Monday, December 4, 2017

Apples for Teachers? How About a Pear (Deck)?

This past Tuesday, I got an email from Risa Fadenrecht, the director of the Pear Deck Certified Coaches program.  In her message, she gave me some feedback on a Pear Deck presentation that I had submitted as part of the Certified Coaches cohort in which I was accepted a few weeks prior.  She also slipped in there, "Don't tell anybody because the official announcement will come later in the week, but you are officially accepted as a Pear Deck Certified Coach!"  The next day, I got the official announcement of my acceptance.  It came after a few weeks of online discussions with educators from all over the United States an Canada, "testing" my knowledge and skills of the ins and outs of Pear Deck, and building a presentation that exhibited the features of Pear Deck and demonstrated an engaging experience of students. The acceptance was a recognition of not just my knowledge and skills in using Pear Deck, but more for my love of the program and sharing its awesomeness with other people.

So, you haven't heard of Pear Deck, have a little knowledge, or maybe you want to build on what you know already?  If you fit one of there criteria, please continue to read on.  If not, no hard feelings, but I hope that you continue to read anyway!

At first glance, Pear Deck is a presentation tool that is similar to PowerPoint or Google Slides.  However, to describe Pear Deck as simply a presentation tool is doing it a great injustice.  Pear Deck is also a student engagement tool through its ability to embed images, video, questions, websites, and works really well with some of your favorite educational tools, like Google apps, Flipgrid, Kahoot!, Edpuzzle, and so many more.  Instead of simply projecting a presentation on a screen in front of your class, students become actively engaged in the lesson when they have the presentation on their own device, and you have the choice of controlling the presentation yourself or by opening it up in student-paced mode. 

As educators, we all strive to see where our students are through various forms of formative assessment.  However, even the best-intentioned teachers can get bogged down sifting through exit tickets, spreadsheet data from a Google Form of Kahoot!, etc.  Pear Deck helps through its live formative assessment tools.  Want to see how the class feels about a concept after spending a few minutes on it?  Use the quick "thumbs up/thumbs down" slide.  Feel more like a multiple choice slide?  How about a short answer, or even a long answer?  Maybe you are a math teacher and want students to give you a number answer.  Or how about getting to those students that tend to be more artistic by using a drawing slide?  All of this is possible with the question slides in Pear Deck!

Some (most) of the time, a slide with a few words isn't enough.  Pump up your slides using images, either by using Pear Deck's search tool or embed your own.  Found a great YouTube video?  Embed it, play it, let the discussion fly!  Have an outside website that putting in a link to doesn't do justice?  Have that website pop up right on students' screens!  Need students to contribute to a classroom activity as a whole?  Embed a Google Doc with editing rights or have students record a response using Flipgrid!  The possibilities are endless!

All subject areas and grade levels have specific vocabulary that needs to be mastered in order to be successful.  Get your students involved by using the Flashcard Factory! Assign students to groups and task them with creating the definitions.  The Flashcard Factory gives students the opportunity to not only create definitions and sentences using their terms, but they can add illustrations to the cards as well!  Best of all, sets of flashcards can be exported to Quizlet to give students the opportunity to review and compete with themselves and their peers. 

Pear Deck is limited in its design template, with a white background as the only choice.  Love what you are reading about Pear Deck, but want the choice in designing the template?  Fear not!  Pear Deck allows you to create a presentation in Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, or .pdf and upload it to Pear Deck!  From there, incorporate question slides, embed videos and websites, and take your presentation to the next level while keeping your eye-catching design!  Even better, the Pear Deck add-on for Google Slides allows you to create a Pear Deck presentation directly in Google Slides (at this time, it does not have the same full functionality of creating a presentation in Pear Deck, but a recent update to the add-on added more options for question slides)! 

Prior to the Pear Deck Certified Coaching cohort, I already had extensive knowledge of Pear Deck, its features, its uses, etc.  Since the Slides add-on and Flashcard Factory are relatively new, there was some work that went into learning more about each of those tools.  However, one of the best parts of the cohort was lessons in Pear Deck's "Peardagogy".  During the cohort, we learned about what makes a slide deck go from "meh", to good, to great.  One thing that I realized was that I was certainly guilty in the past of making some of my slides "too busy" with words, images, etc.  I realized that it is okay to break down one slide into five slides if need be, spending less time on each individual slide, but still covering what needs to be addressed and keeping my audience better engaged.  I can guarantee that future presentions by yours truly may be "longer", but they will be more visually pleasing and more engaging as a result. 

I cannot say enough good about Pear Deck.  In the edtech world, free is always good, but sometimes there are those tools that are well worth the price of admission, and Pear Deck definitely fits the bill.  At $99 a year for the premium features, you can create visually appealing, engaging, and fun presentations and FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS.  If you have any questions about Pear Deck, please do not hesitate to contact me, I am always happy to "plug the Pear"!

Until next time...