Nearpod: A Near Miss Might Be Bigger Than a Mile

As the iPad continues to grow in popularity and numbers in school 1:1 programs, I am always on the lookout for utilities that will improve the teaching and learning experience in this environment. Yesterday I was completely infatuated with a new crush, but like most crushes, it was short-lived and bitter-ending.

Nearpod is a combination slideshow assessment tool for teachers and presenters. The basic version of the app is free and crosses all platforms. A presenter can upload a PowerPoint presentation, and by sharing a login number, the presentation can appear on the devices of all the audience. While it’s been easy to share the presentation before, this has the added ability to keep one’s audience from moving off the current slide. The most interesting feature to me was that interactive slides can be fit into the presentation, allowing the presenter to gather data through multiple choice, short answer, or poll questions. Everyone who is logged in can respond to these questions, and these responses are immediately visible on the presenter screen. This is very attractive to me, as I’ve been looking for tools that can increase interactivity and assessment. The app also has a homework feature, where students can complete related assignments later and have the results reported automatically to the presenter machine. Ecstatically, I texted several educator friends that I had seen the promised land.

Ah me, be careful about early enthusiasms, dear reader, for time and experience can change one. Today I’m singing a slightly different tune.

Yesterday, I decided to use Nearpod for a presentation I’m giving today, and in the setup and practice, I saw behind the mask. First the positive, the app is very easy to use, I uploaded a PowerPoint file, and it was automatically converted. Simple editing tools allow basic additions and changes. I put in interactive screens which were easy to compose. Once done, I logged into the presentation on my phone and was able to follow easily. The interactive slides were easy to read and respond, and the results appeared on my main screen quickly and in clear graph form. I could see a teacher watching these graphs to see the comprehension level of students in order to adjust instruction. These features address many instructional needs.

As well as the creation tools, the are also premade lessons available for purchase. I liked this as an add-on option, though I didn’t purchase any, so I can’t attest to the quality. There is a preview of all slides before purchase. At $2.99 per lesson, this could get very expensive, though I could see the value of occasional use.

So with all this positive, why am I disillusioned? Nearpod falls into a category of application that does many things well but has a few essential flaws that sour the experience for me.

In this case there are three deal breakers. First, the PowerPoint slides are imported as pictures, not slides, so any builds or interactive elements are lost. I rely on bringing in points as they are discussed to keep my audience with me and occasionally for dramatic or humorous effect. This was one of the values of PowerPoint over older models, and with Nearpod I give it back. Second, there are two essential elements that are missing from the free version. The free version allows sharing with 30 devices, so any teacher or presenter with a group over 30 could not share with all (even the paid version is capped at 50, so most of my audiences are too large). The free version also doesn’t have the homework module, which was one of the most attractive features. Finally, the pro version is not a one-time purchase, but a monthly subscription of $10.00. In the apposphere, this is so beyond most other tools. This is Netflix pricing (Netflix is cheaper) not classroom tool pricing. Though group rates are available, I can’t see paying even half this for one classroom tool. There are too many free alternatives which may lack integration, but work well and, once again, are free.

After talking about some of these challenges on Twitter, I received contact from one of the creators. We had a good discussion, and he respectfully listened to my points. I told him that I would continue to follow the progress and experiment, but without some significant changes, I couldn’t see myself using or recommending it.

So I’m returning to SlideShark, Prezi, and Socrative, all free and in some ways better. There are few things as frustrating as a tool that almost gets it right.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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Date: Friday, 7. March 2014 16:09
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