Apps in the Classroom – Sporcle

This one is a bit different. Sporcle.com is a website focused on user-submitted timed quizzes. The corresponding Sporcle app ($1.99) allows users to access and attempt a collection of these quizzes from the iPad. Although many of the quizzes focus on irrelevant pop culture trivia (TV show characters, names of Harry Potter spells, etc), there is also a wide assortment of academically-relevant challenges that teachers could creatively use in their classrooms.

Allow me to give you a walkthrough.

The Sporcle app comes pre-loaded with a large collection of quizzes organized into different categories, and it refreshes and downloads new quizzes every time you load the app. Anywhere from 3 to 7+ quizzes are downloadable every day. To maximize the effectiveness of this app, the user should get in the habit of loading the app every single day to download the latest quizzes onto the iPad. Since the app only downloads the new quizzes from the past two or three days, waiting too long between uses will cause you to miss a few days worth of uploads (although once downloaded, you'll have access to the quizzes for as long as you have the app installed). For this app, the more quizzes you can get access to the better it is, so load it up every day.

The category list.

There are tons of different categories that could work in a classroom (there are more than just those listed in the photo above): geography, language, literature, science, etc. The quizzes themselves range in difficulty, so there are quizzes that will work for elementary students all the way up to high school or AP classes.

If you click a category, you get a list of available quizzes:

Partial quiz list for Science

Sometimes topics are repeated and not all topics would be good for a classroom, but the longer you own the app and the more often you open it up to download new quizzes, the longer the list will get.

When you click on a quiz, it brings up a short description and a button to actually begin the quiz. Remember that these are timed and the time limit is set by the quiz creator or Sporcle. You, the user, do not get to choose the amount of time for the quiz. So some quizzes will be difficult to utilize in the classroom because it will require fast answers and fast typing. Other quizzes have time limits of 10 to 15 minutes, which is more than you'd ever need.

You can also read user comments, see the quiz rating, and view stats (after completing the quiz). Stats are cool because they will show you the most commonly missed answers and other neat stuff, but most of that stuff you won't want to be messing with in a classroom. Comments might be inappropriate or contain answers to the quiz.

Actually taking the quizzes is pretty easy. There are basically two types: lists and hint-based. For the lists, the quiz tells you the topic and provides a bunch of blanks. As you type in answers, they automatically appear in the blanks (watch your spelling!):

For the hint-based quizzes, there are hints next to the blanks. The answers will appear next to the hint once you type it in. The quizzes are often very lenient and will accept multiple answers for questions. For example, if an answer is “Franklin Delano Roosevelt”, you will get credit if you type his full name, just “Roosevelt”, or even FDR. An example of a hint-based quiz:

So how to use this app in the classroom? Some ideas:

  1. Want to see how much students know about a topic before you start teaching it? Find an appropriate quiz and run through it with the students.
  2. Want to have a fun review game before a quiz or test? Make a competition out of the quiz(zes) by having students split into teams and offer guesses/answers one at a time. Give them points each time they get one right.
  3. Pick some of the more random fun quizzes for ice breakers at the start of the school year (one example I used was “Most popular baby names of the 2000's” – kids loved seeing if their names made the list).
  4. Nearing the end of the year and have some time to burn after that final quiz or test of the semester? Let the students unwind with a quiz bowl competition.
  5. After showing students some quizzes, have them design their own quizzes (own paper or in Pages) on a topic you are currently covering in class.

Be sure to have a projector and use AirPlay mirroring so the students can see the quiz and the answers as it is being filled up.

Just a few warnings: always load quizzes up before turning on the projector (don't even let students see the quiz list, as some quizzes could have racey titles), try out the quizzes yourself before using them in class (some have Rated R answers), and avoid the user comments for the same reasons.

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