February 18, 2014
Today was a really special (and exhausting!) day for me. I spent the day in the classroom of a good friend and colleague, Theresa Lewis-King. Theresa teaches at AMY Northwest, a middle school in Philadelphia. Last fall, Theresa wrote a mini-grant and obtained three iPad minis for her classroom. She knows I use technology with my students, and she was looking for ideas of how to use the iPads in her classroom. She already discovered Doceri and was using that with students, which they really enjoyed. But now, she was looking for a way to have students to work with authentic scientific data on the iPad, yet also use the same functionality that Doceri offers with sharing student work from the iPad screen to the SmartBoard in the front of the room.
I’m not sure how I first heard about Nearpod, but I thought it was worth a try for what I had in mind. I attended one of their online “WebiNear” sessions, and I learned how Nearpod can control what is displayed on all iPads in the classroom, allow for students to complete quizzes and polls, allow for students to draw items, and even allow me as the instructor to view a record of all the student responses and scores. I was able to create a free account, her school had wireless internet access, what could go wrong? (amazingly, besides me losing my voice by the last class period, nothing did!)
Theresa told me she had just finished her unit on the process of science, and she was about to start talking about weather and climate. I decided to use the data my students have been collecting on campus for the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Tree Banding Project to create a lesson that reviewed the differences between the terms weather and climate, look at the gap width data for a few different tree species, interpret that data, and make predictions. I was able to use the functions available in Nearpod to have students draw graphs and answer multiple-choice and short-answer questions. For example, I presented students with an empty graph, where I had set up the axes. I asked students to draw on the graph how they believed the gap width on a tree band would increase over time. After they drew their predictions and I shared some sample responses with the students, I showed the students the actual data. Then, we answered some questions based on reading data from the graph. Then, the students were asked to make predictions for tree growth in the future. (OK – this is a really rough summary of what we covered – but you get the idea) Considering that today was my first day using Nearpod, I was pleased at how easy it was to use and how effective the interactive features made my time in the classroom. And I did not even have to utilize the feature that lets me see if any students exit out of the Nearpod program and start “exploring” the iPad on their own – all of the students stayed on task with my lesson. At the end of each class period, I emailed a PDF file with the student responses and submissions to Theresa so she could have a copy of the student work.
I feel I was able to accomplish Theresa’s objectives for the day. I sure accomplished my goal of not only having students get hands-on with technology, but showing Theresa how iPad technology can be used for engagement and assessment, while also showing students that students can collect scientific data for real research projects – that students can also carry out the process of science! Now I’ll need to think about how I might be able to use Nearpod with my own university classes in the fall semester…