Monday, December 21, 2015

My favorite tool for creating interactive PowerPoint presentations

PowerPoint has lots of problems, one of which is the inherent challenge of keeping students engaged when they are watching a distant image on a screen at the front of the classroom.  But there are tools to make those presentations more engaging.  My favorite one right now is Nearpod.
Image result for nearpod
With Nearpod you take your existing presentations (PowerPoint, Google Slides, or PDFs) and make them interactive.  You do that by uploading your presentation to the Nearpod site, then embed interactive components like open-ended, poll, or quiz questions throughout.  You make them available to your students by giving them a PIN code for the presentation.  They then follow your presentation on their personal device or computer.  Some students don't have a device?  Let them share.

What makes Nearpod cool #1: It's a great formative-assessment tool.  Try to add a question to check for understanding every 5-6 slides.  Now you can monitor student understanding in real time.  Did they actually understand what you just presented?  As students answer each question, each student's response is displayed immediately on your tablet or computer.  This allows you to see how well the class is doing generally, and which students need extra help.  You can adjust your instruction (maybe by reteaching that last segment) accordingly.

What makes Nearpod cool #2: Students can show what they know by drawing it.  Another interactive component is called Draw-It.  With Draw-It, students draw answers on their screen (with the mouse on computers, and with their fingers on smartphones or tablets).  In this example below, a student is drawing and labeling a pie chart showing popular voting results in the Election of 1848.

What makes Nearpod cool #3: I have their complete attention.  They are watching the presentation in front of them, on their own devices.  And I am controlling their phone!  When I swipe my iPad to advance to the next slide, that action is duplicated on their device.  No more (or much less) off-task texting to friends during class.

Nearpod runs web-based or as an app.  I use the web-based site to add the interactive components to my presentations, then use the app on my iPad when I am instructing my students. 

If you want to learn more about Nearpod, this tutorial (2:29) can help you get started.