Posted in 1:1 devices, Apple, Apple devices, Apple Distinguished Educator, Apple Teacher, edtech, educational organizations, Garage Band, iMovie, iPads, Keynote, learning communities, Pages, PLC, professional development, Professional Learning Community, teaching

An Apple… for the Apple Teacher

I’m so proud to share that I recently (since the New Year) became an Apple Teacher. This is one of a few professional goals I set for myself in 2019. I’m now so much more versed in the suite of Apple products I’ve been using for years. I also have so many more ideas for how to engage students by using Keynote, Pages, Garage Band, etc! I’m really looking forward to seeing my students’ demonstration of learning in a sophisticated, and technology-savvy way.

Since I earned this recognition, I’ve now focused my energies on continuing to hone my skills and seek an Apple Distinguished Educator designation. A dear colleague of mine from the PBS Digital Innovator cohort, Don Goble, is an “ADE” and has been encouraging me to apply for years. Luckily, the planets aligned in such a way for this busy, single mom to actually muster a focused, determined application and video.

Using my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, and desktop mini Mac, my video came together quickly and easily. I was so surprised at how easily I could weave my photos and videos with Keynote and Garage Band. I also employed my indispensable design partner, my sister Kacey, who brought so much knowledge and nuance to fitting all the required video elements in under two minutes flat.

So, now is a waiting game. In the meantime, I’ve watched several submissions on YouTube that earned ADE status. Needless to say, they are phenomenal! At the risk of being vulnerable, I have to say that some are actually intimidating. There are so many great videos – though I do need to be reminded that many of them are from “tech integrators/educators.” I hope they will consider my background in literacy and STEAM as a great compliment to the tech gurus in their midst.

Though the criteria mentioned that the video could be as simple or complex as the applicant wished, I wanted my narrative to be clear and concise. I wanted it to reflect my passion for educating and being involved beyond the classroom. I hope that my video reads sincerity and duende.

If you are on the ADE selection committee, and are reading this, please know that this single mother and hard-working educator would do nothing but her utmost to represent the quality and integrity associated with the Apple name. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy expanding my professional learning community (PLC) by interacting with the @AppleEDU crew and #AppleTeacher community online. I will be wearing the Apple Teacher badge with pride and accomplishment, and looking positively toward what might be ahead for me…

Posted in 1:1 devices, backtoschool, balance, behavior, blog, classroom management, Common Core, connection, edtech, engagement, inspiration, iPads, literacy, motivation, reading, students, teaching

Ch-Ch-Changes

So I’ve made a shift. From intermediate to primary education. I stepped into a great first grade team with three incredible teachers. Two have varying levels of special education “consultant teacher” rooms, the other is an ENL/ELL room. My room is general education, first grade. However, the vast majority (13 out of 18 students) are reading at a Fountas & Pinnell/Guided Reading Level “B.” Since my background and passion is literacy, I take this as a formidable, personal challenge. 

If I was continuing in third grade this year, the wheels would have been in motion a lot more reflexively. However, I had to “dust off my first grade mojo” and jump back to primary with both feet. 

Noto Bene: There were a lot of changes district-wide with how classrooms were structured, and many veteran teachers found themselves placed in entirely new grade levels they have never taught in before. I was originally supposed to change buildings AND grade levels, but in the end I was able to shift from the intermediate hallways of my building to the primary building. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a scramble to unpack with the amount of changes to my ultimate placement this year, but every day I feel a bit more settled in.

I did one of my student teaching placements in first grade, and always hung onto the materials that my cooperating teacher gave me. Thank goodness! It is like the Holy Grail! I was also fortunate to sit in on a presentation by a former colleague who teaches in a Montessori classroom, to refresh myself on some pedagogical techniques that I can translate to my gen-ed classroom. (More to come on the Montessori ideas later….stay tuned!)

So, I’ve done my running records, sight word assessments, primary spelling inventories, and I’m off to the races! I am slowly guiding my students toward independently accessing educational technology on our 1:1 iPads, and seeing how I can pair up tasks with our New York State first grade curricula. 

