Monthly Archives: February 2016

Nearpod: Giving presentations on your students’ devices

In this week leading up to Spring Break (The Ed Tech blog will be going to Daytona Beach for spring break – alas I’ll be staying in sunny Sioux City) I want to share a presentation/activity application that has been relatively popular in K-12 called Nearpod.  Nearpod is a presentation and activity application that allows instructors to control the pace of the lesson from their device, but also allows students to see the materials on their own devices rather than a screen at the front of the room.

Some of the immediate benefits that I see from this is that you can incorporate both the material and the activity into one application, teachers and students alike report increased levels of engagement in class, the activities allow for immediate feedback, and the more up-close presentation style can allow for small images to be more easily seen.

To give you a taste of Nearpod here are three short videos.  The first shows how easy it is to create these presentations. The second shows the view from the student perspective and the third from the view of the teacher.

In this first video I create one content slide and two interactive slide (a quiz and a draw activity).

This second video shows the student’s view.  In this view as the student I am not able to progress myself across slides.  In the quiz feature however, I am able to go at my own pace from question to question.

In the third video is the instructor view.  Here as the instructor I am dictating the pace of the slides.  You’ll see when the quiz slide is up I’ll see student progress and see what they got right/wrong. In the draw slide I’ll see the drawings as they are submitted.  I can then choose a student drawing to share to other student’s devices anonymously (no name attached).  Nice way to do some peer review or critiquing.


Though Nearpod has been used almost exclusively in K-12 and most of the ready-made lessons available are for K-12 students, there has been some headway into Higher Education.  The University of Brighton in the UK ran a pilot asking instructors volunteer to use Nearpod in their university courses.  Overall the reviews were positive and both instructors and students enjoyed the experience and felt like it improved their learning.  Here is a link to the Nearpod blog which contains a link to Univ. of Brighton’s full report.

Many of the features are free to use with an account, but the premium account offers some more potentially useful features such as:

  • Pushing web content
  • Pushing PDFs
  • Inserting a Twitter Feed
  • Virtual Reality field trips
  • Fill-in-the-blank questions
  • Memory Test

There are also self-guided features where instructors can assign homework via Nearpod (so it’s not always instructor driven pace).  One creative way to use this that I say is to use these self-guided lessons and interactive activities as a way to help student brainstorm through a project or problem.  Students are also able to create their own Nearpod presentations/lessons and as we all know, when students are doing the creating themselves good things can happen.  This could also serve as a form of electronic assessment artifact potentially.

The one major weakness I see is that Nearpod is best utilized by the students when they have a tablet device or computer with touchscreen technology.  The Draw activity is a potentially powerful application (think math, problem solving, drawing diagrams), but is awkward on a computer with a mouse. Other than this obvious weakness, there are some exciting possibilities with this application.

Bubbli and other 360 Resources

Ever wanted to share more than just one image with a picture? Did a static pano just not quite give you the full effect of the scene? Now there are free tools to create interactive spheres of images!  Bubbli is one such tool.  Using just your smartphone you can create a full 360 (up down, side to side, really more than just 360) image.

Here is one that I created of my office

Now beyond just being cool, there could be some utility for this in the classroom.  For example, if you were to go on a field trip and require your students to build some type of assignment about their trip, this could be a tool that allows for a type of virtual tour to be created.

For instructors who take their students on other trips (such as Morningside’s May Term) this could be an interesting way for students to create their journals.  Generally including the “Bubble” is as easy as embedding this into a website (it appears WordPress does not allow the embed code in their HTML editor).  But I was easily able to do this through the Moodle text box. An assignment like this could be achieved using the online text Assignment feature, or even the individual wiki feature.

There are also other 360 degree resources out there that might be of use for teachers.  One that I ran across comes from the Civil War Trust and provides 360 guided tours of some of the Civil War battlegrounds. This could provide a powerful visual when discussing the battle itself and battle strategy.

Another area might be in Art history and looking at specific sites and/or buildings. Columbia University Media Center for Art History has a few 360 panoramas.

Google searches for places and 360 generally will take you to some images that have been created.  Here’s one close to my heart of Machu Picchu.





Smithsonian X 3D

This week in Ed Tech I’m going to bounce off the general topic from last week on Google’s 3D technology Google Cardboard and share another site that uses some 3D technology: Smithsonian X 3D.

This site houses a few objects from the Smithsonian that have been scanned into a 3D image that can be manipulated on a screen (no it does not have a Google Cardboard feature, but wouldn’t that be cool!). The types of images range from artifacts like statues, live masks, furniture, historic clothing, fossils, and some galactic images (supernova).

Some of the features of this site include being able to ‘turn’ the object around to see all sides, take measurements using the tool feature, and to use different angles of light to explore the object.  Some of these objects also come with a guided tour. There are also downloads to create 3D prints of the object should you have access to a 3D printer.

Though a bit limited in its current offerings there could be some objects that might be pertinent to your classroom.  It’s worth checking out

Google Cardboard

The Ed Tech Blog was delayed due to weather last week (that’s a legitimate excuse right?), but we are back on track this week.  In this week’s blog post I just wanted to share a new toy that I’ve recently become fascinated with: Google Cardboard.

For those that have not heard of this yet, Google Cardboard is an inexpensive 3-dimensional viewer that is composed of a free app (Google Cardboard) and a viewer (literally cardboard in most cases). It’s really this generations ‘ViewFinder.” Google Cardboard came out just a year or so ago and I think that there are some exciting possibilities for this technology in the class room.  Currently having 3D tools is quite expensive.  I think that Cardboard has the possibility of making 3D images more accessible to all.  A few possible ideas for this (as long as there are apps created for it) would be things like anatomy, history, geography, art history, really anything where objects and/or places are a central feature to the content.  Students can use their smart phones and an inexpensive viewer ($20.00 in most cases) to see these objects in 3D.

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Another possibility is the potential to actually create 3D images.  Google has Cardboard Camera currently available for Android devices.  They claim that one can create 3D images by using a pano-type photograph. If this is true and the creation of 3D images is as simple as taking a photograph, imagine the possibilities for students to create their own 3D content.  May Term journals could come to life, campus tours could be virtual, descriptive speeches could have a unique visual aid. I’m sure there are other creative possibilities out there.

However, with my excitement about the possibilities, I’m discouraged by my inability to play around with actually creating 3D content (I have only iOS devices) but Google claims to be making an iOS version of its Cardboard Camera soon.  Additionally it appears that the apps that may be the most likley to be used in the classroom are currently Android only. I think we may be a little bit away from students being able to create their own content, but for now there could be some real possibilities for showing visual content to students in the classroom.

Until the 3D available apps and content development improves, there are also some non-3D alternatives that may prove useful/interesting.  YouTube has a number of 360 video (#360Video). These do not require a special viewer as they are not really in 3D. There are also so-called VR videos but I find that the effect is really minimal and the videos are still best simply viewed from the screen (no cardboard viewer needed).

If you are interested in seeing Cardboard just let me know.  I have a viewer in my office and the app on my phone.  Unfortunately I think direct classroom application is not all that feasible just yet, but I predict in the near future this technology being very useful once it is more platform independent and the content is easier to create.