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Engaging Every Student

August 9, 2021

Back to the Classroom with Pear Deck

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Stacey Roshan

I have heard from countless people that Pear Deck was an absolute lifesaver during remote learning. As we plan for students to get back into classrooms, though, I’ve heard many teachers ask whether Pear Deck will stick. The funny thing is that Pear Deck was originally created to be used synchronously, in the classroom. And I believe that Pear Deck is still most powerful when used as a tool for in-class teaching, discussion, and temperature checks.

Pear Deck allows us to engage each student in class conversations. Every student is asked to contribute their thoughts, and it’s no longer a race to be the first to answer a question. With Pear Deck, we can give students enough wait time to participate and then project the ideas of the whole class when we are ready to discuss. We are no longer shining the spotlight on what only a few handraisers contribute; we now have an opportunity to see what everyone has to say. With Pear Deck, all responses are displayed anonymously so that students can feel safe and comfortable honestly responding. For those who do better orally, their voice might shine brightest when we start talking about the various responses. With Pear Deck, we can truly celebrate and discuss what everyone has to say.

How I use Pear Deck for engagement and instruction

In my back-to-school Pear Fair session, I showed how and why I use Pear Deck for both engagement and instruction. It’s important to give students the space to check in and let us know how they are doing and feeling on an individual level. With Pear Deck, this is simple. Students have an opportunity to honestly respond since they know their classmates won’t see what they are writing. Nobody needs to feel rushed because we can easily provide adequate wait time to accommodate the needs of all our learners.

In my class, the warm-up portion of the Pear Deck usually consists of a general check-in, some course-specific reflection, and then a practice problem or two so I can see how students are thinking through problems. I have a class set of Wacom tablets, which students plug into the laptops they bring to class; this allows students to handwrite their calculus solutions. What’s magical about having students do all of this in Pear Deck is that I get a Teacher Dashboard view of how students are working through problems. In real time, I can see which students are having trouble getting started, which students are having trouble with the algebraic manipulation, which students are working too fast and making careless errors, etc. I gain so much valuable information by seeing student responses come into my Teacher Dashboard instantly.

Students ink up a Pear Deck drawing slide with their Wacom tablet as part of class warm-up.

After a couple of warm-up questions, it is time for discussion and instruction. This usually involves going over problems that students found challenging in class the previous day or from homework. At this point, I typically am the only one writing. I sign into the same Pear Deck that students are logged into with the Student Join link. One of my favorite pro tips is that you can be logged into Pear Deck as both a teacher and a student with the same Google account. This is a superpower because, when logged into Pear Deck as a student, you can actually respond to the questions. This means that when you publish Takeaways at the end of the lesson, everything you have written will be saved to a Google Doc that you can then share with students. This all makes much more sense when you see it in action — which is precisely what I demonstrated in my Pear Fair session!

Final thoughts

As I close this blog post, I hope that I gave you ideas for using Pear Deck in the classroom to provide every learner a platform to participate in a way that is most comfortable for them. Additionally, I hope this blog, and the corresponding Pear Fair session, sparked some ideas for how you might be able to log into a Pear Deck alongside your students to mark up your Google Slides as part of your instruction.

I’d love to hear your success stories as you head back into the classroom or help talk through strategies as you work to find a flow that best meets the needs of your students. You can connect with me on Twitter @buddyxo or on my blog at techiemusings.com.

BONUS: In my Pear Fair session, I focused on using Pear Deck in Instructor-Paced Mode. But, as many teachers experienced during remote learning, Pear Deck is also tremendously powerful in Student-Paced Mode. A new feature in Pear Deck is Reflect & Review, which allows teachers to view each student’s work in a Session holistically and give individual feedback. As you explore this new feature, consider guiding students to self-assess and correct using feedback from Pear Deck Takeaways and Reflect & Review.

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Stacey Roshan

Director of Innovation & Educational Technology

Bullis School

Stacey is Director of Innovation & Educational Technology at Bullis School and author of Tech with Heart: Leveraging Technology to Empower Student Voice, Ease Anxiety, & Create Compassionate Classrooms. She is passionate about bringing innovative tools into the classroom to create a safe learning environment for all students to find their voice and build confidence. Her work has been featured in USA Today, The Washington Post, CNN and PBS Newshour.

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