NearPod is another kind of presentation tool that utilizes interactive features to engage students. At first, I felt between PowerPoint, Prezi, and the like, that perhaps another means of presenting material to students was overkill—especially if we want to be using technology to create more student-centered lessons. At first glance I wondered, is this just another fancy way for me to stand up in front of the room and speak to the students? I decided to try it out and see.
To be perfectly clear: if used merely for presenting materials, then yes, this could be just another way of doing what we already do in PowerPoint/Prezi, etc. However, what I discovered while playing around with NearPod, was that teachers can utilize it in a really interesting way, that perhaps its creators did not entirely intend: for creating and monitoring formative assessment, and increasing class participation. What’s even more interesting is that your NearPod presentation is individually beamed to each student’s laptop, creating a personalized learning experience (that the teacher controls from his/her own device). Teachers can also monitor if a student is watching the NearPod presentation or not, although, in initial use of this feature, I am not entirely sure how accurate it is.
I began making a NearPod presentation for the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, something I’ve taught to multiple sections to every single level, every year that I have been teaching (I figured it’d be easier to test out the resource with content that I was extremely familiar with). I asked myself, what do I want students to take away from the Prologue and Scene 1? Then, I shaped my NearPod presentation around that.
Shortly into making my first slide, I looked at some of the options NearPod gives you. Under “Add Activity” teachers have the option to embed an open-ended question, a poll, or even a quiz. There are also options for drawing, which could definitely come in handy in nearly any class (map-labeling in social studies? annotating in English? Identifying the parts of a cell in biology?).
Because I have taught this scene many times before, I knew the questions that I typically ask out loud to my students. Usually, I will ask students to write down their answers, and then call on a couple of them to share. Of course, some students will always be eager to participate, and some are more reticent. With NearPod, though, you have the ability to see every student’s response to the questions you ask, and then the capability to share an individual student’s responses to every student laptop (this is anonymous, so it is up to the teacher if he or she wants to tell the class whose response it is).
There is also the option to embed videos and images (both of which are Google searchable), and the option to create quizzes that the students can take (their individual results are immediately available to them on their personal laptop screens).
- There are a lot of capabilities for NearPod as a tool for laptop management—Keeping students on task, monitoring work, etc.
- NearPod can really enhance class participation—the teacher knows who contributes and can choose to share any student’s thoughts.
- In the beginning, it is helpful to use a lesson that you’ve taught many times before so that you can anticipate the kinds of questions you want to ask, and the formative tasks that you usually give.
- It can take a lot of time up front to build a NearPod lesson, but you then have them in your library.