Germantown, Tennessee—August 10, 2018—
This year, all students in grades 6-12 have been issued a device. As the students filed into the Houston Middle Library this summer to pick up their devices, teachers and administrators were simultaneously training staff on the use of a new lesson-delivery software.
“Nearpod, the new lesson-delivery platform, will do several things for the teachers,” explained Blended Learning Specialist Chris Cooper. “It’s something like PowerPoint which is easy for teachers to learn and understand, but it offers several interactive features for students that go beyond the capabilities of PowerPoint,” he said. Features—like on-line polling, a digital sticky note system called “Flip Grid”, and virtual reality field trips are among some of the offered fare. “Teachers can now use Nearpod to check understanding during the course of the lesson with pop-up mini-quizzes or the polling feature,” said Cooper.
Principal Liz Dias is incredibly excited about the virtual reality capabilities. Students could, for example, during a world history lesson about ancient Mesoamerica, virtually visit a Mayan temple and “walk around” inside of it.
On the first week of school, teachers Susan Simmons and Robyn Rudisill were already employing the new software. “We used them today to do a gallery walk for Expeditionary Learning [a reading lesson]. Student engagement is much higher and our students' retention was greater. The uses and capabilities for this app are tremendous,” said eighth grade teacher Susan Simmons. They sent their students on a ‘gallery walk’ of images related to the week’s reading passage while students virtually shared their thoughts via device straight to electronic chalkboards. Rudisill, who partnered in the development of this assignment, was most excited about the mode of immediate student feedback during the lesson. “It was an excellent tool for getting students to respond quickly during the lessons—I used it to check for understanding and to review some common grammar mistakes,” she said.
According to the Chris Cooper, who led the summer training, what he particularly likes about the delivery platform is two-fold. “Teachers can show their lesson [like a PowerPoint], but the students can view it on their own devices. Each slide is interactive in some way for the student. The teacher controls the advancement of slides and activities to keep everyone on task,” he said. Furthermore, Nearpod offers a large library of prefabricated lessons, along with activities—like the virtual field trips—that will give the teachers a jumpstart in creating engaging content for their lessons this year.
“A huge tenet of Blended Learning is that devices are not being used for mere substitution of a textbook or a PowerPoint, but are used to expand what is possible during a lesson,” said Cooper.