Now, I wrote in my blog-resuscitating post that I felt educational technology had matured somewhat, and moved on from a focus on blingy tools and started to consider the big picture of how to get technology to benefit learning rather than just being a novelty. So naturally, my first post of this academic year is going to be about a blingy tool (sort of). Hopefully though I can consider it a bit more deeply than I would have done a few years ago 😉
The tool is Quizlet, which has apparently been around for about nine years, so it’s hardly the newest kid on the block. I’d first chosen it about a year ago as I looked at a load of quiz-type tools and tried to choose one to recommend to colleagues at the college I worked at. In case you haven’t come across it, it’s a question and answer application that can be used on mobile or desktop. If you want to know more about how to use it, have a look at Russell Stannard’s videos here: How to use Quizlet
There are lots of quiz type apps around, but there were a few features that made me think that Quizlet probably has a bit more going for it, than many of the others:
- Flexibility – it works on the principle that you put some information into it (questions and answers, words and definitions, etc) and then you can do a lot of different things with it, tests, games, etc.
- Collaborative potential – it’s really easy to share your content with other people and also to find content that others have shared. Obviously, as with all user-generated content you have to be careful as quality varies (massively). But be selective and there’s a lot of content you can use straight away. This is also good for developing learner autonomy. If your learners can search for useful content to work with, then they can study independently; they do need to evaluate the content they find though.
- Simplicity – it’s really easy to put together a set of cards and share them with your learners.
Both of these features mean that it is a tool that gives a lot of ‘output’ for a limited amount of input – I think that’s really important when considering e-learning tools – if it’s too much effort, it’s probably not worth using.
Of course the most important question to ask is how this is likely to help your learners. I think Quizlet is actually on fairly stable ground here, for certain things. There is plenty of literature which highlights the importance of repetition in vocabulary learning, and it is really easy for teachers to add words from a lesson to a quick Quizlet card set to follow the lesson. However it is not contextualised practice and this may leave some question marks over its effectiveness.
Now, having presented it to people, and hoping to evaluate its effectiveness, I couldn’t quite get it into my workflow. It was a resource that didn’t really fit with the group I was teaching, and it was hard to add it into my normal practice.
I was reintroduced to Quizlet when I was doing some EAP work this summer, however it fell slightly to the wayside as lessons were not particularly vocabulary-focused (we were looking at more generic features of academic language). Having now finished that course, I’ve realised I could have got learners to focus on the Academic Word List, and sure enough, some people have already made Quizlet sets for the AWL – like this one Academic Wordlist 1 (on Quizlet).
So, my aim for this term is to try and work Quizlet back into my teaching – it’s easy enough to leave it open in class and keep adding to it, I just need to train learners to use it to recap their learning.