So here are my “elite eight” thoughts for my first quarter back, which may . or may not inspire further blog posts:

  1. First graders respond much more to positive behavior management systems. Negative reinforcement directly damages their self-esteem and self-worth.
  2. Walking down the hallway in one straight line can be really hard, especially in the advent of The Floss and The Shoot dances!
  3. I need a tattle monster to take up residence in my classroom.
  4. Flexible seating is really tricky to establish with super-wiggly kiddos.
  5. Parent communication in the primary grades is even more critical for students’ success. Finding the right streams of communication with each parent/family is equally as critical.
  6. STEM/STEAM/STREAM offers engagement that “sage on the stage” pedagogy can’t always offer.
  7. Primary education requires a modicum of cuteness that intermediate-level students don’t subscribe to.
  8. Teacher blogs, Pinterest, and Teachers Pay Teachers have become such fantastic resources for teachers – albeit most are not vetted and one should proceed with caution!

Thanks in advance for coming on this journey with me! Stay tuned for more fun… and as always, please share/follow this blog! Your comments, questions, and discussion ideas are welcome too.

-Kirsten

Posted in 1:1 devices, engagement, iPads, literacy, motivation, reading, Uncategorized

Long Time No See!

Hi everyone! images
It has been a while since I posted. I thought I would check in with you on the “latest and greatest” from my end.
Literacy: My Other Specialty
In January, I accepted a position as a literacy specialist (i.e. reading teacher) in my hometown district. It has been an incredible change, but one I was ready for and feel blessed to have been offered. In my role, I serve a kindergarten to fourth grade population, and assist struggling readers. The groups of students I “pull out” are mostly third and fourth graders, although I see a couple second graders. I also have a very lively trio of kindergarteners. Several times a week, I also “push in” to help support ELA activities for elementary classrooms.
My building has a 1:1 iPad program instituted, and I try to infuse my love for educational technology in with intervention strategies. Having recently taken a one-credit course in Digital Strategies in the Inclusive Classroom, I think edtech and literacy work very symbiotically – especially to engage and motivate elementary students.
RtI
In a very short period of time, I have adapted and grown so much in the practices of Response to Intervention (RtI). Everyday I come to school, I hope to inch every student along their path toward seeing themselves as readers. I am very direct about expecting them to make progress, and encouraging students to find their “sea of strengths” in order to decode and comprehend texts.
imagesDecoding and Comprehension
One thing that has been amazing, that my graduate training did not necessarily touch upon, is finding students who are not strong at decoding words (deciphering them) but can understand the gist of what they read. Luckily, I had some wonderful graduate professors (whom I still have contact with) that taught me how to diagnose and create strategies for attacking some of the problems struggling readers face.
Stay Tuned
Overall, I am right where I need to be, and I am loving it! I hope you will stay tuned to experience this journey, and help me create a dialogue in pedagogy of literacy and technology integration!images-1
All my very best,
Kirsten

Posted in blog, Explain Everything, flipped lessons, iMovie, iPads, lesson plans, resources, teaching

#flippedfail = opportunity!

Fail. Maybe not an “epic fail,” but still a fail.

F – First

A – Attempt

I – In

L – Learning

You’ve probably heard this acronym before, but it particularly came to mind when I had some tech issues this week, and needed to find an alternative way to create two flipped lessons without my usual means. (I.E.: I have created many flipped lessons before, but my usual pathway was blocked.)downloadExplain Everything for iPhone
For the first flipped lesson, I installed the “Explain Everything” app on my phone. I imported slides from my iPhone email, then imported them into the app. I was able to voice record just perfectly, feeling like my phone had magically become a microphone to complete my projects.
With naivety, I gleefully rendered the video. I uploaded the project as an “unlisted education” video to my YouTube channel. I then provided the link to my students, to enjoy the dulcet toned of my voice… until I checked the finished product.
The video was clearly made on a phone. It was a landscape-shaped image of my slides, smushed into a portrait orientation.  I could hear the wind coming out of my sails.
For now, the video is usable. But I will need to make some major adjustments if I am going to use Explain Everything on my phone to create another flipped lesson.
iMovie for iPadimovie__2013_
For the second video, I switched things up. I used the iMovie app on my iPad. It took some more trial-and-error, but I can see myself using iMovie more in future projects.
The one thing to remember if using iMovie to convert your presentations into a flipped lesson is to consider how long each slide plays and whether animating each picture or slide will interfere with the information on your slides. In other words, not having images “slide” while you talk should be a strong consideration.
There are many features I’m discovering the more I use this app, and I’m excited to become well-versed at all its capabilities.
Mistakes are Opportunities
One of my undergraduate dance professors would regularly remind us to “always look at mistakes as opportunities for growth.” I have always kept this in my mind as imperfections and surprises come my way in life.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to find new and wonderful ways to make my instruction strong and engaging for my students!
 

