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.
We 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 explained 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!
Nearpod can be used for free. Only the teacher needs a login. Students/participants can go to http://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.)
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.
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 feedback 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.