Tag Archives: nearpod

4 Interactive Tools to Help Learners Build Reading Skills

Classrooms are made up of diverse readers, all with different abilities. As teachers, we need to be aware of our students’ strengths and weaknesses and create interactive lessons that meet the needs of all the learners in our classroom. Through differentiation and scaffolding, teachers can personalize learning while simultaneously building reading skills.

There are dozens of tools out there to help teach literacy skills and show students how to be, as described in the ISTE Standards for Students, Knowledge Constructors and Empowered Learners. The challenge for teachers is finding the right tools to help personalize lessons specific to their grade level and content area, while at the same time supporting the diverse learners in their classrooms.

Here are four of my favorite platforms for creating personalized, interactive reading lessons:

1.  Actively Learn

This digital reading platform offers a catalog of articles and texts suitable for elementary and secondary students. You can assign texts for your students to read as well as embed questions, polls and writing assessments throughout the reading. You can also embed media and hyperlinks in the text to help guide student reading and thinking.

Another benefit of Actively Learn is that it offers not only pre-made reading lessons with questions aligned to cited Common Core State Standards, but also the ability to upload your own text and create customized reading assignments for students. If a student doesn’t know the meaning of a word, right-clicking on the word brings up a menu where the student can choose to see a definition, translate the word or hear the word read aloud.

Because Actively Learn lets students translate the text into different languages or hear it read aloud, ELL students can read in their native languages and struggling students get help with text comprehension.

Customizing assignments with a digital platform like Actively Learn leads to more effective and independent instruction that targets students’ strengths and weaknesses by giving support to students that need it, while omitting it for those who don’t.

2.  Newsela

With a focus on nonfiction articles, this reading platform offers content on an array of subjects (current events, history, science, literature and more) and at multiple Lexile reading levels. Newsela enables you to search thousands of articles and text sets that are collections of articles on a common topic, theme or reading standard. To make it easier for you to share the same article with the variety of learners in your classroom, Newsela adapts its articles to several Lexile levels, so you can assign the same article to your whole class and still offer personalized reading.

No matter what their reading proficiency, students can all work on the same article and be contributing members of the classroom, but each can work at his or her prescribed level without being frustrated or bored. Newsela embeds quizzes, annotations and writing prompts with every reading. The text sets are excellent for jigsaw activities and examining multiple perspectives.

3.  Nearpod

This interactive presentation tool allows teachers to incorporate reading, questioning, viewing, polls, drawing and even virtual reality. It offers a library of interactive lessons on topics across content areas and grade levels. You can use Nearpod as a presentation tool for an entire class or personalize a lesson or strategy session for individual and small groups of students.

Using a platform like Nearpod allows students to work at their own pace and demonstrate their learning and understanding. With the different types of interactive response tools, teachers can support different learning preferences.

4. Buncee

While Nearpod offers both teacher-created lessons and the ability for teachers to design their own lessons, Buncee offers templates and blank slides for teachers to customize to design an interactive and engaging lesson. Using the graphics, video, audio and texts, teachers (and even students) can create engaging blended learning experiences. The premium version allows for quizzing in Buncee assignments and 360 images.

This post was written for ISTE’s Blog on 3/30/18 and you can read the complete article here.

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To Infinity & Beyond: Immersive Learning with Virtual Reality

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Franklin’s words resonate with the ISTE Standards for Educators. Particularly since Virtual Reality allows teachers to design “authentic learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability” (ISTE Standards for Educators 5). Virtual reality and augmented reality offer students an interactive, three dimensional learning experience that “maximize student learning” so “students can gain mastery of content area knowledge.”

Google describes Expeditions as a technology tool to, “enable teachers to bring students on virtual trips to places like museums, underwater, and outer space. Expeditions are collections of linked virtual reality (VR) content and supporting materials that can be used alongside existing curriculum. These trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360° panoramas and 3D images — annotated with details, points of interest, and questions” (Google, 2016).  Within Google Expeditions the teacher is the guide and facilitator, and the students are the explorers. For historical artifacts, scientific unit of study covering marine life, space, and even geography. There are over 500 Google Expeditions that students can participate in to have a visual and experiential learning opportunity. Learning can happen beyond the walls of the classroom with AR and VR.

Google is not the only one to offer virtual, experiential learning. Additional VR experiences are available through Discovery Education and are categorized by themes, free on the website. Discovery Education also offers Educational Events, virtual tours and webinars to help teachers get started with Virtual Field Trips.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is one of many museums to offer virtual tours of their permanent exhibits. By downloading the The New York Times VR App, students can “stand alongside Iraqi forces during a battle with ISIS or walk on Mars.”  With virtual field trips there are no walls dividing learning spaces, VR allows students experience outer space, under water, and travel the world without leaving their seat.

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The educational platform Nearpod has over 350 ready to teach VR lessons and 3D objects that don’t require VR Headsets. I observed a high school teacher use Nearpod’s Virtual Field trips with a classroom of 10th graders in AP Global Studies class where they virtually toured Angor Wat in Cambodia from their desks in Rye, New York using cell phones and crome books. Schools can pay for a subscription to access the virtual field trips and along with the VR aspect of Nearpod, school licenses give more options to teachers creating interactive lessons on this digital platform. Nearpod works with Google Classroom and works on any digital device. The self paced lessons or teacher led lessons allow students to work at their own speed and can offer scaffolded materials to support diverse student learners.

Timelooper is history based VR platform that allows students to have a first person account of history. The website states, “Empower your students to experience history, inspiring them to ask questions, fueling a desire to learn more. Through comprehensive primary source-based lesson plans and the immersive VR experience your students will journey through moments that bent history, all without leaving the classroom.”

With.in creates story based virtual reality like Clouds Over Sidra, a VR experience with twelve year old Syrain Refugee, Sidra taking you on a tour of the refugee camp she is living at with her family in Jordan.

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Utilizing expeditions, promoting student talk and conversation, offering writing opportunities post expedition can help students build academic language proficiency and their knowledge of the content material. Expeditions and Virtual field trips are scaffolding opportunities to help make sense of larger concepts and ideas that might be difficult to read in a textbook or content specific texts.

What is engaging about virtual reality versus watching a video or slideshow, students are immersed in a learning experience. Museums have excellent resources to support teaching and learning but for a school unable to get there, VR is the next best thing. Virtual Reality and Augmented reality take global collaboration to the next level, connecting, engaging, exploring, and examining remote destinations from multiple viewpoints to broaden understanding and learning.

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