Integrating classroom interactivity with Pear Deck

Finding the right classroom tech is difficult, especially when so many schools provide different types of access or have varying resources–and many have none. This post reflects on accessible educational technology (with premium trial and option) and easy to integrate into your classrooms using either Microsoft or Google.

For transparency, I use the Google-based platform, and this post reflects that user experience.

I don’t know about you, but I often struggle to find efficient ways to get feedback from students both academically and social-emotionally quickly. As a high school teacher, I was introduced to a platform that would do just that: Pear Deck. The quick and easy EdTech will provide your classroom with innovative ways to create culture, develop formative assessments, and engage students in interactive ways.

How it works
The Pear Deck sidebar offers several options for beginning users to experienced ones. If there is a star, that is a feature only accessible for premium (paid) users.

The platform integrates with cloud-based slideshow software–Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint–to enhance the presentation you’ve created. Pear Deck’s interactive features overlay the created slide with pre-designed and custom opportunities.

In Google, to add Pear Deck features to your slides, select “Extensions” and then “Pear Deck for Google Slides Add-on.” This brings up a sidebar (right) with all the possible features and tools Pear Deck offers. The template library sidebar offers several entry points, including “ASK STUDENTS A QUESTION,” which is how you customize the questions and interactivity. The “Our Template Library” has all the places a new user should start.

Select “Start Lesson” in the Pear Deck sidebar to start your presentation. This will open up a new window and the presentation. When you go to use Pear Deck, the slideshow opens with a link and a code for students to access the slide deck. What’s awesome, at least for me, is that you have two options: self-paced or instructor-paced. If you allow students to go through the slide deck independently, make sure you design the slide deck to account for those questions and ideas. You also can add audio to the slideshow, which may help that. I tend to pick the instructor-paced option, which means when I move a slide, the slide changes on whatever device the student is accessing the Pear Deck activity. It allows me to control the timing and learning uniquely.

As you progress through the lesson, students see the slides on their devices. And as they see the slide, they are provided interactive features that you, as an instructor, have embedded into the slide. After the lesson, you, as an instructor, can get a report of all student answers and responses to the interactions. It is a great way to see individual student growth and participation while also being a tool for reflecting on improving our teaching.

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A quick tip, even if I don’t use any of the features I will explain in this post, I enjoy using Pear Deck as an accommodation tool in my classroom. Placing my slides in front of my students helps limit concerns about seeing the screen or can be modified to serve students’ needs best.

Culture-focused uses

Pear Deck has a variety of social-emotional learning options to add to your lessons, which can help build culture, promote resilience, and provide a space for growth.

One of my favorite options is the “Stress Check” feature. I start my lessons using this feature to gauge where students are at. For this feature, students drag a line on a scale of 1-10. The responses are anonymous, but the instructor can see where all the lines fall collectively. I like to use this feature best to understand the feeling of the room ahead of class.

Other culture-building features include students sharing what is filling their bucket today, reflecting on perspectives and listening, and giving thanks. Like the stress check, you can share these collectively on the screen or see them individually afterward to make the responses private.

Assessment opportunities

Many of us like to use reading quizzes to check comprehension, or we can use questions for attendance purposes. Pear Deck provides a plethora of question types that students can respond to in the form of multiple choice, word banks, drawing, fill-in-the-blank, and draggable. Depending on your goals in class, you have pre-determined question options, or you can add your own but change the functionality.

The library of questions is broken down by the timing of the question: before, during, or at the end of your lesson. I like having this determined for me, especially when I’m thinking about what parts of my lesson require more engagement. And there is also a slide that organizes your instructions for an activity, which is incredibly helpful.

When you ask these questions, you can download the responses at the end of class, and you will be able to track student responses. If you show answers on the screen, students can also discuss the percentage of correct answers or fill-in-the-blank responses. I like to use the responses to generate discussion, whereas I’ve spoken to others who use them to get quick student feedback or formative assessment.

Interactivity-forward design

One of the most exciting reasons to use Pear Deck is that it allows for interactive fun. For example, you can have students draw pictures or make connections. It also lets students have different ways to interact with course content than they are used to. In the example, the students draw and circle on their devices to answer.

The fun also includes adding stress breaks, ways to work with critical thinking, and reflection. My students have enjoyed getting a chance to do more than sit and discuss.

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