June 22, 2022

Turn student cell phones into teaching tools with Nearpod

Head down on the desks. Eyes glued to a blinking cell phone begging to be tapped for a higher score. Avoiding homework because “I don’t have a pencil to write on”. When I see this in my classroom, it’s a sign that the student is just not engaged.

You know these students. They regularly arrive 20 minutes late. When they walk in, they have no backpacks, pencils, or passes to be late. But fortunately, they have a tool with which they are very engaged: a mobile phone.

I work at a diverse public school in Portland. Many of my students experience significant stresses outside of school, such as homelessness or lack of internet access, but they still own and bring cell phones to school. To engage these students, I started planning a lesson using Nearpod and cell phones as a teaching tool.

What is Nearpod?

Nearpod is a web application for iPhone/iPad or Android that allows teachers to personalize, create and share interactive presentations with students. Students become engaged participants when they interact with the presentations using cell phones, tablets or computers. Teachers can share presentations with colleagues and browse other teacher-created presentations for ideas, while students can explore content through polls, text, images, videos, drawings , website sharing, self-guided quizzes, and more.

This year, my 9th graders learned about apartheid. To make a historical lecture and discussion more interesting, I created a Nearpod presentation as an introduction to apartheid protest and resistance movements in South Africa. Here are some tips I picked up along the way:

Tips for creating: When using Nearpod, add new slides and upload primary source photos, quotes, and videos already saved to your Google Drive. Add content slides defining key terms. Develop a pre-assessment quiz or survey to capture students’ current knowledge (with questions such as, for example, “What do you know about apartheid?”) and help students create backgrounds with slides open-ended and drawing questions to stimulate further thinking. .

Tips for sharing student responses: Quickly gather and share student thinking models. Students may submit photographs, drawings, or handwritten/typed representations of their thinking. A teacher can offer a model of student work to all users to generate further discussion, in the form of brainstorming, or to support struggling learners. For example, to reinforce the meaning of apartheid, I asked students to submit a drawing asking them “What kind of things were segregated under apartheid in South Africa?” Through drawings, students applied the definition and struggling students were able to see the defined term in a new way. Have students submit on-demand writing to use as drafts for larger work.

Tips for using Nearpod data in the moment: See answers submitted by students without circulating the room. When reviewing my Nearpod results, I found that half of my students couldn’t define apartheid. As a quick intervention, I shared the definitions provided by the students and engaged all the students in a discussion of the term. Teachers can also use pre-assessment surveys or quizzes to get a quick idea of ​​student understanding.

Dealing with potential setbacks

Nearpod isn’t perfect; unfortunately, Nearpod presentations cannot be downloaded and saved in other formats such as Powerpoint or Google Slides. The free version (there is a free version and a premium version) has limited storage. If you noticed a mistake or want to do a quick edit, the presentation must first be unpublished which means it cannot be corrected during a live screening.

However, some problems have solutions. For example, a student may use a false name and submit off-topic information. To track student data, ask your students to use their name, student ID, or nickname. When sharing student work templates, ask for their approval before sharing without warning. Additionally, explain the value of participating in a “nearpod” and how participation is tracked to prevent a student from multi-tasking on their cell phone.

Nearpod extension

After the Nearpod presentation, I knew I was going to ask students to write creative pieces to resist or protest apartheid. I was also going to encourage students to create their own forms of protest such as protest songs, speeches, videos and posters.

As a brainstorm, I asked “How would you have resisted the pass law during apartheid?” Drawings and creative pieces were submitted. Rusty started working on a movie script:

SAPG: You are under arrest! You don’t have your pass, which violates pass laws.
PASS-MAN: How can you justify white people not needing it?
SAPG: Because we have to control every aspect of your life to be able to exploit you, of course! Isn’t it obvious?

Chloe started working on a story: On a scorching day in July, we were crossing the village on an old dirt road and, to our surprise, a policeman stopped us dead. The only fear that crossed my mind was that he was going to arrest us both.

Ultimately, Nearpod helped inspire my students. They acquired the knowledge necessary to apply their learning. The students were able to describe the methods of protest against apartheid through drawings, songs, films and stories.

Nearpod extension

After using this tool for the first time in my class, a student – Leo – took me aside. Walking out on a Friday afternoon, he said, “Mrs. Kanof, we should reuse this Nearpod thing. We really learned today…I mean…everyone was learning. Of course, there were still absent students and struggling students. But Leo was right – many students who weren’t normally engaged or distracted by cellphones participated.

Nearpod is not a quick fix for suddenly turning around and engaging those confusing students every day. But it’s a great tool to use for gaining basic knowledge and making presentations, image galleries, or pre-assessments more engaging.

And as long as my 9th graders keep coming into class asking “When are we going to use Nearpod again?” we will continue to use the tool.

Kim is a social studies teacher at Madison High School in Portland, Oregon.