How Nearpod Brought Active Learning To My Classroom

Engaging instruction is the goal of every educator. So when I was introduced to an app that promised such a lofty ideal, I had to try it.

At the time, I was teaching sixth grade math and social studies in a Pennsylvania school district. I had a challenging lesson coming up and sought the assistance of a fellow teacher who was piloting an iPad cart. He allowed me to borrow it for my math lesson on changing fractions. The math series we used had a lesson called ‘The Licorice Lace Problem’ which described a few teens going on a hike. They were dividing up licorice equally among themselves. Just after they cut the licorice another friend shows up, now they need to redistribute the licorice. This is spatially a hard concept to imagine.

But I had an idea!

Nearpod is an app that allows a teacher to present an interactive lesson on the students’ iPads. I had prepared a set of informative slides to describe the scenario. I then created slides that were used as background images for Nearpod’s Draw It slides. Here the students were able to draw right on their iPad, which for this math problem, required them to mark where they would cut the licorice lace. These pictures were submitted to my iPad, wirelessly through Nearpod, so I had instant feedback if they understood the concept or if they needed another attempt. I could share out student examples anonymously to their iPads for class discussion. I was also able to pose a poll, Q & A, multiple choice, or true/false style questions. Students would get instant feedback on their answers to these questions. All in all, active learning was taking place.

As soon as I opened the cart, I had the students’ attention. After establishing some management guidelines with the class, everyone logged into Nearpod with the student pin. My struggling students were participating and weren’t afraid to be wrong because it wasn’t directly in the eyes of their peers, like it would if they were up at the board or showing their work under the document camera.

The excitement, engagement, and of course, every teacher’s favorite word, data proved this app to be useful. I was able to go into the Nearpod website with my log-in credentials (free account) and access all the information gathered during the lesson. I could see the Draw Its each student submitted and create graphs on student responses.

Currently I’m employed with a NJ school district as a teacher resource specialist for technology. Their iPad initiative includes three iPads in every first and second grade classroom in each of their four elementary buildings. By sharing iPads among grade level classes or working on targeted mini lessons in small groups, teachers have been able to do Nearpod lessons on topics like telling time, counting money, and weather, to name a few. This has been a useful tool!

Teachers can download the free app and create a free account. The site is user friendly and straight forward. I’ve made my slides on PowerPoint or SMART Notebook then saved as images to upload into my Nearpod lesson. Nearpod is adding more features as well. You have the ability to share out a website during a lesson, embed a video, and its newest feature for the flipped classroom Nearpod Homework, where the students can go through a lesson at their pace. This is a wonderful tool that has a growing following on Twitter (great place to go to read how others have used it or ask questions #NearpodTeachers).

Teachers want a way to deliver interactive lessons to engage all learners and I feel, no, I know, Nearpod has been my answer.

Cross-posted on Edudemic:
Tech & Learning Advisor Blog:

“Going to a SMART Showcase is a Must-Do:” Dan Gallagher Explains

Dan Gallagher, a SMART Exemplary Educator from West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in New Jersey, recently attended one of the SMART New Collaboration Solutions Showcase events in New York City. He kindly shared what it’s like to attend one of those sessions from the educator’s point of view. Remember you can also register for these events here. Over to Dan!

By Dan Gallagher

Time can be a precious commodity for educators. Creating lesson plans for missing a day at school can be an arduous task. But going to a SMART Showcase Event is a must-do experience. I went to New York City and was able to be hands-on with a variety of new and updated products. Here are the top seven things that stood out to me and why.

LightRaise 60wi interactive projector

This wall-mounted projector will display from 64 inches to 100 inches. It has a built- in speaker and microphone for recording and playing back your lessons. You can use the rechargeable pens or your finger with up to two users at the same time. This is so cool to operate, just as long as your wall is flat. It has a laser scanning just above the surface of the wall to detect your activity. One part you need to get use to, as it took me a couple of reminders, unlike the other SMART Boards where you pick up the pen to write and then use your finger to select — you must identify each time you switch to a different task. At the event we were told the LightRaise is a perfect secondary display in a classroom or collaborative learning space.

SMART Board 8055i interactive flat panel

This option comes in two sizes, a 55 inch or 70 inch display. No longer will the teacher have to worry about casting a shadow over the image. It is an LED-backlit LCD screen, which two users can operate together. Now schools don’t have to worry about bulb burnout. Another nice feature is it automatically detects a person’s presence. When you are not near the device for a period of time it will power down, saving on electricity and then when your proximity comes closer, it will power on.

SMART Table 442i collaborative learning center

Coming from a district that had the first version of SMART Tables, this update takes every concern we had and improves upon the original design. Just like the original, the Table can manage eight users. But better than before, this Table can allow students to sit around it comfortably. It is scratch proof, liquid resistant, and instead of displaying by a projector it is a 42 inch LCD. They made a point to focus on how to make this accessible for children with special needs. There are four headphone jacks with individual volume controls, plenty of room for a wheelchair to access it, and five USB ports for a variety of devices like a student’s joystick or integrate a SMART Document Camera. On the teacher end of operations, you can now access activity packs from a USB, those saved to the Table (which can be deleted easily) or from the SMART Exchange directly.

These next few items aren’t devices but great collaboration tools!