Posted in 1:1 devices, blog, BYOD, clicker system, edtech, engagement, formative assessment, iPads, Kahoot, Uncategorized

A Kahoot and a Half!

kahootI’ve decided to try out Kahoot as a fun, engaging way to review material, and bridge into the “gaming” realm of digital technology in the classroom.
So far, so good!
My students’ competitive energy ignites every time they hear the “intro tune,” and they seem to focus on knowing the content in the game more because of their determined natures.
kahoot-Small
What is Kahoot?
Description (from web): A Kahoot is a collection of questions on specific topics. Created by teachers, students, business-people and social users, they are asked in real-time, to an unlimited number of “players,” creating a social, fun and game-like learning environment.
What Can Kahoot Be Used for in the Classroom?

  1. Assessment – Formative Assessment can be elicited through games, discussion, or polls.
  2. Behavior Management – I have seen Kahoot engage some of the harder-to-reach students in my classroom.
  3. Collaboration – because it works like a “clicker system” – Kahoot can be used individually or in teams.

Benefits of Using Kahoot:

  • Students don’t need a login. They simply go to kahoot.it and enter the “game PIN” to join the fun.
  • Kahoot seems to be a great tool for real-time formative assessment.
  • Teachers can gauge student understanding, and notice if certain students/populations are not grasping material.
  • The tool is simple and colorful, so students with certain types of disabilities may find it easier to use than other tools.
  • It can be adapted for quizzes, discussions, and polls.
  • The polling/discussion features can especially be beneficial for non-verbal students in inclusive classrooms.
  • Kahoot can be used for a broad range of grade levels.
  • You can adjust the time given to answer each question. This is great for kids who might need more response times.
  • You can manipulate or eliminate points scored.

Drawbacks of Kahoot:
While extremely engaging, I want my students’ comprehension of the material to be deep and thorough. There are facts and details to memorize in a rote manner, but in general I want to employ the highest order thinking as possible. Therefore, I won’t be using Kahoot is to review the same material over and over. It becomes a counterproductive edtech tool to do that.
Even if I jumble up the questions and answers, students become quickly savvy to look for the clue word to the answer once they’ve gone through the same Kahoot more than 2 or 3 times per unit.
Videos of the Kahoot in Action:

What do you think??? Happy Kahooting!Kahoot_colours-35
– Kirsten
 
 

Posted in 1:1 devices, blog, BYOD, clicker system, Common Core, conference, edtech, engagement, formative assessment, inspiration, iPads, motivation, Notability, PBL, PD, presentation, professional development, reading, resources, Schoology, teaching

Musings on the First Year in a 1:1 iPad Classroom

Over two years ago, the faculty at my school were all given iPads. We had several professional development sessions to help integrate technology into our repertoire. But that was only the “amuse-bouche.” For educational technology enthusiasts such as myself, I was anxious to see how a 1:1 program would push my instruction.
I also knew there would be a learning curve. Looking back on the first year, I put together my thoughts on what worked and what didn’t. So here are my thoughts on last year – my first full year with 1:1 iPads.
I teach ninth graders. They often have one foot in middle school, and one foot in high school. The students they are in September are vastly different than the students they are by the following June. Some of them are extremely tech savvy, and blow me away with their ability to administrate their high school courses electronically. Others strugedutech-green1gle with the distraction the iPads present.
Although distractions are inevitable, the past year taught me how to manage and minimize them.The following are my reflections on the learning curve for the past school year:
Musings on My First Year in a 1:1 iPad Classroom

  1. “The Honeymoon Phase”
  2. Engagement vs. Distraction
  3. Learning Styles
  4. The Case about Handwriting
  5. Classroom Management
  6. Fostering Engagement through Rigor + Metacognition
  7. Assessment
  8. Selecting Programs and Applications

#1 – “The Honeymoon Phase”
If you decide to embrace educational technology, which I certainly did, there is definitely a “Honeymoon Phase.” You feel like you have been given tools to connect/engage your students to the content like never before. Then, you spend a year in the classroom with an iPad in everyone’s hands.
If you are an educator that cares about constantly improving your instructional practices, the learning curve that ensues over the course of a year with 1:1 devices is tremendous. You quickly learn that iPads are not a panacea for the disengaged. There are so many other considerations a teacher must employ once each student gets a device into their hands.

