Engaging Every Student
September 1, 2020
Beyond the Slides: Pear Deck as a Remote Teaching Platform
This week’s guest blog post was written by Stephanie Sukow. Stephanie has been a high school English and speech teacher in the northwest suburbs of Chicago for 12 years. In addition to teaching, she is also an instructional coach, and is passionate about using educational technology to enhance the student experience and promote engagement.
When I decided to become a teacher, I envisioned a classroom full of students and fist-bumps at the door as students entered the room. I looked forward to being the chaos coordinator, as students noisily and joyfully discussed literature, collaborated, and practiced their communication skills. No teacher could have expected the realities and challenges that have faced us in 2020; still, our vocation and calling leave us longing to build positive relationships with our students that encourage, inspire, and motivate them. While many of us will not see our students face-to-face every day this fall, we can still create a collaborative classroom environment and forge meaningful connections with our students—through the use of technology, creative planning, and a willingness to play (and sometimes fail!) with new strategies and approaches to learning.
Pear Deck has been my go-to tool since my school district went one-to-one with Chromebooks. As a speech teacher, I am not often lecturing, but on the first day of each unit, I need to present essential skills and content. What initially drew me into using this tool was that it allowed me to integrate interactive questions with Google Slides and enhance lessons that I had already created. Instead of merely delivering content, I could utilize Pear Deck features to amplify student voice and elicit authentic student engagement.
Using multiple tools in one platform
As I became better-versed in Pear Deck, I realized that I could extend the capabilities of this tool even further by “app-smashing,” or combining the features of multiple tools in one platform with tools like Flipgrid and Padlet. I could insert an impromptu speech challenge using Flipgrid mid-lesson. I could have students find their favorite inspirational posts and embed the quote images onto a digital corkboard using Padlet. I could even insert an EdPuzzle that contained an example of a former student speech or a TED Talk, adding questions and individual opportunities to demonstrate learning. Instead of my students sitting passively in a typical lecture, I could create experiences with Pear Deck that kept them on their toes and challenged them to share, engage, and interact with each other and with my content. Their understanding of lessons became visible as their learning came to life through Pear Deck.
Keeping students engaged from a distance
As I sit at a computer screen now, physically removed from my students, I want to continue to provide them with experiences that keep them just as engaged; I want to bring the learning experience to them. Pear Deck will continue to allow me to keep them on the same page (or screen). Through interactive experiences and hyperlinking in different webtools, I can promote student collaboration, make learning even more visible, and allow students to interact with one another. When a live lesson is done, I can turn on Student-Paced Mode, and that lesson can continue even if I am not present or controlling the slides. Their learning does not need to stop just because the Zoom call ends. The flexibility that technology such as Pear Deck provides to teachers and students to learn both synchronously and asynchronously allows us to differentiate and allow students to take ownership of their learning. It empowers us.
This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in professional development that helped me recognize how Pear Deck and app smashing can transform my digital classroom. Through the use of Student-Paced Mode and creative lesson planning, I can make my lessons asynchronous. Now, Pear Deck allows me to add my voice to slides, which personalizes my students’ experience. Even though I may not be with them in-person, they can still receive direct instruction and guidance when needed. I can also create personalized videos, which I like to edit in WeVideo, upload to YouTube, and embed into Pear Deck. While enhancing lessons and creating these personalized touches take time, the impact that they will have will be lasting. We as people crave connection; we want to be with our students. The use of Pear Deck with other tech tools allows us to foster the relationships and connections that make teaching and learning memorable.
Powerful professional development
Pear Deck does not merely have to be a tool that we use with students; it can also be used to enhance our staff meetings. We, too, can experience interactive learning as we level up our remote learning skills and strategies. The benefits of visual learning and sharing are powerful, and the social-emotional learning slides allow us to empathize and support one another. Inspired by Stacey Roshan, author of Tech with Heart, I realized that Pear Deck can be used to develop asynchronous professional development for teachers. We are learners, too, and we have had more to learn this year than ever. As our school spent the first week fervently preparing and retooling our assignments for a remote setting, asynchronous professional development was shared with teachers using Student-Paced Mode. These resources were available for teachers when they needed them. Instead of taking them away from the work of preparing lessons for their classrooms, they could choose the pace and place for their professional development, alleviating worries about timing and crossing off items on a long to-do list. Pear Deck Takeaways were also published at the end of the week, reminding teachers that they have ongoing access to the learning that occurred during the first week of professional development; they can reference it again and again throughout the school year.
While every day may not be perfect, and the internet will inevitably lag, we now have an incredible opportunity to reimagine and redefine what education might look like. I will miss my fist-bumps and the scuffle that occurs at the door as my seniors rush in from the hallway before the bell rings. I will miss the echoes of learning that I hear in my classroom and in the hallways as my colleagues also teach, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to use tools like Pear Deck to help bring the learning experience to my students. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside them, and to travel this journey together.
Illustration by Kate Moore
English and Speech Teacher
Stephanie has been a high school English and speech teacher in the northwest suburbs of Chicago for 12 years. In addition to teaching, she is also an instructional coach, and is passionate about using educational technology to enhance the student experience and promote engagement.