Why I Love Pear Deck.

This summer I was offered the chance to apply for the Pear Deck certified coaches program. After a lot of reflecting on what I love about Pear Deck I thought I should take this opportunity to write about one of my favourite tools. i.e. the easiest blog post ever!

For those of you who don’t know Pear Deck is an interactive presentation tool that at the basic level makes direct instruction more engaging, but at a more proficient level can absolutely change the way you teach. The way it works can easily be summarized by this short and effective video from http://www.peardeck.com. Essentially you can take a Google slideshow that you’ve already created, import it into Pear Deck and add questions throughout the presentation. Students see the presentation on their own devices and their answers show up on your dashboard. You can also project student responses anonymously. You can then guide the lesson or discussion based on the feedback you are getting – essentially formative assessment in real time with 100% student engagement! However there’s more! Pear Deck is a game changer for a lot of different reasons that I will outline below.

  • Every student participates in the lesson. Responses are kept anonymous to the students (not to me) therefore there’s no risk in providing an answer or opinion. It also means I know exactly who understands what at each stage of the presentation.
  • I can guide the pace and modify the direction of the lesson in REAL TIME based on immediate feedback from the students. I don’t have to wait until a few days later after a quiz or activity to determine that I probably needed to spend more time helping them understand concept A rather than B.
  • Students are learning from each other. Using the dashboard function I can choose whose answers to questions I (anonymously) project to the class. Students can then explain their answers to their peers. I can also project the best WORST answers for discussion, which gives amazing insight into the student thought process. Visible thinking anyone?
  • I am untethered from the front of the room. I can control the presentation from the dashboard on my iPad – all I need is a browser. That way I am walking around the room, helping students stay on task, guiding them if they are stuck and encouraging them to provide more depth to their answers if they have responded quickly.
  • There are multiple question types. Students don’t always have to respond with text. You can add multiple choice questions, drag a dot along an “agree-disagree” continuum or any other canvas of your choice like a map, draw a response (such as a graph or the workings of a math problem), or respond with numbers.
  • You can add links to websites, simulations, Desmos, Google maps etc…directly into the Pear Deck. As students move through each slide they will be directed to that site without having to open another browser tab, type a URL etc…and when you want to move on you can move to the next slide and kick the students out of the website.
  • Learning continues beyond the classroom. At the end of the lesson you can enable student takeaways. That way each student receives a personal Google doc copy of the presentation with THEIR answers recorded in it! Not only do they have a copy of the presentation, they can go and make any necessary corrections to their answers. They can also take time to reflect on the lesson. Teachers and students can continue the conversation through comments. Brilliant.
  • Students can learn at their own pace. If you don’t want to use the presentation with the entire class at once, student paced mode allows each student to work through the presentation at their own pace either in class or at home. Solves the problem of what happens if a student misses class.
  • A Pear Deck can become a self-graded quiz. Because Pear Deck interacts so well with G suite, you can export student responses into Google sheets and enable Flubaroo to do your marking for you! Then you can email students their results and keep a record for yourself.
  • You can reuse each deck over and over but save each session. That way I can go back and see exactly who answered what later on, the next day, the next month – whenever!
  • Classroom climate – when students join a new Pear Deck session you have the option to ask them how they are feeling and they can respond with a happy face, sad face or a “meh” face as I like to call it. While students are getting set up I can use that information to either approach them before the presentation starts or check in with them after class to see what’s going on.

That’s just what I can think of for now! I’m sure you could have found most of this information and praise on the Pear Deck website or through Twitter. Therefore I thought it might also be useful to explain EXACTLY how I would use Pear Deck in an actual lesson as opposed to just the above bullet points, which are all true and amazing yet still a bit generic. Pear Deck is a tool you can use at any stage of the learning cycle which is why I invest my time in it. I like the 5Es model so I’ll go through an actual example from a grade 7 science unit on forces and structures.