Probably one of the biggest take-aways:

Even though we are teaching students who are “digital natives,”
this does not mean they know how to use technology in an academic/scholarly way.

#2 – Engagement vs. Distraction
When technology is engaging, it is powerful! Students can be engrossed in a task, and one idea can lead to another. The world is at the students’ fingertips, if they are aware of it. It is important for teachers to frame expectations. Teachers in a 1:1 environment are not only teaching content, but showing students how to own their learning.
While technology is a limitless tool when used correctly, it is easy to use it incorrectly. Anyone can be distracted by habits of checking social media, emails, or simply doodling. Using tech devices in the classroom can be equally distracting.

Q: What’s the solution?

A: Everything in moderation. Choose tech over other methods when it is the most appropriate solution, but do not make it the only solution.

#3 – Learning Styles
We have all heard of Howard Gardner’s “Intelligences.” As an educator, it is important to remember that devices may cater to some learners, but still do not offer something for every learning style. Opening our awareness to this will help us diversify tasks and how we use tech in our classrooms.
#4 – Handwriting
Evidence points to connection between handwriting and learning. Most annotation apps allow students to write with a stylus or their finger (E.g. Notability, Evernote).
At the end of the year, I had my students evaluate my course via a Google Form. I was surprised how many said they still preferred pen-and-paper for certain tasks. Looking back, there were activities that I could have offered more choice in how the students’ work could be executed/demonstrated.
Again, students who are supposed “digital natives” can also be resistant to educational technology. I suggest training them on the technology in your classroom first with everyone else.
Although most students liked storing all their notes and information for their classes in digital folders, a surprising number still prefer taking notes on hard copy.
Once students have tried various methods for note taking, annotating, reading text, research, etc., they should still be allowed choice in what works best for their learning style. If they can tell you how they learn best, why wouldn’t a teacher capitalize on that. Right?
#5 – Classroom Managementteach-rebrand-ipad
Classroom management with 1:1 devices is the key to successful implementation of a 1:1 program. This is still an area of great development, that is quickly trying to catch up to the technology itself. You may have noticed that it is a topic of great question and debate at many conferences and online professional chats.
This is one of my favorite articles about classroom management with 1:1 technology. Here’s the gist:

  1. Establish expectations with your students and be clear and follow through with them
  2. Let the kids play a bit with the technology to “get their giggles/wiggles out” so they won’t do it when they are supposed to be on task. It will eliminate temptation.
  3. Only use tech if the task is engaging and the pace can be solid. It is not meant to be “babysitting” or “entertaining” your students
  4. YOU are the best app on the kids’ iPads! Use the “the two eyes, two feet app” – keep  circulating around the room. Once they know you are stationary – they will know they are being babysat and will start to go off task.
  5. Technology is not an all-the-time tool, and meant to be put away too.

Another helpful hint, which I am actually including this in my course syllabus this year:
Make it a rule that student devices should be flat on their desk. When not in use, tablets should be closed, stored, or flipped over. If students are using laptops, have them put their computers to a 45 degree angle while you are talking, or while not in use.

#6 – Fostering Engagement through Rigor + Metacognition
“Edtech” is not innovation. In the same way, difficulty is not rigor. Metacognition is the other piece I have learned to add into each task, in order to increase engagement and rigor. (See my previous blog post for more on this.)
Taking a moment to show students how to think about the task, open their awareness, and create a mindful group of learners makes each lesson I teach more successful than it would have been without the metacognitive piece.
Discussion, and having students explain things back to me are intellectually stimulating. Pulling ideas out into the “big picture,” pushing into the micro level, applying it to their experiences in life to ignite relevance all have shown to help relate to what my students are learning.
Increase of rigor is not guaranteed by these approaches, but more possible.
Choices About Process Elicit a Better Product

  • Choice within the content material is also an accelerator of engagement, in my opinion.
  • Giving students options on how they present what they know has shown to foster engagement in my own classroom.
  • This gives a confidence boost to the students who like to “swim upstream” – and allows them to shine.
  • As confidence goes up, so does one’s commitment to learning, and rigor is the by-product.

