Business-like, isn't he?




    Tools for schools- one up, one down: Quizam and Yahooligans!

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in CUE BC Newsletter December 2006

    Too often, as educators, we get swept up in the latest big thing, something that is promised to revolutionize the delivery and content of education, but instead costs a lot and delivers too little.

    Vancouver educational software developers Quizam ( are more modest. Their self-named software does just one thing, but it does it well, at a reasonably affordable cost.

    As the name suggests, Quizam, now in a recently-released version 2.0 is a ‘computer-based assessment tool’. Teachers (or even students) use it to create a bank of multiple choice questions on virtually any topic; the software then generates a series of tests and allows a student to use a computer to take them, providing near-instant feedback of strengths and weaknesses.

    These tests can be used as study tools or as assessment instruments; test versions are randomized, so each one generated is different.

    Obviously, multiple choice tests are best used where students are being asked to display knowledge of discreet facts or simple processes; Quizam makes no claims of being a replacement for other sorts of assessment, not that multiple choice tests can or should be used as the only basis of assessment. And of course, any test bank is only is good as the set of sample questions and possible answers.

    Quizam ships with a set of pre-made multiple choice tests for a variety of subject areas (in both English and French) at a variety of grade levels. More are available online at:

    It’s reasonably straightforward to edit one of these existing quizzes or a previously-saved one or to create a new quiz from scratch. The new version 2 allows quiz-creators to include images and sounds as part of their questions. As well, quizzes can be printed out, or can be run in a flash card mode as a study tool.

    Quizam is available in Windows (Windows 95 or better, Pentium 166 with 32 MB) and Mac OS X (G4 or better) versions; a Linux version is being piloted at Vancouver’s Eric Hamber Secondary. In addition, the software is being used in a variety of education settings around BC, including as part of Rutland Middle School’s (Kelowna) grade 7 and 8 Laptop Pilot Program. It’s priced at $39.99; a 30-day free trial is available, and students can download Quizam for free through December 30, 2006.

    On a completely different note, many CUE members may be wondering what happened to Yahooligans!. Yahooligans!, a Yahoo! project, started up way back in 1996, as one of the first search engines for kids.

    Like the original Yahoo!, it combined elements of search engine with a directory- if you weren’t sure what you were searching for, you could click on a link for Social Studies, then one for History, another for Ancient Civilizations and Cultures, and then choose between Africa, the Americas, China, Egypt, Greece, and more, before finally getting a page of links.

    And while searching for say, Haida, on Google gets over 4 million hits, a similar search on Yahooligans! got about two dozen or so. And in this case, less was definitely more: this handful of hits had been checked by real human beings as being on-topic and readable by middle-grade kids. Yahooligans! wasn’t perfect; by about grade 7, it lacked the depth of information needed by students. But for earlier grades or for students still learning English, it was a great tool. Useful enough that I made it the browser home page throughout the elementary school where I teach.

    This November, however, Yahooligans did not respond for a couple of days. And when it did come back up, everything had changed. Instead of a school and kid-friendly search engine, there was “Yahoo! Kids Beta”, a colourful multimedia portal promising games, music, movies, jokes, sports, TV, and oh yeah, a ‘study zone’. But even on the study zone, what I’m forced to call ‘Yahooligans! Classic’ was nowhere to be found.

    I emailed Yahoo!, expressing my dismay over the loss of this valuable education tool. Yahoo!’s Paul Marcum replied, saying he apologized “for the disruption” which, he said, was due to a need to “prioritize the relaunch of its content according to its use… In coming weeks,” he promised, “we will restore most of the content that you and your students found so useful as well as many exciting new features.”

    I hope so; I’ve set my elementary school’s browsers to Google. While my students feel much more adult, already I’ve seen much more confusion, as they get overwhelmed with what used to be simple searches for kid-friendly information online.

    I’ve checked out a couple of other search sites aimed at school children:’s and Neither really worked for me; searching for Haida on each, Askforkids offered a choice between 10 simplistic links from FactMonster or 10 overly erudite links from Federal Education Resources. was better, with 61 links, that started out reasonably readable and on-topic, but fairly quickly started including jewelers and other sales links. Kids get barraged with enough advertising; they shouldn’t have to get it while searching for information at school.

    I hope Yahoo! gets the Yahooligans! back online as they’re promising. In the meantime, I welcome any other school and kid-friendly search suggestions.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at