Friday, 4 September 2015

Student-Paced Learning with Nearpod

This blog has been on the back burner for a while, so apologies for not posting sooner. It comes as a result of me trying to make the best use of a set of 15 iPads that I've been asked to trial in my classroom (as part of our school looking at how technology can enhance the classroom environment).  I was initially drawn to Nearpod because it would allow students to access content on the iPad that I would usually project onto the board. Whilst I try not to include an overload of text for students to read through/copy from the board, the advantage of Nearpod would be that, when it came to copying down objectives/criteria, those students who finished before others could move onto the next task; similarly, those who needed more time to get down information could do so without feeling rushed.

That being said, I did have some initial reservations. I was a little worried about the app not working, though I overcame this by having backup plans in place (for example, slides that I could project if it wasn't going through and mini-whiteboards should the app's feedback function fail me).  I was also apprehensive about the possibility of students going off task- especially when they'd be using an iPad the whole lesson, though this was easily overcome by explicitly stating my expectations and linking them to the school's sanctions policy. That being said, most students were engaged by the iPads at first and (several lessons on) still focused on the tasks given.

The ability to import PowerPoint/PDF files into the Nearpod project was very helpful, as I could utilise resources I had prepared for previous cohorts. This allowed me to create the slides I could control (displaying images or key questions for students to respond to) or importing slideshow sections that students could work through themselves; the latter was particularly effective when giving students a choice of tasks to work through.  Because I was using the iPads as a display for students, this also freed up my whiteboard for other uses (either to display success criteria/SOLO level criteria throughout the lesson, or for space for students to track their progress).

When starting the lesson, I replaced my usual feedback tool of mini-whiteboards with a text response (that students worked on in pairs). The advantage of this was that I could easily flick through student responses on my device, before displaying chosen responses on the student displays.  This then gave me a springboard for class discussion, allowing me to ask students to develop/challenge the responses of other students. I was also able to differentiate the initial question by giving a challenge element, and by letting students research an answer if they chose- highlighting the different ways the technology could aid and support independent learning. 

As I mentioned before, the abilIty to import a document/slideshow for students to navigate at their own pace was also an advantage.  This worked particularly well when I used SOLO taxonomy within my lesson- students used the SOLO criteria (displayed on the main board) to assess prior understanding and then, based on this, chose an activity related to their level from the slideshow on Nearpod (see attached picture).  The main whiteboard was also used for them to track progress against SOLO levels (moving named postits along the different symbols).  It was in this way that students could work at their own pace, while I supported individuals/small groups (largely led by the postit SOLO tracker on the board). However, I have also introduced Nearpod to colleagues who have used it to provide an alternative lesson for individual students that needed a different path from the rest of the class. This allowed them to teach their lesson to the rest of the class whilst the student(s) on Nearpod worked through prepared tasks (with the teacher intervening to stretch and support them).

Overall, I was really impressed with Nearpod and, though I would not use it in every lesson, it proved a useful tool that enabled students to learn at their own pace whilst I acted as facilitator.  Unfortunately there are a number of other functions that I've been unable to use fully, such as the ability for students to draw/annotate a picture rather than typing feedback (which doesn't seem to work on our network) and the function that allows you set student-led Nearpod presentations for homework (a feature of the paid version).

For more information on Nearpod, or to sign up, visit .
I've focused on the free version of the app, which also includes a free training presentation to lead yourself through.