#7 – Assessment
Because of a large number of students, and the ability to quickly shift from one app to another, I did not allow electronic summative assessments. Instead, unit tests were completed on paper.
On the other hand, I fully embraced formative assessment on the devices. I included online quizzes for each unit on Schoology (our school’s chosen LMS). My students really took advantage of these self-checks. They were ungraded, and allowed students to review material covered, and check for reading comprehension.
#8 – Selecting Programs and ApplicationsiStock_000017827226Small

  • Play with a number of different apps that do the same thing, so you can find what is best for you (Notability vs. Evernote)
  • Download free apps and play with them, or have students evaluate them!
  • Get on board with what other teachers are doing, and share best practices. When multiple teachers use the same platform/apps, students are better versed on the program and can use it much more comfortably.

To Sum it Up:

  • Invest in the time and energy to get “up and running” with the technology
  • Know that you will need to reserve some class time for unknown tech issues
  • Give students choices
  • Novelty and diversity in tasks are key
  • Never exclusively use one methodology monotonously
  • Set clear expectations about tasks, and circulate to see that students are on-task
  • Make sure students lay their device flat
  • YOU are the best app there is! ☺
  • Engage with colleagues about how they use tech in their classroom

As always, thanks for reading! Let me know what you think, and have a great school year! back-to-school-hero
Best,
KBS

Posted in 1:1 devices, blog, books, Common Core, conference, edtech, engagement, inspiration, iPads, lesson plans, literacy, motivation, reading

Rigor = Motivation + Metacognition

I’ve been thinking a lot about “rigor” lately. It is a big buzz word in education right now. Last June, I was fortunate to attend the Model Schools Conference, where Dr. Bill Daggett showcased his Rigor-Relevance Framework. It was inspiring and motivating to me as an educator.Rigor_Relevance_Framework
Recently, I read a great Edutopia blog on rigor by Brian Sztabnik. You can read it here. His words and reflections resonated with me. I was especially intrigued by this statement:

Rigor is the result of work that challenges students’ thinking in new and interesting ways.

Sztabnik explains how the great novelist David Foster Wallace would not use stereotypically “classic” works of literature in his 100-level college class. Instead, Wallace chose more contemporary, culturally-popular books. He warned not to write off the books as “easy” or “blow-off” books.
In his own genius, Wallace was selecting books that were more accessible and not teaching a difficult book, but increasing the students’ ability to articulate informed opinions/reasoning of their reading responses.
This is where real rigor lies.Rigous
It is not always what we are teaching, but it is definitely how we teach it. Utilizing any tool for instruction in a way that ignites a student is where the real magic lies.
I used to have a notion that rigor meant difficulty. As I continue to try to improve my own instruction, I know that rigor does not mean “harder.” It means that students are motivated to accomplish, and that they are aware of themselves metacognitively. Rigorous learning allows students to choose to turn on their thinking.
In terms of STEM, Melissa Marshall has a great 4.5 minute TED talk here. She speaks along the lines of rigor, motivation, using Tier 3 vocabulary (she says “jargon”) in a specific, and high-level of content geared to anyone. She discusses great communication and states:

Making your ideas accessible is not the same as dumbing it down.

