Meet the K!rew: interview with Games Professor Alf Inge Wang

Today we’re sitting down with Alf Inge Wang to talk about exciting new game modes, inventive ways to play Kahoot!, composing the much-loved Kahoot! music, plus his work on learning games for Syrian refugees.How does he do it? Aside from choosing topics guaranteed to have wide appeal, Alf Inge’s top tips should make it easy for anyone to create high quality learning games that attract players.

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The K!rew February 17, 2016

In August 2013, Kahoot! started the wildest ride we could have ever imagined. Now that there are over 25 million unique users per month playing in over 180 countries, it seems like the right time to start getting to know each other better – from how it all began, to the inside scoop on our best tips and tricks to get more out of our platform!

To kick off this series, we’re sitting down with Alf Inge Wang from the Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU). A true Kahoot! original, he is our Games Professor in Residence and has been around since, well – Kahoot! was born.

Alf Inge Wang from Kahoot!

In fact, he’s the man behind the music that has 25 million of you grooving while Kahoot!’ing every month. When he’s not coding, teaching or exploring gaming models, Alf Inge spends his time at an altogether different sort of keyboard, composing music and performing, so composing a little theme music for Kahoot! came naturally. Little did he know those notes would spark thousands (yes, thousands!) of lively Kahoot! dance videos, awesome remixes and funny tweets!

Kahoot game music

Developing Kahoot! game modes

Alf Inge is what we like to call a smart cookie. Having earned his PhD in software engineering in 2001, his research interests in game-based learning, game development, game concept development, computer support for mobile collaborative work, peer-to-peer computing, software architecture, and software engineering education have shaped his career as an academic and innovator – and he’s only just begun.

Working with Kahoot! co-founders Morten Versvik, Jamie Brooker and Johan Brand, Alf Inge researched, tested and developed core game components that are part of Kahoot! as we know it. Now you’ll find him applying that insight into new game modes and concepts, all while creating some of the most popular kahoots we have to offer.

He’s also working on two exciting new Kahoot! game modes:

“Rewarding accuracy is of the most important elements of Kahoot!, so I’ve been developing a new ‘ladder’ mode with this in mind. While I can’t give away too many details just yet, this mode will allow for multi-tiered answers that ensure well-studied learners come out on top in competition.

“Taking a cue from classic casino games, I’m also working on a unique and exciting new game mode – it’s designed to reward honest self-assessment and confidence. More on this later!”

Experimenting with new ways to play Kahoot!

Like many College teachers, Alf Inge uses Kahoot! at the start of each lesson to recap previous lectures, as well as at the end of the semester to review content. But given the unique hurdles that come with teaching massive classes of 400 and challenging small groups to intensive game development projects, he really benefits from getting creative with ways to play Kahoot!

​Here are few of his favourite ways to play:

Surveys: As we all know, speaking in front of huge crowds can be intimidating – especially for students. Instead of waiting for people to put their hand up, he uses Surveys – it alleviates some of that pressure while still giving every student a chance to get involved.

 

“It builds a great rapport while creating a very high spirited environment - and gives my students a voice, regardless of class size.”

Learners to Leaders: Alf Inge takes advantage of the small class size of 30 in his Game Design course to bring the Learners to Leaders pedagogy to life. He challenges learners to create and host their own kahoots, giving fellow students the opportunity to give honest and constructive feedback in a playful setting – a true win/win situation.

“The feedback is immediate and mutually beneficial for me as an educator and them as students. It can be a bit of work to pull off at first, but the results are rewarding and make a big difference.”

The K!’ademy Award Ceremony: Break out the bow ties and cocktail gowns – in his grandest operation yet, Alf Inge hosts a video awards show in his Software Architecture class that showcases his students’ mobile game projects, which they then vote on using a star rating system. How? First, students create a 2 minute YouTube video summarising their project, then Alf Inge compiles all of the submissions into a kahoot, and finally uses the answer fields for 1 to 4 star ratings. It’s hugely validating motivator – and did we mention there’s popcorn? Genius.

“95% of my students said they wanted to present their projects that way again."

Tips for creating learning games that attract thousands of players

With wide appeal and engaging imagery, Alf Inge’s social trivia kahoot games have attracted players from over 10,000 cities around the world, and his top 10 kahoots alone have been played by over 1.6 million people!

