Blog post

Overcoming challenges in a 1:many classroom

November 6, 2015Nearpod Team

Limited device access and technological infrastructure can present unique challenges for educators integrating technology into the classroom. Elementary Teacher Brittany Thompson shares her story and some tips for technology use in a 1:many setting!

Mobile devices and 1:1 models of classroom instruction are becoming a fixture in many schools in the U.S. and around the world. Despite recent progress bringing devices and the internet to classrooms, many schools are not making full use of technology within the instructional day due to resources, infrastructure, and implementation challenges.

With creativity and flexibility, Brittany Thompson overcame some of these obstacles in her 3rd grade classroom at Fairview Elementary School in Carthage, Missouri. Her story goes to show that the best 1:1 device is a good teacher.

At Fairview Elementary School, where 89% of students receive free or reduced lunch (a measure that is related to, and often used as a proxy for, living in poverty), the district has supplied six tablets per class for a growing number of classrooms. This works out to one tablet for every 3-4 students in those classrooms. Though the benefits of group work in education are widely recognized, having one device for multiple students presented Brittany and her students with challenges around sharing, collaboration, and accountability. Despite these challenges, professional development workshops and classroom observations gave Brittany a good foundation and valuable feedback for technology integration in her classroom.

This year, Ms. Thompson used Nearpod with the tablets, a couple desktop computers, and occasionally her smart phone. Here are her top tips for using mobile devices and Nearpod in a 1:many setting:

1. Create a sense of value around collaboration.

Reinforce the importance of working together and with different people and personalities. Show how collaboration contributes to success inside and outside of school.

2. Brainstorm and establish norms with your students for respectful and effective communication and group work.

Model and practice these norms instead of assuming students know how to effectively and respectfully communicate. Ask: “How can we disagree with someone’s perspective without hurting that person’s feelings?”; “How can we separate an idea/opinion from the person who voiced the idea/opinion?” For younger students, sentence starters and role-playing can provide opportunities to practice these ideas!

3. Create opportunities for multiple contributors by breaking activities into chunks.

For example, when using an activity like Nearpod’s “Draw it,” break a problem or prompt into multiple parts or activities so each student in a group can have a unique contribution to the solution. Consider surveying student groups with a poll, and following up with an open-ended question where another student in the group explains the group’s response.

4. Ask students to document their individual contributions.

Ask students to track and report their work to increase accountability, participation, and collaboration in groups. This can be as simple as showing their work on a scrap piece of paper that gets handed in at the end of the lesson, writing a sentence about how their group collaborated in a Nearpod open-ended question or asking each student to pick a different color on a draw-it activity.

5. If you have limited bandwidth, include videos, but play them only on a projector or teacher device.

This can also be applied to other higher bandwidth multimedia activities like simulations, virtual field trips, or audio clips.

6. Synchronize student and teacher videos while using the volume from the teacher device.

Brittany shared this cue for teachers looking to synchronize student videos:

1 – Ask all students to turn off the volume on their devices

2 – Call out “get ready!”.

3 – Countdown from “3…2…1…blast off!”

4 – Students press play simultaneously with the teacher, so they can watch along on their devices while listening to the video sound played in sync from the teacher device.

7. Randomize student grouping.

Provide students with opportunities to work with different classmates and personalities. (Consider trying one of these online tools for creating random student groups). Note that this is best done after your students understand tips 1-3!


From strategic grouping to detailed lesson plans and procedures, we know that everyday teachers overcome technological challenges in creative ways! We would love to hear your feedback and tips about how you’ve implemented Nearpod, especially if you’ve overcome challenges during the school year. Reply in the comments below, or share your thoughts on Twitter to @nearpod.

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