fact exposed to the topic on upper methods described in the pyramid and/or some significant scaffolding. The objective then isn’t to uniquely target the bottom of the pyramid in detriment of the remainder levels, but rather to establish a dynamic interaction between them.
So how does Kahoot play into this?
It relates diverse methods into one. The platform allows you to create games related with the topic of your choosing. The game is interactive, and students will have the ability to cast in their answers in real time and see their scores. For something relatively technologically advanced, it requires very little platform. The instructor needs to be able to project the screen for students to see, and students can participate via most devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops. The existence of this media background, we fulfill the audio-visual component of the pyramid. Since students have to cast in their answers via whatever device they choose to do so, it reaches the practice by doing method – this way brings the added benefit of getting as close to 100% participation rate as you will likely get in the classroom (when asking students to voice their answers, most of them feel intimidated; whereas the anonymity provided by the digital platform makes students more likely to engage). Students have to read the questions that are being projects, which makes them engage more than if they are read to. How about the other components of the pyramid? I will get into further detail at the next session.
How do you organize a kahoot session to maximize learning outcomes?
The key is fitting kahoot into your course design. The goal isn’t to create a Q&A game for its own sake, but see how you can capitalize on it to leverage the desired learning outcomes. I have included kahoot in my courses in a variety of scenarios, with different learning outcomes in mind; but I will pick a few to illustrate.
Kahoot as a review tool
It is the class right before the exam, all the content has been covered and students ask you for a review session. When you decide to take it upon yourself to explain again whichever much content you have covered squeezed into a class period, it becomes an overwhelming battle against the clock; in which you have all the responsibility and students are retaining very little – for starters, you are doing a standard lecture, and the human brain devotes less “processing power” for topics it thinks it already knows. Using kahoot is a great way to i) organize the review session in such a way that most important topics are covered and time isn’t wasted between them; ii) it shifts responsibility of knowing the content back to the student, who can then realize which topics they feel comfortable with and which deserve more attention during individual study time; iii) it gives you, the instructor, a quantitative measure of the familiarity of your students with each of the concepts.
Though the tool is fantastic, there are definitely some traps to be avoided.
- Don’t make a kahoot just to “fill-up space” in your class time. Students can see right through it and won’t appreciate it. The transitions should be smooth from one activity to another, and each thing you plan in class should have a purpose.
- Don’t go through the motion and jumping through questions. Kahoot isn’t an exam students have to get through, it is a learning opportunity. After each question, make sure you talk about it even if briefly, as to how it connects to the subject matter. This will increase the likelihood that students reinforce the building blocks and get a bigger picture as how things connect.
- Once kahoot is programmed, it will automatically give the right answer at the end of each turn. Don’t let that be the end of it. Go through the alternatives explaining why that one is the correct answer. It validates your students’ efforts to answer, and it facilitates the next step they have to comprehension.
- Kahoot has a finite and rather small number of characters in each category. Understanding this limit helps design the kinds of question that best fit the tool and avoid your frustration as a kahoot developer. Your sweet spot will be on getting students to train concepts, identifying which situations fit or not a certain category, likely results resulting from a certain situation and my personal favorite: itemizing assumptions necessary for a particular model.
Kahoot as a topic teaser
An unusual yet surprisingly fruitful use of kahoot is designing a game to be played before actually covering the subject matter. I have found this to be particularly useful if you are about to introduce a topic that is somewhat introduced into daily conversations and/or common sense. Students come with a “baggage” to study the topic, and there is no better way to get everyone in the same page before diving into the theoretically grounded discussion. Through the game, it is possible to verify how much your students actually know coming in, identifying and addressing misconceptions and establish and solidify concepts.
As an example, I have used it to start a discussion regarding unemployment. Questions regarding unemployment rate, impact on the economy, definitions and methods of computation.
Kahoot as Recap
At the end of coursework, it is always nice to design a kahoot that is usually much longer than others I would use in other situations. It is a wonderful way to go through most of the concepts that have been discussed throughout the course, to have students realize how much they have learned, and to foster conversation (Discussion Group from the learning pyramid) on topics that may have fallen short on the percentage of students who got the concepts. Their efforts receive an immediate reward as they see their game score going up with each round, and you will see students jumping out of their chairs answering subject questions and trying to become the “ultimate kahoot champion” for the semester.
Some examples of Kahoots I have designed
I’ve mentioned some of the motivations and context in which I employ kahoot in my teaching, so illustration of how the final product actually look like can be found below:
The ultimate Kahoot Champion for Industrial Organization
Externalities for Intro to Economics
Concept Refresher for Industrial Organization
Intro to Competitive Markets for Principles of Microeconomics
Students’ feedback on Kahoot
Not only is kahoot a versatile and useful tool for the classroom, it is a remarkably enjoyable experience for the students. To get my point across, I’ve collected a few quotes from my own students who have had the kahoot experience in my classes:
“I’ve never thought I would get an adrenaline rush during an econ class.”
“It is a nice break for being forbidden to use my phone, and purposefully using it as part of class instead.”
“I wish all my professors would have kahoots”
Looking for Kahoots
Though I highly encourage you to design your own kahoots, there is already a nice pool of existent ones. You can search for a kahoot by keyword, education level, discipline, etc. You can also any of your designed kahoots searchable (public) or private.
The biggest advantage: Kahoot is a free platform. But, there is the initial time investment into designing the games. I still argue is an investment definitely worth taking:
- The platform is fairly intuitive, and yet relatively flexible in terms of the types of games that can be designed for the intended learning experience.
- Once it is done, it can be repeated as many times as you want, so you keep reaping the benefits for future courses.
- Gives you insight on students’ understanding of different topics on coursework before any official exams.