Top 10 kahoots

We zoomed in on one of his most popular games – “Who is this“, a quick 9-question quiz with gradually revealed photos of famous people. Would you believe that single game has been played by over 210,000 people in 4,000 cities?

Worldwide gameplay

How does he do it? Aside from choosing topics guaranteed to have wide appeal, Alf Inge’s top tips should make it easy for anyone to create high quality learning games that attract players.

 

“Creating games like this is not about instant gratification, with a well-researched quiz taking me around 6-8 hours to create - but the results are worth it.”

Tip #1: Planning is everything!!

Sketch it out first, make notes, and do your research before starting to create your kahoot online.

“I spent a lot of time researching the most popular games, and experimented with many variables to create content that naturally attracted more players. Quizzes that are too hard don’t gain much popularity. For a game to attract the most players it needs to appeal to all ages and abilities, which is why topics with a wide appeal always do phenomenally – such as Disney Trivia.”

Tip #2: Source or create great media.

Great images and GIFs really go a long way when it comes to spicing up a game and luring in more players! Once he spends time researching the topic and questions, along with plausible answers, he focuses on creating a mixture of media to best illustrate the story he’d like to tell through his kahoot. For GIFs and slow-reveal effects, he likes to use Keynote to create the individual image frames, then export to a QuickTime file, and use Photoshop for the finishing touches. (watch his image reveal GIF tutorial here)

Tip #3: Timing and variety is important.

“For easy or short answers I usually allow 20 seconds, for moderate difficulty I use 30 seconds, and for trickier questions like puzzles I set the timer to one minute.”

Gaming for Social Good: Alf Inge Wang’s work on NORAD’s #EduApp4Syria

Through his work with Kahoot!, Alf Inge demonstrated time and time again the positive impact that a well-designed game can have on learning… so it came as no surprise when he was asked to be the Games Expert and Technical Coordinator for a unique gaming competition for social good: NORAD’s #EduApp4Syria.

“Sadly, 2.8 million Syrian refugee children don’t have access to school. With education being at the heart of their chance of success in life, this Norwegian Innovation Competition is allowing us to find smart ways for those children to learn their mother tongue – Arabic.”

Alf-inge Wang at the Syrian border

In January he visited the Syrian border of Turkey to speak with refugees:

“Getting to talk to Syrian refugee parents was pretty amazing – and they brought home a fact about gaming that’s inherently special – its emotional benefit. These children are all in an extremely difficult environment where everyone is trying their best to cope, so giving them something fun and engaging is so much more than a novelty – it’s a means of survival. Being just a kid – not a refugee, not a victim – it can be tough. And it’s important we help address this the best we can.”

“The fact that games are already a part of their everyday lives really brought home how powerful it would be to introduce games with educational benefits as well - hence the challenge we’ve set with this competition.”

“ALL of them had a smartphone – even the poorest people. They used it to contact their friends and relatives, and lots of kids were playing games on their smartphones.”

As for the content itself, the challenge they’ve set prospective game designers is to create a lightweight, Android-first offline game that supports the basics in learning a language. It could be a game designed to help children recognize and trace letters of the alphabet and blend symbols, for example.

“It’s a very rewarding and exciting project to be a part of, and we’re looking forward to seeing the results.”

And that wraps up this instalment!

What a treat to have such a passionate, talented person as part of the team, and to see his impact outside of Kahoot! as well. We’ll be hovering over Alf Inge’s shoulder watching the new game modes unfold and will be counting down the days ’til we can share them with you – watch this space!

Later in our Meet the K!rew series we’ll be meeting the co-founders, sneaking a peek under the hood with our geekiest game developers, and chatting with our ‘people’ people about their favorite school visits. Got a burning question for our team? Tweet @getkahoot and we’ll sneak the best questions into the interviews.

Play some of Alf Inge Wang’s kahoots:

Click here for all games by Alf Inge Wang or try some of our favourites below!

Playing Kahoot!
  • 138623 Plays
  • 824236 players

Who is this?

Guess the persons that are revealed gradually in the picture.

Playing Kahoot!
  • 8003 Plays
  • 30334 players

The Alphabet Quiz

Various questions with answers that goes through the alphabet

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The K!rew February 17, 2016

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