Using 1:1 iPads can be tricky with middle school students. They want to access music and games, and otherwise multi-task while attempting to complete their class work. In addition, the type of students I work with will do everything in their power to avoid classwork; they also can be super anxious about talking out loud or contributing to a discussion. We want to have classrooms be more real-life project-oriented to get students interested in learning, but the students I work with need intensive structure and support; they aren’t good at independent learning. I wanted to provide a fun way for students to interact and participate in a class discussion in a safe way. Last school year I heard about an app called Nearpod, and I’ve found it to be really fun and engaging for my students.
Nearpod allows someone to create a “presentation,” and then allows others to see it on their own device and to interact. Presentations can be created using Nearpod or they can even be uploaded from Powerpoint or from your Google Drive. I like building presentations in Keynote on my iPad and then uploading them to Nearpod to finish off because Nearpod doesn’t have as many building options as other presentation building tools. Once the presentation is in Nearpod, the creator can add activities which include polls, open-ended questions, multiple choice questions, drawings, or quizzes. The creator inserts opportunities for the users to answer questions and provide input. It becomes an interactive presentation and discussion tool. To set up, the creator logs into Nearpod and then shares a presentation; when that is done, the creator gets a code. The code is what everyone else enters in order to access the presentation. Each person creates a screen name to use when they log into the presentation. The creator can see everyone’s names, and when activities are shared, the creator can see everyone’s responses. The creator is the one who controls the presentation and shares it with the group. My students are especially fond of “draw-it” scenarios because they love using the drawing or picture tools, and they love to see each other’s artwork when I share for the discussion.
So how can you use this tool? This week I created a presentation on friendship since we’ve been discussing it in our social skills class. What I did was create “tricky situations,” scenarios that we needed to discuss. I would share a slide of a situation, then present an activity for student comment or response. Once all responses were in, I would share them, and as I shared them across the ipad screens, we had our discussion. Each student was actively engaged, and they felt safe to participate. They created silly screen names and would laugh when I used those names instead of their real names: “I like what Goldfish shared, he had a great suggestion for this situation.” I like to use scenarios and have students respond to the scenario using Nearpod; they feel safer doing it this way rather than just speaking out in class.