Saturday, August 14, 2010

Week 8: Hot Potatoes!

The most wonderful tool that I've used during this week is the "Hot Potatoes Program". Its name attracts me as I fond of potatoes, but when I tried it out, my fondness increases more and more. Surfing the web, I’ve found many manuals and ideas of using it efficiently in the classroom. I just want to share these ideas with you. Here is a detailed description of Hot Potatoes Program:

What is “Hot Potatoes”?

This is a popular set of educational software tools which have been developed by the University of Victoria Humanities Computing and Media Centre. The purpose of the Hot Potatoes is to enable you to create interactive Web-based teaching exercises which can be delivered to any Internet-connected computer equipped with a browser. The exercises use HTML and JavaScript to implement their interactivity, but you do NOT need to know anything about these languages in order to use the programs. All you need to do is to enter the data for your exercises (questions, answers, responses etc.), and press a button. The program will create the Web pages for you, and you can then upload them to your server.

What are the Applications of “Hot Potatoes”?

It includes six applications enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and fill-in the gap exercises. Here is a detailed description of these applications:

1. JQuiz:
It creates question-based quizzes. Questions can be of four different types, including multiple-choice and short-answer. Specific feedback can be provided both for right answers and predicted wrong answers or distractors. In short-answer questions, the student's guess is intelligently parsed and helpful feedback to show what part of a guess is right and what part is wrong. The student can ask for a hint in the form of a "free letter" from the answer.

2. JCloze:

It is used to create gap-filled exercises (or ‘Fill in the gaps’). The users can enter their answers into the gaps, and click on the Check button to check their answers. All the answers are checked at the same time, which could be undesirable in certain cases. (Use JQuiz for such cases.). The designer can customize this exercise in various ways. Each gap can be assigned multiple correct answers. Hints may be assigned for each gap, which either gives clues, or displays the letter after every click..

3. JCross:

It creates crossword puzzles which can be completed online. You can use a grid of virtually any size. As in JQuiz and JCloze, a hint button allows the student to request a free letter if help is needed.

4. JMix:

It creates jumbled-sentence exercises. You can specify as many different correct answers as you want, based on the words and punctuation in the base sentence, and a hint button prompts the student with the next correct word or segment of the sentence if needed.

5. JMatch:
It is used to create ordering or matching exercises. The ordered/matched objects may be either text or images or a combination. This application can produce either listing exercises, for example placing frequency adverbs in order, or matching exercises, such as linking countries and nationalities. You can specify as many different correct answers as you want, based on the words and punctuation in the base sentence, and a hint button prompts the student with the next correct word or segment of the sentence if needed.

6. The Masher:

In addition, there is a sixth application called the Masher. This is designed to create complete units of material in one simple operation. If you are creating sequences of exercises and other pages that should form a unit, you may find the Masher useful. The Masher can also be used to upload Web pages not created with Hot Potatoes to the server.

How do these applications work?

There are three stages in creating exercises with these applications:

1. Enter your data:
You type in the questions, answers, feedback etc. which forms the basis of the exercise.

2. Adjust the configuration:
The "configuration" is a set of information used to compile the Web pages. It includes instructions for the student, captions for navigation buttons, and other information which is not likely to change much between exercises.

3. Create your Web pages:
This is simply a matter of pressing the "Export to Web" button on the toolbar, choosing a file name, and letting the program do the rest.

Strongest Advantage of Hot Potatoes:

The developers have consciously avoided the ‘one-click right or wrong’ feedback system, strongly criticized about most other systems. Progressive feedback is given to the student either as hints or allowing checking of their answers in phases. This allows the student to be involved in a more cognitive process and to figure out the correct answer in a constructive manner.

The Main Pitfalls of Hot Potatoes:

a. Tendency of the learners to operate a binary correction strategy (If X is wrong, then Y must be the answer).
b. Any reasonably computer literate student can easily gain access to the HTML source code and hence the answers.
c. This could only be used as a self-learning or a self-assessment tool, but does not have merit as a testing tool.

Ready-made Hot Potatoes Exercises:

Surfing the internet, I’ve found a very fantastic website that includes hundreds of exercises using Hot Potatoes program. If you have no time to create your own, you can use them. Here is the link:

Resources Used:

For more information and manuals for using Hot Potatoes, you can visit the following links:



  1. Dear Azhar,

    Thanks a lot for this helpful review of Hot Potato. I have been using it for a while, but there are many things you have brought to my attention.

    All the best

  2. Dear Azhar,

    I agree with you that hotpotatoes is the most wonderful tool we use up to now! Thanks for the detailed instruction to use hotpotatoes...


  3. Dear Arjana & Khuloud,

    Thanks so much for passing by. I agree with you about the potentials of Hot Potatoes. One of them is collecting 5 types of exercises in one place. So by one program, you can provide your students with variety which adds spices to their learning.


  4. Thanks Azhar for this wonderful tool.It is so easy and effective.I will try it.Mamdouh Al Geddawy

  5. Dear Mr Mamdouh,

    Thanks so much for passing by.
    I'm s happy that you like it.

    Just try it and tell me how you find it.