For the past two years, one of my principal professional activities has been teaching. Yes, as part of academia, a big part of our time is invested in preparing the next generations of engineers! (It sounds much more motivating if put this way, instead of just ‘teaching’ :) ). It is not an easy job: The hours can be long, you need a lot of preparation and some time for debriefingand, if you are like me, you assosciate others’ failure (i.e. the students’) with your own failure.
It’s been the first time I am involved so intensively in teaching, however I have been interested in this topic my whole life. It started when I was explaning colleagues at school math and physics and it continued with my involvement in the Educational Committee of BEST. But it is different to learn about it in theory and different to actually practise it.
One of the first problems I had when I started teaching in Romania, was the lack of feedback from the students. I don’t know if this is a general attitude of students, but somehow it is very difficult to determine whether the students have understood what I’ve been talking about or not. Simply because they usually do not respond to any question like ‘Did you understand?’. Feedback though is of outmost importance in teaching, as it allows me to proceed with confidence or revise the unclear parts.
How can I get quick feedback from the students though?
A couple of years ago, during an event I was volunteering (Rails Girls Cluj), a co-volunteer introduced us with a super cool online quiz called Kahoot. What is kahoot? I think a video can be a better introduction than whatever I write here:
Kahoot is a online survey that you can create for your classes, workshops, business meetings and it can be used for testing the knowledge of your audience, receiving feedback or gathering opinions. You create a survey before your event, and when you are ready you show the survey in front of your audience. They can join from their mobile phones/tables/laptops without an account, just by using a PIN code. And then the fun begins!
The audience is presented with each question of the quiz and then they have limited time to give an answer to each question. Correct answers receive point, but time also matters! The faster the response, the more points it gets. This makes the adrenaline (and the excitment) increase. After each question, you get the ranking of the people which can motivate some to try harder. And at the end, the first three players get on the podium!
It might sound like a silly exercise, but I personally like it for three reasons:
- I get an immediate feedback of what the students understood and what was not clear
This gives me the opportunity to explain once again the concepts that were not clear, or even focus on them in the next class again
- I can follow-up students that have a consistent ‘low’ performance
This is a great opportunity to put some more effort for those that need it
- It is a fun exercise that makes the student relax and look forward to the class
Honestly, I have students that admitted comming to the class just because of the kahoot. Somehow, these students are some of the best ones according to the quizez.
So, overall, I think it is an extremely useful tool for educators, and not only. If you can about your students, believe that feedback is important, and want to have some fun, then try it out and let me know how it was!