All New Nearpod

By Nick Acton

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App updates are an unbelievable aspect of using new technology. We all take ‘updates’ for granted. How often have you ignored update pop-ups? How often do you let them build up in the app store? I am definitely guilty of neglecting the update button on any device I use. However, an app’s ability to evolve is undeniably impressive.

 Every so often, one of these progressions brings a number of incredible features that can dramatically change the potential of an app. Nearpod is a web-based application that has periodically updated in spectacular fashion. If you haven’t heard of Nearpod or seen it in action please check out my blog '10 Ways of using Nearpod in the Classroom’. In this blog, we will look specifically at the new features with this interactive presentation and assessment tool. The interactivity has become more interactive, the assessment capabilities have expanded and the presenting potential has been honed within what is one of the best educational apps out there. 

Let’s look at the all-new features in Nearpod.

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Collaborate

 
One of the newest features within the app is an activity called ‘Collaborate’. This is an element that you can embed into a learning presentation that enables children to share ideas in real-time on a virtual pinboard. The teacher simply prompts the learners with a topic and the children can add their ideas in the form of text and photos. It’s essentially an interactive mind mapping tool that enables all of the children to see each other's contributions appearing in real-time. The pinboard that is created can be saved by the teacher and the children for them to refer back to. From an assessment point of view, a teacher can get a quick idea of their class’s understanding of any given subject.

Sway


Sway is an unbelievable free resource. Choosing to add some Sway content to your presentation enables a teacher to embed some pre-made educational materials. There is an extensive bank of interactive digital workbooks available within the app. You can find inspiring content on geographical, historical, cultural and scientific topics. Ultimately, this means that you can begin to build in-depth and relevant learning information into your Nearpod presentations with very little work required. However, if you want to create bespoke Sway content, you can via an Office 365 account that directly interacts with the application. The addition of Sway within Nearpod expands the presentation and assessment tool’s capabilities to no end. 

Slide

 
As well as being able to import slides from other apps (such as Keynote, Powerpoint, Smart Note etc), Nearpod enables teachers to create slide decks within the app itself. In the past, the slide making capabilities were pretty limited. The most recent update of Nearpod offers a much better solution. The new slide creator provides some simple templates to build on. The templates can then be filled with Text, Images, Audio, Videos, and Gifs! This selection of content means that any teacher can build attractive and eye-catching slides. 

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The addition of audio makes the slides more accessible and the direct access to Gifs can help to make the slide deck more interesting. Sparking the imagination of a class and drawing their attention to specifics is challenging in this world of sleek online content. This advancement within the app enables anyone to create stylish content that can rival any other slide making software. 

3D

Another string to Nearpod’s bow is the addition of the 3D content that you can now insert into any presentation. As part of its commitment to visually arresting content, the app has added a range of virtual three-dimensional elements. These educational elements can be spun around and zoomed into by a class of children. They can explore objects, planets, organs, animals, places and much much more. Whilst this isn't the newest addition to Nearpod, it is one of the most useful. Many teachers are constantly on the hunt for hooks that can engage their class in a new subject. The range of 3D elements available can have a bearing within a huge number of teaching topics. Ultimately, however, for a visual and kinaesthetic learner, the ability to interact with a virtual representation of various elements might just be the difference between understanding and not understanding something. 


Field Trip


And finally, the new(ish) addition of the ‘Field Trip’ feature is a game-changer in my opinion. Again, this content has been available on Nearpod for a while but it is one of the best tools with the app. The Field Trip feature provides you with a huge number of 360 degree virtual reality settings from around the world. In other words, you can place a child in a setting on the other side of the planet and through the screen, they can look around and explore.  It’s called ‘Field Trip’ for a reason. You can transport your class to weird and wonderful places at the click of a button or the swipe of a finger.

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This is not only powerful in Geography lessons. The virtual reality can immerse the class in the setting. Therefore, it is perfect for inspiring descriptions or firing up imaginations within story writing. It can help children to understand the cultural, historical or religious significance of certain settings. You can even choose an underwater virtual reality option that can have a big impact on scientific understandings. It really is a magical function that can engage an entire class and provide a hugely visual experience for learners. 

We all know how fickle children can be. One week it’s ‘Gangnam Style’ and the next it’s ‘Pen Pineapple Apple Pen’. Web-based applications like Nearpod lay a myriad of engaging educational tools in front of you. You can pick and mix. Use the 3D element in one presentation and the Sway function in the next. Embed the Field Trip and some engaging Slides in the next presentation that you create. Let’s not forget that all of these additional features are on top of everything that has been on the app since day one. You can still insert Quizzes, Draw It boards, Open-Ended Questions, Matching Games, Videos, Audio, Polls and so on. Having more options means that you can actively combat the fickle nature of many classes. More importantly, however, you can quickly and easily create powerful learning resources that will engage and inspire. No tool offers more in my opinion.

Nick Acton is an Apple Curriculum Specialist at JTRS as well as being a part-time Computing and Music teacher. Through the creation of bespoke training, Nick specialises in empowering educators so they can embed Apple technologies into their day-to-day classroom practice.