In June I attended the Jisc RSC South West TurboTEL conference in Bristol, and one piece of technology in particular, Nearpod, caught my eye, for both the ingenious uses the presenters were putting it to, and the possibilities of it’s application.

Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education began their short presentation by explaining to us some of the challenges of teaching students who are not only deaf, but have a range of other learning difficulties as well, very often ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This can present quite a problem in communication, because young people with ASD often have trouble making eye-contact, or even looking at other people at all, and of course a deaf autistic student who will not look at a teacher cannot see them signing!

The solution they use is Nearpod, an application which allows the teacher to have the presentation on the main screen, but allows the students to follow along on their own devices. When the teacher changes a slide, the slide will automatically change for all of the students viewing the lesson, and interactivity can also be built into presentations where students can perform actions, draw diagrams or answer questions, which are then sent back to the teachers screen in real time, and used in report generation. Nearpod also gathers information on student device use, and can be used from anywhere for distance learning.

I did ask the presenter’s about the conflict this method of teaching causes with where we are asking students to look, particularly for deaf students Nearpod requires them to look at both their device and at their teacher at once. To solve this, Exeter Deaf Academy only use the application in lessons which lend themselves well to this form of learning, and Nearpod also provides functionality to send each student personalised instructions on screen, which can negate most of the need to look away from the device.

I really enjoyed the demonstration they gave to us of the capabilities of Nearpod, and found it an exciting application for small group learning. The licensing on it does not allow Nearpod to scale up to session sizes required by Higher Education plenaries, with the maximum being 200 students per live session, but I thought that the possibility for distance learning and custom interaction, as well as real-time reporting on participation, make NearPod a particularly powerful tool that could have many potential uses for us in the future.

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