Like most humans, I spend a large amount of time on various devices using various websites and applications. Although there are a million different websites and applications, I can count on just one hand the ones that have made my life as a librarian so much easier. When I look at websites and apps, I want to find ones that are useful, make my job easier, and help with community engagement and programming.
Before I even dive into a website or app that I am going to use in school, I remind myself about my district policies and expectations. I also take a few minutes to really look at the fine print of the terms of service. There are so many great apps out there that our students are using, but they are not always listed for 13 and under. I also look at the data that an app or website takes from the user (be sure to read the fine print!) to be sure I’m protecting my students’ privacy.
Nearpod is one of my favorite websites to use as an instructional tool. Think powerpoint or slides, but make it interactive. The district that I am in provides us with the upgraded version, but even the free version is robust. I can start a Google Slide, and by using Nearpod, I can easily add on other content. Although the Google Slide add-on is convenient, I tend to create most of my content directly in Nearpod. Nearpod also has a library full of already created lessons and slides that are easily editable once you’ve added them to your own library. Students can access created Nearpods through the Nearpod app on different devices, or log in through the website. Nearpod can also be student-paced, teacher-led, or both, depending on the type of learning. Working in middle school, my students are not always the first to volunteer answers. When using Nearpod, I can invite students to answer open-ended questions, take polls, take short quizzes and so much more. I use the feature to hide students’ names to provide students a safer space. I also appreciate that I can have students log in using Google Single Sign-on, which helps with those names. Nearpod is easily embedded into different Learning Management Systems and offers great data reports to see activity. With any website or app that I use, I want to make sure that my students are engaging with it, and with Nearpod, I’ve hit the jackpot.
If you haven’t jumped on the Canva bandwagon yet, do so now. Canva is a graphic tool that you can use to create, design, and edit images and videos. I was always in awe of all of the cute and interactive graphics I would see on my different social media platforms. Once I discovered Canva, I realized I could do the same. Canva offers thousands of templates, but also the option to start from scratch and create your own. I use Canva on a daily basis to promote what is happening in the library, provide information to teachers, and create items for my own personal use. I create most of my first line Fridays using Canva and their video options also offer the ability to add collaborators and share across platforms. And there is a free educator account you can sign up for!