Decisions, Decisions…Delivering Digital Content

(Originally posted October 3, 2017)

WOW! What a crazy few weeks it has been! I have been thinking about this post for awhile, and with all of the inquiries I have been getting lately, I thought no time like the present!

Within the next two months, my district will be deploying Chromebook carts to our two high schools.  With the excitement of this making its way around the district, a number of teachers have asked if it was possible to digitally deliver their content to their students and make it more engaging.

I immediately thought of NearPod, since it was something that I used with iPads in my classroom when I taught 5th grade.  If you are not sure what NearPod is, here is a great short video that gives a thorough overview.  What I like the most about NearPod, is that they give you a fully functional FREE account.  So you can actually, invest time and energy into creating interactive lessons that you can use longer than a 30-day free trial that many other companies offer.  They even give you the option to upgrade for FREE.
Out of all of the additional features you get with the Gold Edition, the one that I find most useful is the ability to deliver a student-paced lesson (anytime, anywhere) rather than a live session (all students at the same time) which comes with the basic account.  If you are using Google Classroom, Schoology or Canvas in your district, NearPod integrates well with all three.
Something else that sets NearPod apart from the crowd is its vast library of pre-made lessons available for a large range of grade levels and content areas.  Wait for it…they also have VR lessons that you can use with (or without) VR viewers.  Since I first heard of and started using NearPod I have seen them expand their offerings and collaborations, creating more and more quality, engaging lessons.

It just so happens I tried Pear Deck for the first time recently when I was delivering an Introduction to Chromebooks staff development class to teachers in my district.  Pear Deck is very active on Twitter, so I thought I would give it a shot when trying to show teachers how they can better utilize their Chromebooks.  If you are new to Pear Deck, they have some ‘training’ decks that provide you with previews of the various types of questions you can deliver, however, they are just that-previews-so they are not interactive and you are not able to see how they actually work.  If you are relatively tech savvy, it has a pretty small learning curve and is definitely worth looking into.

Although Pear Deck does not offer as many delivery options as NearPod, I did like that you also had a fully functional product from the start.  There are some key features that you can only get with the Premium Account: the key one that I feel is the biggest loss is the ability to do DRAWING SLIDES.  Since my teachers will have access to touchscreen Chromebooks, the ability to have students respond with a drawing (annotation) is something that I am really looking for when looking to deliver digital content.  They also limit the number of PDFs (and Google Slides) you can import with the FREE account, which can limit your ability to deliver pre-made material.

The last platform I wanted to talk about was Book Widgets. WOW! I found them on Twitter as well, and it piqued my interest.   I think this is a fabulous tool! If you want to take a look at some of the examples of the different ways you can deliver content to your students take a look here.  Once you create your Widget, you can share it with students to work on independently (a BONUS) or you can embed the link to a website.  At this time, I have not had the opportunity to use this with either students and/or teachers (as students), but I see great promise with it.  The BIGGEST downfall, and unfortunately it is HUGE, is that they only offer you a FREE 30-day trial, after that it’s $49/year.  By the time you find the time to learn something new and then make all of the lessons, your trial would be over…

Unfortunately, for many of us, if we want to use something like this in our classroom, would have to pay for it out of pocket. (On a side note, in case people are not aware, as it is teachers spend hundreds and some thousands of dollars a year for classroom supplies.)  For those of us that may be lucky enough to work in a district that would pay for this, often times a month isn’t enough proof to support the investment.


Do you use these products? Have you found others that you feel work well with your students? I would love to hear from you!