Pear Deck: Test-Driven by a Fangirl
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?
I also chose to write about Pear Deck this week. I had never used it before, but I can see why anyone who has raves about it. I did not mention it in my own post (looking back I should add this) but the biggest pro is having every student answer, not just those same three kids! That is such a valuable aspect of Pear Deck; I think a lot of teachers would agree it is worth the time learning how to use the add on for that reason alone. I think a lot of teachers hesitate to include technology based assessments because it does take some time to learn how to operate them. I have used ZipGrade for a grade 11 psychology final. Multiple choice is not my favourite way to assess kids, but the final was from 9-12 on the Thursday and marks were due at 1:00 so I felt like my hands were tied. The initial set up of ZipGrade takes a bit of time, but the marking is where it makes up for it. I found that to be similar to Pear Deck. Although it takes more time to plan and create, the benefits of the assessment portion outweigh the initial time spent.
Last thing, I was extremely excited when you included a link for all the right type. I thought you had found the magical place where I could get back in the boat and spend my weekend racing away… Alas, an article. Oh well, I will keep searching!
Thanks for the response. I am sorry for the All the Right Type fake out….hahahah….I miss it too. My 7’s use typingclub.com, but still, I know it’s not the same. If you have a Mac, you can apparently download it here: https://www.macintoshrepository.org/6670-all-the-right-type
The nostalgia probably makes us remember it as better than it actually was.
You make an excellent point – “a lot of teachers hesitate to include technology-based assessments because it does take some time to learn how to operate them.” That is definitely a deciding factor for so many educators; rightfully so as the demands of our jobs seem to increase exponentially. Thanks for your further insights.
Thanks Kim for the post! Although this isn’t related to the questions you asked at the end I would like to comment on the availability of tech you touched on. At my school we also have a tier list, but for who gets tech, but which tech is worth getting. The English teachers practically knife battle for our HP laptops because they are the ones with the longest battery life, and can actually link to the printers. Second from the top is the computer labs (an antiquated notion for sure) which contain some half decent desktops that are loaded with full versions of Adobe photoshop. Woe is the person who books the lab when the photography class needs those machines (our parking lot is littered with the corpses of social teachers who dared to tread those hallowed grounds during period 2). On the downside since the lab is no one’s home classroom it is often left in a state of disrepair and chaos. Far down in last place is our chrome books which are relegated to interns and those who best of 3 coin tosses. They can’t print, the have difficulty connecting to wi-fi, and they are long past their intended service life (who knew a sub 200 dollar laptop wouldn’t be good for 7 years?). It makes for an interesting Darwinian battle to access technology. I can only dream of a 1:1 device ratio, but maybe we will win the next 6/49 draw.
Great post! I loved trying out Pear Deck and even had my students ask to use it again soon. My problem with all of these platforms is that I forget about them! To answer a few of your questions, I do think that students who don’t have enough digital skills will have assessment anxiety if taking a test online. ( It happened to some of my students when using Pear Deck, even when I said we were simply revising. However, I think it’s time that we, as teachers, use tech more often and let our students develop skills so they are more comfortable using tech. I think the amount of time it takes for teachers to set up digital resources can be comparable to any other resource ( if you have some digital skills already) You can spend time creating your own test online on a site like Google Forms as you would do on a word doc. Or… you can find a test already made on Quizizz like you could in a paper resource.
Excellent post Kim! You really went indepth. Pear Deck is a tool that is totally new to me. I had not even heard of it or seen it used until Megan did her portion of the presentation this week! I can totally relate to your comments on students not knowing how to type even though they are born as “digital residents.” I feel that this tool seems like a great enhancement to engage and assess students during slide style lessons, but as somoene who teaches 4/5 (often times this is the grade 4s first time on the computer this year), I feel that it may be more trouble than it is worth with my class. Perhaps a tool to keep in mind if I am ever teaching older grades.