Apps, Education, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites


Screenshot from "How it Works"
Screenshot from “How it Works” for Nearpod

Nearpod is a free iPad app (and website) that has been around awhile.  It basically “sends” presentation to multiple devices at the same time.  I’ve been reading about it on lots of blogs, and thinking, “Well, that’s nice, but it doesn’t really suit my needs.”  One reason that I haven’t felt the urge to use it is that we don’t have a 1 to 1 program in our school.  And the other reason is because it appealed just a bit too much to the control freaky side of me.  I’ve been working for 20 years to let go of some of my control so my classroom would be more student-centered.  Nearpod seemed like it might tempt me to regress.

“Pshaw,” I said whenever I read the articles praising Nearpod.  (Can you tell I’m a Little House on the Prairie fan?)  Presentations are what my projector and screen are for.  Plus, I do as few lectures/presentations as possible in my classroom, preferring to exist in a controlled chaos as the students work on ten thousand different projects at once.

That’s all well and good until you can’t use your projector, and you are scheduled to give a staff development to 50 teachers on a tech tool most of them have never used, and you are sure as soon as they take out their laptops they will be paying attention to anything but you.  (I only base that on my own failure to pay attention at staff developments; perhaps you are more focused than I am at 3:00 in the afternoon…)

I vaguely remembered Nearpod, and thought it could serve my purpose since all of our teachers now have iPads.

After downloading the app, and visiting the website, I realized I had way misjudged Nearpod.  Because this is not about having control (okay, maybe it’s a little about control), but it also allows for interactivity and ongoing assessment – two things I love.

Let’s say you have a Powerpoint presentation.  Save it as a PDF, and import it into Nearpod.  Each slide is, well, a slide.  But, then you can add video, polls, quizzes, and websites into the presentation.  All of which each iPad bearer can participate in LIVE.  And, each person’s responses for any of the assessments are recorded and preserved for the teacher’s viewing pleasure later.

Complete confession – I haven’t actually used Nearpod with the faculty yet.  I practiced in my classroom with two iPads – one student and one teacher – to see how it worked.  But, according to my multiple personalities, it seemed quite engaging.

And, with my students, I still don’t plan to be doing a lot of my own presentations.  We have a few more iPads this year, but they are still sharing.  However, I can definitely foresee this being an option for the kids who are making their own presentations.  Another great possibility for Genius Hour.

You can see for itself how it works in the video embedded here.

6-12, Creative Thinking, Education, Teaching Tools, Universal Design for Learning, Videos, Web 2.0, Websites


During the summer, several of my favorite bloggers, including Richard Byrne at Free Tech 4 Teachers and  Kelly Tenkely at iLearn Technology, posted about a new tool that is in Beta right now, called PowToon.  If you have advanced from Powerpoint to Prezi, and are looking for a new presentation tool, PowToon might be your new choice.  You will need to give them your e-mail address in order to get an invitation, but you should receive your login info fairly quickly; mine was in less than an hour.  The basic level is free, granting you 20 uploads per month to YouTube.

Because PowToon is in Beta, there are a lot of features that are promised for the future.  One problem that will hopefully be fixed fairly soon is the method for inserting images.  You cannot insert directly from your computer files; you must give a URL on which the image is hosted.  This is not insurmountable, but causes a few extra steps that are a bit monotonous.

I will direct you to Richard’s and Kelly’s posts for more details on PowToon.  Kelly’s post is quite detailed, and she recommends watching PowToon’s How to Create Series – which I also highly suggest – once you get logged in.

Below is one of my PowToons, created about Universal Design for Learning.  The video can also be found here: