Friday, September 6, 2013

The Next Generation of Presentation Tool

The other day I had the fantastic fun of working with two math teachers and their Algebra and Geometry classes to kick-off their year-long personalized learning textbook project. These two brilliant teachers have crafted an innovative way to both present information in their math classes and have students create meaningful products that show what they’ve learned.

First I’ll focus on the presentation tool. I can take zero credit for finding this tool or realizing its potential. That all came from Mr. and Mrs. Math. In fact, the first time Mrs. Math showed me Nearpod, I didn’t really get it. But now I do!

Nearpod lets you create a presentation on your teacher laptop that is highly visual and interactive, both features we’ve come to expect from 21st century presentation software and apps. But Nearpod takes it to the next level by giving you the ability to send your presentation out to a classroom full of iPads. As you swipe your screen, students’ screens change too. No more squinting at the SMART board, no more craning your neck around the tall kid in the front row, no more turning off all the lights so kids can see the screen. With Nearpod, the presentation is right in front of them, on the iPad screen.

Even better than each student having the presentation showing right in front of them, is the interactive capability of Nearpod. Today when I presented, I put an interactive slide after each content slide I made. In other words, first I talked about using technology appropriately in school, then I asked a polling question where the students decided whether or not a behavior was appropriate or not.  I loved being able to do this all in one device and app! And, once each student had entered a response, I could share the results out to the students. Immediately they could see how their answer compared to the class much like the “clickers” many other classrooms are using.
(Quick math aside: students immediately asked and questioned the use of percentages to display the results – we had a quick, relevant, engaging math lesson on percentages, yea!)

Nearpod also has interactive tools like open-ended text questions, allowing you to ask deeper and more probing questions. As students answer these, you can see each response next to each student’s name. And, if there is a particularly poignant response, you can share that response (anonymously) out to the class. What a quick and easy way for students to see models of the kinds of responses they could craft.

Math teachers will particularly like the ability for students to draw as an assessment. Teachers can upload an image, say, of a graph, and each student can draw over that graph, say, calculating slope. As they submit you see a tiny screen shot next to each student’s name. And, again, you have the ability to choose one of those drawings and share it out to the class. Because it is anonymous when you share, you can easily share common mistakes as well as exemplars. Students really liked this feature. They liked being able to draw their answer (and personalize it with color, etc.) and they liked seeing what their peers did. Let’s face it, in a middle school class, they are so much more interested in what their peers are doing than in what the teacher does!

I think the best part of Nearpod was when students said this after the lesson:

“Can we do that again?”

In terms of explicit instruction and the I do, We do, You do, model, Nearpod rocks the house. I’m really excited about exploring its possibilities for the times when you need to do whole group instruction because it feels so much more collaborative, interactive and personalized that even the most amazingly fantastic Prezi.

More coming on what we did next, and how these students are going to build their own interactive textbooks!

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