Gamify the Classroom: Kahoot! Software Boosts Learning, and Teamwork, Through Quizzes

Play is a language, a social-focused language that encourages interaction and community. Play can also help foster learning, which is the reason Kahoot! uses play as the foundation of its digital product.

Through a simple interface, Kahoot! lets users create quiz-based games. They are all of the super-basic question-and-answer variety, but that allows for ease of use and a quick learning curve when getting started, Jamie Brooker, the company’s co-founder and chief creative officer, told The 74.

Using the dynamic of question-and-answer creates flexibility for the user because new games aren’t limited by specific content, whether math, English or science. “Games are made in any language, subject, topic, age range, ability, and with embedded video and images,” he said. “We focus on how you learn, not what you learn.”

Kahoot! has 75 million users in 180 countries — primarily math teachers, and mostly in the upper range of grades K-12. At the most basic level, teachers can use Kahoot! to create short, multiple-choice learning games. Students answer questions on their own mobile devices — Kahoot! works on any device with an internet connection — and the game play and results are displayed on a large screen at the front of the classroom.

Games can be kept within an individual classroom or shared so that students can compete against peers across town or around the world.

Emphasizing that competitive element of gaming was a conscious choice, an effort to build in incentive, said Brooker. “The game elements are there to try to motivate people and get them to want to learn about what they hadn’t previously known they had wanted to learn about,” he said. “The gaming aspect is extremely important to catch the magic moment to motivate people that didn’t previously have motivation.”

The games have encouragement built in at every level and provide rewards for playing — learning — really well.

Besides that, said Brooker, Kahoot! encourages particular norms of behavior. “Gaming provides a set of rules, and those rules allow you to focus on your outcome,” he said. “For us, the core objective is to maximize the precious time when together in the same physical location.”

Rather than working in silence, with their heads down, students playing Kahoot! games look up and engage in discussions after each question. The idea of gaming in school  — which goes against traditional norms of classroom etiquette — provides an added boost of fun.

“When you look at question-and-answer mechanics, typically you think trivia,” said Brooker, “but when you get into nuances of designing games and use Kahoot! in up-front learning, rather than reviewing, it is a way to bring people together for discussion and debate. It doesn’t matter if you get the questions wrong, as long as your learning progresses.”

Beyond providing an outlet for teacher-driven instruction, he said, Kahoot! allows teachers to invite their students to take the lead in the classroom.

“Teachers are saying to students, as part of a learning project, you can choose to deliver presentation elements by creating a Kahoot!” Brooker said. “They go away and choose the subject for their game, research it, build up their understanding and then pair questions together with supporting content, video and images, and play the game with classmates. Learners become leaders in the eyes of their classmates.”

Since launching its software as a free beta version in September 2013, Kahoot! has expanded beyond its base in Oslo, with offices in London and Austin, Texas. Its customer base has grown too, into the humanities, higher education and the business sector. Though Brooker said he will continue to offer the core experience for free, Kahoot! may charge certain users for some services and tools.

Currently, a few businesses are partnering with Kahoot! under a paid model. Their content creators are adapting its flexible framework to create games that provide what Brooker called an “inclusive learning experience” in a wide variety of worlds.

After all, from the classroom to the boardroom, most everyone wants to play.  

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