Kahoot Knowledge Game App Gaining Popularity in US Schools

(Photo: Kahoot!)

(Photo: Kahoot!)

An online quiz system from Norway, similar in fashion to a television show combined with a video game, has gained popularity in schools across the United States.

Kahoot makes use of a number of popular topics in education trends, including engagement, which touts that activities should interests students and offers the motivation necessary to learn, as well as “gamification,” which makes use of game elements in the non-game realm to increase learning.  A multiple choice quiz format on various topics such as plant life or grammar is used to offer a different way to educate and engage students, with teachers playing game show host.

Using the Kahoot platform, one quiz question at a time is projected onto a whiteboard or screen at the front of the classroom.  Students are given 30 seconds to answer on their laptops, tablets, or smartphones.  Answering correctly gives points, while additional points are scored for fast clicking.

A countdown song is played during the answer time that is similar in fashion to retro video games such as Monkey Island.  A gong chimes when the time is gone, with answers being immediately totaled by the classroom board to find the complete number of correct and incorrect answers given.  A leaderboard is shown which ranks the top five players by their total points, reports Natasha Singer for The New York Times.

The app has become increasingly popular in the United States, with 20 million of the close to 55 million elementary and secondary school students in the country having used the app just last month.

“It’s fun. Everyone is doing it. It pulls all the children in,” Tosh McGaughy, a digital learning specialist at the Birdville Independent School District in Haltom City, Tex., told me recently. “They get competitive and excited.”

However, it is too early to determine whether the app will actually have any influence over improving overall learning, or if it is simply a form of entertainment.

“Are they engaged in the content after the game is over, two days later, or at some point in time when they are not having all the bells and whistles going off?” asked Heather Collins, a digital learning researcher and chairwoman of the behavioral and social sciences department at Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C.

The site also makes use of social sharing, and students are already posting their scores and Kahoot rankings on social media sites in addition to group-texting them.  This is seen even among students who do not come in first place.

Kahoot was founded by Johan Brand, a digital marketing and experience designer, with two other colleagues in 2012.  Since that time it has raised $6.5 million from company employees, the Research Council of Norway, and from Northzone, a venture capital firm that was one of the first to invest in Spotify.  The founders initially brought the idea to the school market in America in 2013.

In response to critics that argue the app is causing students to expect a reward for learning, Brand said Kahoot is not meant to be used on a daily basis, but rather only once or twice a week.

Kahoot is free for educators who have the ability to upload their own questions or choose among a variety of quizzes previously posted by other users.  Revenue is generated by the company through charging publishers to include quizzes with their material on the site.  In addition, a fee-based service is offered which allow companies to use the app for consumer marketing or to engage school employees with corporate information.