Game shows have not only entertained American audiences for decades and been the subject of many a quality Saturday Night Live sketch, they can also be useful educational tools in the classroom. Playing Jeopardy or having a review game in class is an entertaining and low-stakes way for students to test their understanding of topics and identify any gaps to fill before an upcoming exam.
How can we best replicate the lively, competitive atmosphere of a real quiz show in the classroom? In this review we look at both smartphone applications and physical buzzers to take classroom quiz bowls to the next level. For detailed reviews, continue reading. For a simple summary, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Our current recommendation for a smartphone buzzer app is the Trivia Bowl Buzzer, an app that uses Bluetooth to connect up to 16 Apple devices at a time. A sound and vibration indicate the first person to buzz in, and the “game host,” (the professor overseeing the game) can see on her device the order in which the players have responded.
The Trivia Bowl Buzzer is inexpensive ($3.99 for the game host and free for all other players) and a fun way for people to test their knowledge in the classroom. One drawback is that the app is only available for download on Apple devices (iPhones, iPads, and iPods), excluding Android and non-smartphone users. However, if playing in teams, the game requires only one team representative to have the app downloaded on his device.
Speed Quizzing is a similar buzzer application that unlike the Trivia Bowl Buzzer, is available for both Android and Apple users. This app is free for up to four devices in demo mode, $30 per event for up to 32 devices, but there is a free, six-month educational trial for classroom instructors. Compared with the Trivia Bowl Buzzer, however, Speed Quizzing was more complicated to set up and devices often had difficulty connecting. Because it may require more troubleshooting that may impact already-limited class time, Trivia Bowl Buzzer is our runner-up application.
We looked at several other apps but cannot recommend them because they either had poor reviews or were unable to connect multiple devices wirelessly.
Though smartphone apps are convenient, nothing beats the satisfaction of smacking a red button. Among the multitude of buzzers out there, the following three had solid reviews on Amazon and other sites.
Learning Resources Answer Buzzers is a set of four buzzers costing $15-$20, each with a distinctive sound to distinguish which player responds first. For a few dollars more, instructors can upgrade to buzzers that light up in addition to making a sound. Another version of Learning Resources buzzers allows players to customize their buzzer sound to avoid any potential confusion if there are multiple games being played at the same time.
The Educational Insights Wireless Eggspert 2.4 GHz ($96.79 for wireless, $42.00 for wired) is a system that allows up six players to participate at a time. The Eggspert, aptly named for its egg-shaped buzzer, features two playing options: in the traditional “quiz show” mode, the first person to respond has their buzzer light up. In the “scrambled eggs” mode, the device will randomly choose a student by lighting up their buzzer, making it a good option for professors who enjoy catching students off-guard with a pop quiz.
The Me First v.2. Fun Wireless Game Answer Buzzer System is the most expensive and professional-looking of the physical buzzers, costing $264.95 for a set of four or $439.00 for a set of twelve light-up, wireless “personal answer domes” (P.A.D.s.). Additional P.A.D.s are sold separately and up to 36 people can play at a time, with the first buzzer hit turning green and all others turning red.
We offer no specific recommendation for physical buzzers, but leave it to instructors to pick the one above that best meets their feature needs for the lowest cost.
Based on our own testing and reading online reviews, the Trivia Bowl Buzzer seems like the simplest, cheapest option. Free for students and $3.99 for the “game host,” it requires no additional hardware other than the players’ phones. The app’s incompatibility with Android devices should not be an issue given that only one Apple device is required when playing in groups. Armed with a good bank of questions, the Trivia Bowl Buzzer, and your best Alex Trebek impression, your next quiz bowl will be one to remember.