Smartphones consume a large part of university students’ time, but are
used primarily as tools for social networking and gaming. Therefore,
smartphones can become a distraction, especially with the introduction
of exciting new apps like Pokemon GO. However, students can be
introduced to educational apps and shown how more productive use of
their smartphones can help improve their academic studies (Cochrane,
By now, most teachers have already heard of or used Quizlet, the
popular online education platform introduced in 2007. It was
recognized by SimilarWeb (2016) as the fastest growing U.S. education
site in 2015, with over 36 million average monthly visits. In Spring
2016, the Quizlet design team added a new game called Quizlet Live to
The new in-class, team-based learning game randomly
groups students into teams to compete against other teams using any of
the millions of Quizlet vocabulary study sets. Using their computers or
mobile devices, team members race to match all the vocabulary terms
with their definitions, and the first team to match all 12 correctly
For about six weeks, Quizlet Live was beta tested with 50,000
teachers and 1,000,000 students with rave reviews from both teachers
and students and was officially introduced in April. In this article I
would like to share my own experience using Quizlet Live in my
classrooms, which hopefully will assist other EFL teachers interested
in doing the same.
Playing the Game
To begin the Quizlet Live game, the teacher clicks the purple “Live”
button in any Quizlet study set with at least 12 terms and then
displays the teacher’s game screen on the classroom projector screen.
A minimum of six students with their computers or mobile devices go to
the Quizlet Live webpage and type in the 6-digit join code along with
their first name. Students are encouraged to type in their real first
name so that they will be able to easily find their other teammates. If
there is more than one student with the same first name, they can also
add the first initial of their last name.
As students join the game, their names will be displayed along the
right side of the Quizlet Live webpage. The system randomly groups
students into teams of 3-4, with each team given an animal name. Animal
team names have been translated in Quizlet Live into a handful of
languages, including Japanese, so if the study set you are playing the
game with has either terms or definitions in Japanese, the animal team
names are written in katakana (Figure 1).
Screenshot of Quizlet Live team names
The beauty of this arrangement is that it allows students to make new
friends and to collaborate and communicate with other students whom
perhaps they have never even talked to before. Because learners of all
levels can contribute to the victory of their team, the team dynamic of
Quizlet Live provides a fun, competitive environment which can be a
positive experience for all students, compared to other games which
might embarrass lower-level learners (Quizlet, n.d.). This instant,
random selection of team members also prevents students from having to
wait to be chosen in any embarrassing popularity contest.
move around the class to find their other team members as displayed on
the screen. After the teacher starts the game, teams race to match all
the terms with their definitions. Students are required to collaborate,
as only one student per team has the correct answer displayed on their
device. The first team to match all 12 terms correctly in a row wins.
However, one wrong answer will send a team back to the start. Thus,
unlike some other games, Quizlet Live encourages accuracy over speed,
rewarding teams that take their time, reach consensus by consulting
their teammates, and consistently choose correct answers.
color-coded leaderboard on the classroom projector screen (Figure 2)
displays the real-time progress of each team as they race toward 12
correct answers. Immediately after the game finishes, Quizlet Live
displays a review feature for the teacher to highlight vocabulary terms
that were most frequently matched correctly and incorrectly, providing
excellent feedback on which terms students should review for the next
Figure 2. Quizlet
Live leaderboard (Quizlet, n.d.)
There is also an option to shuffle teams, which I usually do
after a few games are played, to give students another chance to
socialize and meet even more students. More details, including two
videos on how to use Quizlet Live, can be found on their website.
I have used Quizlet Live primarily with four of my technical English
classes of third-year university engineering students, and the feedback
has been overwhelmingly positive. Only a few students expressed regret
on minor matters, such as their team never winning or their having
trouble joining the game due to technical issues related to connecting
to the university’s spotty Wi-Fi network. Many students commented that
they enjoyed the game so much, they wanted to play it more frequently
than we did.
A post-game, five-question survey using a four-point
Likert scale (N=96) confirmed the students’ enjoyment of Quizlet Live
(Figure 3). The percentage of students who agreed or strongly agreed
that the game helped them memorize the technical vocabulary was 95.8%.
Figure 3. Quizlet
Live student survey results
Over 94% said that it helped them get a better score on the
Program-wide Test on Reading (PWT-R), a department-administered
technical vocabulary test. 94.8% said it made the classroom learning
atmosphere more exciting. 75.0% said it motivated them to study English
harder in the future. Finally, 93.7% said they enjoyed learning English
with their mobile device.
In a final separate question, students were asked to share their
overall satisfaction with the Quizlet Live game on a scale from 1 to
10, with 1 being “No good; a waste of time” and 10 being “Grrreat!”
Over 84% of the students gave the game an 8, 9, or 10 rating (Figure
Figure 4. Quizlet
Live overall student satisfaction
Quizlet Live was designed to bring fresh energy into the classroom, and
not only helps students enhance vocabulary skills, but learn teamwork
and communication skills as well. By combining studying with an
exciting social game, Quizlet Live motivates students to start seeing
autonomous study as a way to prepare for the game and thereby increases
the effectiveness of their classroom participation (Quizlet, 2016).
This fun, interactive learning experience in turn appears to have the
spill-over effect of creating a positive attitude shift among many
students that they can be successful in their language learning and not
view it as such a daunting task.
My experience with Quizlet Live and the Quizlet learning tool in
general compares favorably with Lander’s (2015) study of 485 foreign
language students at a medium-sized private university in southern
Japan. In this study, Lander (2015) found that a simple online tool
like Quizlet can not only improve test scores and vocabulary
acquisition through technology, but also change the mind-set of
language learners from a negative to a more positive stance in a
comparatively short period of time.
It has been a real thrill to see my
university students use this new game because they truly love it! I can
honestly say I have never seen this same degree of excitement for a
classroom language game during my entire quarter-century of teaching
Japanese learners of English. Quizlet Live is, in effect, the Venn
diagram intersection of mobile language learning, vocabulary retention,
and student motivation.
Although so far I have experimented only with
my university engineering and science students, because vocabulary
acquisition is an integral element of most language classes, I will
likely be soon introducing the exciting Quizlet Live game to my other
EFL classes as well. To get started using Quizlet Live in your
classrooms, visit the Quizlet website today.
Cochrane, R. (2015, August). Activities and reflection for influencing
beliefs about learning with smartphones. In Critical CALL–Proceedings
of the 2015 EUROCALL Conference, Padova, Italy (p. 138).
(2015). Lesson study at the foreign language university level in Japan:
Blended learning, raising awareness of technology in the classroom.
International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 4(4), 362-382.
is a former registered professional
transportation engineer who has worked in Japan since 1991 and taught
both undergraduate and graduate engineering and science students in his
university’s School of Science and Technology for the past 18 years.
His research interests include the latest technological advances in
student forums, student motivation, classroom gamification, mobile-assisted language learning
(MALL) methods, and
fostering global awareness among his students. In
his free time, Gary enjoys mountain climbing and has scaled all of the 25 highest mountains in Japan.
[This article was written in July 2016 and appeared
the "TLT Wired" column of Issue 40.6 (November/December 2016) of The Language Teacher journal,
by the Japan Association for
Language Teaching (JALT).]
1, 2017 update: The video below shows my students in action and
was created Jan. 17 with the
feature in the iOS 10 Photos app.
Quizlet Live: Japanese Students Having Fun Learning English
player above is not visible, you can view
@ YouTube here.)
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