Chris Loat 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. Chris shared a few webtools and apps with the teachers before deciding together that NearPod might 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.) 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 can be:
1) written on the board/screen at the front of the room
2) read out of a book
3) given verbally.
This 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:
1) writing on the iPad
2) taking a photo of their written work
3) taking a photo of manipulatives they have used
4) drawing a picture on the iPad
5) 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, I 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.
Tuesday morning was “real life” in school, with interruptions galore and connectivity issues! There were PA announcements for students to come down for different group photographs, information about the earthquake drill after recess and we were initially unable to connect to NearPod. After what we first thought was a wifi connectivity issue, it seems like NearPod was actually doing some sort of update just when we were trying to login. Coincidence, yes, but this happens sometimes! Instead of starting with the iPads, the students started working on some math questions in their notebooks. Finally, Kit got her slides loaded and the code for the students to enter. Kit decided to just use two open “draw it” slides with the title for each being the textbook questions she wanted the students to submit.
Because of our difficulties getting going, we abandoned the original plan and have the students submit the first question from their assigned practice questions. Students who had completed the work took a photograph of their response, often circling the answer to highlight it. 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.
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.
Kit sent us an email later in the week explaining that she had used nearpod every day last week and found it really helpful in assessing what students knew right in the moment.
~Janice and Chris