Will reiterating my love for Pear Deck sound like a broken record? I had nearly forgotten this love when Tuesday’s class reignited the spark. Kudos to Group 5! In my previous life as an Online Learning Consultant, I completed the Pear Deck Institute training to guide divisional implementation in the classroom and online. It was a hit! The aside to that success, however, is that my 2.5 years online prevented me from actually testing it in a physical classroom….until this week. Too often we hear consultants and facilitators label EdTech as “teacher/classroom-friendly” without test-driving it themselves (whoops!); it was past time to take Pear Deck for a spin myself.
Test Subjects and Challenges…or Challenging Test Subjects
The majority of my Grade 7’s are tech gurus with daily “comfortable to seamless” digital classroom implementation. A handful can easily bypass my division’s firewall settings…a fact that both frightens and impresses me. Trialing Pear Deck on them didn’t seem challenging enough. Enter the vastly less tech-confident Grade 5 class at my current school. With the permission of their more-than-happy teacher, I created a science lesson on “Forces” to review with the 5’s.
First Challenge: The Grade 6 and 7 classes at my school are privileged to have 1-1 devices in the classroom. The K-5 classes scrounge for the remains of Chromebook and Dell rejects shunned by the upper grades.
Second Challenge: Tech focus and stamina take practice. Through repeated lessons….and full-out nagging lectures (truth-bomb), my 7’s have mastered the art of staying on-task 95% of the time. This cannot be said for the 5’s, due to their lack of access (see first challenge).
Third Challenge: Typing. Prensky once called my generation (and younger) “digital natives” but the art of typing and not texting appears to have died with the invention of the iPhone. 30 Grade 5’s typing Pear Deck into the browser and then the phonetic log-in code took more time than I want to remember. All the Right Type, why have you forsaken us?
Fourth Challenge: Heavy reliance on Smartboard or TV casting for instructor-paced activities. Another truth bomb, the Grade 5 classroom Smartboard is wretched! I would toss it in the garbage for the classroom teacher if I could!
Fifth Challenge: My premium subscription has loooooong since expired, so certain engaging features like LIVE dashboard, draggable, draw, and audio would be unavailable…unless I accessed a new premium trial from the Grade 5 teacher’s account (shhhhh!). Much as I love these features, do I want to shell out an extra $150 for them? Ummm no, I’ve seen current gas prices, thank you!
But Despite These Challenges…A New Fanbase Emerges
After the plethora of challenges on my Pear Deck “test-drive” you’d think the lesson might have been a loss, but the 5’s loved it so much they asked for more! Google Slide presentations for Generation Alpha have become commonplace. We know the drill. The presentation is shown on the glorified projector…I mean Smartboard. Questions are asked. The same 3 kids raise their hands. EVERY. TIME. It was true before Smartboards and Google Slides; it’s still true today. With Pear Deck, the students loved their anonymous ability to interact with the slides and view videos without leaving the Pear Deck (also handy for teachers worried about students staying on task).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once more, Peardeck is an excellent formative assessment tool. The suggested reading, Section 4: Measuring of Learning, discusses the importance of embedded learning and real-time feedback, components fully provided by deeper-level thinking Pear Deck prompts.
“Through embedded assessments, educators can see evidence of students’ thinking during the learning process and provide near real-time feedback through learning dashboards so they can take action in the moment.” – (Source)
The Pear Deck instructor dashboard allowed me to see the Grade 5’s overall and individual comprehension. From these real-time insights, I was able to adjust my lesson pacing and suggest to the regular classroom teacher possible 1-1 conferencing for struggling students.
“Embedded assessments have the potential to be useful for diagnostic and support purposes in that they provide insights into why students are having difficulties in mastering concepts and provide insights into how to personalize feedback to address these challenges.” – (Source)
Despite my Pear Deck and EdTech fangirling, I hesitate to use the majority of digital tools for summative assessment. Google Slide extensions like Pear Deck or platforms like Mathletics allow teachers to quickly highlight student strengths and struggles, but nothing – in my opinion- trumps the potential for 1-1 student-teacher conferring. Human interaction/dialogue remains the epicentre of my assessment practices.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
No EdTech app or assessment method (digital or not) is without flaws. For the sake of not repeating my “challenges” section or the T-Chart Jamboard above, I will instead focus on where Pear Deck falls on the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentudura.
Does Pear Deck redefine new tasks, “previously inconceivable” or provide significant task modification? No, whiteboards displaying individual student answers could easily accomplish the same tasks. Rather, Pear Deck falls precariously between Augmentation and Substitution. I would argue on the side of Augmentation, as Pear Deck does – in my opinion – provide functional improvements to standard classroom prompts or Google Slides. The draggable, draw, audio, and built-in video options, as well as the teacher dashboard (displaying individual student answers), are welcome additions that provide engaging and interactive lessons. Pear Deck takes Google Slides and makes them functionally better and, dare I say, more fun.
After 2 and a half years of recommending Pear Deck, I finally took it for a classroom test drive…and I wasn’t disappointed. As far as Google extensions go, Pear Deck is a worthwhile add-on. While it requires a “basic to comfortable” level with technology for students and teachers, Pear Deck can seamlessly be used in the classroom to enhance embedded learning, real-time feedback, formative assessment data, and student engagement. My next test subjects will be my 7’s, a much tougher crowd to please. I’ll keep you posted…
Points to Ponder
- Digital or not, what do you believe constitutes authentic, best-practice formative and summative assessment methods?
- Can you think of any digital assessment tools that can be summatively, but not formatively, useful? And vice versa?
- Do you believe digital assessment tools add more work for teachers or less?
- Who is left out of the digital assessment narrative? Do online assessment practices generate or alleviate assessment anxiety? Do digital tools cause less savvy teachers to resist technological advancements?
- What guides your standards for successful technology integration?