As technology becomes more prevalent in UK schools, finding ways of using it effectively for learning is a key priority for teachers and school leaders. According to the British Educational Suppliers' Association (BESA), an estimated 76 per cent of secondary schools are already using tablet computers with many more having access to laptops and other computers for use in the classroom.
However, as reported by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2015, “Schools have yet to take advantage of the potential of technology in the classroom”, with many schools using the devices available for simple internet research or typing up work, rather than exploring ways that support students’ learning.
One of the most effective learning resources available is Quizlet, a learning app and website, which helps students to learn material by encouraging retrieval practice in a simple but engaging way. It can be used in a variety of ways to support students’ learning both in the classroom and for independent study at home.
Quizlet for collaborative learning
One of the best ways that Quizlet can be used in the classroom is the Quizlet Live function. This works on any internet-enabled device and it encourages students to work together in teams to match terms and definitions. Students join the Live game and are automatically assigned to teams, where they’re presented with a term or diagram and have to match it to the correct answer, but only one of the students in each team will have the correct answer. This encourages students to co-operate, and the competitive nature of the Live game engages them in the task.
Another advantage is that students can share devices if they don’t all have access to one of their own. Unlike with some other quizzing apps, the students are rewarded for accuracy more than speed, as incorrect answers reset the teams’ progress to zero. This function can be used in a variety of ways. For example, in biology, students can identify joints in the human body from diagrams, or in chemistry, students can identify the periodic table as a stimulus. A typical Quizlet Live game can last 10 to 20 minutes and is a really useful way of revisiting prior learning and encouraging interleaving and spaced retrieval practice in a way that students will enjoy.
Quizlet study modes
In schools where students don’t have access to a 1:1 device, Quizlet can still be used effectively as a teaching resource by using a projector or an interactive whiteboard. Teachers simply project the cards to the class via the Learn or Flashcards study mode, and the students can write the answers in books, on mini-whiteboards or even take it in turns at the interactive whiteboard. For example, in chemistry, students could see a variety of terms relating to atomic mass and write the correct answer based on their prior learning.
Starting lessons with a review of prior material can help to strengthen students’ previous learning and lead to fluent recall. The advantage of using Quizlet in this way is that the teacher can monitor and track progress through the study set from the front of the class, adding cards as they progress through a unit and students can then access those resources at home.
Quizlet for at-home revision
Another great advantage of Quizlet is the way it can be shared easily with students for independent revision at home, taking advantage of the fact that 90 per cent of UK 16-year-olds have a smart phone and 96 per cent have access to a computer at home. Students really enjoy the Match study mode, often playing the game multiple times until they have mastered the terms and can complete the set in a rapid time.
Using Quizlet's study modes and tests, which helpfully self-mark, students can retrieve information daily, weekly or monthly to really embed knowledge into long-term memory. For students that may not have access to any internet-enabled device, the tests and cards can be printed so those students can enjoy the same benefits. The engaging nature of Quizlet really encourages students to study independently, allowing them to see their own progress and identify their own weaknesses.
Students love using Quizlet as a revision tool, often creating their own study sets and sharing with their classmates. Teachers can share sets with students to revise, and the addition of diagrams encourages students to learn both the diagram and the vocabulary, an especially useful tool for learning the sciences. The variety of study modes in Quizlet encourages different approaches that help to improve retrieval practice.
Quizlet is an effective app and website that helps students to learn information efficiently. The site has a huge number of study sets in biology and chemistry, and it’s easy for teachers to find study sets shared by other teachers, adapt them for their own use and share across their departments. Quizlet not only helps students to learn more effectively, but it also helps reduce teacher workload through the curated resources available.
Nic Ford is academic deputy head at Bolton School (Boys’ Division)