APR Update: Nearpod Technology: A Way to Connect With, Teach, and Assess Your Students

Deborah Gentry, Ed.D., CFLE, NCFR Academic Program Liaison
/ CFLE Network, Spring 2019

See all articles from this issue


During the week before classes started at my alma mater this spring, I attended the university’s 20th annual teaching and learning symposium for postsecondary educators. In looking over the breakout schedule in the program, I decided to focus on the sessions on instructional technology. Being unfamiliar with a web-based instructional technology tool called Nearpod, I was eager to sit in on two breakouts with such a focus. Working from her or his laptop computer, each presenter provided the audience with a code. After downloading the free Nearpod app to my mobile phone and typing in the code, I was able to fully engage with each presenter via his or her visual presentation. For a simple, basic explanatory demonstration about how Nearpod works, see https://bit.ly/2Ucgb1u.

Essentially, Nearpod is a cloud-based audience response system (ARS) that has the potential to facilitate even more classroom interactivity than “clicker” handsets that have been widely used in the past. Within the context of teaching a family policy course, I have successfully employed a clicker-based audience response system promoted by Turning Technologies. Today, were I to teach that course again, Nearpod would allow me to continue to import a PowerPoint (PPT) file as well as a PDF, PNG, or JPEG file with results that include text, images, audio, video, and more. Instead of loaning handheld ARS devices to students or asking them to buy one of their own to use in class, I could capitalize on the likelihood that each student has one or more mobile devices (e.g., phone or tablet) that could be used for the same purpose. There are ways to use Nearpod in situations where there are fewer devices than there are students, as well as in blended or flipped classroom contexts. Learners can move through a presentation or lesson at a pace controlled by the presenter/teacher or in a self-paced manner.

Of course, as with many instructional technologies, Nearpod has some limitations, many of which can be remedied by upgrading from the free Silver version to the more expensive Gold and Platinum versions. For more specifics about cost for individual instructors and academic entities, visit https://bit.ly/2Ucgb1u; for further information about the features and compatibilities of each version, see a comparison chart at https://news.nearpod.com/pdf/features.pdf. With relative confidence, I can say that no instructional technology is perfect or without drawbacks. None can be viewed as a panacea for all teaching-learning challenges or problems. So it is with Nearpod. Although some teacher-scholars have been studying the impact of using Nearpod in the classroom and evidencing a number of positive results (Lowry-Brock, 2016; McClean & Crowe, 2017; Ryan, 2017), more Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) projects and findings could be worthwhile, particularly those associated with postsecondary Family Science learning environments. Nearpod’s premade lessons are more relevant for K–12 classrooms. As this technology expands further into postsecondary settings, lessons created for population of learners would be welcome additions.

The primary focus of this issue of CFLE Network is the impact of incarceration on the incarcerated person and his or her family members—partners, spouses, children, parents, and so on. The facts, concepts, and issues related to this topic could fit compatibly with the expectations stated for any of the 10 Family Life Education content areas, particularly Families and Individuals in Societal Contexts: Internal Dynamics of Families; Interpersonal Relationships; Family Resource Management; Parent Education and Guidance; Family Law and Public Policy; and FLE Methodology. I have given thought to some possible applications of Nearpod options in a course that incorporates facts, concepts, and issues related to families and incarceration and share them below. Some of these applications could benefit from collaborating with criminal justice professionals, either fellow academics on campus or practitioners working out in the community.

