Janice Novakowski and I were invited to work with three intermediate colleagues at Blair Elementary as part of their Innovation project for the 2013/14 school year. One of the goals of their grant application was to investigate ways in which technology can help with formative assessment. After sharing a few webtools and apps with the teachers, we decided together that NearPod might best meet their needs.
NearPod is an app that combines presentation, collaboration and real-time assessment tools into one integrated solution. The app creates a wireless connection between the teacher and all students’ iPads and allows them to share work that between them. Teachers can create a lesson and manage that content on the students’ iPads. Responses by students on the iPad can be sent to the teacher during the lesson. This app can be used in various situations with all learners and we have found it to be a versatile app for formative assessment.
We felt NearPod would best suit the teachers’ needs because it provided specific formative feedback for each student (as opposed to general feedback about the class as a whole that you would get with the webtool PollEverywhere.) The teachers at Blair were looking at how immediate feedback during a lesson might inform their instruction and provide feedback to students in the area of mathematics and in writing. While planning how to integrate this app into the classroom experience, we realized that it is not necessary to create an entire NearPod lesson for each time you use the app. Instead, teachers can create a lesson with 5-6 blank pages, formatted as a ‘Draw It’ page and a couple of blank pages formatted as ‘Open Ended Question’. As the pages are blank, the prompts need to be provided by the teacher, and can be:
- written on the board/screen at the front of the room
- read out of a book
- given verbally.
One ‘blank’ NearPod lesson can be used in different situations with the intention that the teacher provides the prompts each time it is used. The students can respond in a variety of ways including:
- writing on the iPad
- taking a photo of their written work
- taking a photo of manipulatives they have used
- drawing a picture on the iPad
- taking a photo of a passage/picture from a book.
Students can also annotate/mark up their photos they take, which would allow them to highlight something they want the teacher to notice.
On Tuesday, Janice worked with Kit Kwok as she introduced the NearPod app to her grade six students. One of Kit’s goals in using this technology was for her to receive immediate feedback when students began their practice questions in mathematics, so that she could provide support to the students who might need a mini-lesson or review before continuing on their own.
In this Math lesson, students provided their responses in two different ways: 1) Students completed the work took in their notebook and took a photograph of their response, often circling the answer to highlight it; 2) Other students took a photograph of the hundredths grid and then annotated it on the iPad before submitting it to their teacher.
It should be noted that the Blair students are relatively fluent in using the iPads and were able to support each other and problem-solve as they learned how to use this app. Other classes may need more direction and practice before using it independently. It should also be noted that to start a lesson, students log in with a 5 letter passcode and download the template. Depending on the strength / speed of your wifi connection will determine how quickly the students can connect to the lesson. It is advised to stagger the log-in or do it well in advance.
Kit was very enthusiastic about the experience and was confident that this would be really useful to both her and her students. She liked how she could quickly see the list of students who had logged in and then being able to visually see who had submitted their work. She was able to click on a submitted file to enlarge it and see it in more detail and then provide immediate feedback to students as necessary. Going forward, it looks NearPod will provide the specific formative assessment needed to ensure our learners are understanding the concepts and information we teach on a daily basis.
~ Chris and Janice