The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: G is for Gimkit

Teachers have quite a few options they can use when looking for an online game to play in class, and a very popular game among my students is Gimkit. Common Sense Education describes Gimkit as “a classroom game-show platform where students compete by answering questions on their electronic devices.” This sounds similar to other online games, but what makes it different from other choices are some pretty cool features that make playing more exciting for students.

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Gimkit. I just like sharing tools that help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

As students answer questions correctly, they earn virtual money, which they can save or use to purchase “power-ups.” Power-ups give students the chance to do things like double the amount of money they make per question, purchase insurance (so they don’t lose points if they get a question wrong), “ice” classmates so the other student’s screen freezes and can’t answer any questions for a short period of time, and so on. Students love these bells and whistles. What I like about power-ups is that they “level the playing field,” meaning that the smartest kid in the class doesn’t automatically win every time just because s/he knows all the answers, because they may not use the power-ups as effectively as their classmates (As I said in this post, one of the biggest problems I have with most classroom games is that the smart kids always win, so I am happy that Gimkit makes things fair for everybody).

When I first started using Gimkit, I was the person that created all the questions for our games (You can upload Quizlet sets to Gimkit, which is a nice feature that made it easy for me to create game question banks). My goal was that students would receive some input by having to read and answer questions in the target language (TL). Once we started playing, however, I quickly saw that this wasn’t happening universally. Some students were answering questions as fast as possible without reading the questions and then using all the virtual currency they earned to play with the power-ups until game time ended. This was not my intention.

Then a colleague mentioned that he had heard Meredith White, a rockstar teacher from Georgia, talking about using Gimkit in her classes. Instead of creating the questions herself, she has students create them using Gimkit’s “KitCollab” feature (this could be an individual or collaborative activity). GAMECHANGER. This was a hugely successful activity for my students, who were much more engaged with the input because they wanted to see if one of their questions made it into the game (Did I sneak in a few questions here and there that I created? Did I clean up some language errors here and there? Yes, but they don’t need to know that).

Now that we are teaching remotely, Gimkit can be used to support distance learning in two ways. First, classes can play live Gimkit games during synchronous Zoom/Google Hangouts classes. Teachers can share their computer screen with a link to the game and students can play it just like they played it in a physical classroom (I am not teaching with synchronous Zoom classes right now, but I know teachers who are who have done live Gimkit games remotely with success). Second, teachers can turn a Gimkit game into an assignment that students can complete at their own pace. When the Gimkit game is an assignment, students have to earn a certain amount of virtual dollars to complete it. Since it’s now an individual activity, students can’t use the power-ups that involve other players, so the spirit of competition vanishes. Teachers also have the ability to create classes in Gimkit to monitor student progress (These features are only available with the paid version, but that is free right now due to the COVID-19 crisis).

If you decide to use Gimkit with your classes, I advise you to use it sparingly. Like many other shiny new things, Gimkit loses its luster if it’s used too frequently. If you’d like more information about Gimkit, you can visit the Gimkit blog. If you’d like a tutorial on how to create a Gimkit game, you can find many videos on YouTube like this one to help you with the basics. Happy gaming!

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