After a successful first Unit of Inquiry in eLearning (stay tuned for more on that…), my Grade 4 team and I have kicked off our new unit. The central idea of “Access to water impacts humans in different ways” challenges students to think about their own water usage as well as to explore the challenges of water access around the world.

Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash

In our previous unit, we had paired “Mini-Lesson” videos and Google Slides presentations to guide students through learning experiences, and direct their work. As with many things that were designed out of necessity in our first few weeks, these were effective, but not exactly elegant. Looking for a more elegant solution, we re-stumbled upon Nearpod. (I think I’ve seen others use this here in COETAIL, but never really explored it until a team member brought it up a couple weeks ago in our meeting.) We really liked how it could work for both synchronous and asynchronous learning, and gave students the chance to engage during the lessons.

In this post I’ll give a brief overview of the tool, its features, and how they work. I’ll also show an example of a lesson I used as a provocation for our new unit.

What is it?

“Nearpod is an instructional platform that merges formative assessment and dynamic media for collaborative learning experiences.” – Nearpod.com

Essentially, Nearpod is a souped up Google Slides or Powerpoint, with less emphasis on looks, and more emphasis on interaction and media. It also integrates pretty seamlessly with Google Slides if you still want that Google Slides look.

It starts off looking like any presentation tool, creating a series of slides which can have images, text, and videos. It quickly gets more exciting, with a library of available 3D objects to explore, interactive math and science simulations, and VR field trips to the Taj Mahal or the Great Pyramids. What it lacks in smooth looking graphics, it makes up for in cool content.

Delivery

Nearpod offers two different ways to deliver a lesson. Lessons can be asynchronous, where students access and work through the tasks on their own, or synchronous learning, where teachers have a live view of all students connected and how they respond to the interactive activities in real time.

In my team, we are currently using the asynchronous option, as we have students in multiple time zones, and different learning situations and so the timing needs to be flexible.

Assessment Built In

Nearpod also comes with a nice set of assessment tools to check in on student understanding throughout the lesson. These can be collaborative or individual, and a nice report pops out at the end to give you data on your students as soon as the lesson is over. Here are some of my favourites:

Time To Climb Game

A quick multiple choice quiz game that is a bit gimmicky, but will give you a quick snapshot of your student’s understanding in a way that keeps them interested. They can even compare their scores with their classmates.

Open Ended Question

For when you want students to elaborate on their thinking. You provide the prompt via text, image or video, and the students write or audio record their response (computer only…one of my biggest wishes for this is that they would add the audio recording response to iPad!)

Matching Pairs

A simple card matching game, great for new vocabulary.

Flipgrid!

Nearpod pairs with flipgrid, and you can embed a grid right into the presentation. The integration isn’t seamless, especially if the grid is secure so you need to log in, but it’s still a great tool to integrate for some real meaningful feedback from the students

Collaborating

This is Nearpod’s version of a padlet or post-it wall. Students can respond to a prompt with their thoughts and ideas, which are visible to their classmates in real time. They can like each other’s comments to give peer feedback as well.

Poll

Gather simple data from your students in a poll.

Reports

Another fantastic feature of Nearpod is its ability to track users and give the teacher a report. At a quick glance, you can see which students have participated in the presentation, and whether they have responded to the interactive slides. This allows you to easily view all the student responses to questions, check for completion, and share the report with other teachers if you want.

Let’s Talk Money

Nearpod offers a free “Silver” account that offers many great features, but it does have limitations in terms of storage space. Lessons are limited to 20MB, with a total of 50MB in the account. You can add incrementally more storage with Gold and Platinum accounts for $120 and $349 respectively. The premium accounts also offer features like individual student reports, and access to a library of pre-made lesson content. If you are planning on using the tool on a regular basis it may be worth it to upgrade.

Overall Impression

For anyone looking to spice up their slide show presentation game, this is an option to add some interesting collaborative and interactive tools to help students engage while learning at home. While most of the tools integrated in Nearpod can be found in other places with more features, Nearpod does a great job of putting them all into one easy package. WHIle I don’t think I personally will be using it extensively in the future. It is a great tool to have added to my inventory to keep things interesting.

Here is my first attempt at using Nearpod in a provocation about access to water.

Have you used Nearpod in your class? What did you like about it? What were its limitations?