Should you use random name generators…yes, well, not really

I have seen so many teachers use random name generators and mostly they are so impressed with themselves, and why wouldn’t they be, it somewhat ticks the arbitrarily use of “technology in the classroom” that some people still want to see; but does the random name generator actually help or hinder. Let’s look at the two things it does:


1 – keeps the students guessing who is going to be asked a question, so everyone is paying attention and keeps the class active, this is clearly a good thing.


2 – keeps the teaching guessing who is going to be a asked a question, so when the name is picked the teacher has to come up with a question on the spot for that student, this is clearly a bad thing.


Questioning is such an important part of the job, it can change how a lesson is going, it is live AfL; why leave it literally up to chance? I am not saying you do not have 32 questions ready for each name that pops up, but that is very hard work, and if you do, please stop doing that.


Here is a rethink tip for using a random name generator and lolly pop sticks. Number the sticks 1 all the way up 32. You can ask a student to draw a stick from the cup. The students read the number out to you.


Student – “it’s number 17”


Teacher – “17, okay Ahmed, what is Binary?”


Ahmed – “a number system computers understand”


Student – “next number 21”


Teacher – “21, right Sara, why do people prefer Hex over Binary?”


The questions and the students aren’t random, the students believe they are so all the students are active and listening, the questions are structured in a way I can quickly assess the room and see which students and groups of students need to move on and which need support, it is not chance, but all the students are listening because they believe anyone of them could be picked. This works as well with numbers in a PowerPoint presentation. As with all the tips, consistency is important.


You can listen to Andy and Brad dicuss this tip here