The past three weeks I’ve taught and facilitated lessons for my 4th and 5th grade STEM students on coding using the free iPad app Hopscotch. I created and published a short, FREE eBook (“Hopscotch Challenges“) to provide tips for my students (and others) on different scripts which can be used to draw geometric pictures as well as create simple games using the app. As I’ve introduced different scripts and “challenges” to my students at the start of each class, I’ve experimented with the iPad app, Nearpod. Nearpod mirrors the teacher’s presentation on student iPads and also permits (similar to the iPad app Socrative) interactive polling and questions for students during a presentation. In this post, I’ll share some of my lessons learned with Nearpod.
The first thing educators should understand about Nearpod is that while the app IS free for both teachers and students to use, a free teacher account for the service only provides 50 MB of storage space for presentations. Teachers who individually want to use the app to store/save more presentations will need to consider “upgrading” their free account with either a $12 per month fee or a $120 annual fee.
If you don’t want to pay, once your 50 MB of free storage is filled, you’ll need to delete presentations to create more space for additional content. If you don’t upload videos but just use text and images in your presentations, however, you should be able to store quite a few presentations with 50 MB. Both of the presentations I created and used the past weeks (which include about 25 slides each) used a combined 5 MB of space. After logging into nearpod.org using a laptop or desktop web browser, click your account name in the upper right corner to view your utilized / available storage space.
To create a NearPod presentation, you’ll want to first create slides. Both the presentations I used this month showed students how to use iPad apps (KidBlog and Nearpod) so I created almost all my slides using screenshots from the apps. Take a screenshot on your iPad by holding down the HOME button and POWER button at the same time. Screenshots are saved to your iPad photo roll. I transferred the images I wanted to use to my laptop using the Mac app “Image Capture” which comes pre-installed in the Applications folder. Alternatively, you can transfer the images over wifi using a paid app like PhotoSync ($3) or free apps like Instashare or Image Transfer. (Instashare can also transfer videos as a free app, Image Transfer requires an in-app purchase to transfer videos.) In addition to creating a Nearpod presentation with my second group of slides this month, I also created a Google Presentation. Nearpod presentations can be shared via an email link, but can’t be publicly embedded for sharing like other kinds of presentations. I also created an introductory slide in Keynote, and chose to export it as a JPG image so it could be imported into Nearpod. I found I could not directly export my Keynote as a PowerPoint file and upload to Google Drive as a presentation.
To get the import to work, I had to open the PPTX file in MS PowerPoint 2011 and save as a backward compatible PPT 2007 file.
After creating your slides, log into nearpod.org using a web browser and click the CREATE button.
While you can create slides one-by-one in Nearpod, I found you can also drag-and-drop a large number of images simultaneously to the new slide portion of the Nearpod web interface.
If you do this, you’ll want to choose to create IMAGE SLIDES instead of selecting SLIDESHOW if you want separate images to be placed on different, new slides.
Each image uploads individually to the Nearpod website. Wait for all of them to upload before proceeding.
In addition to adding images to Nearpod slides and text, it’s possible to create INTERACTIVE slides. By default, the second slide of every Nearpod presentation prompts students to enter their names. This is helpful if you choose to send REPORTS to yourself (by email) after a presentation. Free accounts can receive PDF reports, paid accounts can alternatively download CSV (comma separated values) files which can be imported into Excel, Numbers, or a Google Spreadsheet (“Google Sheets“.) Interactive slides in Nearpod can be multiple choice, polls, or open answer.
When you are ready to start and share a Nearpod presentation with students, launch the app and login with your account credentials. I chose to login with my Google account. If you’re mirroring your iPad to a projector, be sure to login to the app FIRST before you’re mirroring, or turn off mirroring when you enter your password so students won’t be able to see it. The iPad shows each character you type on the screen, even when you are typing a password. Tap the presentation you want to share in MY LIBRARY in Nearpod.
Tap LAUNCH to start a presentation in Nearpod.
After you launch a presentation, a five character code will be shown in the upper left corner of your iPad screen. This is the enrollment key, “secret code” or PIN students will enter in Nearpod on their iPads to download the presentation and view it as it’s synced / mirrored to yours.
On their iPads when they launch Nearpod, students will type this PIN under STUDENT to start the presentation. It will download to their device and then sync/display your current slide.
It’s slick that when students are filling out an interactive question or poll you’ve created in Nearpod, you can see their LIVE results on your teacher iPad. In the example below, zero students are connected (as shown in the upper left corner) so results are not visible. It’s nice how you can scroll down through results to see who has submitted answers, and a pie chart of results is shown in the upper right corner.
When you tap to end the poll/question, students can view their answer and the correct answer you designated when you created the presentation. If the question was not multiple choice but was open answer, you’ll need to discuss the correct answer verbally since an answer won’t be available for students to view.
The biggest “lesson learned” I’ve had this month using Nearpod is to be sure and add multiple INTERACTIVE questions during a presentation. Students enjoy the opportunity to share their ideas during a presentation, even a short one, and it can be eye opening to see how many (or how few) students are actually listening and have understood what you’ve said just a few minutes before you ask a question.
I encourage you to try using Nearpod with students for short presentations when you need to share new information with them. When I originally heard about this app I thought it wouldn’t be a great one to use, since it supports the “teacher as deliverer of content” model of learning and instruction. There are important times to present new information to students, however, and when they have iPads at their desks / in their hands I think Nearpod can be a useful tool. It can be challenging, once you’ve passed out iPads to students from a cart (as I do in my classroom) to maintain everyone’s attention during even a short presentation. I found, therefore, my best options for presenting information to students this month were to either:
- Present a Keynote slideshow BEFORE passing out iPads
- Use NearPod with multiple interactive questions to present information as well as maintain student attention.
It’s both remarkable and somewhat depressing to see how LITTLE some students pay attention or learn when we, as teachers, present information during “direct instruction” times. Each class period, some of my students appeared to retain absolutely ZERO information from my presentation, based on the questions they asked and the assistance they required from me and/or their classmates to start their assigned tasks and challenges. For these students, it would have been equally effective to provide no guidance at the start of class and just say, GO!
While this was true for some students, it was also true that others each class were like sponges seemingly picking up every word I shared in my 10 minute introductory presentations. These students exceeded my expectations in the creativity they demonstrated in their Hopscotch coding projects. These differences in student abilities to receive oral and visual instructions (or not) provided a clear example of why it’s important to differentiate instruction and give students multiple options/pathways to learn and demonstrate mastery of new ideas and skills.
Have you used Nearpod or Socrative? I’d love to hear about your experiences and what you have found to be effective practices with students using these apps. I’ve used Socrative less extensively than I have Nearpod, so I’d like to hear more about the benefits as well as limitations of one app over the other from teachers who have used both. Remember if you want to see the results from your interactive polls and questions, be sure to tap the Nearpod menu at the top (in the center) of the screen and choose to email yourself results before you close the presentation to select another or quit the app.
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