For the Connected Mobile Classroom – Nearpod

I’m always interested in just how 1:1 will roll out with portable devices.  So, when I heard about Nearpod, I needed to download it and test it here in dougpete labs.

It works like a host/client and what really intrigued me from the beginning was the promise that it would act like Net Support School.  So, I downloaded the host and the client to kick the tires.  The host runs on an iPad and the student client would run on any combination of iPods or iPads in the hands of students.

The tagline from the website says “Make your lessons more engaging through interactive multimedia presentations.”  If you’ve ever tried to do it, you’ll know that’s easier said than done.  Maybe there are some new magical tricks here.  So, I downloaded both applications and dug into it.

First, I turned to the teacher application on the iPad.  You need to create an account on Nearpad so that’s OK.  Done.  I log in with my newly created account to give it a shot.  You’re first asked to work your way through a tutorial.  This time, I resisted the urge to explore and decided to take the tutorial.

It seems easy enough.  Let’s move on.  Exit the application and start from anew.

I’ve already created an account and so just logged in to see what I could do.

The only thing in “My Library” was the tutorial presentation.  But, there is an option to go to a store.  I’m there.  There is an interesting collection of really attractive packages ready to go and they’re marked “Free”.  That’s priced right for my testing.  I look around and I see a Khan Academy package about “Earth Formation”.  Time to check it out.

But, I’d like to see what it looks like on the student side as well.

At the top of the teacher screen, there is a PIN # for the session.  I head over to my student unit (a really old iPod) and load the student program and give it the PIN.  Now, in the real world, I’m sure that this is instantaneous.  In my pathetic internet connection world, I had time for supper while the presentation downloaded.  After supper, I was ready to continue.

Working with the program is pretty slick.  You have really a Powerpoint-ish layout on your screen where you can pick a slide or activity.  Or, probably more likely, you just swipe your way through the lesson.  As you change the content on the teacher unit, it changes immediately on the student.  Very nice and very impressive.

Across the top, I can tap in and see the roster or students who are logged in.  Next to that, there’s an option to email an assessment summary to myself.  That could be very handy for marks management – I’d tend to do that on a desktop or laptop.  The PIN # is fixed to the top of the screen.  I did what any student would – tap the home button for a quick game of Angry Birds which I was able to do.  Once disciplined, I went back to the application and I was immediately caught up with the presentation, seeing what was on the teacher screen.  Nice.

As I worked my way through this presentation, I saw a couple of the assessment utilities.  One was a matching activity.  Fortunately, there’s an answer key…

Later on in the lesson, there was a multiple choice test.  Looking at it from the student perspective, you see:

Answering is pretty obvious.  Looking back at the teacher unit, I can see how well I’ve done.

Wow, Doug really know Astronomy.

I poked around and got through the presentation.  While I’m not a big fan of locked in sequential activities, the technology made it pretty interesting.  In a real classroom, I’d be doing other things than sitting in a chair and swiping my way through a lesson.  I’d be up and about using other materials to supplement this lesson.  OK, got it.  As long as there are lessons already created, it’s just a matter of downloading them and using them.  How about creating one of my own?

I poke around, looking for an editor, and don’t find one.  What the hey?

In panic, I look for the support website.  In order to create your own, you need to upgrade your account.  Done, and done.  Now, when I log in, I have the option to create my own.  This reinforces the concept that, unlike Net Support School where your content is stored locally and broadcast through the local area network, with Nearpod, you store it on their servers and distribute it via the internet.  That’s a significant point.  There are more opportunities for failure when you use the internet but the advantage is that students don’t necessarily have to be in the same local network as you.  In theory, you could use this for a presentation for students at a distance.  I’d have to think my way through the logistics.

To create a new presentation of your own, you do have a number of options…

I’ve never been a real fan of electronic multiple choice questions or the devices used to collect it but you do have that functionality.  Polling, drawing are interesting.  The developers certainly have presented a number of options to incorporate into your learning session.

All in all, I was really impressed with how slick this experience was.  Everything just fell into place and all seemed to work like you would expect.  I’m not sure that this would be a utility to be used daily in class but if I was putting together a 1:1 classroom, I’d include this application.  Every now and again, this would be a very engaging and motivating activity for classes.

What would be really interesting would be to use it for demonstration to parents.  I’m thinking this – have your presentation done in Nearpod and your iPad connected to a data projector.  Parents who bring an iPhone or iPod to the demonstration are given the link to download the student application.  If I’m a parent at the back of the room where the screen up front is so small, I could use  my own device to see what the presentation is all about!

There is very little learning to get this up and running.  Download the teacher and student applications and try out the demonstration or something from the Nearpod library and work your way through it.  In half an hour, you’ll know whether or not this application is for you.  In the right setting, I’ll bet you like it.

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