Edutopia also has a great infographic about what learners pay attention to here. Also worth a look.11227582_820462477989673_8302552304208145496_n
I find that the more I differentiate my instruction, the higher the overall engagement. If tasks are more creative and open-ended, students tend to let their imaginations run wild and get more immersed in the task. Immersion is actively diving into something more deeply. In my book, that is what rigor looks like.
Choice within the content material is also an accelerator of engagement, in my opinion. Giving students options on what they read, or how they present what they know has shown to foster engagement in my own classroom. This gives a confidence boost to the students who like to “swim upstream” – and allows them to shine. As confidence goes up, so does one’s commitment to learning, and rigor is the by-product.
A Year Later
So, almost a year later – how has rigor been focused on within my lessons? What have I changed? What have I eliminated? How has rigor been increased/decreased by the inception of our 1:1 iPad classrooms?
I teach 9th graders. They often have one foot in middle school, and one foot in high school. The students they are in September are vastly different than the students they are by the following June. Some of them are extremely tech savvy, and blow me away with their ability to administrate their high school courses electronically. Others struggle with the distraction the iPads present. Although we have been vigilant to minimize the distractions, they are inevitable.
I have learned not to use iPads for every task. Although I have created a paperless classroom this year (sans summative assessments), I need to allow students choice in what works best for them. For example, some prefer reading in their paper textbook, others like viewing the pdf of their textbook online.
Novelty and diversity in tasks are key. In my previous post, I discussed how “edtech” is not innovation. In the same way, difficulty is not rigor.
Metacognition is the other piece I have learned to add into each task, in order to increase engagement and rigor. Taking a moment to show students how to think about the task, open their awareness, and create a mindful group of learners makes each lesson I teach more successful than it would have been without the metacognitive piece. Discussion, and having students explain things back to me are intellectually stimulating. Pulling ideas out into the “big picture,” pushing into the micro level, applying it to their experiences in life to ignite relevance all have shown to help relate to what my students are learning. Increase of rigor is not guaranteed by these approaches, but more possible. i_heart_rigor
What do you think?
Have a happy, inspired day!
-Kirsten 🙂

Posted in 1:1 devices, blog, BYOD, edtech, engagement, inspiration, iPads, lesson plans, Nearpod, PBL, PD, professional development, teaching

Technology is NOT Innovation

There was a great Twitter discussion last night entitled “Using Technology vs. Innovating with HiResTechnology.”  facilitated the discussion, which focused on technology integration, and what it means in terms of being an innovative educator. As a PBS Digital Innovator, I thought the discourse was very thought-provoking. There was a general consensus that the use of digital technology was not indicative of an “innovative classroom.”
In other words, any student can be handed an electronic device, but that doesn’t mean the student is learning or engaged. I see examples of this in my own 1:1 iPad classroom. Always looking for ways to be a better teacher (hence, using Twitter for my own professional development), I noticed that technology and engagement are not hand-in-hand. It is how I frame the edtech that counts.
Lessons have to be crafted carefully to minimize distractions beyond that of a paper-and-pencil classroom. I also have to change up apps or tasks on the iPads to make sure I am introducing novelty and increasing chances of student interest. For example: when I’ve used Nearpod, I need to change up my embedded activities, questions, and seek out deeper thinking. I have to remember to stimulate my students’ metacognition. zpmetacognition
 
 
 
One teacher’s comments particularly struck me:

“A4 Innovation means letting go of traditional constructs and being open to letting go of some control to change thinking”
“A5 Communicate the learning goal clearly w Ss, then let THEM choose the tools and tasks they’ll use to discover. Innovation.”

EdTech Professional Development
The Twitter discussion also highlighted a need for better/more edtech PD for teachers. I would agree with this. I think there is a lot of PD out there, but it has a glass ceiling. In my building, I am asked to help facilitate professional development in edtech with my colleagues, but there is often a lack of PD left for my own further development.
For teachers that want to explore their lessons and how to use tech to bring the students’ experiences to the next level, we don’t need a book of possible apps or to hear about how one innovationspeaker applied their knowledge of tech in the field. We don’t need to hear about one or two project-based learning (PBL) experiences.
Ok then, what do we need for great tech PD? In my opinion, we need to get our hands in it. We need to take our lesson plans and amp them up. We need access to and guidance from experts…mentorship. We need a PBL expert to offer us support. It is great to listen and be inspired by others, but if we are not actively practicing and honing our pedagogical and engagement skills, then the PD can only be effective to a point.
#edtechchat
If you use Twitter, I encourage you to check out the hashtag above. It will connect you with a great series of posts and discussions about making ourselves better users and innovators of technology!
LMK what you think in the comments below, and have a great day!
-Kirsten
 

Posted in 1:1 devices, blog, BYOD, clicker system, conference, edtech, formative assessment, iPads, Nearpod, presentation, teaching

Nearpod: Triumph from Tragedy!

