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Polling software just got better

By David Wines
March 19, 2015
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Throughout my years of teaching and integrating technology, one thing has become clear: If a tool is difficult to learn and use — or exhibits " "wonky" " behavior — it will quickly get ushered aside, never to be used again. I have a personal passion for instructional technology, but I don't recommend tools to my colleagues unless I'm convinced that the software is sound, and the learning curve is approachable for those who are less technologically inclined.

After learning about Kahoot last month at the Oregon Educational Technology Consortium conference, I had no hesitation about sharing this tool with colleagues at Edgewood Community Elementary School in Eugene, Oregon, where I teach fifth grade. Kahoot is a game-based classroom response system that is easy for both teachers and students to use. Think of it as an interactive, engaging way to quiz or survey your students.

Unlike other polling software, Kahoot operates more like a game that rewards respondents for answering quickly and accurately. It works well on any mobile device or web browser, and your students do not need an account to get started, which is a huge plus for any educator who's ever walked two dozen students through the process of creating an online account. 

Create a quiz

Setting up a quiz in Kahoot is easy. Just follow these basic steps:

  1. After signing up for an account, create a Kahoot by choosing a quiz, discussion or survey. Let's start with a quiz. Give your quiz a name and click " "Go!" "
  2. Type your first question in the box and then write four answers in the boxes at the bottom of your screen. You can hit the minus button if you want fewer than four, but four is the maximum. Make sure you indicate which answer is the correct one.
  3. Click " "Add question" " on the bottom of your screen and repeat the process with the rest of your questions. When you're done, click the green " "Save & continue" " tab.
  4. The next screen allows you to add tags, select the language, set privacy settings and rate the difficulty level. Another " "Save & continue" " click brings you to a screen that allows you to add a little pizazz to your quiz by uploading an image or a video from YouTube to run in the background, which is an experimental feature.
  5. The final screen lets you play, preview or edit your quiz. Now you're ready for the fun part — delivering your quiz to students.

Ready, set, go!

Once your quiz is ready for action, it's easy to deploy in the classroom. When you're ready to quiz your students:

  1. Go to your Kahoot account and select " "My Kahoots" " from the top menu bar.
  2. Select the quiz you want to give and hit " "Play," " which will send you to the page where you launch your quiz.
  3. Project your screen and direct students to (keep in mind, this is a different URL than the Kahoot homepage). Your screen, now projected to students, will display a number, which is your game pin. Students enter the game pin on their devices and choose a nickname. This can be tricky. I'm sure you can imagine some of the clever names you might see if you don't carefully pre-teach your expectations. I told my students they had to enter their first name but just make up a silly last name. Disaster averted!
  4. Once all the kids enter the game, it's time to begin. Students read the questions and answers on the projected screen. Each response has a color and shape associated with it. Students choose the corresponding shape and color on their screens and quickly select their answers.

Ranking students

After each question, the teacher's screen will share the top five scores. The faster students click their answers, the more points they receive.

Students can also see their rankings on their own screens, which is one of the primary drawbacks for me. Although it's a lot of fun to have some spirited competition, for students who are consistently in the bottom five, it will ultimately affect their self-confidence. Because of this, I am experimenting with partner quizzes, group quizzes and giving kids an anonymous number so they don't always know their peers' results. I have contacted the Kahoot support team to request the ability to control this behavior, and I hope they listen.

Another way around the rankings is by using the survey function. With surveys, students don't receive feedback about each other's work other than seeing the responses in a bar graph. Students may realize they missed an answer when they see 18/28 students answered (c) on the survey, but at least they're not told they are currently ranked 27/28 in the class. The disadvantage to giving the survey is that you have to manually go through the results to score each individual student.

Quizzes, on the other hand, allow you to get a spreadsheet of the results emailed to you or sent to your Google Drive account. I love this! I receive detailed feedback and can instantly adjust my teaching if a large group of students struggles with a concept.

Addressing the ISTE Standards

One of my favorite features of Kahoot is access to quizzes created by other teachers. A search for state capitals yielded many useful quizzes that I can also deliver to my students. And by making my quizzes public in the permissions, other educators can use mine as well. Sharing and learning from each other is a key component of the ISTE Standards for Teachers, and it's also just a nice thing to do.

The ISTE Standards for Teachers also call on educators to design assessments that incorporate contemporary tools and they encourage educators to provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments and use the data to inform learning and teaching. Kahoot allows me to do all of these things in a way that is fun and engaging for me and my students.

Kahoot is early in its development, and I'm certain that as its creators continue to receive feedback from educators, they will respond with an updated platform that everybody is excited to use. My students have been enthralled by Kahoot. Imagine that — excited to take a quiz!
Plus Kahoot is easy for teachers to learn, simple to implement with students and just plain fun. Now, what is the capital of Oregon? Go!

David Wines has been teaching elementary school in Eugene, Oregon, for 12 years. He currently teachers fifth grade at Edgewood Community School, where he advocates for the use of instructional technology to prepare our next generation of creators. Follow him on Twitter @davidcwines.