Software engineer Paul Mishkin has created a Web site for educators called Quia! (short for the Quintessential Instructional Archive). Hundreds of thousands of teachers and students have used this valuable on-line tool to create interactive quizzes and games using their own content.
Students and other visitors to the site may also try out the quizzes created by other educators!
"It's always been clear to me that the Internet would be a tremendous resource for educators," Mishkin, of Sunnyvale, California, explained to Education World. "What I wanted to do was add some organization to it, and build a community where teachers and students could create and share ideas without needing to know HTML, Java, or anything technical."
Launched in July 1998, the fledgling site originally featured templates for creating four types of games: matching games, concentration games, flash-card games, and word-search puzzles. The response was so positive that, over time, Mishkin enhanced the site and expanded it to include quizzes, quiz sessions, and class pages.
"Teachers appreciate the fact that they can create their own educational activities based directly on their lesson plans and that students can use them anytime -- from school, home, or anywhere they have Internet access," says Mishkin. "Students enjoy the activities, and many teachers have reported that their students have asked them to make more."
One of the site's best features is its quiz sessions. Teachers may create and administer on-line quizzes and track their students' test scores. Detailed statistical results of student performance allow educators to discover trends that would be difficult to see in a hand-graded exam.
"Class pages allow educators to create their own home pages on the Quia site," Mishkin added. "Teachers can post homework assignments, class schedules, personal and school contact information, and links to Quia activities and other favorite Web resources. It's like a central meeting place on the Web for teachers, students, and parents."
Because its activities are on the World Wide Web, Quia provides an opportunity for global sharing. As activities are created, teachers may nominate their work for inclusion in the Quia Directory, a listing of the best quizzes and games on the site. Anyone may e-mail the URL of an activity to other students and teachers, so word spreads quickly.
Educators have responded favorably to Quia since its inception. One of Mishkin's favorites is typical of the kudos bestowed upon the site. One visitor wrote, "I cannot tell you how much I love your site. I am a Spanish teacher, and I think this [site] is just wonderful. My students access from home, and I love getting the statistics. We also work on Quia during class time. Because students are personally involved with each item, I believe they retain more. They certainly are enjoying it more than a regular class or textbook exercise. I cannot thank you enough. This is a great service."
Brad Bowerman, a grade-7 geography teacher in the Lakeland School District of Jermyn, Pennsylvania, discovered Quia while doing research for his own Web site Geography World. He has integrated the Quia site into his classroom activities with much success.
"I have used the Quia site to create and publish 48 different educational activities for use in my geography classes," said Bowerman. "Of those activities, 25 are games that can be used to learn and review important terms related to the study of geography. The remaining activities are quizzes that students can use to review important concepts and ideas. I teach in the classroom. I use these activities as review material and as practice tests for the students [so they can have] an interactive experience rather than just read the book to review and study."
His students' interest in the on-line activities fuels Bowerman's enthusiasm for the site. "Student reaction has been fantastic," he stated. "With no prompting on my part, I find students are invariably drawn to these Quia activities. When other students see them, they also move to the activities. I often see all five computers in my computer lab tuned in to the Quia-based activities without specific instructions to do so. Many of my students do the quiz activities at home in preparation for chapter tests. They claim that these activities have helped their test grades tremendously."
Bowerman feels that the real plus to Quia is that it is so interesting that students want to visit. "The strengths of Quia for me as a classroom teacher are many," he explained. "Quia is an easy-to-use way of preparing educational activities that are specifically related to my area of teaching and specific to the textbooks that I use. I can create an excellent educational game or quiz activity in only a few minutes.
"These are high-interest activities for the student," Bowerman added. "They keep student attention focused on exactly what I want them to focus on. Even though the students think that they are playing games, they are actually learning geography. They go to these Quia activities, not because I tell them to, but because they want to."
Marty Pettigrew, a computer instructor for Covington Middle School in Covington, Tennessee, has also used Quia to reinforce skills taught in the classroom. "My students' reactions have been positive," said Pettigrew. "The strength of Quia is in its ability to correlate with your curriculum in fun, interactive ways."
Gloria Arnold, a high-school Spanish teacher from Scott City, Missouri, has found Quia very useful. "Last summer while surfing the Net, I ran into Quia," she said. "It was a new site with few games at that time. I started making games for my classes, and in a few days the games were posted on the Net."
Arnold and her students have continued to use Quia. "I have given my students a list of sites for Spanish study and exploration. Some of them report that they use the sites at home. Several have reported that they really enjoy the games. I have one computer in my classroom, and when students are finished with their work, they can use the Net to explore and/or play Spanish games."
It's easy to make your own interactive on-line activities with the Quia Web site. Mishkin has a few suggestions:
Quia is a growing resource, and Mishkin is looking for your assistance. "If you have a particular area of expertise that isn't represented in the Quia Directory, consider creating some activities about it and let us know, so we can add links to them."
Editor's Note: Most Quia services require users to subscribe. An individual subscription to Quia is $49 a year.
Article by Cara Bafile
Copyright © 1999 Education World