I spent quite a bit of time exploring Nearpod this week as I think it has the potential to focus and engage the students in my traditional face-to-face class. Nearpod is a program that allows teachers to create interactive mobile presentations. It allows teachers to embed a variety of media and activities in their presentations, such as polls, quizzes, videos, web content and slideshows. There are also presentations that are already prepared and available for download. The biggest advantage of this program that I can see is its ability to build in formative assessments that allow for instant feedback. I found it relatively easy to use, there is an excellent function that allows you to take pre existing google presentations and “nearpodize’ them with a tool in Chrome. This automatically imports your presentation slide by slide. I also found the option to import videos directly from Youtube, to be very handy. Though the number of pre existing presentations and types of activities are limited, it appears that the program is still expanding. Having spoken with a sales representative, I learned that there are many additional activities that will be available after January. The program is multiplatform and “students can interact through iOS devices, Chromebooks, Windows 8.1 devices, Android devices, Nooks and any PC or MAC.’ Some of the drawing activities are designed specifically for iPads, so they are not as useful for my students with notebooks. Pricing depends on features, but for the standard “Gold’ level it is $10/month per teacher. Creation of a product does not take very much time and this product would be useful for both face-to-face classrooms that have one-to-one capabilities and also for online or distance education. Being able to control student activity and get feedback in real time, can be a very powerful tool for guiding instruction. Below is a link to the Nearpod presentation I created for a lesson on the cell membrane, that I am going to try this week.
Sample Nearpod on Cell Membranes open this link.
ClassDojo is a free “realtime behavior tracking and skills management’ application. I learned about this program at a conference and was intrigued by the overwhelmingly positive feedback I was hearing. This program is geared towards K-12 students and is extremely easy to set up and use. I gave this program a test run with two of my classes this week and it took, at most, 10 minutes to set up the program. Initially, each student is assigned an avatar, that they can then redesign to their liking. The teacher can use any mobile device to award or take away points for specific behaviors. The program comes with a set of behaviors, but the teacher can customize extra behaviors that they are interested in monitoring. I chose to add the negative behaviors of texting and web surfing and the positive behavior of asking thoughtful questions. Students then log on to the website and they can see their progress and reflect on their performance in class. One of the best features of this app, is that it logs points for the individuals and class over time, allowing you to see trends in behaviors and award points for behavioral improvement. Below is a screenshot of my classes data so far.
Parents can also log on or sign up for email notification of the students progress. I used this program only twice in class and saw a significant improvement in some of my most challenging students. I was initially skeptical that high school students would be interested in little cartoon avatars and a program that is essentially a behavior chart. However, I think the gaming aspect of it, is what caused the excited response I received when I started ClassDojo. Several of my colleagues reported that students were asking them to start the program in their classes. I simply walk around the class with my iPad and award or take away points. I think that the program makes students more self aware of their behavior in class and they are already beginning to self regulate. Other useful features, are the autogenerated parent letters, a student introductory video and educational handouts to send home with students. There are also professional development materials you can download for use with colleagues.
Biteslide is an application that allows you to create and present projects. It allows both students and teachers to create, manage and share online interactive portfolios and posters. I found this application to be very similar to Glogster.edu, though not nearly as user friendly. The initial creation of the project is relatively user friendly. Users can browse for content using Google or Youtube and upload directly into their portfolio. I felt that the number of graphics, fonts, backgrounds and other aesthetic tools were limited, but perhaps this was because I was using the trial version. I was unimpressed with the help section. I spent a good deal of time looking for ways to embed the portfolio I created and finally found that the option to embed is turned off by default. I was also unhappy with the placement of the “delete’ presentation directly on top of the project. To select and edit a project, it is easy to accidentally delete an entire project, which I unfortunately found out first hand. I think that engagement would improve with a tool like this, but I also think students would experience some level of frustration. I can see the use of this program as an alternative to a traditional paper portfolio or flipbook. Having tried both Biteslide and Glogster I would recommend Glogster over Biteslide. Glogster is much easier to navigate and has a greater range of tools. It also has the added bonus of animation, which I did not see in Biteslide. I created a basic “scapbook’ on mitosis, as a model for a projects that students might be able to create. I found this tutorial to be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmcSM42xho0
How to Use Biteslide by R. Hampton. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmcSM42xho0&feature=youtube_gdata_player