  • After reading about the impact of parent incarceration on children of different ages (Arditti, 2012), students could view multiple video interviews with children that had been uploaded into a Nearpod lesson. A possible interview to use is that with Madison Strempek, conducted by Family League of Baltimore (2016). Next, using the “Draw It” feature in Nearpod, they could draw some representation of that impact and share it with the teacher, who then could share one or more drawings with other students, perhaps keeping the identity of a drawer anonymous.
  • Upload the panel discussion “What Happens to Children When Parents Go to Prison?” This was part of the daylong event, “Race and Justice in America: An Atlantic Summit,” held at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC, on November 12, 2015. See this C-Span video of the panel discussion at https://cs.pn/2TEQAtw.
  • After students view the discussion, have them use the “Collaborate” feature of Nearpod to share what they each perceived to be the most important point made by each panelist. Conclude with some debriefing.
  • Students could view and react to a 3D or audio tour of a prison, likely a decommissioned one such as Eastern State Penitentiary Historical Site in Philadelphia (https://www.easternstate.org/explore/audio-tour) or some aerial maps of prisons (http://www.prisonmap.com/). Better yet, arrange an actual tour of a county, state, or federal prison. If that cannot be done, use the Nearpod “Virtual Field Trips” feature to create a unique virtual field trip for your students to experience.
  • Using the poll or quiz features of Nearpod, create a prelesson or pretest experience about the purported reasons for imprisonment today. Or upload an existing quiz like this one: http://prisonstoday.easternstate.org/.
  • Once uploaded, direct students to read the PDF version of NCFR’s Policy Brief: How Parental Incarceration Harms Children and What to Do About It (Wakefield & Wildeman, 2018), which can be accessed through the NCFR website. Next, have student use Nearpod’s poll feature to determine which one of the six recommendations for policymakers they most support. Finally, use the “Open-Ended Question” feature to have students explain why they support their preferred recommendation and share some of answers provided to prompt further discussion.
  • Direct students to research existing parent education programs designed for incarcerated parents, then work together using Nearpod’s “Collaborate” feature to create a chart comparing features and reported outcomes.
  • Provide students with a case study that features a family that includes an incarcerated parent and at least one child aged 3 to 8 years. Direct students to Sesame Street’s Incarceration Tool Kit. Assign students (individually or in pairs or small groups) to review the components of the tool kit and determine which component(s) would be most suitable for use with this family and why. Using Nearpod’s “Collaborate” feature, have students propose a new component for the tool kit that they think would fill a gap they noted in the overall composition of the tool kit.

I am eager to have readers who have used such programs like Socrative and Poll Everywhere to engage their students and are now dabbling with Nearpod to share their experiences. In your view, what advantages and cautions do you have concerning the use of Nearpod? One caution or limitation is cost to the individual teacher or his/her academic department or institution. Upgrading beyond the free version allows for more participants and extra features and capabilities. Nearpod may offer institutional licenses at little or no cost if faculty are willing to conduct classroom action research projects based on the product’s use. Faculty could also pursue internal and external grants to cover or at least offset some of the costs of acquiring capabilities beyond what is provided with the free version. If you have had some experiences, positive or negative, with Nearpod, jot off a quick note to me or to one of the relevant NCFR discussion boards.


Arditti, J. A. (2012). Parental incarceration and the family: Psychological and social effects of imprisonment on children, parents, and caregivers. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Family League of Baltimore. (2016, October 26). Family League of Baltimore’s Children of Incarcerated Parents: Interview with Madison & Robin Strempek. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EEz0nnWlKs

Lowry-Brock, M. R. (2016). The effect of using Nearpod as a tool of active learning in the high school science classroom. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2V0y1lg

McClean, S., & Crowe, W. (2017). Making room for interactivity: Using the cloud-based audience response system Nearpod to enhance engagement in lectures. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 364(6), 1–7. doi:10.1093/femsle/fnx052

Ryan, B. (2017). Near peers: Harnessing the power of the populous to enhance the learning environment. Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 2(1), 1–11. doi:10.22554/ijtel.v2i1.16. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2FtWOYg

Sesame Street. (n.d.). Coping with incarceration [tool kit]. Retrieved from https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/topics/incarceration/

Wakefield, S., & Wildeman, C. (2018, January). How parental incarceration harms children and what to do about it. National Council on Family Relations Policy Brief, 3(1), 1–6. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2HIURuI