Upper school English teacher Meagan Frazier doesn't just teach English. Although her main duties at TAS include teaching works like Romeo & Juliet to English 9 students and creating new courses like Literature, Justice, and Law for Grade 11 and 12 students, this experienced teacher, who is in her third year at TAS, is also passionate about the technology that facilitates her teaching.
Frazier recently was selected to lead a series of professional development workshops for the Nearpod and Flocabulary educational technology platforms through the virtual Camp Engage program. These sessions were geared not towards high school students but towards professional educators around the world. She led two sessions in this recent training, which was held over the TAS Lunar New Year holiday break, titled "Nearpod for the International Educator" and "Using Nearpod to Explore Indigenous Texts."
The first session included examples of how Nearpod is used in the global classroom, including resources for English Language Learners, and provided a forum for asking questions of Frazier and the rest of the Nearpod International team. According to Frazier, Nearpod is used by educators in 163 countries around the world (and growing).
The second session she taught focused on ways to amplify indigenous voices and stories in the classroom. Teachers left the session with a list of indigenous texts, poetry, and artwork to incorporate into their curriculum, a framework for selecting and incorporating indigenous works, as well as ways in which Nearpod can be used to explore further the voices of those who have historically been silenced.
Frazier is an official Nearpod Pioneer, which she has been for the last six years. "It's sort of like an ambassador teacher team," said Frazier. "I was in the program's second group of pioneers who started promoting and using Nearpod regularly in the classroom. I help to promote it as an all-encompassing ed-tech application."
Frazier is used to being on the cutting edge of educational technology. "I've always loved ed-tech and seeing what is new out there."
Neapod's official tagline is "Make every lesson interactive," and Frazier says that is just what it does. She says she loves to use it in her classes because it's a "one-click" learning destination for students, "but it also allows us to get important data touchpoints on every student in our classroom."
According to its website, Nearpod describes itself as an interactive instructional platform that merges real-time formative assessment and dynamic media for live and self-paced learning experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom, giving educators the ability to adjust in real-time, while easily seeing how their students are progressing. Teachers can choose from more than 15,000 interactive lessons, videos, and activities created in partnership with leading organizations like Common Sense Education and Smithsonian to quickly enhance their existing content.
In 2019, Nearpod acquired Flocabulary, a learning platform that engages students in academically rigorous K–12 concepts while promoting literacy through hip-hop videos. Together, Nearpod and Flocabulary reach educators in 100 of the largest school districts in the US. In 2018, Nearpod was named EdTech Digest’s Company of the Year
The importance of this type of tool, for Frazier, can not be understated, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many schools (including TAS) have had to adjust their schedules to include both short and long-term sessions of online learning.
"When TAS went online last year, Nearpod essentially saved my life because they have tens of thousands of lessons in the Nearpod learning library," said Frazier. "On top of that, you can search a lesson then go in and revise it to fit what and who you are teaching...I felt like my stress moving online was a bit lighter than some other teachers because I just turned my prepared teaching slides into Nearpods and the kids were used to it because they already knew how to do it."
Nearpod also has an official collaboration with Zoom, Google Drive, and the TAS upper school learning management system Canvas allowing for seamless integration between the Nearpod application and the TAS digital learning platforms.
Frazier says that the integration partnerships are important, but at the end of the day, the tool is most helpful because of the engagement and pacing data she gets on a macro and micro level of her students and classes. "All of the kids get to see the lesson on their screen, but it's also a self-paced tool that allows students to work at their own pace while the teacher can see a better picture of their individual mastery level," said Frazier.
This is not Frazier's first time leading professional development for other teachers. She laughingly says she has been doing this type of work for "years and years and years." "I used to just give PD introducing schools to Nearpod on how to use it," she said. "I would drive to different districts in my home state of Texas or different schools in Dallas. When I came here, I was part of the Nearpod International Team, which is very small, but mighty."
She says that it was nice to get back into the instructional coach role, which she has always loved, through this recent Camp Engage experience. "Teaching teachers is always more difficult than teaching students because you are talking to adults. Adults come into any PD and we know exactly what we want for our specific classroom, and if we don't see that within the first ten minutes, we are turned off because we want to know what this looks like for our specific students….I really like this challenge."
Frazier says that leading professional development like this leaves her feeling "reinvigorated" for her own classroom at TAS. "It's nice to be around like-minded people and to also attend the other sessions of other presenters," she said. "It's very empowering."
She credits TAS for supporting her in her own teaching and leadership development. "My department chair has been really great and always supports my various ideas and ventures," said Frazier. "At TAS, we have so many technology options, and the school is willing to support them. The ed-tech realm is so oversaturated, but at TAS, we are purchasing the right things for our kids and also training teachers appropriately."
Frazier thinks this is more important now than ever before. "Clearly education is moving to a more virtual world," she said. "Although it is scary, we need to start being realistic about how we are training our students, our parents, and our teachers to be technologically literate. Technology needs to enhance our instruction and we need to help kids for the way that education is going rather than clinging to the old ways of teaching." She acknowledges that this is a difficult change to make, but one that all of us can start to work on in small ways now.