As a teacher I am always looking for ways to increase student engagement. With Nearpod you can have 100% of your students engaged. And often this can feel impossible, as we know not every kid is actually interested in what we are teaching. I am sure almost every teacher has that moment when they pause for a second and hand goes up, followed by questions that you literally just answered or another kid asks the same question another student just asked. So you might be thinking, how would a technology tool, Nearpod, change this.
Nearpod allows you to engage with all your students simultaneously. Before I get into how that works I want to explain more in depth about Nearpod (www.nearpod.com). I also include some examples of how I used Nearpod to build engaging inquiry based Science Nearpods at the bottom of the post.
Once you sign up for a Nearpod account (free versions available) you can find lessons already created (free or paid) or you can design your own. All you need is to create your lessons in PowerPoint or Google Slides and upload them as PDF or PNG files. When you first set up your account I recommend finding a few FREE lessons to try out, so you understand how they are designed and how the interactions work.
Facilitation of Nearpod
Once you are ready to deliver the lesson with your slides, students log in with a class code you give them. Immediately on their screen they see exactly what you want them to and you are ready to deliver the lesson. As you shift to the next slide on your teacher dashboard, their screen changes too. This ensures that students see exactly what you want them to and you can facilitate the lesson. While this is a great way to deliver you lesson in class you can also use this with distance learning. To read more about this see my blog post titled: 5 Powerful Way to Teach with Zoom.
Content Options of Nearpod
Next is the versatility in content. Nearpod allows teachers to go beyond a typical slide show and integrate a variety of content sources. These include: video, audio, virtual reality field trips, specialized slides, pHet simulations and many more. You can also embed a website so that when you transition to that slide students click to go the web location. Students can then be facilitated through the content. For science teachers, the ability to add a pHet Lab simulation is a great tool. Additionally you can either watch a video on your screen with the whole class or have students view it on their screen and then come back to the whole group. There is so much you can do.
Activities - Student Interactions with Nearpod
Now to the best part ofNearpod. Neapod has what is called Activities which are student interactions slides. This is where you can ensure all students are engaged and with you. Once you have your slides uploaded you can add interactions, which are outputs that students respond to. Immediately on your teacher screen you see every student’s response. If you are not getting a response you can see that too and prompt the student. This gives you immediate formative checks for understanding. Here you can stop and reteach right there, see that every student understands and even share students’ responses (with or without names).This allows you to show different levels of understanding and discuss the types of responses. This data alone can help you differentiate and form small group instruction if needed in real time. No more hands raising and the same students responding–you can see all students right there live on your screen. These interactions can be collaborative posts to share ideas amongst all students and for individuals. Here are some of the activity(student interaction) tools you can add to bring your students learning alive:
- Open-ended responses
- Collaboration board
- Fill in the blanks
- Draw It
I really love using these because I always plan on getting an output from students about every 3-6 minutes. You are not the sage on the stage, because students are communicating live with you and you are able to share responses, model and so much more.
Student Paced Option with Nearpod
Another great feature of Nearpod is that you don’t just have to do this live with your students in class or on a zoom session if online, but you can also assign the lesson to be student-paced where they complete it on their own. So even if they are able to transition the slides on their screen they will still have the same level of output through the Nearpod and you are able to see their level of understanding. This gives you feedback that you can use to drive your instruction, differentiate and so much more.
Science Specific Strategies
If you are a science teacher like me and are wondering about how I used this in science, here are few examples. I have always been an inquiry based teacher which means I don’t do a lot of lecture or direct instruction except when needed. So I think that is why I was initially hesitant as google slide shows was not my style. But once I began playing around I found creative ways to maintain my values and style of inquiry.
Example 1: The Periodic Table
My slide deck was designed to guide students through inquiry about the periodic table. I was able to provide images and thinking questions and hear what students thought from the collaboration tools. Then I had them examine the periodic table and make observations. They shared their ideas through the collaborative board. Once they posted their idea I gave them time to look through other students and “like them.” Next we looked at the top likes to see what we noticed collectively. This was followed by an activity where students used color so they could make more observations and they record these. Our list of observations was growing. From this I was able to build on their ideas and provide some direct instruction to give them the vocabulary for the observations they had already made. I was able to use both the video and slide features of the Nearpod. Then I got to the drawing tools. My drawing slides had students apply the vocabulary they learned, so I could get immediate feedback on their depth of understanding. Students could circle, label and draw lines based on the background images I provided on the slides. So the periodic table came alive.
Example 2: Natural Selection Introduction
I created a slide deck that was designed to “Engage” students in a controversial topic I called the Save, Create Debate. They responded using a Poll on whether they thought we should recreate the mammoth and in another Poll on whether we should save endangered species. This allowed me to see what they thought before we get into the different pressures that drive natural selection. I used the Collaboration board for students to type in the Pros and Cons of each and again had students review each other’s ideas and discuss them. I then used the Slides option to have them explore extinction events and its definition which was followed by a short video on different thoughts of why the mammoth went extinct. This gave students to see if they still felt the same way or not. Then I set up another exploration on the Asian elephant through slides, observations, and data. Next students revisited their ideas. We ended with a short video that discussed both sides of the controversy and I had the students complete a constructed response with the CER model to tell me what they thought and why about saving endangered species or recreating the mammoth. We would visit these ideas as we went through their natural selection unit more.
So if you are like me, the versatility for inquiry lies in how you build your Nearpod lesson. So have fun and try it. Share your ideas too on how you used Nearpod with your Science class.
Get Started with Nearpod
So what can you do to get started? Go to nearpod.com and sign up for a free account. Search their Free Library and find some content you teach. Run through a preview by opening two screens. One that you have in teacher mode on your teacher account and another that you use the join code to see the student view. See how it all works.
Then take some slides you already have created and add the content and student interaction activities to bring it alive for student engagement. Don’t be afraid to try it like I was for years. Within about an hour I was creating my own and brought what would have been a boring lesson alive.
And if you fall in love with Nearpod like I did, then I would recommend paying for an account. It is definitely one of the few resources that I would personally pay for. But I used the Free version for a while and later made the investment.