tips-and-ideas

Nearpod: A valuable app for interactive presentations

Jeremy Marx

Tags Apps, Nearpod, Tech

For a long time, using technology in the classroom meant improving teacher-led instruction by making presentations look better. Rather than writing on the board, teachers could have PowerPoints with images. Prezi took it a step further with better transitions that would zoom in and out over a large canvas. The advent of interactive whiteboards improved this by allowing students to be more involved in the presentation. With clickers or student response devices, the entire class could interact with the presentation and provide valuable information for the teacher. Still, these tools could be a hassle for teachers as they had to worry about registering devices, handing them out, changing the batteries, and trying to figure out why little Billy’s stopped working in the middle of the lesson.

Nearpod is the next step in this progression as it builds on the positive aspects of its predecessors, while making some key improvements as well.

What is Nearpod?

Nearpod is an app that lets the teacher create interactive presentations that students access on their devices as the teacher presents. The teacher controls the presentation though, so as they change a slide, it changes on all student devices (there is a student-paced option as well).

The teacher can also add activities to the presentation such as an open-ended question, a poll, a quiz, or a “draw it.” There is a premium version as well that allows you to add fill-in-the-blank questions and a memory test.

Why should you use it?

I have had much success using Nearpod to practice skills with students. For example, when teaching students how to write thesis statements, I give them prompts and use the open-ended questions to have them write and submit their own thesis statements. Also, I can upload an image of a paragraph and have them use the “draw it” feature for students to highlight or annotate parts of it. For example, I had students highlight analysis in a given paragraph.

Students view the Nearpod presentation on their devices, so those who sit in the back of the class are not at a disadvantage. Also, it makes it easier for the teacher to walk around the class during the lesson.

Perhaps the best part of Nearpod is the downloadable reports that become available after a presentation. They will email you a PDF that includes all student answers so that you have them to reference at a later time.

One big drawback to Nearpod is that the slide editor is very basic and looks like something from 1997. They do have a new slide editor in beta that improves the appearance a bit, but it still leaves much to be desired. The image below shows the slide editor on the left, with the beta editor on the right.

Fortunately, a workaround is to create the presentation in PowerPoint, Google Slides, or even Adobe Illustrator and then to export the presentations as JPEGs and import them into Nearpod.

Regardless, the interactive elements of Nearpod make it worthwhile to use if you are fortunate enough to have 1:1 access in your classroom,