Classroom Technology

4 Things Educators Need to Know About Kahoot!

By Lauraine Langreo — August 09, 2023 6 min read
Photograph of diverse group of primary school students using laptops in a bright classroom.
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Spend significant time in any classroom, and there’s a good possibility you will hear a teacher tell kids to get ready to do “a Kahoot!.”

Founded in 2012, Kahoot!, a game-based learning platform—which features quizzes and other interactive learning experiences—is very popular among teachers and students. That is the case even though it has significant limitations for going beyond basic factual recall.

That popularity—which soared during the pandemic years—has recently attracted the attention of investors. Now, the company has agreed to be acquired for $1.7 billion by a group of investors led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, pending regulatory approvals, according to EdWeek Market Brief. When the deal is finalized, Norway-based Kahoot!, which is currently traded on the Oslo Stock Exchange, will become a fully private company. That final deal could mean changes could be in store for the learning platform, but it is unclear what those changes might be.

That nearly $2 billion valuation and popularity in K-12 education raises four key questions:

1. What is Kahoot!?

Kahoot! is an online learning platform where people can create, share, and play quiz-style games that transform the classroom into a game show. Teachers can either create their own quizzes, or find, use, or repurpose public quizzes.

Using the free version, teachers can create multiple-choice quizzes, add images as answers, view analytics, and other basic functions. Teachers, schools, or districts have to pay to access more options and advanced features.

Kahoots can be presented live or assigned for self-paced learning. During live Kahoots, the quizzes are projected on interactive whiteboards for everyone to see, and students answer the questions on their own devices. Students usually have to answer the questions before the timer ends.

After each question, students can see everyone’s scores. Answering correctly faster gives students higher scores. When the game is over, the dashboard shows a podium with the winners.

2. Why is Kahoot! so popular?

Kahoot! is among the most popular game-based learning platforms. Over the last 12 months, 8.6 million educators have used the Kahoot! platform globally, according to the company.

“I think part of the reason Kahoot! and other quizzing tools are so popular is because it breaks up instruction and really can engage kids in a way that some of the more traditional teaching methods may not,” said Christine Elgersma, the senior editor for learning content at Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that examines the impact of technology on children. Common Sense’s review gave Kahoot! four out of five stars.

One “pro” is that it makes formative assessment—tools teachers use to gauge kids’ grasp of new material—engaging. A “con” is that user-created quizzes can be poor quality or inappropriate. Competitors to Kahoot! include Quizizz, Blooket, Gimkit, Quizlet, Formative, Mentimeter, and Plickers.

Louisa Rosenheck, the director of learning design for Kahoot!, said in an email that at its core, Kahoot! is “a social experience—everyone gets to answer for themselves, but they are part of a larger group having a shared experience, so it strikes the right balance of independence and community.

“The ‘campfire’ moment of everyone gathered around the main screen together is a powerful one,” she said.

3. How do teachers use it?

Teachers use the platform at different points in a unit or lesson. Some teachers use it before introducing a new topic to gauge how much students already know about it, or they use it as an “exit ticket” to get a sense of how much students learned during the lesson.

Teachers have also asked students to create their own Kahoots for projects and presentations. Sometimes, teachers use it as an icebreaker at the beginning of the school year, where the questions help students get to know their teacher.

Kahoot! often hears from educators that they favor the platform because it’s easy to use, “versatile,” “innovative,” and “students love it,” Rosenheck said.

“The question types are familiar and easy to interact with. It seamlessly leverages the learning already happening in the classroom, and makes it more social and engaging,” she added.

Adam Sparks, a former middle and high school social studies and English teacher in Nebraska and Illinois who taught for seven years, said he used to have Kahoot! Fridays in his middle school social studies class. He’d start the class with a 10-question Kahoot! based on current events.

“That was my incentive for the kids to pay attention to current events, and then it was the jumping-off point for us to talk about [those events],” said Sparks, who is now the CEO and co-founder of Short Answer, a peer-to-peer feedback online platform.

“The real positive of Kahoot! is that kids find it really engaging,” Sparks added. Indeed, several teachers have weighed in on Twitter, Threads, and Facebook saying that their students love the game aspect.

“The competition piece is big for kids,” Sparks said. “There is definitely the dopamine hit of, ‘I gotta go fast and I gotta get it. Did I get it?’ It does put you on the edge of your seat. When you walk into a room with kids playing Kahoot!, you will see all the physical signs of engagement.”

His Kahoot! Fridays also motivated students to seek out news stories on their own.

“Otherwise 8th grade students are probably not seeking out a New York Times article,” he quipped.

4. Is Kahoot! an effective tool for learning?

Sparks believes Kahoot! is most useful for student engagement and motivation. He and other educators caution that it’s not the best tool for gauging how deeply students really understand.

“How quickly a student can click a button is not a good indication, to me, of what they actually understand,” Sparks said. “Recognition and recall are just very different from application and analysis. When we assess a student, we should be looking for: How can you use this information that I’m teaching or this skill that I’m teaching you?”

Elgersma of Common Sense Media agreed: “You wouldn’t be using it for a lot of critical thinking skills, or to really dig deep into any kind of subject matter. It’s definitely more for engagement. Maybe [for] some surface learning and to get a quick snapshot of where kids are with a particular topic.”

A 2021 literature review of the effects of Kahoot! on learning concluded that generally the platform can “positively affect learning outcomes from the perspective of interaction.” Kahoot! can improve students’ engagement with teachers and peers, which in turn can positively affect student participation, attendance, and academic performance.
But there are drawbacks. Teachers who responded to Education Week’s request for feedback about Kahoot! pointed out that some students get stressed out about the timer; the same students tend to win; and some students have difficulty reading questions and answers projected on the interactive board.

Some argue that there’s no need for Kahoot! to become a tool to assess deep learning. “There’s a use case for Kahoot! and, for what it does, it definitely serves a purpose in the classroom that teachers appreciate,” Elgersma said.

But Kahoot! is working to update its platform to incorporate feedback from educators, Rosenheck said. For instance, timers can now be turned off to eliminate the focus on speed, and new game modes allow students to engage in different ways beyond multiple choice. Kahoot! is also working on making the platform accessible for all students’ learning styles and improving how the student performance data is generated so it’s more accurate.

A version of this article appeared in the August 30, 2023 edition of Education Week as 4 Things Educators Need to Know About Kahoot!

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