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Engaging Every Student

March 4, 2020

Keeping Classrooms Connected with Pear Deck

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Pear Deck Team

As entire countries are closing schools in the wake of COVID-19, we are experiencing some unprecedented challenges in our learning communities. In addition to the logistical headaches of closing buildings, handling parent communication, and getting families the tools they need for remote learning, we also have to grapple with how to bring the humanity of face-to-face learning into a fully disembodied experience.

How do we disconnect from the physical space of the classroom without disconnecting from the community? And how do we guide our students to maintain the expectations and codes of civility that govern our physical spaces?

To answer these questions, we turned to our talented community of educators to share their experiences with online learning and using Pear Deck to connect with remote learners. Below, Pear Deck Coach Stacey Roshan presents her experience and recommendations for creating success in an online classroom.

By Stacey Roshan
Math teacher, Director of Innovation & Educational Technology at Bullis School

When I started teaching a purely online version of AP Calculus several years ago, one of my biggest goals in designing the class was to keep the collaboration and personalization alive in an online environment. Making the course feel connected—both student-to-student and teacher-to-student—was one of my top priorities. I wanted to ensure that my students felt they were part of a class community, working together to build and strengthen understanding, and strongly connected to me, their teacher.

With these goals in mind, I carefully selected tech tools to help me achieve my goals. I knew right away that Pear Deck was going to play a key role in how my students and I would interact. With Pear Deck's Teacher Dashboard, I can see students writing in real time, even though we are all in different physical places. Since I don’t see students working problems in the classroom, seeing them work through the problems during this session gives me incredibly valuable feedback and insight into their understanding.

Whether you're using Pear Deck with a remote classroom temporarily or for the semester, here are my top 3 tips for using Pear Deck in an online classroom setting:

Create lessons that students can interact with at their own pace

Using Pear Deck’s Student-Paced Mode, I can assign a lesson where I can see students working in real time through the teacher dashboard. There is no passing back and forth of files, everything students do is automatically recorded in Pear Deck. And, after all students have completed their work, I can publish Pear Deck Takeaways to provide students more in-depth feedback or to give students a copy of their work as reference.

I’ve created a video to walk you through creating a Student-Paced lesson with Pear Deck.

Engage students in a synchronous, virtual class session

While most of the course work in my virtual classroom is asynchronous, I find it beneficial to host regular Zoom sessions that the whole class joins. With students problem-solving and responding through Pear Deck, I can see them working in real time through Pear Deck’s Teacher Dashboard. I can even share anonymous student work using Zoom’s screen share functionality, so that we can discuss and analyze what the class is saying, instead of keeping the focus on just my solutions as the teacher.

The video below walks you through using Pear Deck with a web session, like Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Use the drawing slides to create instructional content

I can sign into the same Deck I assign students and, using Pear Deck's Drawing slides, mark up the presentation for discussion and reflection. You can do this in advance of the lesson to create a screencast, or publish marked-up notes using Pear Deck Takeaways at the end of a lesson to create a solution guide/handout.

I also frequently do this while teaching via webcast, responding to the questions alongside my students so that we can compare all responses, mine included. To do this, I create some slides that are more instructional, and I mark up the slide as we talk. While I do this, some students write on their slides to take notes, or some just watch, depending on how they learn best. Other slides are meant for students to work through on their own. After a few minutes of work time, I can choose to show responses on my Pear Deck projector view so that we can analyze the responses that students have contributed.

I’ve created the video below to show you how to join your lesson and mark up your own slides for live instruction or student guides.

Overall, one of the biggest keys to building trust and success in remote classrooms is ensuring that both students and parents understand the class format and expectations. I am honest with my students in explaining my why, and I also provide them opportunities to give me feedback and ideas. While it may be an adjustment at first, developing my online class has taken my teaching practice to the next level.

While remote learning may mean students are more often working alone or at their own pace, we love that Stacey finds ways to bring her students together for real-time connection. Digital technology makes it easier than ever before to provide learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Those opportunities are even more effective with the chance to learn from peers, to articulate thoughts in real-time, and to interact with one another.

In an effort to support educators and schools impacted by current closures, we’ve compiled a collection of resources including planning documents, communication tools, lesson templates, and content sources, available at peardeck.com/staying-connected. We are also offering 90 days of free access to Pear Deck Premium for any educator or school impacted by an emergency closure; to learn more, visit peardeck.com/stay-connected.

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Pear Deck Team

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