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I think most teachers with even a cursory knowledge of educational technology have heard of Nearpod and even if they haven’t had the means or opportunity to make use of it yet. So, it may be late in the game to give an overview of what Nearpod offers, but, for those familiar, I will let you know about all of the new ways they are addressing students’ educational needs. Also, in the past Nearpod seemed like it was ahead of the curve as a platform for classes with 1:1 devices, but now there are ways Nearpod can be utilized in classes with only a few devices or even to help create a blended or flipped classroom.
Nearpod, at its core, is a tool for instruction and assessment. It gives you many options in both those regards, but that is the gist of it. The best part of Nearpod is that it facilitates the ability for teachers to no longer feel tied to the display or chalkboard at front their room. And, though I cringe at the phrases, it is a tool that will take you from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide at the side’. You can display push content and assess your whole class while standing beside the students who most need your attention academically or behaviorally. Nearpod also helps to empower student voices by allowing them to respond without feeling the pressure of the whole class watching them while still being immersive and engaging enough to draw in reluctant students. You can have much control or allow as much independence as you like and give students ownership of their education. This leads to full student participation.
“That freedom it allows and the connection to your students are the reasons why you will want to use Nearpod.”
If you’ve ever made a PowerPoint, slideshow, or presentation document (overhead transparencies for those feeling nostalgic), you already ready to use Nearpod. In fact, you can auto-magically import a PPT, PDF, or PNG file you have already created or downloaded to instantly create a Nearpod presentation. You can decide if each page should be its own slide or you can add multiple documents with each being scrollable on an individual slide. Then you can add a variety of assessments (see below). When you’re ready, just launch a presentation on your interactive display or directly from your tablet. Students can access the presentation from their devices and respond. You will get reports on all the work that they’re doing. Nearpod is an online platform, so internet access is a must. It usually doesn’t use too much bandwidth unless you’re using VR or some high-end video streaming. Even in those cases with a slow network, students will likely reconnect once you move to a less intense slide. You can accomplish all this via the web or inside the Nearpod app on iTunes or Android and check out Nearpod’s complete instructions.
So just like every other presentation application, you can add text, images, audio, and video while changing the layout and theme (a new feature). What sets Nearpod apart though is that it links to so many other types of content. That means your students can access information in multiple ways to improve accessibility and deepen their understanding of the content.
- Nearpod VR – This is an easy way to dip your toes into virtual reality learning. There are experiences that take students underwater, to historical sites, outer space, museums, and on college tours. Yes, you can use their headsets, which are pretty good or just have students view directly on their mobile device/tablet. It works on a computer too, but it’s not as neat. It’s powered by 360 cities.
- Nearpod 3D – Students can interact with and manipulate 3-dimensional shapes of animals, planets, buildings, the human body, and more. There are only about 80 options so far, but I expect the selection to continue expanding as it’s still in Beta mode.
- PhET Simulations – I’ve like using these digital interactives for a while to visually explain science concepts. Now you can embed them with your lesson in Nearpod. Using John Travoltage to demonstrate static electricity is hilarious every time.
- Audio/Video – You can add audio & video directly from BBC Worldwide Video, your storage drive (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.), from your computer, or use the built-in YouTube search. What’s even better is that you have the option, when presenting, to play the video on each student device or your device only if a lack of headphones would drive you nuts.
- Images– You can upload a series of images that can be viewed as a slideshow from drives or with the built-in Google search. You can do the same with PDFs as well.
- Sway – This is Microsoft’s new presentation tool that I really like due to how beautiful it is visually and it’s still quite easy to use. You can put it right into your instruction which allows you even more options because Sway allows for multiple other ways to insert content.
- Twitter Stream-I’ve never felt compelled to add this, but adding a link to a famous figure or a related hashtag might add to student interest.
- Web Content – In case that wasn’t enough, you can also basically link in any website.
This is the game-changer where you can formatively assess your students live while you are instructing them on a given topic. You can share exemplary responses out for students to see. If competition becomes negative then you can hide student names. Your options for student input include the following:
- Polls and Quizzes – This is pretty standard with multiple choice quizzes and polling. What is special is that you can add many options for responses as well as multiple correct answers. On top of that, you can add introductory images and videos to the questions.
- Open-Ended Questions – If you want to allow for more student voice and creativity, open questions will help by requiring more critical thinking skills to craft an appropriate response.
- Draw It – I use this input method a lot both for my less literate students as well as a way for students to mark on images and diagrams.
- Fill in the Blanks – This is great for testing student understanding of vocabulary.
- Memory Test – It’s a 12 to 24 card memory game with built-in image search. You can set a final question as well answered with the images. I wish you could set it more like flashcards, but possibly it will come in the future.
- Collaborate – This shared space allows students to respond to a prompt with images and text. They can also upvote each other and you can sort responses by the vote, student, name or, by time.
So all the features that Nearpod offers are great, but a lot of teachers won’t have the time to play around and figure it out on their own. That’s why all of their pre-made lessons are so worthwhile because they give teachers what they need more than anything-time. In addition to quality lessons made their own team that include Nearpod VR lessons and college tours they also a number of lessons from partnerships with other EdTech companies.
- Common Sense Education – help your students model appropriate online behavior with these digital citizenship lessons which go well with lessons on net neutrality
- Flocabulary – use musical learning to teach students math, science, and life skills concepts
- iCivics – social studies lessons linked to social studies games
- PhET – science lessons with embedded digital interactives
- Sway – Microsoft’s embedded presentation tool helps cover science and social studies content
- LearnZillion – the curriculum company has made a variety of active lessons across subject areas
- Education.com – 100+ lessons across a variety of subjects and grade levels
- Amplify – 80+ lessons on a variety of science, social studies, and literacy topics geared towards elementary students
- Max Scholar – nearly 50 lessons that help young students learn to read
- Big Word Club – over 100 vocabulary lessons for elementary students
- eFuture – learn English language and grammar basics
- Breaking the Barrier – expand your students’ horizons by learning about a variety of countries and cultures
- Teaching Tolerance – all students need to learn the skills to be decent human beings
- New Monics, Inc. – fuel your SAT prep with cartoons
- Lifeliqe – use 3D manipulatives to teach about complex science topics
- Zumba – physical fitness is important too
Obviously, the recommended method for using Nearpod is with a 1:1 device/student ratio, but that doesn’t need to be the only way that it is used. Here are some tips for using Nearpod in a class with fewer devices.
Collaborative Model – Collaboration is an essential skill that students need to learn anyway, so why not teach them to collaborate on responses and learning across a shared device. This will lead to learning necessary 21st-century skills in addition to content.
Student Paced – Lessons don’t have to be shared live with all students responding simultaneously. So if you have fewer devices students can take turns while other students develop related projects. Alternately students with a device for every child can allow students to work at their own pace while differentiating for their needs.
Differentiation – You can make multiple copies of presentation easily. Then you can add different assessments as well as remediation or extension skills as you feel necessary to the new copies. Different groups can join the different student-paced presentations that are crafted to their individual needs.
BYOD Model – Some schools have decided that since their students have smart devices already that they can be used to enhance learning in the classroom. This has the added benefit of teaching students the appropriate use of the devices they will use outside of school.
Flipped Model – You can have students access the basic instruction and assessment from home which allows you to use class time to engage both struggling and gifted students with hands-on project-based learning.