XC Add-on Beta for Notebook software: This add-on to Notebook allowed us to submit comments to the SMART Board at the start to our lesson. We were shown an object and had to submit what we thought it was. It engaged our learning while also kick starting instruction.
Bridgit for iPad app: I tried this on my iPad. It was a free app,* which allowed me to join a SMART Notebook activity. I was able to interact without having to touch the board. This could be extremely helpful in classrooms that have SMART Notebook or if you want more than one user actively engaged at the same time.
SMART Notebook app for iPad (available on the iTunes App store) and Dropbox: Like a previous post I wrote, we were able to open a Notebook file, which was shared to us through a Dropbox folder. In this activity, we were split into groups, each received a page in the file to work on collaboratively on our iPads with the SMART Notebook app and then upload back into the Dropbox folder.
SMART Response VE interactive response system: Our lesson concluded with a short virtual quiz. Our devices were able to access it by going online to SMART Response and entering the class through a code. The questions and answer choices or space to type a response was displayed on our device and we could answer them at our own pace.
This event provided an opportunity to be hands-on with each of these tools. We were able to have all of our questions answered and were shown where we could reference follow-up information. Our day ended with a give-away SMART Slate.

Shout out to Tara Mattingly, our Educational Consultant and facilitator of fun!

Cross-posted at EdCompass Blog:

SMART Notebook App for iPad Benefits Absent Students: Dan Explains

You and your students enjoyed a great collaborative learning experience with your students using SMART products, but one or two students were absent. You’d like to share the content from that class but know the experience isn’t the same social experience when one student is interacting with a SMART Board interactive whiteboard alone while the rest of the class focuses on alternative activities. Dan Gallagher, a SMART Exemplary Educator from West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in New Jersey, finds SMART Notebook app for iPad (available on the iTunes App store) is a great way for students to catch up on the lesson using a student device.

By Dan Gallagher

How can absent students catch up if they miss a group activity with the SMART Board interactive whiteboard?

We’ve all been there, you have a SMART Notebook interactive lesson prepared and a couple of students are absent or pulled to go to instrument practice, speech, to the office or nurse, etc. When they come back that day or tomorrow, you would like them to do the activity but do not want to run the SMART Board for just one or two students. What about the rest of the class? Will it be a distraction or too repetitive? You originally took all that extra time to make it fun and engaging for all your students.

This won’t be a problem if you have access to the SMART Notebook app for iPad! Now you can take your interactive lessons, upload them to a Dropbox or Google Drive account and access them on your iPad.

SMART Notebook app for iPad works within the parameters of iPad iOS

Anything you created in the Activity Builder can be completed, reset, and completed again. Sorting activities are now mobile. Each student can cycle through either as a learning center or as a 1:1 activity with the teacher. This provides a chance for students to complete activities using ink, adding text, sounds, pictures, as well as create and move objects. Some of my favorite techniques which bring independence to a lesson are pull tabs and erase to reveal. The pull tab is a way for students to check their work with grouped answers which are accessed by sliding a tab across the page. Another way to cover your answers is with pen ink which the students can then erase to reveal the correct responses.

Note: The SMART Notebook app for iPad, being on an iPad, is restricted to the confines of Apple’s iOS. Anything created using Flash will not operate on the iPad. That means any interactive elements like having your dice spin, adding a timer or a Voki (speaking avatar) created in Flash will only show as a locked image. Creating an Internet browser and having it pinned to a particular page also comes up as a locked image. The math tools like the ruler or protractor unfortunately do not work either. My rule of thumb is to test it out ahead of time to ensure everything in your activity works properly. But, as seen with the latest update, SMART is adding more features from the recommendations of its users.

Additional applications

Since this is SMART Notebook software, your students can also make use of the app to create presentations which can be emailed, uploaded, or projected from the iPad. They have the ability to take photos with the iPad camera, use images on the camera roll or paste images they find online. They could record their own sounds up to a minute in length which are connected to images or objects. This is a lighter version of Notebook, but in the hands of a student, it can be a medium to display knowledge.

Justifying the purchase

We have started to see some fee-based content on the SMART Exchange and the SMART Notebook app is also something to be purchased. It is $6.99 which some teachers might dismiss, but don’t. You might be thinking, “I’ll just use Notebook Express,” but that version of SMART Notebook requires Flash and is not suitable for use on an iPad. Any student, anywhere can be engaged in learning. Lessons can be accessed for those who miss the activity, need remediation, or you can use it to increase the rigor of an activity for your high flyers. No longer will students be completely missing out if they weren’t able to participate on the SMART Board that day. The app enables students to benefit from SMART’s interactivity on a personal device.

Cross-posted at EdCompass Blog:

Its been a while…

Lots of changes… Left the School District of Springfield Township; joined the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School district in New Jersey. Between moving, getting engaged, planning for a wedding, etc. I completely forgot about keeping up with my blog. That doesn’t mean I stopped blogging. I will be adding a few blog posts I’ve made other places. Hope to get back into this…

SMART Distance Courses

I was selected last year to be a SMART Exemplary Educator. One of the perks rewarded me a free online certification. I went for a Cert. as an Interactive Teacher. I was able to take courses on SMART Notebook, Board, Response, Table, etc. It was extremely valuable and I learned a lot in each course. The new course offerings have been posted and it is definitely worth it. Take a look: Training

Not Tech Related… But Ed Related…

Yesterday while sitting down with colleagues over lunch, during a summer in-service academy, one teacher made a revelation that had me thinking. We are so focused on incorporating cross-curricular material in our lessons; do we think about how each subject is taught and how it affects the others. Here’s his thoughts, how do we teach reading unknown words? Sound it out… Chunking… and then the biggest: Skip it and use context clues to figure out what you didn’t understand! Imagine a student using that strategy in Science or Math. -(-4^3)=___

Do students understand that certain strategies are locked by subject area? Your thoughts