Engage: The lesson starts with a Pear Deck slide that shows a picture of the Irish 600kg team in the European Tug of War Championships from 2009 (thanks Wikipedia). To get the students “engaged” and unknowingly thinking about forces I pose the following problem that I found in a teaching resource on the PhET website: You and some friends are at the park . You find some rope and decide you’d like to play a game of tug-ofwar. Unfortunately, there are 5 people so you can’t have an equal amount of people on each side. One of your friends suggests that the two biggest people should be on one side, while the three smaller people should be on the other side. Do you think this is a fair way to split up teams? Why or why not? This first slide is a question slide that enables students to contribute a text response. Using the timer feature I give them 3-4 minutes to come up with their answer (you can also use the timer for 30 seconds, 1 minute or you can give unlimited time to answer). Then I use my dashboard to project a few responses that show a diverse range of opinions. We discuss them as a class. Essentially I have used Pear Deck to modify the “Think-Pair-Share” portion of the lesson. Not everyone might feel like participating in the discussion part, but I know that every student has thought about the question and has contributed an answer. Due to the anonymity factor we can project and discuss ANY student’s response without them feeling shy about it. I then pose a few more scenarios – what about 1 person on each side, but holding different lengths of rope? I use screen grabs from the PhET simulation on forces and motion and the draggable slide feature of Pear Deck to get students to respond as to which side will win the tug of war. Then I overlay and project all student responses so we can see what the class thinks. We discuss some more without me providing any answers. This part of the lesson also serves as a diagnostic assessment for me to see what the students’ already know about balanced and unbalanced forces.
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Note: An alternative to using the PhET screen shots is this super cute video of kids playing tug of war. Pause the video and ask students to predict which team will win in each scenario. They use different combinations of kids of different sizes/ages so it’s a good one! Or you can just play the video while you wait for students to join your Pear Deck. So cute!

Explore: Time to find some answers to our questions! Using the website slide feature I can guide students directly into the PhET simulation on forces and motion through the Pear Deck. They don’t have to open another tab, type in a URL – it’s WAY more efficient! I let them play around with different tug of war scenarios to answer my questions and their own. Another great feature is that as soon as I want them to finish exploring I can move on to the next slide and it kicks them out of the website and back to the presentation. Perfect! After the exploration I use the text response feature to have students describe what they learned while starting to introduce them to some of the vocabulary around forces and motion.

Explain: Next up is some guided inquiry. I send the students back into the simulation with some instructions this time to help them learn specific things about force, magnitude, friction, inertia and Newton’s three laws. When students are done they come back into the Pear Deck to check their understanding.

Note: An alternative here would be to create a presentation in Pear Deck directly or import a presentation from Google slides and do some direct instruction with questions embedded throughout the lesson.

Evaluate: To check for understanding of the simulation I then use a series of question slides in Pear Deck. There are some multiple choice questions, text response questions, some math problems to solve and show your work etc…As we go through the questions as a class I display correct responses and ask students to justify their answers. Sometimes (as I mentioned in the bullet points) I may show an incorrect response and we discuss how someone may have come to that conclusion. An alternative to this would be to turn on student paced mode. That way each student can work on answering the questions at their own pace. There are two reasons, however, I do this evaluation as a class and using Pear Deck as opposed to Quizizz or Socrative or any of my other go-to tools. I like that there is discussion and that students are teaching each other. The other reason is because some of the question slides I use actually require the class to work together to solve problems. Another great thing you can do as you go through the deck is ask spontaneous questions. For example if only half the class answers the question on inertia correctly then we could go over it together. Right after that I could throw in a new question I made up on the fly to see if more students have now understood (there’s also the option to ask the exact same question again – they really thought of everything!) As we go through the questions I get a good sense of what may need to be reviewed next class. The data I gather as I’m teaching the lesson is extremely useful and can also be saved for later.

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Extend: At the end of the Pear Deck students give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. Then since I have takeaways enabled, they each receive a personalized copy in their Google Drive. After class they can go into the document and write a brief reflection of the lesson and correct their answers using a key that I provide.

That’s just one example of how you can maximize the potential of the tool and what makes it different from anything else that’s out there.

In the future I’m really looking forward to Pear Deck’s new offering – Vocabulary. It allows you to build virtual flashcards as a class and import them into Quizlet. Love the integration!!

There’s one more reason I love Pear Deck and why I encourage other teachers to use it – perhaps the most important reason. My students LOVE it. They really get excited when they come into the class and see it projected on the screen. I don’t use it every day, but when I do I never hear complaints! It’s worth every penny.

Hopefully you found something useful about this post. If you have any questions, want to get a conversation going or if you want to use any of my Pear Decks leave a comment and I’ll be sure to help you out.

Thanks!

P.S. Here’s where I got the tug of war problem from:
http://mrwalshnhrhs.weebly.com/uploads/6/0/2/9/60299077/walsh_sample_class_forcesandmotion.pdf

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