It has been a solid two months since I had an operational SmartBoard in my classroom. The projector decided it had enough of this world, and went to “projector heaven.” This was probably the most inconvenient time for this to happen too, as it was right before our January 2015 midterms when I was really combing through the curriculum with my students.
I felt like a fish out of water. Maybe I had become too reliant on one teaching mechanism? I don’t know.  All of a sudden, I felt like I had to improvise to teach with both arms tied behind my back. It was a crisis.
Despite the fact that I had been running a paperless classroom that utilizes 1:1 iPads for all my students, I still felt myself scrambling with no presentation device to deliver/review material with all the “tech” around me.

Enter: Nearpod

188_1070x490We have a technology “guru” named Eric that visits our school about once a month, and sets up a quasi-help desk for teachers in our faculty dining room. He travels to several independent secondary schools in Buffalo, and his role is to offer, training, support, and ideas for anything pedagogical and/or technological.
Broken and dejected, I approached Eric with my dilemma. He suggested I look into Nearpod. He explarocking06ined that it was a presentation tool where I could broadcast a live, interactive session onto the devices in the room. Each student could have the presentation right in front of them, rather than glaze over while staring at the SmartBoard. He told me that I can embed interactive questions to check for understanding, polls, and other items to turn the iPads in the room into a “clicker system.”
I’ll admit, change is not easy. But the moment I logged into Nearpod, it was as if a whole new realm of opportunities presented itself. It was so easy to import my PowerPoint presentations. It also didn’t take me long to get the hang of adding what Nearpod calls “activities.”
The first time I presented this with my 137 students, they clamored for more. “Are we going to use this again?” said one student. “I really liked going over stuff this way!” said another.
Clearly one app or website is not the cure-all for all instructional needs. But Nearpod saved my life, in this case. It came at a time when I needed it most, and I could not have been more grateful for the opportunities it is now creating for me as a teacher. My lessons are interactive, and I can take formative assessments from my students as they are learning. Students are not passive learners, but interacting with the curricula as they learn/review it. What a wonderful thing!
How It Workstumblr_inline_n7oj9rHrLA1syjobe
Nearpod can be used for free. Only the teacher needs a login. Students/participants can go to www.nearpod.com and type in the “Join Session” box on the top right to access a presentation. Once the teacher allows a presentation to be “live,” the teacher then controls the flipping of slides across the users’ devices.
The learner/participant doesn’t necessarily need to create a login to participate, although Nearpod has added a note-taking feature for students, so I would assume they would need to log in to do that. I’m also not sure if that is available on the free or paid access to the site. In general, students can access presentations and interact without a login.

(In the sake of full disclosure, I will admit that my adoration for this website has prompted my school to purchase 5 subscriptions to their full-access service. I haven’t tried it yet though – only used the free features. In a future post, I can update my thoughts about what additional features I found in the paid site and find useful.)

Classrooms, Conferences, and PD – Oh My!2. Nearpod (7)
Since discovering and testing this tool out in my own classroom, I’ve also used it at a faculty professional development day and a teaching with technology conference. In the tech conference, I was assigned to a computer lab – so everyone was facing all directions. Using Nearpod, everyone was able to see my presentation clearly without craning their heads to see a screen/SmartBoard. My conference break-out session was over capacity as well, which was a blessing of riches! Since I didn’t have enough computers in the room to correlate with attendees – I simply asked the participants to find Nearpod on their own personal device – so no one was without a screen! It worked fabulously.
Uses
If you think about the bigger implications for a tool like this, it is also quite exciting. Students who struggle to see the board or have visual/auditory impairments will benefit from seeing the screen right in front of them. They will have instant feedback to check their understanding of the material. Real-time feedbacnearpod1gettingstartedk of student learning can be indispensable: not just for students but for teachers.
More Fabulous Service
I reached out to Nearpod on Twitter and received an enthusiastic, personal response. They shared several other Twitter handles with access to other teacher-created materials, lessons, etc. They offered personal service and availed themselves for whenever I need support. Isn’t that wonderful?!
Tell Me What You Think
I have heard rave reviews from not only students but colleagues about how Nearpod can elevate the quality of their instruction. I plan to continue to use Nearpod in my classroom, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on it too! Feel free to check it out and tell me what you think.
Happy Wednesday,
Kirsten