Saturday, August 1, 2020

Using Nearpod for Classroom and Distance Learning

Happy Saturday, friends! How on earth did it get to be August 1st already?!? I read today that August is like the Sunday of summer. How true, how true...except I'm feeling it's more like Sunday night.

Schools in my area open in two weeks with in-person classroom teaching. 😲


But let's not talk about that right now because a lot can happen in two weeks.

And because a lot can happen in two weeks, two days, two hours, two months, many of us are loading our teaching arsenals with tools that we can use both in the physical classroom and during online distance learning. 

Boy howdy, do I have a wonderful tool for you today!
This is the preview of a lesson I created with an embedded video clip. On the right side are thumbnails of ready-to-use lessons from the Nearpod library.

If you haven't already tried Nearpod, you're going to want to hop over to their site and sign up for an account TODAY!

Here's my experience...

That fateful Friday the 13th of March 2020, our administrators called us into the library for a meeting. That in itself was nothing out of the ordinary because it was a teacher workday--we always had meetings on those days.

However, this meeting was different. The principals cautiously warned us that school might be closed in the coming weeks due to the increasing numbers of COVID cases, and we might have to teach remotely using online services.

They then had our school librarian give us a quick fifteen-minute rundown on using the Nearpod platform. Our district had purchased a subscription and IF we did distance learning in the future, this is what we would use for our lessons. We all set up our accounts together and looked at the variety of pre-made lessons available to us in the Nearpod library.

This is the cover of one of my social studies lessons. No matter where you teach in the good ole USA, fourth grade is all about state history and geography!

Well, we all know how that story ended. Our governor closed schools Sunday evening, and we all began our online adventures on Monday.

I have to say that due to that short meeting, the actual lesson planning and implementation for the remainder of the school year wasn't difficult at all. (Other aspects were difficult, but that's an entirely different post for an entirely different day!) I told you in my last post that my kiddos were used to using Google Classroom and Boom Cards for intervention time, so that was a huge plus. The kids had also used Nearpod in their library class, so they were ready to roll with that as well.

What is Nearpod?

If you've never seen a Nearpod lesson before, it is like a PowerPoint or Google slide presentation on steroids! The lesson is divided up into different slides, and there are interactive elements available to keep students engaged.

As the teacher, you can decide if you want to do a Live Lesson where you project the slides on your board and kids can also follow along on their own devices. (No worries about students getting ahead--lessons are synchronized and the teacher controls the lesson on all devices. Muhahaha!)

You can also choose to have kids do Student-Paced lessons where they log-on to a lesson on their own time and work at their own pace. This is the option we chose for our distance learning lessons.

The first few weeks, we pretty much stuck to the ready-to-use presentations available in Nearpod's vast library. They have lessons on almost any topic you can imagine, and they are available in different grade levels. You can also easily edit slideshows by adding and deleting material to make them suitable for your own students.

One of my slides with audio added. This is a huge bonus for struggling readers or ESL students...actually ALL students!

It didn't take long before many of us decided to create our own presentations using this wonderful new platform! You can import from Google slides or create right there on the Nearpod site. I personally liked to make my slides on PowerPoint because that's what I'm most familiar with and just uploaded the slides as jpegs. To each his own, and the Nearpod platform is very accommodating.

After you have your informational slides uploaded, here's where the magic happens....

This was my students' FAVORITE review activity! It reminded me of an old-school video game where the character you choose gets to move up the mountain every time you answer a question correctly. Parents even loved this feature!

You get to add all the fun bells and whistles! You can add audio, video, and various types of interactive, slides to the mix. My kiddos loved the "games" built into the middle and end of each presentation. Shhhh...we won't let them know about a little thing called formative assessment.

Things I loved about Nearpod

* It is a very easy-to-learn platform. Remember, we were pretty much taught the gist of it in 15 minutes!

* Students join the lessons in class or online by using a code. This is a terrific safety feature because kids aren't logging in using their own personal information.

* Reports are generated showing student progress.

* It's completely paperless.

* You as the teacher have full control over the content of your lessons. You can choose ready-made lessons, modify ready-made lessons, or create your own presentations from scratch.

* Audio and video can both be embedded to make lessons accessible to all students.

*Students can take virtual field trips.

*The interactive elements and "games" keep students engaged during learning.

Are you at least a little bit interested now? You should be! 

But don't just take my word for it, head over to the Nearpod site and check things out for yourself. Whether you're in the classroom, doing distance learning, or homeschooling, this is a great tool to add to your teaching repertoire! 

P.S. They have FREE options available, too!

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