with Stacey Roshan
I’ve been flipping my math classroom since 2010. Initially, for me, my main focus was simply to offload lectures to video to free up classroom time for collaborative problem solving (with me there to guide) and to ease up on the homework load in AP Calculus. As my flipped classroom has evolved and Edtech tools have expanded what’s possible, I have looked hard to find the best tools to most efficiently and effectively target individual and class needs. One of the key tools that I use is Pear Deck.
Why do I name Pear Deck as one of my essential tools? It allows me to get to know my students, deepen the personalization I can provide, to hear from each and every student in my classroom, and to be the most efficient teacher I can be. My favorite use of Pear Deck is as a warm-up tool. Pear Deck allows me to hear from each student in the classroom, without having to call out any student individually.
In using Pear Deck, I can give the quiet students and the louder students equal voice. Some students are naturally shy and less likely to raise their hand when they have an answer or just may not be as vocal. Additionally, students have different processing speeds and students who answer questions more slowly may not always have the opportunity to respond. Some students simply get very anxious when responding in front of their peers. Pear Deck allows me to solve all of the above issues, with each student responding to the question on their own device and the ability for me, as the teacher, to display these responses on the board anonymously.
And what’s more, the teacher dashboard allows me to see how students are responding in real-time, so I can monitor individual needs at the same time I am looking at the overall class analytics. If I am asking a multiple-choice or number-type question, we can review the breakdown of responses as a class. If most of the class chose an incorrect multiple choice answer, this can be a wonderful opportunity to talk about why so many students chose the wrong response.
With Pear Deck, you have that instantaneous breakdown of responses. That information drives whether I take a moment to go over the question at-hand as a class, or if I wait to review the individual responses and just sit down with students who answered incorrectly. With the short answer type questions, I have the chance to display the responses of each student in my classroom, anonymously, on the board so that we can discuss these collective answers and dive deeper into topics and connections. Since I can hide student names when projecting the answers submitted, no student has to feel like a peer might be judging him/her for the response given.
I am so excited that Pear Deck has just released a brand new feature: Student-Paced Mode. This will expand the possibilities, inside the classroom and beyond. In the classroom, I can choose to make a portion of my Pear Deck student-paced. I envision that I will start class with several slides where I control the pace and engage the class in a discussion based on the classes’ responses to questions I ask. But, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, students respond at different paces. We often pressure students into quickly responding or we can be fast to assume that a student who is responding slowly does not know the information as well as a peer who immediately knows what to do. With Pear Deck’s Student-Paced Mode, students can work through problems at their own pace. And the teacher can monitor progress through the dashboard, in real-time. When the teacher is ready to discuss answers to the Deck, as a whole class, she can quickly take back control of navigation and focus all students’ attention to the same question for discussion and review.
As a math teacher, one of my favorite Pear Dear features is the drawing response type. I have a class set of Wacom tablets. Students plug the Wacom into their laptops and then are free to write out their response to questions as they would on a piece of paper. And what’s amazing is that I see them writing in real-time, through the teacher dashboard. This enables me to move around the classroom, based on individual need, without having to run around peeking over students’ shoulders, trying to guess what they’re writing on their paper.
I am particularly excited to use the Student-Paced Mode for these types of questions since they are longer, more involved, and there is always great variability in the time it will take for an individual student to complete a question. The Student-Paced Mode will allow me to ask more questions of this type — at the beginning, middle, and end of class — to get a sense of how students are doing without having to collect any papers! Going paperless not only saves the hassle of handing in/handing back work, but digital notes can also easily be searched and efficiently organized. With the Pear Deck Student Takeways feature, I can leave students feedback on their work, just as I would mark up their paper, and students can also reflect and revise their work after-the-fact.
I will be teaching an Online AP Calculus section next year, and I will certainly be using Pear Deck’s Student-Paced Mode. This will allow students to join and respond to a Deck on their own time. Before the Student-Paced Mode, I needed all students to synchronously be logged into a Pear Deck, making it difficult to use in ways beyond in class. Now, with the Student-Paced Mode, students can log in as long as a Deck is still open, and I’ll get all responses in the same teacher dashboard that I always have. Absent students will be able to benefit from Decks in Student-Paced Mode in this same way. Finally, a homework or “online snow day” task would be perfectly administered in Pear Deck using the Student-Paced Mode. In all these scenarios, I envision using Pear Deck to actively engage students in a presentation. For example, any Google Slides or PowerPoint Presentations that I’d want to share, I would now import them into Pear Deck to add interactive slide elements that help students engage and focus and help me pinpoint individual and class needs.
Pear Deck has always been one of my go-to tools in the classroom, but the Student-Paced Mode was a feature I’ve been wanting and waiting for. It expands potential uses for the tool in important ways. To me, what’s probably most significant is that I can effectively target diverse student needs. The Student-Paced Mode also expands the possibilities in terms of where and when a teacher can use Pear Deck, including for homework assignments, for absent students, and as an active presentation tool in online and blended courses. I’m certainly excited to continue to use Pear Deck in my teaching this year to engage all students in my classes in presentations, discussions, and student-paced activities.