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Engaging Every Student

May 15, 2023

The Power of Storytelling: Pear Deck, Retro Report Team Up to Enhance Historical Context in the Classroom

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Pear Deck Team

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Pear Deck has partnered with Retro Report to help teachers give historical context to today’s most important stories. With these ready-to-teach lessons powered by Pear Deck, students learn how journalism and storytelling allow us to better understand the lessons of history and apply them to today’s world. We spoke to David Olson, Director of Education at Retro Report, to get some insight into why this is so important.

Why Pear Deck?

A creator of engaging and thought-provoking films, the team at Retro Report felt by partnering with Pear Deck, they’d be able to reach students in a new way and provide additional tools for teachers to bring their content into the classroom.

“I don’t think there are any other edtech platforms that do a better job of engaging students and providing ways to make, what can be, dry content into something interactive and engaging,” Olson explained. 

A mainstay in Olson’s own classroom for a number of years, he jumped at the chance to work with Pear Deck to create new lessons for teachers.

“When you couple short, narrative-driven stories with opportunities for students to interact, question, and reflect on what they are learning, you get great results.”

Teachers can use Retro Report films and lessons in many different ways – as a hook to begin a unit, the starting point for an inquiry lesson, the basis for a discussion or Socratic seminar, and much more. 

“Adding Pear Deck as another engagement tool makes it easy for teachers to put Retro Report materials in front of their students,” he stated. “A lot of our films raise important questions, and options like open-ended responses, mood thermometers, and draggable features make it easy for students to respond. Even better, there are great ways for teachers to share responses or display where the class, as a whole, falls on an idea spectrum. These are a great way to check for understanding or drive further discussion on different topics.”

Getting started

The advice Olson would offer to teachers who are just beginning to explore the possibilities of using Retro Report and Pear Deck in their teaching practice is: Dive right in!

“Pear Deck is easy to get the hang of, and there are so many ways to engage students and pose questions that it’s hard to get bored! Experiment. See what works. Ask your students what they like,” he suggested. “The other aspect I love, and is key for many teachers, is you can easily edit the decks. Make whatever changes are necessary for you to use these resources in your classroom.” 

Olson believes Retro Report and Pear Deck are such a great combination because it’s almost impossible to watch a Retro Report film and not come away with thoughts and questions. 

“We don’t create ‘explainer’ films; we specialize in diving deeper into stories from the past and examining different perspectives. It’s only natural students will have thoughts and questions, and Pear Deck is a great way to bring those out.”

Promoting critical thinking and media literacy skills

Retro Report was born out of a desire to take a critical look at media and connections to history. From its inception, the team has been asking questions like, “Did we get the reporting on that event right?,” and, “What lessons could or should we have learned from that moment?”

“We also pride ourselves on featuring multiple perspectives and giving students a more complete and complex look at major events and ideas. That lends itself well as a model to critical thinking,” Olson said.

Retro Report recently published a few films meant to help teach critical media literacy skills like lateral reading and reverse image searches. 

“Coupling those resources with a platform like Pear Deck makes it easy for teachers to have their students practice those skills and build their media literacy muscles,” he explained.

Engaging students through storytelling

Retro Report's approach to journalism complements Pear Deck's mission to improve student engagement and participation in the classroom through something everyone enjoys — storytelling.

“At the heart of every Retro Report film is a great narrative – we want to know how the actions and reactions of humans, governments, the environment, and others impact peoples’ lives,” Olson said.

The Retro Report team does its best to speak with people who’ve lived the history it reports on. This creates a multitude of opportunities for students to reflect, respond, and interact with each other using the Pear Deck platform.

Facing challenges

There’s no doubt educators face many challenges today. One of these is helping learners understand the connections between the past and present. 

“I often tell social studies teachers we come in second place to math teachers in terms of how often we hear, ‘Why do I need to know this?’ I think social studies teachers have a better answer to that question. Connecting the ideas and themes of history, psychology, geography, and civics to our everyday lives is essential to understanding the world around us,” Olson stated.

Connecting past and present is in Retro Report’s DNA. Every story the team reports on includes an analysis of how the events and experiences of the past relate to our current world.

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Pear Deck Team

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