A perfect combination? Is there ever such a thing! What I’m here to tell you is that a particular tool that I’ve tried out, Nearpod, addresses some of the principles of universal design for learning and can be used as a tool for assessment. Is it perfect? Absolutely not, but I’m here to show you what some of the benefits are of trying it out and give you some of the comments and feedback that students have given me when I’ve tried it out with them! Read on and you can make up your own mind.
Nearpod: What is it?
Nearpod is an app that can be used to engage your students. It focuses on making teaching and learning more interactive. It can be used on both IOS and Android devices and it has a web app that can work on any browser. There are several ways that a teacher or a practitioner can use Nearpod:
- You can take your own PowerPoint, PDF’s, images or Google slides, upload into Nearpod and then turn it into an interactive lesson.
- You can create a lesson from scratch with interactive elements within the NearPod platform.
- You can use premade lessons already available in the Nearpod library.
You can send a code to your students on how they can log in and using their app on a phone or on a PC they log in and they can take part in your interactive class. You can either run it live or do a student paced lesson. A Nearpod lesson can be embedded in your learning management system or a code can be sent to your students. Once they have a code, they can log in anytime anywhere. Flexibility at its best! You can find out more and then create your own account here.
Ok, so what are NearPod’s main features?
Nearpod allows you to add a voiceover to any of the slides and to embed audio files. You can embed a Microsoft sway or any web content and even YouTube videos in it. It allows you to take your students on virtual field trips so at the moment if you’re not able to take them on a nice little trip to Rome or to Paris or to visit some lovely museum in Dublin , you can take them on a virtual field trip . The students love this one. I’ll tell you a little bit more about the other features available once you get to the assessment section of this post.
You said Nearpod and UDL? Tell me more!
Nearpod has lots of different ways to recruit the interests of your students. In a student paced lesson, they have autonomy in where and when they access the activity. You can make the Nearpod as authentic as possible by embedding your own videos, your own voice, and your tailor-made questions to it which makes it much more interesting for the learners. If you give lots of different forms of representations within the activities, students can become completely immersed in it and this can help to avoid distractions for students who find it a bit more difficult to concentrate. By using some of the collaborate boards and varying the activities, you can help to foster collaboration and community even when working asynchronously. This can help the student to stay motivated. You can also provide the student with opportunities to reflect on what they’ve learned through some of the activity options; again, aiding with their self-regulation.
You can supply multiple options for perception using Nearpod by displaying the information in different ways. You can add your own voice over to the slides; you can provide the student with images, with GIFs or you can embed videos just to give different alternatives for how things are displayed visually.
Multiple means of action and expression (here’s the assessment part!):
For me this is really where Nearpod can come into its own. It’s an excellent way to formatively assess your students. Students can communicate with you and express themselves in different ways using Nearpod. They can take part in polls, short answer and open ended questions, collaboration boards, quizzes, time to climb where they’re competing against each other, Draw-it activities, matching and pairing activities; memory tests and fill in the blanks…..so many ways where they can construct and compose responses and express themselves. There are nine different ways to formatively assess your students using Nearpod!
Students have different ways to express themselves physically, by engaging with the activities. They can insert images/GIFS, type in open ended answers, insert audio, add GIFS/emoticons/respond to MCQ’s or polls…. Endless opportunities! Microsoft’s Immersive Reader is now available for Nearpod and this allows the students to access assistive technology right within the platform itself, making it even more inclusive and accessible for all learners.
Because Nearpod can grade the students as they progress through an activity, it means that then they can check themselves how they’re doing and do it again to improve. This is an important part of executive functioning skills. However, as the teacher you can monitor progress because every single activity creates a report for you that you can check in on afterwards. Magic!
Overall, NearPod might not be for everyone but it can help with students becoming more purposeful and motivated, more resourceful, and knowledgeable and can help then work towards a goal. If you want to find out more about the UDL guidelines and how you might align other tools with them , just go to this link.
So, how much is this going to cost me?
Nearpod is free to use, but like most platforms these days it does have purchasable add-ons, including some of the premade lessons. There are different accounts that you can get for example gold or platinum and they allow you to have more features including being able to make your own virtual reality tour and you can get any of the paid lessons. However, the free version does have loads of features that you can use without needing to have a paid for one.
What do the students think?
Mixed bag and depends on the groups- We’ve had some students who absolutely love it!
The key thing is to get the feedback from students; ask them what they liked and why; what they learned and how… discuss it with them and see if the tool and the approach responds to their needs and matches your intended outcomes. This is where your Learning Technoligy Wheel comes into play. Only use Nearpod if helps you and your students achieve your intended outcomes or intentions.