Interactive iPad learning with Nearpod

5/6/2013 12:00:00 AM

Engaging instruction is the goal of every educator.  So when I was introduced to an app that promised such a lofty ideal, I had to try it.

At the time, I was teaching sixth grade math and social studies in a PA school district.  I had a challenging lesson coming up and sought the assistance of a fellow teacher who was piloting an iPad cart.  He allowed me to borrow it for my math lesson on changing fractions. The math series we used had a lesson called "The Licorice Lace Problem" which describes several teens going on a hike. They were dividing up licorice equally among themselves.  Just after they cut the licorice, another friend shows up; now they need to redistribute the licorice. This is spatially a hard concept to imagine. But I had an idea!

Nearpod is a free app that allows a teacher to present an interactive lesson on students' iPads. As soon as I opened the cart, I had the students’ attention. After establishing some management guidelines with the class, everyone logged into Nearpod with the student PIN.

First I presented a set of informative slides to describe the scenario. Other slides I had created as background images for Nearpod’s "Draw It" slides allowed the students to mark where they would cut the licorice lace by drawing directly on their iPads. The app submitted these pictures wirelessly to my iPad, so I instantly knew if they understood the concept, or if they needed another attempt.  I could also share student examples anonymously to their iPads for class discussion.  In addition, I was able to pose poll, Q & A, multiple choice, or true/false style questions.  Students received instant feedback on their answers to these questions. 

All in all, active learning was taking place. My struggling students were participating and weren’t afraid to be wrong because it wasn’t directly in the eyes of their peers, like it would be if they were up at the board or showing their work under the document camera. The excitement, engagement
and of course, every teacher’s favorite word, datagenerated by this app proved its utility. Afterward, I logged into the Nearpod website with my credentials (free account) and accessed all the information gathered during the lesson. I could see the "Draw It" each student submitted and create graphs on student responses.

The site is user-friendly and straightforward. I made my slides on PowerPoint or SMART Notebook, then saved as images to upload into my Nearpod lesson. Users can share a website during a lesson or embed a video, while its newest feature for the flipped classroom, Nearpod Homework, allows students to go through a lesson at their own pace.

Our NJ school district's iPad initiative includes three iPads in every first and second grade classroom in each of four elementary buildings. By sharing iPads among grade level classes or working on targeted mini lessons in small groups, teachers have completed Nearpod lessons on topics such as telling time, counting money, and weather, to name a few. This has been a useful tool!

Teachers want a way to deliver interactive lessons to engage all learners and I know Nearpod has become my answer to this challenge. It's a wonderful tool—and with a growing following on Twitter (great place to go to read how others have used it or ask questions - #NearpodTeachers), many more teachers will surely discover its benefits as well.

Dan Gallagher is a Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology in the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in
West Windsor, NJ. 

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